Getting between major port cities in Europe is as easy as getting between airports and train stations, making short breaks simple no matter the mode of transport.
Europe’s cruise lines passenger growth rose in 2013 due to the popularity of the Mediterranean as a destination and Germans’ appetite for short trips in northern Europe, a lobby group said.
A record 6.4 million Europeans booked cruises last year with operators such as Carnival, TUI and All Leisure Group, up 3.6 percent after an increase of 1.3 percent in 2012, according to a report published by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Monday.
Germany saw a 9.2 percent rise in passengers, drawing level with Britain as Europe’s largest markets, with each accounting for around 27 percent.
“Cruising from German ports benefits from the fact that some people increasingly tend to go on short breaks instead of taking a long holiday to a far-away place,” Helge Grammerstorf, National Director of CLIA Germany, told Reuters.
Barcelona, Civitavecchia north of Rome, Venice and Southampton were the busiest cruise ports.
“Some of the big ships with their wellness and fitness opportunities, restaurants and entertainment shows, are seen as a holiday resort themselves,” Grammerstorf added.
In the 1980s, when TV series like “The Love Boat” stirred a desire for what were then expensive cruises, the average number of passengers aboard was 400-600. Now it is 3,000 and a week-long cruise can be booked for about the same price as a onshore package holiday.
Doubts about the safety of cruise ships have faded more than two years after Carnival Corp’s Costa Concordia sank off Italy in 2012, Grammerstorf said, adding that the industry had seen a dip in bookings shortly afterwards.
Europe is the world’s second-largest cruise market after North America, accounting for 30 percent.
Shipping groups’ spending on cruise ship construction and refurbishment were up nearly 5 percent in 2013 following stagnation in 2012 and cuts in spending from 2009 to 2011, the report also said.
Cruise tourism and cruise ship yards created more than 12,000 jobs last year, employing 339,000 staff across Europe.
(Editing by Susan Thomas)