Bad weather ahead of Storm Kathleen prevented Ambassador Cruises cruise ship Ambition being the first ship of the 2024 season for Falmouth.

Inward from Cobh, Ambition steamed past Falmouth for Tilbury after the master consulted with the owners.

Ambassador’s other ship Ambience was not so lucky; trying to berth in gale force winds in Cape Town, with the aid of tugs, she collided with a container ship and hit the wharf, sustaining minimal damage.

Ambition arrives here on Sunday to embark passengers for her ‘Iberian Treasures Seville Fiesta' cruise calling at Lisbon, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Casablanca, La Coruna and Bristol.

The first cruise ship of the year will now fall to Viking Cruises' Viking Saturn, due today (Wednesday) from Malaga. Viking, an important customer to this port, carried a total of 243,291 on ocean voyages in 2023.

Outlining its growth pace, Viking has maintained an occupancy level in the 93-percentage range since 2017, while increasing its capacity from 3.4 million passenger days to 6.5 million and growing its revenue from £1.4 billion in 2017 to £3.7 billion in 2023.

More than 90 per cent of its passengers are sourced in North America with the remainder coming from the UK, Australia and New Zealand primarily.

The cruise sector is going from strength to strength in the UK. Figures released by Cruise Britain, of which Falmouth Harbour is a member port, show that the cruise sector successfully bounced back for ports and service providers around the UK in 2023, with record guest and call numbers from north to south, east to west.

Some 2,499 calls were welcomed across the year, pushing the previous 2019 record into second place. Growth rates for guests were extremely marked, with the number of passengers embarking on their cruise at a UK port exceeding 1.5 million for the first time; this record year shows 26% growth against the previous highest in 2018.

In terms of transit passengers enjoying a day ashore in the UK, ports welcomed 2.16 million guests, representing 24% more than in 2019, which was itself a record year.

With each transit passenger being worth a conservative average of £70 to the local tourism economy every time they step ashore, the visitor figure for 2023 means a vital tourism injection of around £150 million to Britain’s coastal economies.

This is in addition to the economic benefit brought through cruise line and port operations. In a boost to the inbound tourism economy, early figures show that over three-quarters of transit passengers were non-UK nationals with key markets being the USA and Germany.

"The popularity of cruises into and round Britain shines even more brightly than it did pre-Covid," said Ian McQuade, chair of Cruise Britain. "Cruise is now an important part of the tourism landscape for many ports and destinations, and we are seeing the rewards for an industry that has consistently worked together to recover, regenerate and develop.

"Whilst Round Britain and Ireland cruise popularity continues to grow, there is a very strong success story for British port calls as part of a multi-country chain of discovery. As Cruise Britain celebrates the association’s 15th birthday, a look back into the archives shows a doubling of call numbers and embarkations; plus a tremendous 500% increase in transit passengers since 2009."

In 2023, cruise passengers arrived for the day or embarked through 57 cruise ports aboard 123 individual ships, with the vast majority of ships calling on multiple occasions.

A total of 53 different cruise lines were welcomed in UK ports, varying from vibrant city centre locations to small coastal boutique towns. Cruise port and cruise line numbers are broadly in line with 2022. but more individual ships were welcomed than in the previous year.