By Humphrey Carter

THE Port of Palma is coming to the end of its busiest month ever for cruise ships.
A total of 84 liners have called into Palma this month, according to the Balearic Port Authority, nine percent more than in May of last year.
Only in October of 1999 has more than 80 cruise ships visited Palma in one month but this month's 84 is a new record and the Port Authority predicts that this year will also set a new record with over 500 cruise ships carrying over one million passengers visiting the city.

Palma's growth in popularity this year matches the general growth trends in the European cruise market.
A record four million Europeans went on a cruise holiday last year - a 17% increase on the previous year.
Five years ago only 2.6 million Europeans took a cruise holiday and by 2006 it had hit 3.4 million.
The UK was the top source market for cruise passengers last year with 1.3 million, a growth of 11% on the previous year. Around 467'000 passengers took ex-UK cruises and 870'000 were on fly-cruises last year. This compares with 2003 when UK cruise passenger numbers were 964'000.

The second largest source market in Europe last year was Germany, followed by Italy, Spain and France.
Germany had 763'000 cruise passengers last year, 8% growth on the previous year. Italy had 640'000 cruise passengers last year, year-on-year growth of 24% Spain had 518'000 passengers, growth of 32% and France had 280'000 passengers, 16% growth.

The Balearic Port Authority has invested a great deal of time and money in improving the Port of Palma, in particular the infrastructure and services provided by the cruise terminal with the aim of converting Palma into the heart of cruising in the Western Mediterranean and next week, P&O's new superliner the Ventura will be making her maiden visit to Palma.