THE number of Britons taking cruises topped one million for the first time last year, generating huge amounts for Southampton's economy.

Overall British passengers spent more than £1billion on holidays at sea in 2003 as the port of Southampton attracted more cruise ships than all the other rival UK docks put together.

This year at least 210 separate cruise ship calls have been booked with the port of Southampton by leading operators such as Cunard, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International.

It is estimated that every Southampton based cruise ship generates anything up to £40 million a year for the region and safeguards thousands of local jobs.

Nationally the total number of passengers reached 1,053,727 last year, 12 per cent up on the previous year and the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) estimates that numbers could increase by a further ten per cent in 2004.

During the last ten years the number of British passengers has quadrupled sparking a huge industry in the port of Southampton.