Why you should take a cruise holiday in winter.

Almost by their very nature, cruise ships tend to chase the sun around the world. Sure, by their geography, some parts of the world don’t lend themselves to much as a tropical paradise, but they don’t need to be as that’s not their appeal. If you put the two on a scale, the leisure activity that is cruising will inevitably lean more toward warmer weather as its preferred climate. That’s just the market as it is.

Some parts of the world have a quaint appeal during their cooler months. Case in point being the Caribbean, where the “winter”, if you can call it that, is by far the peak season for travelling by cruise ship as it’s just too hot in the summer. Other popular haunts for cruising such as Alaska and Northern Canada are pretty much only possible during the warmer months, due to being virtually uninhabitable at the other end of the weather spectrum and certainly not where tourists dare to tread.

Australia is another of those regions of the world able to sustain a cruising economy throughout the year, even if only a few ships remain in local waters during the annual weather-driven downturn. But that considered, there are some definite advantages to heading out to sea at this time of the year.

Great fares are everywhere

Cruise clearance sales - important points you should know.
Ships still need to sail as full as possible year-round, which can lead to some great deals for you.

While the variety of cruise ships is certainly at a bit of a lull in the cooler months, the ones that remain, such as much of the P&O Australia fleet, Carnival Spirit and several Princess Cruises ships, still have to sail as full as possible. These cruise brands know that anybody in a stateroom is better than nobody at all, and so as this part of the year approaches, the special offers and incentives come out of the woodwork en masse.

While school holiday periods after Terms 1, 2 and 3 can still tend to be something of a boon for cruise ships with families taking a quick break, the periods in between are when you can pounce on some great deals. It’s important though not to get too clouded in all the dollar signs & daydreams about how you’re going to spend that onboard credit – trust us, it’s easy.

Onboard crowds

Crowds are down if you go cruising in winter.
Ok you probably won’t have the whole ship to yourself but crowds are usually down in the winter months.

Anybody who has cruised during the summer peak, especially close to Christmas or early January will tell you how difficult it can be to snag a lounge chair by the pool…or the second row…or even in the back corner near the toilets. This problem quite simply doesn’t exist if cruising in the Australian winter.

Pool areas on most of the ships in Australia during this time of the year are generally quite well shielded from the wind, but with such a selection at your disposal, you can normally move somewhere else if the winds change direction and find you.

Another point worth mentioning is that while it will still be busy from time to time, with fewer people to serve at dinner or in the bar, crew members will be more inclined to strike up a conversation and make even more of an effort to get to know you. In turn, you’ll have more time to get to know them as well and as the relationship grows, it can turn into tangible benefits for you as a guest with things such as an extra scoop of ice-cream with your dessert, your laundry folded in your room or some chocolates left on your pillow during the evening turn-down service.

They’re all little gestures but are ones which may not necessarily come during the busier times of the year when crew just don’t have the spare time to provide them.

Greater incentives to spend onboard

Cruise ships may be less likely to offer deals onboard in peak seasons.
The rewards won’t stop once you’re onboard, with lots of little spot deals across the ship to be found.

Onboard spend is a major revenue stream for most cruise lines but they are aware and appreciative of you for cruising during their quieter time of the year. This is when you’ll find extra stocktake sales, clearances and discounts available from the retail outlets, especially on some of their higher ticket items such as jewellery, watches and perfumes.

These sales will take place daily, in various parts of the ship and often more than once per cruise, so there are some great opportunities to get some early presents for your friends and family back at home.

It’s never cold in the South Pacific

No such thing as winter in the South Pacific.
Winter…what winter? There’s no such thing in the South Pacific with pretty much year-round warmth.

The only change of seasons in the South Pacific is the wet season (November to April) and the dry season (May to October), but one thing is constant – it’s warm year-round. It’s certainly cooler and less muggy during the middle of the year but the water is still warm enough to swim and anything more than a T-shirt and shorts will see you overdressed. Much of the rainfall happens at night though, when you’re safely back on your ship.

Crowds will also be down on land as much as they will be on the ship, so shops will have more room for browsing, service will be faster and the streets will be much easier to navigate on foot.

Chances of an upgrade

Upgrades are very possible during cooler months.
Just by booking in winter, who knows how high up the cruise line might put you instead?

As we detailed yesterday in our article about ways to maximise your chances of an upgrade, if you book early enough, grab a room type you think will be in high demand such as balcony or Ocean View cabins. Why pay full price for a suite if you don’t need one – there’s a good chance you might get one anyway if you’re cruising in the quieter months.

Cruise lines may have trouble selling these higher cabins, so the upgrade sales will begin or guests already booked in the mid-range rooms will be moved up in order to vacate more of the lower-tier rooms that the line can then sell at a cheaper price.

The basic message is that cruising in the cooler months can be full of white-hot benefits and deals if you’re able to travel at this time of year. Go for it!