We hate to say the ‘C’ word so soon, but if a cruise is on your Christmas list booking early is a must if you’re to avoid getting left out in the cold. The festivities may feel a million miles away as we bask in the heady days of summer, but cruising over Christmas and New Year is incredibly popular, so you’ll have to act quickly if you fancy joining Santa at sea this year. Here are some itineraries that offer time at sea with all the trimmings, including a 2018 Christmas cruise that is worth the wait.
TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
New Year’s Eve is overrated. Unless that is, you spend it exploring the island landscapes and terracotta plains of Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa. See out 2017 on the paradise beaches of Mauritius and Reunion Island, before starting 2018 in style in Madagascar. Lively Mozambique is next on the list, followed by the Zululand port town of Richards Bay, the base for your first wildlife encounters at the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Even wilder experiences await on game drives through Kariega Game Reserve and a 4 x 4 adventure at Addo Elephant Park. With a two-night post-cruise stay in Cape Town rounding off the proceedings, it’ll be the best start to a new year you have ever had.
A SHORT BUT SWEET SAILING
If you can’t get into the Christmas spirit in beautiful Bruges, there’s little hope for you at all. Embrace the festivities in Grote Markt, where the scent of mulled wine lingers over the charming wooden chalets, each selling a slice of Christmas cheer in the form of glittering decorations and nativity sets. The chocolate box scene is bettered only by a light frosting of fresh snow, should the weather go your way, providing you with an excuse to hide away in a fairy-lit café with a Glühwein or a Belgian hot chocolate so thick your spoon stands up. This short but sweet sailing will see you arrive home full of festive cheer (and perhaps a pound or two heavier).
TALL SHIP SAILING ON THE CUBAN COAST
Cuba was on everyone’s wishlist for 2017 and there’s still time to experience the elusive island fuelled by Latin American fire. There’s something seriously exciting about sailing aboard a tall ship and never more so than when it is bound for Cuban waters, the destination retaining an air of mystery, after only recently lifting its tourism restrictions. The blonde sands of Varadero provide the warmest of welcomes, tempting you with two nights of unadulterated relaxation, before you join Star Flyer for nine perfect nights on the Cuban coastline and its surrounding islands. You’ll spend Christmas Day sailing turquoise seas, before arriving into the colourful Cuban capital of Havana, where a post-cruise stay will give you time to soak up some of that intoxicating Latin spirit.
A VERY CUNARD CHRISTMAS
Head across the Atlantic for ‘the holidays’, setting sail from Southampton on a classic 7-night Transatlantic crossing on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Departing 15 December 2017, the Westbound sailing sees you spend seven nights slipping into the Christmas spirit, helped along by carol singers, Christmas trees and ever-expanding gingerbread villages. With arrival into New York falling just days before the main event, the decision to add on a post-cruise stay in the city is inevitable. Catch the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, spend Christmas Eve in the glow of the Rockefeller Christmas tree and lace up your skates for a Christmas morning spent on the ice at Central Park.
AURORA BOREALIS IN THE ARCTIC WILDERNESS
Experience a cosy Norwegian Christmas or ‘Jul’ on Hurtigruten’s Classic Voyage South, sailing from Kirkenes to Bergen. Christmas doesn’t get much more ‘Christmassy’ than it does in a place where fresh snow is a given, dog sledging is a daily occurrence and the festive green and red glow of the Aurora Borealis shines brighter than any fairy lights. Awaken your inner explorer on a cruise from the Arctic wilderness of northern Norway to the world’s most beautiful fjords along the country’s west coast. You’ll find Christmas markets and lovingly decorated trees and store fronts at each of the ports on your itinerary, plus the opportunity to make like Santa on a reindeer sledge ride through the snow, warming up with a hot chocolate and a classic carol sing-a-long once back on board.
COCKTAILS AND TINSEL IN THE CARIBBEAN
Swap stuffing balls for sun cream and spend Christmas in the Caribbean this year. Embracing British winters wouldn’t be half as difficult if they were the white winter wonderlands depicted on the Christmas cards. Unfortunately, they aren’t, which is why the temptation to sunbathe while everyone at home shivers is too strong to resist. A Caribbean Christmas cruise with P&O Cruises promises the best of both worlds; perfect if you love the thought of island-hopping in the sun, but aren’t quite ready to sacrifice the traditional Christmas festivities. Barbados, Martinique, Antigua, St Maarten and more appear on an itinerary that sees you celebrate a traditional British Christmas under the sun.
FAMILY FUN MINUS THE FESTIVE FEUDS
Spend Christmas morning ice skating, before working off the turkey with a little rock climbing and ending the night with a Christmas classic watched under the stars…all in the middle of the Caribbean. Get the family together and do Christmas differently this year, trading Christmas carols for the calypso beat of the Eastern Caribbean on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. You’ll find more tropical ferns than festive firs in the rainforests of Puerto Rico and the bright white beaches of St Kitts and St Maarten guarantee a tan in time for New Year.
If you’re already planning ahead to Christmas 2018, this is the itinerary worth waiting for:
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DARWIN
If the thought of last-minute shopping and festive family politics fills you with dread, the idea of escaping the Christmas madness on one of the most isolated archipelagos on earth could be very tempting. Indulge your inner Attenborough and answer the call of the wild on Celebrity Cruises’ 7-night Galápagos Southern Loop Cruise, trading a commercialised Christmas for a true natural beauty. Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin as you hike, snorkel and wildlife watch your way around one of the most undiscovered corners of the globe, spending your Christmas Day in the company of Blue Footed Boobies in Punta Pitt and sea lions on the sands of Cerro Brujo.