Irish and UK cruise passenger numbers have passed the 2 million passenger mark for the first time, new figures from the Cruise Lines International Association show.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) today welcomed news of the record-breaking numbers and noted that they marked 2% year on year growth. 

"The cruise industry is demonstrating considerable growth and has become an important part of both inbound and outbound Irish tourism," commented the ITAA CEO's Pat Dawson. 

He said that by hosting turnarounds, Irish ports allow tourists to end their sailing here and travel within Ireland before flying directly home, while Irish holidaymakers join the ship to set sail on their adventure. 

But Pat Dawson also said it was disappointing that Dublin port is reducing the number of cruise liners it will host. 

Last year saw 150 ships call to Dublin port and this is expected to rise to over 160 by the end of 2019. 

"However, from 2021, only 80 will be permitted by Dublin port. This is a major blow to the choice of cruise available to Irish holidaymakers," Mr Dawson said. 

Today's figures show that cruises to central and western Mediterranean regions remain the number one destination for European cruise passengers.

The research from Cruise Lines International Association also shows strong growth in cruises to Northern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Canary Islands, and the Baltics.