Looking to escape the chill of winter this season? There are a wealth of fantastic cruises available that will allow you to do just that, while enjoying an especially unforgettable vacation.
Southern Caribbean (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Carnival Fascination offers a 7-night cruise that embarks from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Popular with all types of travelers, from baby boomers, newlyweds and seniors to families, first-time cruisers and single Gen-Xers. It features its signature Carnival WaterWorks, that includes a 300-foot-long twister slide, racing slides and water-spraying apparatuses, as well as an adults-only “Serenity” section, filled with whirlpools, comfy chaise lounge chairs and umbrellas.
A host of other activities and attractions are available too. Carnival has long been known for its major production shows, like performances of “Fiesta Latina” and “Far from Over: the 80’s.” It also hosts a highly popular talent show, where passengers become Madonna or Frank Sinatra for a night, or at least do their best trying to be them. Other highlights include a casino, game shows, dancing, trivia competitions and art auction. The ship even hosts a hairy chest poolside challenge. The itinerary includes stops at St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.
Australia and New Zealand (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Can you imagine sailing into Sydney Harbour, gazing at the famed bridge and Opera House? Or taking a dip into the waters that surround the Great Barrier Reef and exploring New Zealand’s spectacular Milford Sound? The Emerald Princess offers the ultimate cruise with stops in both countries, including Sydney and Tasmania, Australia as well as Auckland, Tauranga, Gisborne, Wellington, Akaroa, Dunedin and Fiordland National Park in New Zealand.
The ship has a more laid-back ambiance than most, with many of the passengers focusing their energy on exploring the destination at hand. While dinners are definitely more relaxed, the ship features a glamorous nightclub that offers endless ocean views through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The Lotus Spa offers plenty in the way of pampering, with Asian-style treatments, including a Thai herbal poultice massage, scalp treatments, hot stone massage, facials, acupuncture and even teeth whitening. The adult-only Lotus Spa pool, offers a more private poolside refuge. There are ballroom dance classes, Ping-Pong tournaments and Wii Sports challenges, and plenty of evening entertainment in addition to dancing at the nightclub, most with an emphasis on live music, featuring vocal performances and musical melodies.
South Africa (Hotel Prices & Photos)
South Africa has a ton to offer the cruiser as well, like a stop in Cape Town, famous for its huge flat-topped Table Mountain that provides a stunning backdrop to the city and picturesque beaches that serve as its playground. Cape Town itself is an alluring blend of historic quarters, green spaces and world-class shopping. Some cruise lines offer the chance to add on a land-based stay at a safari park or take an excursion through the nation’s wine region and to the internationally-acclaimed Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Visiting Africa’s southernmost tip, the Cape of Good Hope, is also a highlight – Robben Island is the spot Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
While MSC Cruises offers a multitude of options in this region of the world, reviews have been mixed. If you’re looking for the cruise of a lifetime, Nautica is renowned for serving the best cuisine at sea and offers a 30-day cruise that includes Cape Town and a number of other fabulous destinations throughout Africa. The Queen Mary 2 offers a 17-night excursion that includes South Africa and Australia.
The Amazon (Hotel Prices & Photos)
With most cruise lines, you have to fly to the Caribbean before before sailing off to Brazil and one of the world’s most iconic rivers, considered a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts, and particularly renowned for its bird life, with macaws, toucans and hummingbirds among the 1,300-plus species of birds in the Amazonian rainforest. But with Holland America, you can take off right from the mainland as the cruise line offers a 24-night Amazon & Carnaval Explorer cruise that starts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Stops are in Half Moon Cay, Willemstad, Oranjestad, Port-of-Spain, Scarborough, Bridgetown, Devils Island, Crossing the Equator, Icoaraci, Recife, Maceio, Salvador da Bahia, Ilheus, Vitoria, Ilhabela and Rio de Janeiro.
Passengers can explore a very rich culture too, including the region’s capital of Manaus which is known for its well-preserved Portuguese colonial buildings and abundance of markets near the water’s edge.
Hawaii (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Hawaii is a fabulous place to be on a winter cruise. On Oahu, you can visit Honolulu’s legendary Waikiki Beach and even try your hand at surfing or boogie boarding, as well as pay your respects at Pearl Harbor. The Big Island of Hawaii is home to active volcanoes and magnificent black sand beaches, while Kauai offers an especially tranquil escape with gorgeous gardens and a multitude of waterfalls, and Maui is ideal for whale watching and a myriad of water sports.
Princess offers a variety of 15-night cruises leaving from Vancouver, B.C., Canada as well as Los Angeles, California. It includes stops in Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui, with activities and cuisine themed around the ship’s itinerary.
Mexico (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Carnival Cruise Line offers a wealth of itineraries to Mexico over the winter, with cruises departing from Los Angeles, California and ranging from two-to-nine nights, sailing to Baja, Mexico, and the Mexican Riviera. Ports of call include Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and La Paz. The highly-rated Carnival Miracle ship has lots to offer, including an outstanding steakhouse, an onboard wedding chapel, museum-quality artwork and “designer” martinis, along with the usual solid food and entertainment options.
There are four pools, a twisting water slide and elaborate production shows, like the high-energy medley of popular music from the last few decades, called “Legends,” and a Beatles-themed production. The casino is massive and features a ton of slot machines as well as table games, while Sam’s piano bar offers live music every night and a fantastic jazz trio plays in the Gotham Lounge after both dinner seatings.
The Mediterranean (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Few cruising regions provide as much cultural and historical diversity as the Mediterranean. By taking a cruise here, you can enjoy discovering the beginnings of the Greek and Roman empires, exploring vestiges of the Crusades and the Ottoman rulers, strolling by religious sites cherished by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, or simply sipping a glass of fine wine while watching the world pass by. As far as cruises, options are broken up by the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean, with the Italian “boot” serving as the dividing line. A Western Mediterranean itinerary generally covers Spain, France, the west coast of Italy, and sometimes Tunisia too. On the Eastern side, you can visit spots like the Adriatic Coast, Greek Isles, Turkey, Egypt, the Holy Lands and Cyprus.
Viking, one of the highest ranked cruise lines, offers a 14-night cruise aboard the Viking Sea, an inclusive cruise that provides an immersive experience without the high, luxury price tag. Stops include Barcelona, Toulon, Monaco, Corsica, Florence, Rome, Malta, Tunis, Sardinia, Algiers and Valencia. The main focus of Viking ships is the destinations, with the time in each port considered the most valuable. There are no splashy water features or casinos, but Viking does provide local guides who speak English and know the visited areas well. At least one excursion is included in every port, as well as a number of “premium excursions” that cost a little extra but are usually well worth it, like a hot air balloon ride. Though Viking cruises are typically geared toward an older group, the benefit is that the ship rarely feels crowded, providing lots of time to relax and rejuvenate after a long day of sight-seeing.