The 8 Best Cruises to Take This Winter
From the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, these are the best ways to set sail this season.
Whether you are a solo cruiser looking for a quick getaway, or a seasoned sailor intent on exploring the world, it's a buyer's market when it comes to cruising this winter. Ever since sailing resumed following pandemic closures, cruise bookings have seen a boom with more ships, more deals, and more discounts.
From a tropical sojourn to the Caribbean, to a sail in the Mediterranean, and an immersive experience through the Hawaiian Islands, we've found the best cruises to take this season.
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1. Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady – Key West and Bahamas
Forget everything you know about cruising because Virgin Voyages breaks from tradition in every way possible and past guests rave about the "sleek, sexy" atmosphere. For one, every single specialty dining venue onboard is completely free, which is a great way to make a luxury cruise more affordable. By the way, all tips are also included, so it's rare to spend more than your base cruise fare once onboard.
Then there's the unexpected cruise activities ranging from a relationship therapy show (that's so very cheeky and risqué) to the most luxurious private beach resort experience at The Beach Club in Bimini. It's seriously Instagrammable, which you can totally indulge in thanks to Virgin's free unlimited Wi-Fi.
Yet for all the reasons above, Virgin's Scarlet Lady makes our best-of list simply because it's a quick, dreamy getaway. With 4-night sailings from Miami, guests on the "Fire and Sunset Soirees" itinerary spend full days in Bimini, Bahamas, and Key West— which may be in the U.S. but has an amazing tropical island vibe. With all-inclusive cruises starting at just $396, Virgin Voyages is a steal of a vacay.
2. Norwegian Pride of America – Hawaiian Islands
Pride of America is the only cruise ship dedicated to sailing exclusively around the Hawaiian Islands. With its roundtrip Honolulu voyage, the sailing provides an immersive experience with overnight stays in Maui and Kauai, full days in two Big Island cities, and even sails along the Napali Coast, one of the most stunning landscapes in all of Hawaii.
This Norwegian Cruise Line sailing is one of the best cruises for first-timers since the ship stays local to Hawaiian waters and never ventures into rougher open seas. That means passengers are less likely to suffer from seasickness, one of the worries that sometimes holds back first-time cruisers. With smooth sailing around the islands, guests can instead focus on discovering local culture.
This cruise is so popular, in fact, it frequently sells out months in advance and it's hard to find last-minute deals. So aim to book through a mileage-earning partner like Delta's SkyMiles Cruises, where travelers can earn thousands of airline miles, take advantage of free onboard credits, and still take advantage of Norwegian's Free At Sea perks, like the open bar.
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3. Carnival Mardi Gras – Eastern Caribbean
While Carnival Panorama is a is one of our favorites, its newer sister ship Mardi Gras debuted out of Port Canaveral and offers even more fun activities like Bolt, the first roller coaster at sea.
Mardi Gras sails weeklong cruises to Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, and other sunny Caribbean destinations with rates starting at just $514 per person. In addition to a roller coaster, thrilling ropes course, and Carnival's beloved waterslides, Mardi Gras offers great value for travelers of all ages.
Enjoy lobster night in the main dining room, Shaq's Big Chicken, and lunchtime barbeque from Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse—all included within the cruise fare. The whole family can laugh during a live round of Family Feud on the big stage while grownups can soak up quality me time at the completely free Serenity Adult-Only Retreat.
4. Discovery Princess – Mexican Riviera
New ship Discovery Princess is a food-enthusiast's dream with curated dining experiences from Michelin-star and other renowned chefs. Add to that, Discovery has the cruise line's largest balconies at sea, and sun-seekers are in for a luxurious experience aboard this beauty sailing the Mexican Riviera this winter.
Typical Mexican Riviera cruises are 7-night sailings—which Princess does offer—but there's also a delightful 10-night cruise option which includes a visit to Manzanillo, Mexico, which is less frequented by ships and thus not as crowded with other tourists. With stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas, this Riviera cruise is a gorgeous tour through some of Mexico's most famous beach towns.
Best of all, Mexican Riviera sailings aboard Discovery Princess start at just $398 per person. And that cruise fare includes live entertainment, main stage productions, and lively parties on the pool deck. After saving on the base cruise fare, you'll have money left over for enjoying adventurous shore excursions.
5. Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas – Caribbean and Perfect Day at Coco Cay
Currently holding the title of world's largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas is already known for so much more than its size. Cruise blogger Jenna DeLaurentis says "Wonder of the Seas offers something for every type of traveler to enjoy." That may sound all-encompassing, and it is exactly as Royal Caribbean intended.
Wonder of the Seas has eight distinct neighborhoods appealing to travelers of all ages and interests. There's The Boardwalk family fun zone and a relaxing Central Park area filled with greenery, while Entertainment Place is home to comedy acts, live theater, and an ice rink with professional skaters performing intricate routines while the ship sails. Then there are pool zones, sports zones, youth neighborhoods, and more.
So imagine taking this adventurous ship and still having more to look forward to at the cruise line's Perfect Day at Coco Cay, a private island packed with adrenaline activities, relaxing beaches, waterslides, and the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas. On Wonder's Caribbean sailings from Port Canaveral, itineraries also include port visits to destinations like St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Weeklong cruises start at $721, with kids sail free promotions throughout winter.
6. Holland America Zaandam – Panama Canal
Visiting exciting destinations is half the point of cruising, so it's no wonder sailing through the Panama Canal—one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World—is so popular. Check out the bucket list travelers posting about it on Pinterest and you, too, will soon be swooning over this must-do cruise. And out of the Holland America, Panama Canal cruises routinely make the Top 10 deals list for its value-packed voyage.
Holland's two-week sailings take place between Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, making a full transit through the Panama Canal. While the World Wonder is the star of this show, port visits to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Mexico round out the adventure. Insider tip: If you're a coffee lover, this itinerary is made for you with so many roasting farms to explore along the way.
Seafaring guests aboard Holland America's Zaandam are in for a treat, too, with the spacious, elegant ship carrying a maximum of 1,432 guests. That smaller size means a totally relaxed vibe perfect for enjoying spa days, fine dining, and an immersive entertainment experience thanks to a two-story LED enhanced theater. Plus, these 14-night sailings start at just $721 per person.
7. Norwegian Sun – Europe and the Canary Islands
When was the last time you priced out a European vacation? Hotels and meals and activities can add up fast, but one of the most cost-effective ways to experience abroad is sailing on a European cruise. For less than $600, you can do just that on Norwegian Sun, cruising on a 10-night sailing through Mediterranean hot spots.
Hit up some of the best European cities every traveler needs to see with port visits to Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom with several additional days exploring the Canary Islands. Enjoy all these dreamy locales from the comfort of a recently refurbished ship that holds less than 2,000 passengers, and you're in for one extraordinary journey.
Dress up for dinner at seven savory eateries or splurge on any of the eight onboard specialty restaurants. Take in ocean views at the ship's amazing spa before dancing the night away after a lively main stage performance. Mostly, though, you'll want to take in Mediterranean views from the pool deck, complete with a dance floor for practicing your flamenco moves.
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8. Celebrity Eclipse – Australia and New Zealand
If world travel has you excited, perhaps it's time to set sail from Sydney to explore a half dozen or more port destinations throughout Australia and New Zealand with this showstopper of a deal. This winter, cruises aboard Celebrity Eclipse start at just $799.
Celebrity Cruises is known for its stylish luxury and Celebrity Eclipse is no exception. This ship has raked in recognition from Travel Weekly's Readers' Choice Awards, Wine Spectator Restaurant Wine List Awards, and more. That's no doubt due to Michelin-starred, chef-curated menus, a robust beverage selection, and indulgent lounge and relaxations spaces.
Escape North American winter while spending days exploring New Zealand cities like Auckland and Tauranga, or discovering Australian wine throughout Melbourne, Adelaide, and Hobart. Included in your Celebrity vacation are amenities like drinks, Wi-Fi, and tips, ensuring good value for your sunny getaway.