Carnival Australia today welcomed industry figures confirming another year of stunning double digit growth for the cruise industry with 833,348 Australians taking a cruise holiday in 2013.

Following the 20% increase in passenger numbers, Australia has dramatically surpassed North America in terms of market penetration based on population in increasing from 3.1% to 3.6% compared to 3.3% for North America.

With its 'House of Brands' and as leader of the Australian cruise industry, Carnival Australia carried 560,000 of these cruise passengers – 71% of the total who cruised in 2013.

Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which accounts for seven iconic Carnival cruise brands, said the goal of carrying a million passengers a year by 2020 is now likely to be achieved as early as 2015 -- five years earlier than forecast -- as a result of such continuing strong growth.

The release today of the CLIA Australasia industry report comes just weeks after Carnival Australia announced the expansion of the P&O Cruises 'home brand' fleet and record program releases for Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Seabourn.

"Such sustained double digit growth over more than a decade has made cruising in Australia an international phenomenon which continues to gather momentum," Ms Sherry said. "Australians have embraced cruising because we improved the product dramatically with an onboard offering that is second to none along with an ever increasing number of destinations and cruise experiences.

"Carnival's international brands saw the growth opportunity here and, as a result, Australians have an unparalleled choice of ships and itineraries covering the widest possible spectrum from high quality mid-range cruising to ultra luxury voyages.

"As cruising has grown, communities right around the country have seen the long value chain of cruising in action and want to be part of it."

Ms Sherry said cruising would continue to grow as long as infrastructure issues in key ports -- Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns -- were addressed. Long-term access to Garden Island in Sydney during the peak summer cruise season remained a priority along with the need for a dedicated cruise facility close to the mouth of the Brisbane River to cater for larger cruise ships.

In Cairns, it was vital for the planned dredging of Trinity Inlet to go ahead so that the Queensland city could achieve its potential as a cruising hub for the region including Papua New Guinea and Asia.

"Cruising has already been confirmed as a three billion dollar a year industry in terms of the total annual economic activity that it generates," Ms Sherry said.  "The latest CLIA Australasia report confirms that the passion for cruising continues to grow and that there is capacity for even further growth. The 20% increase in passenger numbers across the industry last year reaffirms cruising as the most successful sector of Australian tourism."