Europe: Cruising's New Centre of Gravity?

February 27, 2008
So it seems that Europe really is the place for people to cruise -- and not just for our friends across the pond.

At this week's European Cruise Council Conference in Brussels, Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle described the continent as the "new centre of gravity for cruising." A bit of a bold statement some might say, but when you take a look at a new report compiling data from 2006, it seems that he has the figures to back up the claim.

Back in 1995 when cruising was pretty much just a holiday trend for our U.S. counterparts, only one million European passengers took a cruise. Now that figure stands at around 3.9 million, and we (Europe) account for 23 percent of the total global cruise passengers, according to an economic report by the European Cruise Council.

Predictions estimate that by 2015 the number of cruise tourists from Europe could reach 5.1 million.

One look at 2008's upcoming new-builds further points to the dramatic shift. In the next two months alone, MSC Poesia (March), AIDAbella (April), Independence of the Seas (April) and P&O Ventura (April) will all begin their maiden seasons cruising European waters. Then in July, Carnival Splendor, the newest offering from a line whose bread and butter for years has been the Caribbean, will start off sailing Northern Europe and Mediterranean cruises. These five ships account for approximately 14,000 additional Europe-based berths.

In another telling piece of info, the cruise industry now accounts for more than a quarter of a million jobs in Europe, €10.6 billion direct expenditure (a 27 percent increase over the year before) and 15.2 million visits to European ports.

The report of the 2006 statistics was commissioned with Euroyards, Med Cruise and Cruise Europe.

The most popular country for cruise ports of call was Italy, which welcomed 3.4 million cruise passengers to ports such as Naples, Civitavecchia and Livorno in 2006. Spanish ports including the Canary Islands were also hotspots, with 2.8 million cruise passengers visiting.