I absolutely love a cruise. I love them for many reasons but one thing I especially like is that they are a year round holiday as cruises move to position themselves for the best weather. In this guide we round up the best winter cruise destinations to help you find your perfect winter sun escape.
Best Winter Cruise destinations
Note about this best winter cruise destinations guide: This guide is written with the Northern Hemisphere Winter in mind.
If you are looking to do your first cruise these tips will be helpful from booking to disembarkation!
Where to Cruise During Winter for Sun
If you are wondering “Where can you cruise in the Winter?” the answer is that are lot of places are nor only accessible by cruise in Winter but are actually better visiting during Northern Hemisphere Winter than Summer. In our option the best winter cruise destinations for sun are:
Australia is one of the best winter cruise destinations in my opinion. It offers a great blend of ports from beautiful beaches to bustling cities.
If you take a cruise directly from Sydney you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sailaways in the world as the main Sydney cruise port is in the centre of the city at Circular Quay and sails past both the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Top Tip: If you can get a room on the port side of the ship you will get the best views.
From Sydney you have option to go South to Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand (see below for more on New Zealand cruises) or Alternatively you could look at getting a cruise that heads north towards the Great Barrier Reef, New Caledonia and the tropics of the Northern Territory. Taking a cruise in Australia between December and March will reward you with perfect snorkelling weather to explore one of the best natural habitats on earth.
South Pacific Cruise
The South Pacific is a bucket list destination for many people but it comes with a hefty price tag especially if you want to experience the overwater bungalows. A cost effective way of seeing the beautiful islands of the South Pacific is to take a cruise.
In some ways cruising to the South Pacific is a great idea as it takes the stress out of travelling between islands and you can to sample a number of islands on the same trip. For instance you can visit Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea in French Polynesia all on the same cruise, whilst also ticking off tropical paradises like Samoa and Tonga along the way. You won’t get the overwater bungalow experience but you will get to sample more of the islands and experience the epic scale of the south Pacific ocean.
For more information and South Pacific cruise tips check out this post!
Please note: South Pacific cruises during the Northern Hemisphere Winter occur during the French Polynesia rainy season. You may experience some rain during these months but it is a tropical island after all and the rain is usually short and warm. For more information on Tahiti click here!
New Zealand Cruise
If you aren’t bothered about 100% Winter sun but want a great winter cruise destination you should consider New Zealand. The New Zealand weather is extremely temperamental and the best comparison I can think of is taking a summer holiday in Scotland – chances are you are going to see rain but that won’t matter when you see the amazing scenery on offer.
I recommend taking in both a North and South Island Cruise if you can as each island offers something unique. If you like amazing scenery, outdoors pursuits, wine and beautiful cities then a New Zealand cruise might be the best winter cruise destination for you.
If you are wanting Winter sun then the best winter cruise destination I can think of is the Carribbean which pretty much has year round perfect weather. It really doesn’t matter whether you decide to go on a cruise in November, December or January the Caribbean will be great whatever winter month you travel in.
The first Caribbean cruise we took sailed from New York. It is bizarre sailing away from a city covered in snow and arriving in a tropical paradise a couple of days later.
Note: Cruises make a great Winter babymoon but if you are cruising pregnant or are thinking about getting pregnant you should look for Zika-free Caribbean beach destinations when planning which cruise you should take.
Canary Islands Cruise
In Europe for me there is one main choice for taking a winter cruise and that is the Canary Islands, an archipelago sitting a few hundred miles off the west coast of Africa which is part of Spain and by extension in the EU Schengen zone. If you like volcanoes and black sand beaches then the Canary Islands are for you. There are seven islands in the Canary Islands they are
- Gran Canaria
- La Gomera
- La Palma
- El Hierro
Like Hawaii and other volcanic archipelagos the islands of the Canaries vary in age and microclimate meaning tropical alive volcanoes leading to flattening arid deserts as you move from west to east toward the African continent. a cruise is a great way to experience several of these quite geographical spread islands on one trip.
Madeira – the best New Years Eve Cruise Destination
Maderia is another great Winter cruise destination and if you are planning on doing a cruise over New Years Eve I would strongly recommend looking at doing a cruise where Madeira is one of the ports of call as Madeira has some of the best New Years Eve fireworks in the world. Some years there are as many nine cruise ships docked in Funchal on New Years Eve specifically there to watch the fireworks. I can’t think of a much better place to ring in the New Year than watching the fireworks at Funchal from my cruise ship balcony room.
Middle East Cruise
Having being a long time Middle East resident both in Qatar and in Abu Dhabi I can tell you that the Middle East has the perfect Winter weather. Temperatures in the Gulf states in Winter tend to stay around the 20 degree mark making it much more pleasant to visit than during the summer months when it can top 50c.
Again if you are looking at the best place to cruise over New Years Eve you might want to consider a ship that docks in Dubai overnight on New Years Eve as this is another place that does New Year fireworks brilliantly.
Southeast Asia Cruise
Southeast Asia is another great cruise to take in Winter and another that will tick many big ticket items off your bucket list. Many of the South East Asia cruises stop at Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and some go as far as Indonesia. Winter is the perfect time to visit these places as in Summer the heat and humidity are much higher.
Galapagos Island Cruise
I unfortunately haven’t done this one but my husband did before I met him. He swears that his best ever New Year’s Eve was celebrating on board a Galapagos cruise. If you love wildlife but still want good weather then a Winter Galapagos cruise could be perfect for you.
Where can you cruise in the winter if you aren’t bothered about sunshine?
One of the items on my bucket list is to visit all the continents including Antartica and one of the easiest ways of doing this is to take a cruise. The time that taking an Antartica cruise is possible is a relatively short window. An Antartica Cruise is best taken between November and March.
Taking an Antartica Cruise in December or January will mean you will get about 20 hours of sunlight and a wealth of wildlife to spot including whales, seal pups and penguin chicks.
Of all the Winter Cruise Destinations I’ve found this is the itinerary I am most desperate to go on.
Christmas Market River Cruise – the best cruise to take in December?
I’ll be honest I have never done a river cruise but my mother in law makes an annual pilgrimage to do a Winter Christmas market river cruise. If you want to get in the Christmas spirit and looking for the best cruise to take in December then this might be the perfect solution for you. Just remember to pack layers and an umbrella!
Norway Northern Lights Cruise
Not many cruise lines offer this itinerary but you could join a Hurtigruten Cruise and head to Norway and the Artic Circle. It is definitely going to be cold but you stand a pretty good chance of seeing the Northern Lights which in my opinion is worth the cold weather.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cruising During Winter
Where is the best place to go on a cruise in November?
The best place to go on a cruise in November is probably the Caribbean. You can find some great deals and the weather is pretty consistent.
Where is the best place to go on a cruise in December?
Anywhere on the above list is good to go on a cruise in December. However if you want to get in the festive spirit I would recommend a Christmas Market Cruise or a Cruise to Sydney, Dubai or Madeira if you love celebrating New Years Eve.
What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise? Are cruises cheaper in the winter?
If you are looking for the cheapest month to go on a cruise this will definitely depend on the destination as some places are peak season during the Northern Hemisphere summer. The best value winter cruise destination for me is the Caribbean mainly due to the quantity of ships in the area and number of embarkation ports.
Is December or January a good month to take a cruise?
December and January are great months to take a cruise so long as you pick the destination right.
Are cruises fun in the winter?
I think cruises in Winter are great fun. With the exception of the Christmas and New Year cruises you may find the crowds smaller and have a slightly older demographic (certainly on Caribbean itineraries). We went on a mid January Caribbean cruise and we were the youngest passengers by a long way. This didn’t bother us but if you want more of a party ship you might want to factor this in.