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The amount of people selecting an ocean cruise as their holiday of choice grew by ten per cent in 2011, taking the total number of cruise passengers to over 20 million globally.

Compiled by industry associations worldwide including the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council , Passenger Shipping Association, International Cruise Council Australasia (ICCA) and industry analysts G P Wild (International) Limited, the report identified North America (11.5 million) and Europe (6.2 million) as the main markets.

CLIA president and CEO, Christine Duffy, expressed her delight at the global increase and highlighted the resilience of the industry in a tough economy.

“We are delighted to see ten percent annual global growth in cruise passengers last year, with milestones being broken all over the world as growth continues,” Ms Duffy said.

“These results are a testament to the industry’s ongoing innovation and investment. As we continually improve operations and add new and exciting innovations and itineraries, we’re confident our sector has huge potential for continued growth on a global basis.”

Australia and New Zealand cruise passenger numbers increased by 30 percent in 2011 exceeding the half-a-million mark for the first time, with the ICCA predicting that there will be over one million Australians cruising in 2020.

“The figures not only underline the global strength of the cruise industry, they also confirm the impressive performance of the Australian and New Zealand markets in recent years, particularly given our relatively small populations,” ICCA general manager Brett Jardine said.

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Words: Natalie Aroyan