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5 awe-inspiring winter cruises

From budget-friendly iceberg tours to luxury shopping trips or ‘cruises to nowhere’, here are the most unusual and awe-inspiring destinations for a winter cruise.

A bit of everything in The Canary Islands, Spain

Lanzarote harbour is a pretty constellation of fishing boats and azure waters

Lanzarote harbour is a pretty constellation of fishing boats and azure waters

The year-round tropical climate of the Canary Islands makes them an obvious first choice for a winter cruise. And while the weather may be consistently glorious, you’ll find the island terrain varied enough to satisfy even the most energetic travellers.

Tenerife, for example, is famous for its beaches but the island is also home to El Teide — the tallest mountain in Spain — and an elaborate lava cave system. It’s easy to fall in love with this sunny oasis so if you plan to extend your stay, Keka’s Guesthouse has a central location with easy access to local hiking trails.

Wildlife watching in Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

A blue-footed Booby on Isla de la Plata

A blue-footed Booby on Isla de la Plata

The Isla de la Plata is sometimes given the rather unfair name of ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’. While it is cheaper, ‘The Clever Traveller’s Galapagos’ is more accurate, if less pithy.

A small island off the Ecuadorian coast, Isla de la Plata has much of the same wildlife as its famous neighbour, without the hefty price tag. Island inhabitants include tortoises, blue footed boobies, and frigate birds, while the sea is full of humpback whales and pantropical spotted dolphins.

Guided hiking tours offer nature-lovers a full and varied tour of the island, including a look at the island’s ancient Inca shrine, and after a long day exploring, you can retire to Nautilus Lodge on the mainland and unwind on their outdoor terrace.

Unexpected tranquility in Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong provides sensational cityscape views

Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong provides sensational cityscape views

The average winter temperature in Hong Kong rarely dips below 22°C and in December rainfall hits a yearly low, making it an ideal month for a quick trip or an extended stay in the city that has something for every kind of traveller.

While the Ocean Terminal delivers travellers to the heart of Hong Kong’s luxury shopping and fine dining district, there are also plenty of opportunities to get away from the hectic city centre.

Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas recently began running a two-night cruise from Hong Kong to ‘nowhere’, allowing you to simply enjoy the cruise without busy port calls. Or if you want to get your land legs back before setting sail again, the InterContinental Hong Kong offers guests a view of the Hong kong harbour in sumptuous surroundings.

Beat the heat in Sydney, Australia

Balls Head Reserve, overlooking Sydney Harbour

Balls Head Reserve, overlooking Sydney Harbour

One of the many great things about travelling by water is the unique view it can offer of a familiar city. Even regular visitors to Sydney will admire the approach to the city’s harbour via cruise ship, past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

December and January find average temperatures of 26°C; far more comfortable than in most of the rest of Australia. This means visitors looking to avoid the sweltering heat can come down to Sydney, making the most of its award-winning brunch spots, fascinating museums and stunning NYE celebrations.

Continue your aquatic adventure by checking into the Hotel Pier One: a hotel built on the water in Sydney Harbour.

Go iceberg watching in Alaska, USA

Cruise ship passengers view the glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park

Cruise ship passengers view the glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park

Despite its oft touted beauty and a booming tourist trade, there are many parts of Alaska that are relatively unexplored and inaccessible by car. The state’s natural beauty is the kind that is especially inhospitable to the casual visitor, with glaciers, wildlife preserves, forests and, of course, the Inside Passage.

All of which is even more reason to pay a visit and why the best way to do so is via a cruise. Sail past the ice formations of Glacier Bay and along to the state capital of Juneau. Or take a road trip along the Alaska Highway.

And if you fancy a different kind of view, consider checking into the Silverbow Inn, where the owners organise regular wildlife tours. There’s also an in-house art gallery and, most importantly, there’s a hot tub on the roof.