Top 10 destinations for a winter cruise
When you think “winter cruise,” what comes to mind? Gliding through an ethereal landscape of snowy peaks, drifting past ancient temples along one of the world’s longest rivers, or lounging on a sundeck somewhere in the tropics? Actually, a winter cruise can include any of the above. Read on for our top 10 picks.
Take a winter cruise along the Norwegian coast, where the scenery is so spectacular, you won’t even mind the chilly weather. Norwegian operator Hurtigruten offers a variety of winter itineraries, giving you the opportunity to sail past snow-covered fjords, mountains, and picturesque red houses. There’s also a good chance you’ll see the northern lights at this time of year.
Winter is the ideal time for a Nile River cruise, as the scorching summer heat will have abated and excursions to temples and pyramids will be much more pleasant. Hop off the boat to explore Egypt’s famed sites such as the Karnak temple complex and the Valley of the Kings. Uniworld’s 12-day “Splendors of Egypt and the Nile” itinerary begins and ends in Cairo, incorporating trips to see the iconic Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, and the Citadel of Salah al-Din.
The pristine beauty of the Chilean fjords is only accessible during our fall and winter months (spring and summer in the Southern Hemisphere), when weather conditions in Patagonia are relatively calm. Journey from Argentina into Chile on an expedition cruise with Australis, which will bring you up close to the glaciers, fjords, and snow-capped mountains of Tierra del Fuego, with opportunities to hike the lush forest of Wulaia Bay. You might even meet some Magellanic penguins.
Hawaii’s consistently warm weather makes it a great destination at any time of year, but ships tend to be less crowded with families in the wintertime (outside of school holidays). Sail on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, and you’ll get to explore Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island over seven days, with excursions to incredible sights like Rainbow Falls and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Summer in New Zealand lasts from December through February, so it’s a great choice if winter has you longing for a far-flung adventure in a warm climate. Taking a cruise guarantees you’ll see the highlights of this strikingly beautiful country, and, depending on your itinerary, some of Australia, too. With Princess Cruises, you can experience the towering cliffs of Milford Sound, the French heritage of Akaroa, the geothermal pools of Rotorua, and the vineyards and wineries of Hawke’s Bay.
For a quick winter getaway, it’s hard to beat a Caribbean cruise. You can score great deals on four- and five-night itineraries with Royal Caribbean, which sails from Florida and Texas to ports in Mexico, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. Explore Mayan ruins in the Yucatán Peninsula, snorkel with stingrays in George Town, Grand Cayman, and climb Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
The Galápagos Islands
Wildlife lovers should opt for a cruise in the Galápagos Islands, an archipelago situated 620 miles from the coast of Ecuador that’s home to diverse endemic species including sea lions, giant tortoises, and flightless cormorants, along with volcanoes, black lava beaches, and mangrove forests. Lindblad Expeditions offers cruises to the Galápagos year-round, but the best time to visit is December to May, when the days are warm and sunny and rain showers are short.
A winter cruise in the Mediterranean means fewer crowds and lower prices, and it’s a convenient way to visit several countries in a week or so. You won’t be doing any sunbathing, but the cooler weather can be a relief when you’re out sightseeing. MSC Cruises offers Mediterranean itineraries throughout the winter, with stops in fascinating cities like Palermo, Valletta, and Barcelona.
The Mekong River
Much of Southeast Asia sees warm, dry weather from November through February, so winter is the best time for a cruise along the southern part of the Mekong River. AmaWaterways will take you from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam to the flower markets and French colonial houses of Sa Dec, then into Cambodia to visit the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, and the wetlands in Kampong Chhnang.
When it comes to cruising, it doesn’t get any more adventurous than an expedition in Antarctica. Those seeking a truly off-the-beaten-track experience can embark on a journey with Quark Expeditions, which takes ship passengers out on Zodiac boat excursions to various landing sites in the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula to see awe-inspiring icebergs, historic research stations, and wildlife such as humpback whales, leopard seals, and penguins.
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