By Humphrey Carter

THE Balearics continues to blossom as one of the Mediterranean's most popular cruise destination despite growing competition from new destinations.
Figures released yesterday for the first seven months of the year reveal a healthy 25 percent increase in the number of cruise passengers passing through Balearic ports.

Between January and the end of July this year, a total of 625.462 passengers cruised into the Balearics compared to 501.389 passengers during the same period last year.

According to the Balearic Port Authority report, Palma has been the busiest port handling 531.782 .

271.640 were passengers on board cruise ships based in Palma while the remaining 260.142 were in transit.
Mahon was the second busiest port handling 51.054 cruise passengers.
The quietest cruise ports were Ibiza, 42.298 passengers, and La Savina which handled just 328 during the first seven months of the year and nearly all of those this summer.

The report also reveals that the Balearic cruise industry reached its peak in July, although August's figures have yet to be collated.
Palma handled 150.470 passengers, Mahon 14.398 and Ibiza 13.847 passengers.
Obviously, if cruise passengers figures risen, so too has the number of cruise ships based in and calling in to Balearic ports.
During the first seven months of the year, Palma handled 248 cruise ships nine percent more than in 2006.
Ibiza handled 57, 24 percent more but Mahon handled 72 cruise ships, a massive increase of 76 percent on the previous year.
The figures if further evidence that not only is the Balearics a top Mediterranean cruise destination, the cruise industry is continuing to enjoy steady growth.

The fastest growing cruise market continues to be the UK and many Britons are now starting their cruises from foreign ports such as Palma or Barcelona.

First, the large tour operators made cruising more accessible by offering cheaper cruise deals, now it is the fly and cruise market which is booming on both sides of the Atlantic.

The new product also offers travellers the opportunity of a split land and sea holidays a week in Majorca and then a week at sea for example.
Palma has big plans for the future of Majorca's cruise industry.
Plans are on the table to completely remodel the Port of Palma with cruise ships docking where the current commercial docks are in front of the cathedral so cruise passenger can enjoy easier and more direct access to the city centre and the shops.