UK Cruise Sector Expecting Record Season in 2023

The UK has officially bounced back from the global pause in operations and expects to welcome a record number of cruise ships.

Cruise Britain has released data indicating that the UK cruise sector has successfully navigated its transition year following the global pause in operations and the initial restart period.

While ‘Seacations’ proved to be a popular way to start up again in 2021 and 2022, the industry has now reached a point where it can start building again on the foundations laid in 2019. 

Cruise Britain believes it will be an unprecedented year for cruising in 2023. The UK boasts several well-known homeports like Southampton and Portsmouth, and its central location between Western Europe, the Canary Islands, Spain, France, and Norway makes it an attractive hub for guests and cruise lines.

Strong Recovery for UK Cruise Industry

With 2022 setting the stage, the UK is on track for a record-breaking cruise year, according to a report from Cruise Britain released today, April 24.

Despite the number of cruise calls being 22% lower than the previous record season in 2019, the 2,176 cruise calls in 2022 demonstrate a strong recovery for the entire cruise industry. 

Cruise Ships in Southampton
Photo Credit: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

UK ports hosted nearly 1.4 million guests, reaching approximately 80% of what the country achieved in 2019. As each passenger contributes around £70 (around $87 US) to the local economy when they disembark, the UK’s coastal economies received an economic boost of nearly £100 million in 2022. More importantly, the 1.04 million passengers who embarked from a UK port last year represent 94% of the total number of cruise visitors in 2019. 

‘2022 was the first full year of cruise activity since the pandemic and built upon the unprecedented success of the 2021 domestic season. What we are seeing now are the rewards for an industry that has consistently worked together to recover, regenerate and develop’, said Ian McQuade, Chair of Cruise Britain. 

Growing Popularity in the UK

The growing popularity of cruising around Ireland and the UK has attracted major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, and MSC, which have all cruise ships homeporting in the UK.

At the same time, Southampton is one of the fastest-growing cruise ports in Europe, within easy reach of France, Spain, Western Europe, and Northern Europe.

However, it’s also the UK itself that is proving increasingly popular for a cruise, both for domestic and international cruise passengers, with the UK often included on international itineraries and even hosting naming ceremonies for major new cruise ships.

Cruise Ships in Southampton
Cruise Ships in Southampton

Ian McQuade: “Whilst Round Britain and Ireland cruise popularity continues to grow, we have now seen the successful return of itineraries where British port calls are part of a multi-country story of discovery.”

In 2022, 58 cruise ports across the UK welcomed passengers arriving for day visits or embarking on cruises. One hundred seven individual cruise ships sailed from ports ranging from Kirkwall and Aberdeen in the north to Guernsey in the English Channel, with most vessels making multiple stops.

Strong 2023 Expected

52 different cruise lines visited diverse UK ports, such as Belfast, Bristol, Portland, Portsmouth, Southampton, Douglas (Isle of Man), and Dover in 2022. The interest in UK cruises means 2023 could be a record-breaking year.

“For 2023, we see a very robust projected growth of 8% in terms of port calls across the UK. Some regions, such as the South West, North West, and Scotland, are reporting likely figures in excess of this national growth rate,” added McQuade. 

“This is a fantastic projection, and the strength of the immediate growth trend is testament to the increasing popularity of Britain as a cruise destination. We really can offer a port for every cruise ship currently sailing – from expedition ships to boutique and mid-range vessels up to the largest afloat.”

The UK’s popularity demonstrates that even post-Brexit, the region remains a fascinating and sought-after destination for millions of visitors. Following a year of recovery, the cruise industry appears to be positioning itself for a record-breaking season and confirming the UK’s status as a great place to cruise.

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