The port of Southampton was a major contributor to record breaking figures released by CruiseBritain showing more cruise ship passengers than ever before visited the UK last year.

More than 100 ships called into British ports and these vessels brought a record 866,000 passengers on day calls, a rise of 20 per cent over 2012.

Last year was also a record 12 months for passengers beginning their cruise at a UK port, with embarkations topping the one million passenger mark for the first time.

Southampton, the cruising industry's premier UK port, was particularly popular for day visits owing to the docks position close to many tourist attractions such as Stonehenge, the cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury, the New Forest as well London and Windsor.

Many ships were operating Round Britain cruises which offer an unusual and unique itinerary option allowing visitors to explore coasts, castles, cities and countryside in one easy visit.

The short sailing distances between Britain's shores and a number of complementary countries adds to the itinerary possibilities. “With a day call growth rate of this magnitude, we are on course to see more than one million passenger day calls into UK ports this year,” said Daren Taylor, incoming chairman of CruiseBritain. “This represents significant tourism revenue for each of the ports visited.”

CruiseBritain is the trade body which aims to raise the profile of Britain as a destination and has just introduced a new theme based around heritage coasts.