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Italy, one of the Mediterranean’s biggest cruise locations, says fewer ships are visiting the country – sparking fears that competition from the Caribbean and new destinations in Asia may be to blame.

Data released by research group, Italian Cruise Watch, found the number of ships docking in Italy is down 9.3 percent this year. This has resulted in an 8.9 percent drop in cruise passengers.

The fall comes despite Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia figures showing that last year, the Mediterranean ranked as the top long-haul destination for Australian cruisers.

It attracted 57,000 Australian passengers – an increase of 30 percent on 2012.

Over the past four years cruising the Med has more than tripled amongst Australians.

But that rise was not as high as other areas – and Australian cruise numbers are growing anyway.

Last year, for instance, there was a rise of 52 percent in Australians sailing Norway, the Baltic and Russia.

Italian Cruise Watch president Francesco Di Cesare said the decline could also be due to the rise in Caribbean cruises.

Last year, 19,054 Australians cruised the Caribbean, 10 percent more than 2012.

”After constant growth it is normal to register drops, and this year’s fall can also be explained with the recovery of the Caribbean compared to the Mediterranean,” he said.

In total, 10.32 million cruisers will visit Italy this year in 4,676 ships. This is the lowest it has been in four years.

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