Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun November 22 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | November 22, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    8 Top Winter Season Cruises

    8 Top Winter Season Cruises

    Photo courtesy of Windstar Cruises

    As winter cruise season approaches, many ships reposition to warm-weather destinations or exotic locales. Whether escaping cold weather or embarking on a seasonal adventure, these eight cruises are ideal for winter travel.


    During the winter, Un-Cruise Adventures (which normally specializes in Alaska) focuses on the lesser-visited islands in Hawaii. The seven-night “Hawaiian Seascapes” cruise embarks from Molokai and visits Maui, the Big Island and the “private island” of Lanai. During the journey, travelers aboard the 36-passenger Safari Explorer can go night snorkeling with giant Pacific manta rays, explore the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary for a chance to spot dolphins and whales, plus enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast.

    Central America

    The winter months are dry season in Central America, and Voyages of Discovery has an unusual, small-ship itinerary that sails from Cartagena, Colombia to Acapulco, Mexico. The ship transits the Panama Canal and includes six ports of call throughout Central America. Highlights include San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, for a chance to tour Masaya Volcano National Park; Golfito, Costa Rica, an untouched tropical rainforest with an abundance of wildlife; and the San Blas Islands of Panama, a little slice of paradise.

    Antarctica with Quark

    Traveling to a cold weather destination may seem odd in the winter; however, the period from November through March is considered Antarctica’s summer. Quark Expeditions offers several “Antarctic Explorer” itineraries spanning 11 or 12 days on three different ice-breaking vessels through a maze of icebergs. The ships sail round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, and cruise through the Drake Passage while searching for humpback and Minke whales, penguins and southern seal species. If 2016 is too soon to travel, Quark also offers a longer “Uncharted Antarctica” expedition in January 2017 as part of the Explorers Collection.


    For an easy-breezy getaway, the Norwegian Breakaway embarks on Valentine’s Day from New York and sails down to Port Canaveral, Florida and two islands in the Bahamas. During time at sea, guests can check out the spanking new ship, complete with a massive waterpark and ropes course. The cruise also calls on Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay — the company’s private island in the Bahamas — before returning to the Big Apple.

    New Zealand

    Winter is the summer season in New Zealand, and Celebrity Cruises has a two-week voyage embarking from Auckland aboard the Celebrity Solstice that concludes in Sydney, Australia. Rare wildlife can be spotted en route like fur seals and blue penguins, and adventure seekers will encounter thrilling shore excursions. In Tauranga, they can take a ride on a bush jet boat or go whitewater rafting, and in the Bay of Island they can swim with dolphins or go parasailing. The cruise sets sail January 19, 2016, or if you are planning ahead, an eight-night cruise is offered in January 2017 with a slightly different itinerary.

    Trinidad and Tobago

    Costa Magica has a seven-night cruise that embarks from Guadeloupe and calls on lesser-visited ports like Martinique, in the Windward Islands and Kingstown in the Grenadines. On the February 7 voyage, the ship docks in Tobago while the famous Carnival festival is underway, giving passengers a chance to join in the festivities.

    Argentina and Uruguay

    Royal Caribbean is offering an extremely affordable South America cruise (although the flight to is an added cost) on the Rhapsody of the Seas that sails round-trip from Santos, Brazil. The ship heads to Montevideo and lesser-known Punta del Este, in Uruguay as well as lively Buenos Aires, Argentina. Several departure dates are available in January — the peak tourism season in these areas.

    Virgin Islands

    Windstar offers a way to escape the winter blues in the Virgin Islands with a brand new, round-trip itinerary from San Juan. The small, luxury ship calls on Caribbean ports that large ships pass by, like island of Culebra, home to one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in the United States and to Playa Flamenco, rated one of the best beaches in the world. When the ship arrives in St. Maarten/St. Martin, it calls in quieter port of Marigot before sailing to Little Bay, also called the Pompeii of the Caribbean. Numerous dates are available from December through February aboard the Star Legend.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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