(8:35 a.m. EDT) -- The chief executive of Carnival Corporation in the UK has described next year as "the start of a wonderful new phase for the cruise industry in the UK."
David Dingle said the arrival of the UK's largest purpose-built ship, P&O's Britannia; as well as Princess Cruises' Royal Princess and rival Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas all based in Southampton from April 2015 would be a "major move forward" for cruising in the UK.
The arrival of Britannia alone will generate an extra 20 percent in terms of cabins -– a number Dingle felt confident could be filled.
Speaking to Cruise Critic, Dingle said: "If you had said to me two years ago in the middle of a recession that I've got to fill this new ship, I would have felt slightly uncomfortable.
"But now with a pick up in the economy, there's a feeling of confidence in the timing of this. Plus when you introduce a brand new ship, it really captures people's imaginations and boosts sales."
Dingle emphasized that sales of Britannia were not 'cannibalizing' sales on P&O's other seven ships.
"You've got to bear in mind that P&O has not had a capacity growth in five years. Azura was the last time, and that increased capacity by 27 percent. We can absorb this."
He added that he was not fazed by Royal positioning its newest ship in Southampton to go head to head with Britannia: "Look, when Ventura launched it went up against Independence of the Seas, and when Azura launched, Celebrity placed Eclipse in Southampton. So to be honest if we didn't have a Royal Caribbean ship to compete against we'd be surprised!"
Dingle added that Cunard's 10th anniversary celebrations for flagship Queen Mary 2 this week –- plus next year's 175th anniversary celebrations for the line -– were also "headline grabbing and head turning."
"We're very fortunate to have two years of events. These are headline events, head-turning events and I'm very much looking forward to participate in the 10th anniversary eastbound sailing from New York on Friday."
--by Adam Coulter, UK Editor