BIG ocean liners, smaller cruise ships, and state-of-the art river ships, continue to be built by international cruise lines as holiday makers take to the water in greater numbers.

But can the growth last?

The question was posed by a BBC television reporter after the launch of P&0 World Cruises’ latest ship Britannia which was christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at a gala celebration at the English port of Southampton.

Unlike Australia which is leading the international cruise boom with passenger growth in double-digit figures, less than 3 per cent of  British annual holidays are spent on cruises – though there are recent signs of further growth in that sector.

Before Britannia left on her maiden cruise last month BBC-TV news reporter Duncan Kennedy previewed the cruise ship’s main attractions, and asked viewers if international cruise lines can keep filling cabins at sea as larger cruise ships continue to be built.

However, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the  Virgin Group, has shown strong support for the future of cruising by announcing the establishment of Virgin Cruises.

“We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love. They’ll be sailing on the latest ocean-going ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service,” Mr Branson said.

In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper in the UK, Mr Branson said he was in the final stages of negations to have two “giant” vessels built in Europe,

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas (4,100 passengers)with all manner of onboard attractions – has completed sea trials ahead of her maiden voyage next week from Southampton to France and Spain. She will continue cruising in the Mediterranean until October when she sails to the USA to begin a series of Caribbean cruises from Bayonne, New Jersey,


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