There are certain periods when cruising becomes particularly magical. From pole to pole and east to west, there are a plethora of cruising options to experience nature's majesty or simply celebrate the bounty of the four seasons.
The midnight sun comes into its own inside Norway's Arctic Circle, when dusk and dawn are fused together. At the same time of year the Baltic states are bathed in endless light during the renowned white nights. In similar latitudes, but at the opposite end of the calendar in the depths of winter, some ships offer the chance to witness the spectacle of the northern lights. Likewise, the autumn foliage creates a spectacular natural tableau in New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
For guaranteed sunshine the Caribbean can't be beaten, particularly when the British winter is at its worst at the start of the year.
Christmas and Easter are popular times to get away, and brochures are full of cruises, whether it's the Canary Islands for those who prefer not to fly, longer voyages with a number sea days, or shorter fly-cruises.
During the British winter it is of course summer down under, and from November to March smaller, expedition-style vessels venture south to the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands.
1. Caribbean Sun in the British Winter
Thomson Cruises offers seven-night Cuban Fusion fly-cruises for winter 2017/18. Flying direct to and from Jamaica's Montego Bay from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester, the cruises are aboard the 1,832-passenger TUI Discovery 2 -- which only joined Thomson Cruises' fleet in summer 2017. With its contemporary style, outdoor cinema, rock climbing wall and two pools, this is a perfect ship to lap up the sun and explore colonial gems.
After a day at sea, the quaint, pastel dwellings of Grand Cayman lead to Seven Mile Beach -- a classic strip of iridescently white sand. The overnight stay in the Cuban capital Havana allows time to explore the faded elegance of this vibrant city that's now making headlines for all the right reasons. In Habana Vieja -- Old Havana -- many buildings have been preserved and the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Cozumel, just off the Mexican mainland, you can take a trip to Xel-Ha, the world's largest natural aquarium.
2. Midnight Sun in Summertime
The solar extravaganza of the sun never truly setting, creating almost continuous daylight, occurs in northern latitudes within the Arctic Circle, and is best experienced on cruises to Norway in the few weeks surrounding the summer solstice.
The luxurious Seabourn Quest undertakes an epic 30-night Quest of the Midnight Sun voyage on 17 May, 2018, sailing from Dover and ending in Copenhagen. Carrying 456-passengers, this classy ship is staffed by crew members who anticipate cruisers' preferences with an unerring instinct.
The itinerary features fascinating ports such as Reykjavik in Iceland and Honningsvag in Norway, while another stop, the so-called City of the Arctic, Tromso, boasts the modern iceberg-shaped, Arctic Cathedral.
3. Northern Lights from October to March
Hurtigruten operates 12-night Astronomy Voyages round trips from Bergen which sail inside the Arctic Circle and offer the best chance to see the elusive northern lights. Between October 2017 and March 2018 there are regular sailings aboard the 822-passenger Trollfjord, which have the added bonus of being accompanied by special experts on astronomy as well as dedicated northern light spotting expeditions. Other excursions include dog-sledding and staying in an ice hotel.
These voyages travel through beautiful, untamed scenery from Bergen as far north as Kirkenes -- just six miles from the Russian border. Heading northbound the ship docks at Tromso where visitors marvel at the Northern Lights Planetarium; while at Honningsvag tour buses take passengers to the North Cape where an exhibition narrates the importance of this 1,000-foot cliff. On the southbound journey calls are made at Hammerfest for visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Meridian Column.
4. New England and Canadian in the Autumn
The glorious changing colours of autumn are the main reason for cruises to New England and the eastern Canadian Maritimes in September and October. A ship offers a wonderful vantage point to go "leaf peeping".
On 17 October Regent Seven Seas Mariner sails on a 10-night voyage from New York to Montreal, visiting Newport, Rhode Island; Boston; Bar Harbour; Halifax; Charlottetown; Gaspe; the Saguenay River; and Quebec. Throughout the voyage there will be a wealth of spectacular autumnal scenery.
5. Antarctica in the British Winter
The world's fifth largest continent is divided into two parts; Greater Antarctica and Lesser Antarctica -- which projects towards South America and includes the Antarctic Peninsula. This is the most visited part of the continent and is the focus of most expedition cruises to the region.
Abercrombie & Kent offers cruises aboard French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant's eco-friendly Le Lyrial. This sleek vessel, with its ice-strengthened hull, has capacity for 244 passengers, but on these voyages carries only 199. Departing on 26 December, 2017, a 14-night Classic Antarctica voyage sails from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego bound for the natural wonderland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Cruises to Antarctica truly merit the cliche journey of a lifetime. Passengers gain a deep understanding of the region with enriching lectures by award-winning scientists, published authors, historians and professional photographers. The brave can even go snorkelling in the bone-chilling waters.
6. Christmas Fly Cruise
P&O Cruises' family-friendly, 3,096-passenger Azura is in the Caribbean for Christmas, offering a festive 14-night cruise on 15 December, 2017. There are charter flights to Barbados from Gatwick, Birmingham and Belfast. Ports of call include Martinique, Antigua, St Kitts, St Maarten, Grand Turk, Tortola, St Vincent, Grenada, and St Lucia. Christmas Day is spent at sea, with Boxing Day in the idyllic island of St Vincent in the Grenadines. Back onboard, grown-ups love the adults-only enclave -- The Retreat -- while within the Oasis Spa; the Oasis Villa is an exclusive-use area with private whirlpool spa.
7. Mediterranean in Summer
The Mediterranean is the number one choice for British cruisers seeking a summer escape in the sun. The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic is very popular with U.K. passengers, and offers a rock climbing wall, waterpark with a 300-feet corkscrew tube, bowling alley and an exclusive ship-within-a-ship complex known as The Haven. Epic sails on a series of seven-night fly-cruises from Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome) throughout summer 2017.
Ports include Naples -- for visits to Capri -- Sorrento and Pompeii, Civitavecchia -- the port of Rome and ideal for a day-long visit to the Eternal City -- and Livorno where full day trips to the art city of Florence are not to be missed. Calls are also made at Cannes for tours to the millionaire's playground of the glamorous Cote d'Azur, and Palma with its landmark cathedral.
8. Easter Cruises
For many cruise passengers the ultimate luxury of a sea voyage is not so much non-stop service, endless dining options or even sumptuous cabins. It's the joy of being able to drive to a convenient embarkation port, avoid the hassle of airports and unpack once.
CMV's Easter Getaway & River Seine voyage, departing London Tilbury on 31 March, 2018, is perfect for cruisers living in the south east. The pleasing, adults-only, 1,400-passenger Magellan has earned a place in the hearts of many Brits and is a perfect choice for those who prefer traditional liners.
The seven-night round trip sailing visits Amsterdam, Isles of Scilly, Guernsey, Rouen and Honfleur.
9. Baltic Sea in Summer
To sail the Baltic Sea is to criss-cross centuries-old trade routes followed by medieval merchants and mariners of ancient Hanseatic League cities. Graphic reminders of these prosperous heydays survive in the region's art and architecture. In summer months, the white nights make this region even more magical.
Celebrity Cruises has 13-night Scandinavia & Russia round trip cruise from Southampton aboard Celebrity Eclipse on 23 August, 2017. This 2,852-passenger vessel offers a distinctive cruising style that the line describes as modern luxury. Ports include the tranquil Danish town of Frederica, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn. Then it's on to St Petersburg for an overnight stay and Warnemunde for a day excursion to Berlin.
10. South America in Winter
One way of escaping the British winter is to take a cruise in the warmer climes of the southern hemisphere. The recent World Cup and Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have whetted the appetite for cruising to South America.
Oceania Cruises has a 12-night Radiant Rhythms sailing from Buenos Aires aboard the 684-passenger Sirena departing 21 March, 2018. This cruise starts off with an overnight in Buenos Aires before setting the compass for Montevideo and the millionaire's playground of Punta del Este. Now in Brazilian waters, the salsa beat sets the scene as the ship heads to Rio Grande, Porto Belo, Santos (for Sao Paulo), Parati, Ilha Grande and Buzios before arriving in Rio for an overnight stay in this vibrant destination known as "cidade maravilhosa" -- which has a reputation for bringing out the party animal in even the most staid of souls.