The best winter cruises to book for a dreamy escape

Christmas cruises, winter sun cruises and total escapism sailings – our top picks for the best winter cruises offer all of this and more...

Winter can be a beautiful time of year, but with shorter days and chilly rains it can feel a little too long. Take one of these exceptional winter cruises to blow away the seasonal blues...

Keep cool in Antarctica

For something seriously adventurous, try this 13-day expedition, which sails across the Drake Passage to explore the magic of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. There will be daily lectures on board about everything from marine biology and ornithology to wildlife photography and history, and excursions include zodiac voyages or even kayaking on the icy waters, passing vast glaciers.

Wildlife lovers will be spoilt, with the opportunity to see huge rookeries of penguins, enormous whales and incredible birdlife. For an extra thrill, an additional ice camping activity is available for those wanting to sleep on the Antarctic ice under the stars.

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When? Departures run November and December and start from £5,099 per person excluding international flights. Find out more here.

Stay warm in the Caribbean

If winter sun is your bag, beeline for the Caribbean on a cruise with Holland America Line. Sun, sea and white sands are guaranteed on this 14-day trip, as guests stop off at the glamorous Turks And Caicos, the colourful Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Mexico. There's also the chance to enjoy Holland America Line's private island, Half Moon Cay, where guests can enjoy a horseback ride through the crystal clear ocean, an eco-cruise through one of the lagoons, or a cocktail on a private cabana.

When? Departs 1 December; ocean-view stateroom starts at £1,379 per person including entertainment, dining options and taxes. Excluding international flights. Find out more here.

Spend Christmas in Cape Verde & Madeira

If you’re want to get away for Christmas this year, this is the winter cruise for you. On board the Magellan, you’ll cruise to the beautiful Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, stop off at the gorgeous Cape Verde islands of Santiago and Sao Vicente, and spend the day on Lanzarote exploring the delightful capital. All of this takes place over Christmas and New Year, and you’ll get to see the fireworks from the comfort of your cruise ship, lighting up the sky above the Atlantic.

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Departs 18 December 2019 from £2,239. Find out more here.

Madeira winter cruises

Take in the Christmas markets of Amsterdam & Antwerp

Both Amsterdam and Antwerp are glorious city breaks year-round, but they really come alive at Christmas time. Traditional Christmas markets – think wooden stalls selling handmade toys and gingerbread cookies, and mulled wine aplenty – abound while the city’s top sights look magical amid fairy lights and decorations. Stroll Amsterdam’s canals for a romantic evening, and do your Christmas shopping in its many boutiques and markets. Antwerp’s traditional pubs make for excellent hideaways when it gets too chilly outside, and you shouldn’t miss sampling some of the best Belgian beer on offer.

When? Departs 16 December 2019 from Tilbury and costs from £319 per person. Find out more here.

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Take a transatlantic shopping trip

The Queen Mary 2 is one of the cruising world’s most luxurious ships, so what better way to see off the winter blues than on her glorious decks en route to Southampton from New York City? On this tour with Trailfinders you’ll spend three nights in Mahattan in a four-star hotel, enjoying helicopter rides and museum visits, as well as spectacular shopping. Then you’ll get seven nights on board the famous Cunard ship, experiencing grand dinners, glorious afternoon teas and making use of the luxury spa.

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Departs 5 December 2019 and costs from £1,999 per person including one-way flight to New York City. Find out more here.

Take a trip on the Mekong in Vietnam/Cambodia

For something completely different this winter, head to southeast Asia where the Mekong River cuts through Cambodia and empties into the ocean in southern Vietnam. This long, winding waterway is an excellent river cruise destination, with intriguing stops along its route in places like Angkor Wat – a world-famous, ancient temple complex – and the floating markets of Kampong Chhnang and Cai Be.

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You’ll dine on exquisite southeast Asian food, with its zingy fresh flavours – a far cry from the comfort food you’d be craving at home – and get to grips with history at prominent sites from the US-Vietnam war.

When? Departures run in January and February 2020 and cost from £2,999 including flights and transfers. Find out more here.

Take to the Danube for Christmas cheer

Spend five nights on board a luxury cruise ship as you sail down the Danube, taking in some of the area’s imperial cities and yuletide markets. On this Christmas cruise with Riviera Travel you’ll visit Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava with a guide, then you’ll get plenty of free time to browse the markets to stock up on your Christmas shopping. Plus, from the comfort of the ship, you’ll get to see the gorgeous scenery around the famous Danube Bend. There’ll be divine dinners on board and expert guides at every step.

When? Departures at the end of November and thoughout December from £949 per person. Find out more here.

Make the Maldives your winter sun base

Seek out the sunshine in the Maldives this winter for a cruise with a difference. This island nation is basking in rays at this time of year, so it’s the perfect winter sun destination if you’re after a cruise somewhere tropical. On this 16-day, small luxury yacht cruise you’ll sail between the South Male, Vaavu and Ari atolls, stopping at high-end resorts for sunbathing, snorkelling in the ocean among hundreds of colourful fish and corals, or for beach barbecues on near-deserted islands. The Maldives is often referred to as paradise on Earth, so bring a good book and settle in for a beautiful fortnight among idyllic islands.

When? Departures run throughout January, February and March 2020 and cost from £3,299 per person including international flights. Find out more here.

See temples and tea plantations in India

An opportunity to take in the beautiful highlights of India’s remote and rural northeastern states, this 13-day tour includes a one-week river cruise down the Brahmaputra river in Assam. On this trip, you’ll get the opportunity to spot wild elephants and the endangered Indian one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, explore Shiva temples, cruise alongside the Ganges River Dolphin and visit the fascinating river island of Majuli – a centre for traditional handicrafts.

When? This bespoke tour can be booked throughout winter and costs from £4,920 per person (two sharing), including a seven-night full-board cruise, B&B, all excursions and the services of a local guide. Excluding flights. Find out more here.

Lead image by Holland America Line

Lottie Gross
Lottie Gross

Lottie is an NCTJ-trained journalist, an experienced travel writer and an expert in creating compelling digital content. 

Lottie has been in the travel writing business for nearly a decade and has writing and photography bylines at The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i and National Geographic Traveller. She's done broadcast work for BBC Radio 4 and have contributed to a number of guidebooks and coffee table titles during her career.