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10 Best Winter Cruises on the East Coast

Norwegian Cruise Line

For those looking to escape this brutal winter, your ship has come into port. There are fleets of luxury cruise ships, all accessible from the East Coast, ready to set sail for tropical locations. These 10 best winter cruises offer thrilling views of the sea via elevated lookouts and glass-bottomed walkways, exquisite dining curated by celebrity chefs, and opulent designs on vessels that offer comfort and respite from the harsh cold. Ditch your winter coat and get ready to hit the open sea. Bon voyage!

By Zachary Laks

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
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Quantum of the Seas

Cruise: 9-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Cape Liberty, New Jersey to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Labadee, Haiti

Date: February 20, 2015

The glittering gem of its fleet of 22, the Quantum of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s newest and most adventure-packed cruises yet. With an overwhelming assortment of “never-before” achievements, the Quantum is filled to the brim with surprises. Guests can float above the ship on North Star, a glass-walled capsule that extends over the ship and 300 feet above the ocean for breathtaking views of endless horizons. A sky-diving simulator, bumper cars, and FlowRider surf simulator also add a nice thrill to the nine-night cruise. With the newly introduced Dynamic Dining program, there are no set dinner times and no required formal nights, allowing guests to choose from the ship’s 18 restaurant dining options.

Insider Tip: The serene mountainous forests of Labadee provide the perfect backdrop for breakfast on board the cruise. Head off the ship to the Royal Caribbean’s private port, where the vendors hawk local crafts at fair prices and you can while away the afternoon on a reclining chair at the sandy beach.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Royal Caribbean International Travel Guide

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
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Celebrity Reflection

Cruise: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Getaway Cruise on Celebrity Cruise Line

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Miami, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas to Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Date: Select dates March 2015

Celebrity’s newest ship, Reflection, is a luxurious refuge filled with modern amenities and conveniences that add to the refined feeling of the boat. The cruise features sensational dining opportunities, including the upscale Murano (additional $45/person), where French cuisine including lobster and Muscovy duck breast are favorites, and the fun al fresco Lawn Club Grill (additional $40/person), with an American grill flare for big strip steaks and tender filet mignon. Opt for the ship’s “AquaClass” suites, where a nominal upgrade fee provides butler service, access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room, priority dining at the exclusive Blu restaurant, and many more upscale touches that add to your cruise experience. 

Insider Tip: Cars drive on the left side of the road in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, so be sure to look both ways upon arriving.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Celebrity Cruises Travel Guide

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line
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Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise: 7-Day Bahamas & Florida on Norwegian Cruise Line

Itinerary: Round-trip from New York, New York to Port Canaveral, Orlando to Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas to Nassau, Bahamas                   

Dates: Select dates February and March 2015

Keep your coat on, grab a cocktail, and head to the top deck to marvel at the incredible New York skyline at dusk as you sail the Hudson River on Norwegian’s new ship, Breakaway. Soon enough you won’t need the extra layers as the ship sails south to the Bahamas, with temperatures slowly increasing by the hour. What sets this ship (in operation since 2013) apart is its incredible culinary offerings. Make sure you board hungry as seemingly endless dining options are just steps away. Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue (additional $39/person) delivers a flawless meal shattering preconceived notions of cruise fare with high-punching entrees, such as Risotto of Jonah Crab and Lightly Roasted Sea Scallops.

Insider Tip: Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, is respite for shore-side relaxation with hammocks, beach loungers, and massages. For the thrill-seekers, wave runner tours are available through advance booking on the ship.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Norwegian Cruise Line Travel Guide

Princess Cruises
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Regal Princess

Cruise: 7-Day Eastern Caribbean on Princess Cruises

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Princess Cays, Bahamas to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to St. Maarten

Dates: Select dates February and March 2015

Princess Cruises spared no expense with their newest ship, the Regal Princess, a dazzling vessel that improves on Princess Cruises’ high standard of quality with exciting new features and expansions. A cruise more suited for couples than families, the Regal Princess introduces some fun flare to the Princess fleet with the SeaWalk glass-bottomed walkway over the edge of the ship and a similar concept for the ship’s opposite side with a cocktail bar. One of the most exciting features of the ship is the free Princess@Sea Messenger, a newly added feature to the Princess app that connects travel companions and allows text communication throughout the ship. Say goodbye to the stress of pre-planning lunch and pool meet-ups.

Insider Tip: When visiting St. Maarten, hail a cab to Maho Beach, otherwise known as Airport Beach. In lieu of a peaceful, relaxing beachfront, you’ll experience the earth-shaking thrill of jumbo jets an arms-length above you as they come in for a landing at Princess Juliana International Airport. You’ve never been this close (outside of actually being on a plane!) to the roar of the engines.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Princess Cruises Travel Guide

Jimmy DeFlippo / Disney Cruise Line
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Disney Dream

Cruise: 4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Cruise Line

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Port Canaveral, Florida to Nassau, Bahamas to Disney’s Castaway Cay

Dates: Select dates February and March 2015

Envelope yourself in the complete Disney experience on the Disney Dream, a cruise ship that prides itself on its classic, early 20th-century design filled with accents of the celebrated mouse’s silhouette throughout. Designed with families in mind, the four-night cruise offers the perfect amount of time to become fully immersed in the magic of Disney. Feel at ease dropping the kids off at Disney's Oceaneer Club, where play areas from Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. await. As the kids play, it’s time for the adults to get their kicks. The Quiet Cove Pool offers a respite, adults-only relaxing vibe, and after-hours, the Evolution dance club kicks it into high gear with deck-bouncing beats.

Insider Tip: There’s no need to pack much as you head off the ship to Castaway Cay. The Disney-owned island provides towels, strollers, and plenty of food.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Disney Cruises Travel Guide

Courtesy of Holland America Line
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ms Eurodam

Cruise: 7-Day Western Caribbean on Holland America Cruise Line

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas to Montego Bay, Jamaica to Georgetown, Cayman Islands to Key West, Florida

Date: Select dates March 2015

The stately and smart ms Eurodam is a cruise suited for those seeking a traditional, elegant travel experience. The ship’s walls are accented with fine art from contemporary artists and masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Dining on board ranges from the supreme Le Cirque (additional $59/person with wine pairings), where rack of lamb and the signature chicken under a brick thrill taste buds, to the expansive main dining room, where the menus change nightly. Look for the daily featured chef on each of the main dining room’s menus, complete with the chef’s detailed bio. BB King's Blues Club keeps the night alive with Motown standards and fun twists on the pop songs of today as guests boogie down.

Insider Tip: When you arrive in Montego Bay, save the money and time by taking one of cabs that line up along the port for a safe and affordable ($5) five-minute ride to the sand.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Holland America Cruise Travel Guide

Courtesy of MSC Cruises
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MSC Divina

Cruise: 7-Day Caribbean Cruise on MSC Cruises

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Miami, Florida to St. Maarten to Puerto Rico to Bahamas

Date: March 7, 2015

MSC’s Europe-based fleet operates a winter cruise getaway in the Caribbean with a Mediterranean atmosphere onboard, focused on easy-going fun and relaxation. With its main atrium featuring two dazzling Swarovski crystal staircases, the Divina is a contemporary ship with sleek interiors and new modern luxuries, including an endless pool, yacht club, and 150 fountains. Divina’s set dinner times (6:30 pm and 9 pm) have assigned tables and provide a leisurely meal that can last over two hours, customary in Europe. Be sure to indulge at Mario Batali’s upscale Eataly affiliate, where fresh pastas, hearty steaks, and crisp pizzas are served à la carte.

Insider Tip: The ship docks a very short walking distance from Old San Juan. As you exit the dock, make a left to stop in at the Puerto Rico Tourism Information Center at the end of the street, where maps chart out the best in shopping and restaurants on the island.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s MSC Cruises Travel Guide

Courtesy of Silversea Cruises
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Silver Shadow

Cruise: 10-Day Mexican Cruise on Silversea Cruises

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico to Costa Maya, Mexico to Santo Tomas, Guatemala to Trujillo, Honduras to Belize City to Key West, Florida

Date: March 10, 2015

When considering smaller, luxury focused cruises, Silversea’s Silver Shadow (with a capacity of 382 guests) delivers a trip where service is second-to-none. The drinks flow freely onboard the Silver Shadow with Silversea’s all-inclusive rate, which includes champagne, spirits, and select wines. Spend an enchanted evening at Le Champagne, the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant located on a cruise, where you’re treated to lobster, truffles, caviar, and the finest in Italian cuisine (additional $40/person). The all-suite cruise attracts a sophisticated crowd, with a fair amount of international guests.

Insider Tip: While ported in Belize City, seek out cave tubing adventures with X-Stream. On this insider’s journey to the land of the Maya, relax and float by the amazing sights of Sibun River Caves from the comfort of your inner tube.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Silversea Cruises Travel Guide

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
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Grandeur of the Seas

Cruise: 8-Night Bahamas Cruise on Royal Caribbean

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Baltimore, Maryland to Port Canaveral, Florida to CocoCay, Bahamas to Nassau, Bahamas to Key West, Florida

Date: March 13, 2015

Let your troubles drift away as you step on board Royal Caribbean’s floating city. Departing from Baltimore’s bustling port, the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas has an extensive array of activities, entertainment, and dining options. Make sure to reserve a table at Izumi (à la carte sushi rolls average at about $9), where the fresh sushi and sashimi pack guests in nightly at this new addition to the ship. Royal Caribbean’s signature Vitality Spa offers a wide assortment of rejuvenating treatments, but take note that treatments can, and often do, sell out, so be sure to book within the first few hours of your cruise.

Insider Tip: While ported at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island, go for a three-mile nature hike through the 140-acre island and look for the green herons, royal terns, and black iguanas.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Royal Caribbean International Travel Guide

Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines
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Carnival Fantasy

Cruise: 5-Night Bahamas Cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines

Itinerary: Roundtrip from Charleston, South Carolina to Freeport, Bahamas to Nassau, Bahamas

Dates: Select dates March 2015

More in line for the traveler looking for a budget- and family-friendly atmosphere, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Fantasy is filled with fun activities to do at sea. Hasbro, The Game Show, a favorite among the nightly entertainment selections, brings signature board games to life as participants battle on full-size versions of Connect 4, Yahtzee, and Sorry! And the opportunity to craft your own pizza pie at the make-your-own pizza station brings out the creative chef in everyone.  At the heart of the ship, the Fantasy’s Atrium rocks the boat with live music, DJs, and plenty of dancing.

Insider Tip: While in Freeport, make it a priority to lunch at the Garden of the Groves, a local favorite set in a U.S. Wildlife Federation-certified habitat. Enjoy your salad while surrounded by the plants, trees, and wildlife native to Grand Bahama Island. The restaurant is only a 15-minute cab ride from the cruise port.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Carnival Cruise Travel Guide