(12: 30 p.m. GMT) -- The number of UK and Irish travellers choosing a river cruise hit an all-time high of 150,300 last year -- an increase of more than 10,000 passengers compared to the year before.
The eight percent increase has mainly been driven by the large number of new river ships launched in the past few years. In 2015, 170 CLIA member line river ships were sailing in Europe -- with another 18 new ships launching this year, an increase of more than 10 percent.
The increase in the number of river passengers is part of a trend across the whole UK and Ireland cruise market, which hit a record-breaking high of 1,789,000 UK passengers in 2015.
Yet despite growth in the market, the percentage of river cruisers who take more than one river cruise in the last year in fact fell. In 2014, 26 percent of river cruisers took more than one river cruise in the year compared with 22 percent in 2015. Also the percentage of first time cruisers has dropped from 37 percent to 26 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Europe remains the most popular region accounting for 87 percent of river cruises taken by UK passengers. In particular, the River Danube’s popularity continued to grow, with an increase of 38 percent, while cruises on the Rhone and Seine rivers grew by 30 percent in 2015.
The number of UK passengers choosing to cruise on a river outside of Europe stayed more or less the same, with a boost in passengers to the Mekong (up by 76 percent) and Irrawaddy (up by five percent) offset by a large drop to the Nile (down by 21 percent).
River cruising has seen huge strides in innovation in the past few years, both in terms of features on the ships but also a broadening appeal to both families and younger passengers.
A statement from a report commissioned by CLIA said: "The new capacity being introduced into the market is changing the style of river cruising. The older river cruise boats were small with few, if any, cabins with balconies. Dining was limited to one venue and fixed times while entertainment options were limited. This has changed significantly with the new ships entering the market."
CLIA Europe VP Operations Andy Harmer said: "We have seen tremendous investment by companies in new, innovative ships with greater amenities onboard. "This coupled with an ever-increasing choice and diversity of itineraries in Europe and further afield, has led to more UK passengers than ever opting for a river cruise holiday," he added.
--by Adam Coulter, UK Editor and Leon Beckenham, Cruise Critic contributor