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.
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 Wintertime
For guaranteed sunshine the Caribbean can't be beaten, particularly when the British winter is at its worst at the start of the year. Marella Cruises has three ships, Celebration, Discovery 2 and Explorer, in the region at this time of year. The seven-night Cuban Fusion fly-cruise onboard Discovery 2 offers a wonderful itinerary that includes an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba.
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 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.
Flying direct to and from Jamaica's Montego Bay from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester, the cruises are aboard the 1,832-passenger Discovery 2.
The 2019/20 season will see Explorer 2 in the Caribbean in place of Explorer and Discovery 2 switching to an exciting Pride Of Panama itinerary.
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 weeks surrounding the summer solstice.
The luxurious Seabourn Quest undertakes an epic 45-night Viking Summer voyage on 8 June, 2020, sailing from Dover and ending in Southampton. Carrying 456-passengers, this elegant 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 (October to March)
Hurtigruten operates seven- and 12-night return voyages from Bergen onboard the 822-passenger Trollfjord, which takes passengers deep into the Arctic Circle to offer the best chance of witnessing the northern lights.
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 and a ship offers a wonderful vantage point to go "leaf peeping".
Silversea's Silver Wind sails on a selecton of nine to 12-night voyages from New York to Montreal, and vice versa, throughout October, 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 a range of options onboard Hebridean Sky and Island Sky.
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 14 December. 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 offers the classic western Med loop -- Barcelona, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Cannes and Palma De Mallorca -- and is popular with UK passengers. The ship features 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.
The port of Rome is 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 12-night Easter Hidden Baltic Treasures sailing takes place onboard the 1,400-passenger Magellan, departing London Tilbury on April 11, 2020. Calls Kalundborg, Denmark; Warnemunde, Germany; Ronne, Bornholm; Visby, Sweden; Nynashamn, Sweden; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Gdynia, Poland, and Skagen, Denmark, before returning home.
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 Silhouette on July 14. This 2,886-passenger vessel offers a distinctive cruising style that the line describes as modern luxury. Ports include the 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.