(5.45 p.m. GMT) -- The number of UK Cruise passengers will hit or surpass the 2m mark by 2020 according to leading cruise experts.
The symbolic figure has been a goal of the UK cruise sector for many years, and in 2016 (the last year of available figures), UK cruise passengers reached 1.9m.
Despite the devastating hurricanes, 2017 was described as a "perfect year" for the industry in terms of performance by the three leading cruise companies -- and 2018 is set to surpass it.
"We are getting very close to that 2 million figure," said CEO of Carnival UK, David Dingle, at a roundtable event to discuss the UK cruise sector. "We hit 1.9 million passengers in 2016, so I definitely think we will hit 2 million by 2020."
Andy Harmer, SVP Membership & Director of the UK & Ireland Cruise Line Industry Association, said he believes the 2 million mark will be reached before then.
Dingle, who is also deputy chairman of CLIA, added: "I genuinely feel we have broken through the 'glass ceiling' at long last. I think we are at the stage where cruising is being recognised as a mainstream holiday."
The UK was, for many years, the second-biggest cruise market in the world after the US. However, last year it was overtaken by Germany and is likely to be pushed to fourth place as China passenger numbers continue to increase.
Next year sees the launch of a slew of megaships from all the major lines -- Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Carnival, as well as ships from Marella and AIDA -- providing a bump in capacity of more than 5,550 berths.
Yet, despite this massive increase, Dingle said it was more of a correction after the market contracted in 2008, and the cruise sector was only just getting back to normal due to the lag time in ordering, building and launching ships.
"At the moment, the three major cruise lines are all showing growth in terms of booking and yields which are ahead of 2017, and that's really positive," he added.
Dingle dismissed any Brexit concerns, saying that the cruise industry is one of those sectors that will be largely unaffected by the UK leaving the EU: "There is no reason why UK passengers would be treated any differently from, say, US passengers when they come to Europe," he stated.
--By Adam Coulter, UK Managing Editor