On a quest for some vitamin D as the winter nights draw in? One way to get your fix is by taking to the sea for a cruise, docking in locations that shine while the UK turns grey. Here’s the best of the bunch.
Main photo: the Great Australian Bight, which Azamara’s Christmas cruise of Australia will cross (Getty Images)
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1. Central America, Star Clippers
In 2023, the tall-ship line Star Clippers will return to Central America for the first time in almost a decade, visiting Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Watch the warm breeze filling the sails of the 166-passenger Star Clipper, a four-masted barquentine straight out of the golden age of ocean travel. You’ll have a week of swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and wildlife watching, with visits to Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park and Nicaragua’s smouldering Masaya volcano. On the sea day, you can lounge on the bowsprit nets and watch the waves washing past.
Details Seven nights’ full board from £1,395pp, departing on January 7, 2023. Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica.
2. Cuba, Ambassador Cruise Line
For the ultimate energetic escape, wave goodbye to the cold British winter for almost two months with Ambassador Cruise Line, the UK’s newest cruise company, sailing out of Tilbury on the 1,400-passenger Ambience. A highlight of this epic round trip to the Caribbean is two nights in Havana, capital of Cuba, where old American cars and faded pastel-coloured buildings line streets alive with the sound of rumba bands. Two ocean conservationists from the marine charity Orca will also be on board to point out wildlife along the way.
Details Forty-two nights’ full board from £2,399pp, departing on January 5, 2023.
3. Australia, Azamara
Break the usual Christmas and new year traditions with an unforgettable voyage down under on Azamara’s 686-passenger Azamara Quest. Beginning in Perth, you’ll celebrate Christmas at sea before crossing the Great Australian Bight, with the world’s longest uninterrupted line of sea cliffs. The ship visits seven ports before arriving in Sydney to celebrate new year with a fantastic view of the fireworks above the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You’ll stay there for two nights, so you can spend the first day of 2023 relaxing on Bondi Beach. The cruise finishes in Melbourne.
Details Fourteen nights’ full board from £3,959pp, departing on December 21, 2022. Fly into Perth and out of Melbourne.
4. Indian Ocean, Panache
From Africa to South Asia, via Madagascar, Mozambique, the Maldives and more in between, this leisurely sailing also includes six days at sea, providing plenty of time to savour Oceania Cruises’ reputation for fine dining or chilling out in the spa. The 656-passenger Nautica provides a small-ship vibe, although you’ll be looked after by 400 staff. After four days exploring the South African coast, tranquil ports of call include Nosy Be, off Madagascar, which is famous for its lemurs.
Details Eighteen nights’ full board from £5,557pp, including flights, departing on January 18, 2023.
5. Cambodia and Vietnam, CroisiEurope
CroisiEurope was the first river cruise line to return to the Mekong when southeast Asia reopened its doors. This journey through Cambodia and Vietnam, ending in Ho Chi Minh City, begins with a two-night hotel stay to explore the mystical 12th-century temples of Angkor, the world’s largest complex of its kind. Ensuing days bring fun and authentic experiences, including a tuk-tuk excursion through the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, a serene ride on a flat-bottomed sampan boat through mangroves, and displays of Khmer dancing.
Details Ten nights’ full board from £2,406pp, including excursions, departing on November 26, 2022. Fly into Siem Reap and out of Ho Chi Minh City.
6. Caribbean, P&O Cruises
Be among the first to sail on the newest P&O Cruises ship, Arvia, which has been designed to soak up year-round sunshine. With the retractable glass-roofed SkyDome and airy spaces, the 5,200-passenger ship, built for the British market, is perfect for exploring islands such as Martinique, St Lucia and Barbados. Make the most of the scenery on St Kitts with a “paint and sip” art class, capturing the surroundings with a glass of wine to hand, or rev things up on an exhilarating self-drive 4×4 off-road tour with time on the beach to wind down.
Details Seven nights’ full board from £1,469pp, including flights, departing on January 28, 2023
7. French Polynesia, Aranui
Discover one of the world’s most remote archipelagos on a one-off ship. Resembling a vessel that has been cut in two, Aranui 5 carries 254 passengers in one half and cargo in the other. It delivers freight to the six inhabited Marquesas Islands scattered in the South Pacific, 930 miles off Tahiti, where you can expect a spirited welcome from locals blowing conch shells and dancing in traditional grass skirts. Daily tours include Hiva Oa, where the enigmatic tikis — human-like religious sculptures — are the biggest outside Easter Island. Tattooing originated in Polynesia and if you want a permanent souvenir Aranui 5 has a resident tattoo artist.
Details Eleven nights’ full board from £6,995pp, including flights, excursions and a two-night hotel stay in Tahiti, departing January 21, 2023.
8. South America, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Brazil is renowned for its vast stretches of white-sand beaches and you’ll find them aplenty on this sailing aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury 708-passenger Seven Seas Voyager. All you have to decide is where to find the best spot to sip your caipirinha, the national cocktail, made from Brazil’s sugar cane spirit. The cruise begins against the backdrop of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain and ends in sultry Buenos Aires, where you can sign up for a tango masterclass. Highlights along the way include Uruguay’s Sea Wolves Island, populated by thousands of sea lions basking on the rocks.
Details Ten nights’ all-inclusive from £7,379pp, including flights, drinks, excursions and tips, departing on January 19, 2023.
9. Canaries, Saga
Enjoy a music-filled cruise with the composer, pianist and broadcaster Jools Holland, who takes to the stage on this round-trip sailing from Portsmouth on Saga’s Spirit of Discovery. There’s an extended stay on the flower-filled island of Madeira before you cruise to the Canary Islands. On Lanzarote there’s an option to visit Timanfaya National Park for a sizzling barbecue lunch cooked over heat from the volcano. Portugal’s historic capital, Lisbon, is a fitting finale on this toe-tapping itinerary.
Details Sixteen nights’ all-inclusive from £4,051pp, including door-to-door chauffeur service, travel insurance, drinks, four excursions and tips, departing on February 2, 2023.
10. Persian Gulf, Windstar Cruises
Plan ahead for next year’s winter escape with Windstar Cruises’ new itinerary to the Gulf. On this exotic voyage from Dubai to Muscat you can find out why Oman’s Musandam peninsula is called the “Norway of Arabia” on a trip aboard a traditional wooden dhow vessel into the fjord-like inlets, while keeping a lookout for dolphins. Elsewhere, surf the undulating sand dunes in 4x4s or ride a camel at sunset. Your own “ship of the desert” is the recently refurbished 312-passenger Star Legend, where spacious new balcony suites provide the perfect resting place for those Arabian nights.
Details Ten nights’ all-inclusive from £4,895pp, including flights, drinks, tips and an overnight hotel stay, departing on December 13, 2023.
11. Bahamas, Belize and Mexico, MSC Cruises
Want to lounge on your own pristine, private Caribbean island? Although you’ll have to share the 95-acre Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas with fellow shipmates, it’s a natural haven where the emphasis is on sustainable activities such as kayaking or simply lazing about on beach beanbags. As well as calling at Belize and Mexico, this round-trip cruise from Port Canaveral features two separate overnight stops at Ocean Cay, where you can do as much or as little as you wish before retiring to bed on the bright and bold MSC Meraviglia.
Details Ten nights’ full board from £759pp, including tips, departing on December 1, 2022. Fly to Orlando.