If, like me, the idea of the coming winter in the UK fills you will all the deep, unfettered joy of a Jedward megamix playing on an endless loop, then the idea of a winter cruise escape might just be the thing to banish those icy winter blues. And, over the next few months, one of the best programmes on offer comes from Norwegian Cruise Line. Having been on most of their ships myself- some of them more than once- I can honestly say that they make for a wonderful winter filip if you have the luxury of time, and the money to do it.
So, what is out there? Let’s look at Europe first.
Norwegian have two ships in Southern Europe this winter season; the colourful, contemporary, Norwegian Jade, and the slightly smaller, more oriental themed Norwegian Spirit. The latter ship home ports in Barcelona during the winter, and offers sixteen nine night sailings to the Canary Islands and North Africa, between December and April. All of these cruises can also be booked as round trip options from Malaga.
The ports of call are: Barcelona/Casablanca/Funchal/Lanzarote/Malaga/Barcelona/Four sea days.
There is also a handful of ‘taster’ options, two nighters that allow you to embark in Malaga and leave in Barcelona. A nice little break at a good price.
Norwegian Jade offers seven, eleven night, Western Mediterranean cruises from Rome, December through April. Here’s the skinny;
Sailing from Rome/Florence or Pisa/Monte Carlo/Toulon/Barcelona/Valencia/Cagliari/Carthage/Palermo/Naples/Rome/One sea day.
There’s also a series of seven, ten night Eastern Mediterranean sailings on Norwegian Jade, as listed below:
Rome/Katakolon/Piraeus/Izmir/Istanbul (two days)/Naples/Rome/Three sea days
The sailings on Norwegian Spirit offer a nice blend of port calls and sea days, but be aware that the Atlantic can be a bit rocky at that time of the year. And, while all of the Norwegian Jade sailings offer the option of seeing a lot of popular places at a time of year when the crowds are largely gone, there is very little real time for relaxing on board on the Western Mediterranean run. This might suit some better than others.
Not warm enough or just a little too familiar? How about swapping Europe’s leaden grey skies for the sun, reggae and wonderful beaches of the sparkling Caribbean? Out among the palm splayed paradise of the islands, Norwegian offers a string of tremendous, tempting options that showcase the newest and most innovative ships in the current fleet.
Four ships are highlighted- Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Epic, this year’s brilliant new Norwegian Breakaway and her soon to debut sister, Norwegian Getaway. Most of these cruises sail round trip to the Caribbean from Miami, and run from between seven to eleven nights, but there’s also a seven night option from New York down to Florida and the Bahamas. These are listed below;
From New York, Norwegian Breakaway sails seventeen, seven night Bahamas cruises from December through April;
New York/Port Canaveral/Great Stirrup Cay/Nassau/New York/Three sea days
Meanwhile, brand new sister ship, Norwegian Getaway, offers a series of twelve seven night, Eastern Caribbean cruises from Miami, beginning on January 31st.
Miami/St. Maarten/St. Thomas/Nassau/Miami/Three sea days.
At the same time, Norwegian Epic switches to seven night, round trip Western Caribbean sailings from Miami. There are twelve of these, beginning on February 1st.
Miami/Ocho Rios/Costa Maya/Cozumel/Miami/Three sea days.
If you’re looking for something longer, the more intimate, beautifully styled Norwegian Sun is offering some wonderful ten and eleven night round trips from Miami to the Southern Caribbean, details are here:
Six ten night sailings, between December and April;
Miami/St. Thomas/Dominica/Barbados/St. Lucia/St.Maarten/Miami/Four sea days
Six eleven night sailings, between December and April;
Miami/Cartagena/Aruba/Curacao/St. Maarten/St. Thomas/Miami/Five sea days
All three of the newer ships- Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic- offer what is arguably the best entertainment anywhere at sea, a vast number of alternative restaurants and boardwalk style, open air eateries and, for single passengers, large numbers of compact, solo studio cabins at good price points.
By contrast, the itineraries on the smaller Norwegian Sun are the most in depth and sophisticated by a long way. They do feel like real escapes, with each sailing offering a minimum of four full sea days to soak up that lovely Caribbean winter sun. And, while the ship is smaller, she offers no shortage of fun spots to eat, drink and play. And, naturally, she carries fewer passengers, just over 2,000 in total on most sailings.
All of these sailings, both in Europe and the Caribbean, are offered for sale as round trip fly cruises, or on a cruise only basis. Sailings from New York and Miami also offer a free, pre cruise overnight hotel room stay, plus all transfers. This is in addition to the number of days quoted in these itineraries, which is the total spent on the cruise alone. And remember to factor in an additional night, spent on your return flights home from Miami and New York.
Whichever one you choose, remember that there’s only one golden rule- enjoy!