December is one of the best times to take a cruise. Whether you’re looking to escape the winter cold or just prefer to celebrate the holiday season at sea, the end of the year is the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind on a ship.
So what are some of the best places to cruise in December? Considering the winter season, year-round beach destinations like the Caribbean land at the top of the list. Unexpected locales, such as New Zealand and Patagonia, are worth considering, too.
Whether you’re looking for family-friendly cruises, are planning a romantic couples’ getaway, or looking for a unique adventure, here are some of December’s best cruise destinations.
1: The Bahamas
One of the best places to cruise in December is to The Bahamas, where the pristine white sand and turquoise water will melt away any thoughts of chilly weather back home. Kids will enjoy snorkeling around coral reefs, while adults can relax and read a book while swinging in a hammock.
In December, days drift by with clear skies and warm sunshine. Enjoy the perfect weather by kayaking off Balmoral Island Beach, or bathing in the clear waters of Blue Lagoon Island.
If you’re looking for holiday gifts, stop by the Nassau Straw Market, which offers plenty of items made by local vendors such as straw hats, jewelry, and souvenirs. For upscale shopping, head to Paradise Island.
Sleepy Bimini is a wonderful contrast to the bustle of Nassau, with dreamy white-sand beaches and superb snorkeling. If you’re seeking thrills, join a snorkel tour among reef sharks, or try your hand at game fishing.
Speaking of thrills, many of our Bahamas cruises call at CocoCay, our award-winning private Bahamian island. Here, you’ll find everything from hair-raising waterslides and ziplining to a blissful lagoon pool, stylish beach clubs, and even overwater cabanas in the style of the South Pacific.
2: The Caribbean
The Caribbean, with its picture-perfect beaches, is another wonderful winter escape. There is no better place to cruise in December than the Caribbean, as the weather is generally perfect everywhere. It’s simply a matter of choosing the individual islands that appeal to you.
Take a Southern Caribbean cruise and admire the Dutch-built waterfront of Willemstad, Curaçao’s rainbow-colored capital. Snorkel over colorful reefs and shipwrecks in Aruba, or rest and recharge at Castries in St. Lucia, which was once called “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” by novelist James A. Michener.
Plan a Western Caribbean cruise vacation and stop in Cozumel, Mexico, where beachside restaurants and bustling bars beckon. Swim with stingrays (don’t worry, they’re friendly!) in the warm waters off Grand Cayman.
Enjoy fresh seafood and piña colada in the artsy port of Key West, or discover an astonishing variety of marine life as you dive or snorkel the enormous Belize Barrier Reef in Belize City.
If you choose to go east, there’s St. Maarten, divided between France and The Netherlands. Here, you can sunbathe on Orient Beach and take in the restaurants and patisseries of Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island.
In the British Virgin Islands, take a break from lounging on the sand on Tortola and enjoy a rum tasting at a local distillery. Or visit St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where you can board a catamaran and sail towards the idyllic Honeymoon Beach, regarded as one of the most beautiful in the region.
3: Baja California
Sail south to the sunshine and glittering blue seas around Cabo San Lucas, the glamorous town at the tip of Mexico’s long, thin Baja Peninsula.
There are gorgeous beaches in Cabo to explore, along with dramatic coastal scenery like El Arco, a towering rock arch at Land’s End.
Some of the best things to do in Cabo include heading into the desert on an ATV or admiring the landscape from above on a parasailing trip. You could even spot whales and schools of dolphins from above.
Cabo has a fine culinary scene where you can sample anything from pan-fried lobster to tasty fish tacos, washed down with a margarita.
4: South America
If you want to explore further south, consider a cruise around South America with stops in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Here you’ll find summer temperatures, extraordinary scenery, culture, and cuisine, making this one of the best places to cruise in December.
Soak in the sophisticated vibe of Buenos Aires by visiting the city’s museums, taking in a show at the Teatro Colon, or enjoying a dinner featuring Argentina’s world-famous steaks and red wines. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take your partner to a milonga and schedule a tango lesson for two.
In Punta Del Este, surf at Playa Brava and enjoy a cocktail at one of the many bars in La Barra neighborhood. Don’t forget to take a photo at La Mano, a massive hand-shaped sculpture that emerges from the sand on the beach.
Adventurers will love Ushuaia, a town at the southern tip of South America that is considered the gateway to both Antarctica and the jagged mountains of Patagonia.
Hike around Tierra del Fuego National Park, where the snow-capped peaks will take your breath away, or hop aboard a catamaran to the Beagle Channel, where you can spot Magellanic penguins and sea lions.
5: The Galapagos
Thanks to its location on the equator, the Galapagos archipelago and its unique flora and fauna can be enjoyed year-round. In December, the cooler season is approaching its end. Sometimes, as cool water and warm air meet, the islands are draped in a light mist, creating an almost mystical feel.
December is the best time to visit the Galapagos to see the endemic plants and animals that inhabit this volcanic archipelago. This being the equator, the sea will be warm enough for swimming, and the sunny days are perfect for hiking and exploring by Zodiac inflatable.
Spot a wide variety of Galapagos animals, from giant tortoises to land and marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, lava lizards, and Darwin’s finches, named after scientist Charles Darwin, who formulated his theory of evolution by natural selection based on his time here.
December is the last month when you can usually see blue whales, humpback whales, and whale sharks in the Galapagos before they migrate to different feeding grounds, which is another reason to visit then.
6: Southeast Asia
December is a great time to take a cruise to Southeast Asia because the humidity of the summer and the monsoon rains have abated, leaving tropical but pleasant temperatures that give you plenty of energy for sightseeing.
A December cruise to Southeast Asia will take you to the best ports in the region. Explore the wonders of Hanoi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and cruise on a traditional junk boat among the limestone rock stacks of Halong Bay.
In the ancient Vietnamese city of Hue, tour the walled Imperial City and Citadel, built over 200 years ago when Hue was the country’s capital.
In the south, cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City shimmers with energy. You’ll find thought-provoking museums, sizzling street food, and serene temples wafting incense, all against a backdrop of futuristic skyscrapers. End your stay with a warm bowl of pho or a full-body massage before returning to the ship.
See the landmarks in Bangkok, where there are dazzling floating markets and lavish temples to discover. Explore lush Phuket, where you can shop, sunbathe, or cruise the dramatic karst scenery of Phang Nga Bay. Take in the ultramodern architecture of Singapore and snap pictures of the city’s jaw-dropping giant “trees” at the Gardens By The Bay.
Some itineraries visit Malaysia, with a chance to visit mystical, mountainous Langkawi and historic George Town, the capital of Penang. Indonesia is another thrilling destination, and a chance to take in Lombok’s volcanic beauty, where forested slopes give way to dreamy golden beaches.
7: New Zealand
December is one of the best months of the year to visit New Zealand, when the weather is warm and sunny and locals head to the beaches and out into the lush countryside for hiking and cycling.
The scenery is truly spectacular, especially in Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds, where mountains and ribbon-like waterfalls plunge straight into the still water.
New Zealand is known for its fantastic food scene, whether you want to taste the famous lamb, learn about artisan coffee, or tour the cellar doors around Hawkes Bay to sample the region’s prized wines.
There’s a lively culture here, with plenty of opportunities to learn about the history and traditions of the Māori people, or to explore the Scottish influences around Dunedin. Visit art galleries and museums and take in the otherworldly beauty of “Middle Earth” and the associated famous movie locations.
8: India & Sri Lanka
Escape the cold northern winter for the balmy shores around the Indian Ocean, cooled by tropical breezes. You’ll be dazzled by the vibrancy of Goa’s colorful markets, a riot of sounds, sight, and scents.
Try the local food, which blends Indian and Portuguese influences. In Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, you can learn about Buddhism while admiring shimmering temples. Nearby Hambantota is where you can embark on a safari to the Yala National Park, with a chance of seeing elephants, leopards, and sloth bears.
9: Canary Islands & Morocco
Basking in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa, the Spanish-owned Canary Islands enjoy year-round sun and make the perfect winter escape. Each island is different, although they’re all volcanic.
In Tenerife, you could take the cable car up Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, and throw a snowball before descending for evening beers on the beach in the sunshine.
Lanzarote is almost desert-like, with vines and potatoes thriving in the black, volcanic soil, where they’re grown in pits to protect them from the winds that make this such a great spot for wind and kite surfing.
You can also admire the work of Cesar Manrique on Lanzarote. This famous architect created graceful, whitewashed forms that are the perfect contrast to the stark scenery.
Discover the ancient culture of Morocco, where the cities bustle with colorful markets, and graceful minarets pierce the sky. Visit Chefchaouen, a town that’s painted entirely in brilliant blue, or shop for colorful ceramics and hand-woven rugs in Tangier.
These cruises also call at ports in Spain, where the North African Moorish culture is still evident, especially in glorious Seville. The city’s historic center is packed with exquisite palaces built by the Moors, and narrow alleys where the sounds of flamenco music are carried on the breeze.
Browse our December cruises and book your next winter getaway today.