Welcome to wave season.
Here’s a nice juxtaposition to start your day. Cruises and spring break. Now, in the past, these two concepts could not have been more polarizing. Cruises were commonly considered uncool (and still are to some degree) and spring break, well, we’ve all seen and heard stories. Here’s the thing though. Cruising has come a long way in recent years. 2018 saw the launch of Celebrity Edge, one of the most innovative and beautiful mega-ships on the high seas. Luxury river cruise line Uniworld launched the world’s first and only experiential cruise specifically targeting millennial-age travelers with their U by Uniworld ships. The list goes on.
And as the cruising industry continues to evolve and become more inclusive, here’s some more good news: We’ve officially entered the time of year known in cruising parlance as “wave season.” Historically, wave season runs between January-March and is considered the best time to book a cruise due to the promotions and added incentives on offer—think free drink packages, included excursions, or extra onboard credit. So with that in mind and spring break right around the corner, here are some of the best deals and destinations for travelers of all stripes, from a photography cruise to Antarctica and a late night luxury cruise in Amsterdam to a quick and easy two-night getaway to the Bahamas.
Best For: Photography, Nature & Adventure Travelers
How Much: Starting at $6,695 per person
Undoubtedly one of the coolest travel destinations of late, Antarctica is truly a must-visit destination for nature lovers and photographers alike. With a relatively limited travel window (November-March), springtime is actually one of the best times to visit the icy white continent to the south due to the abundance of wildlife in full swing—think hundreds of thousands of baby penguins waddling around as well as the best time to spot whales. While there’s a range of cruise operators to choose from, Quark Expeditions is considered the leader in polar expedition cruises and is currently offering 20 percent off select expeditions if you book between February 1 and March 2 on 11-12 day cruises including their Photography Series cruise starting at $6,695 per person.
Vietnam & Cambodia
Best For: Foodies & Hyper-Local Experiences
How Much: Starting at $2,229 per person
For travelers looking to really dig in and experience life along the Mekong River, Avalon Waterways’ eight-day Mekong Discover cruise may be just the ticket. This cruise, starting at $2,229, begins in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia and ends in Ho Chi Minh City. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to visit local villages and experience everything from a traditional blessing by local monks, an ox-cart ride through the Cambodian countryside, and visit the homes of villagers and artisans making everything from traditional Vietnamese conical hats to rice wine. Avalon is also currently running a number of deals and promos for sailings in 2019 and 2020.
The Mississippi River
Best For: Music & American History Buffs
How Much: Starting at $2,199 per person
For all the American history buffs out there (or anyone who’s ever seen the 1994 movie “Maverick” and dreamed of what a steamboat sail along the mighty Mississippi would actually be like) the American Queen Steamboat Company is now offering their Jewels of the Lower Mississippi cruise. Starting at $2,199 per person and sailing between Memphis and New Orleans, excursions include a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park and a Cajun and Creole-inspired tour through the swamps along the Louisiana bayou.
Budapest to Passau
Best For: Luxury, Culture & Classical Music
How Much: Starting at $2,199 per person
One of Europe’s most acclaimed boutique river cruise lines, Uniworld is currently offering several last minute deals as well as waved and reduced rates for solo travelers through March and April. Their Paris to Normandy sailing to their Enchanting Danube (starting at $2,199 per person) are among the discounted itineraries. Designed for cruisers looking to live in the lap of luxury while enjoying high-quality service, food, and excursions, their 7-night Danube cruise will take you from Budapest, Hungary to Passau, Germany with stops in some of Europe’s most charming villages and cities in between.
Amsterdam to Frankfurt
Best For: Late Night Revelers, Active Travelers & Adventurers
How Much: Starting at $1,749 per person
For spring break purists who want to keep the spirit of the, ahem, holiday, alive, U by Uniworld is the best way to explore some of the best cities and sites across Europe, even staying overnight in ports so you can really get a taste for the nightlife. One of the most popular cruises in the U By Uniworld universe, Rolling on The Rhine, starts in Amsterdam just in time for tulip season and includes excursions ranging from an included canal and café tour to their signature red light district tour. With the current promotion, travelers can save 30 percent for bookings made now through March 31 and this cruise starts at $1749. Solo travelers will also receive waived or reduced single supplements when booking during this period.
Barcelona to Rome
Best For: Foodies & Francophiles
How Much: Starting at $1,599 per person
Recognized year over year as one of the best cruise lines for foodies, Oceania Cruises is now offering their OLife Choice for travelers and includes roundtrip airfare (valid through April 1) plus your choice of free shore excursions, free beverage package, or free on board credit. On the 7-day Mediterranean Collage sailing between Barcelona to Rome, food lovers can enjoy culinary excursions ranging from a Tuscan food and wine tour at Villa Dianella in Florence and cooking classes in Rome to walks through lavender fields in Provence and wine tastings in Monte Carlo.
Costa Rica & The Panama Canal
Best For: Jungle Exploration & Beachside BBQ’s
How Much: $1,554 person
Trade in your jungle juice for a bonafide jungle cruise adventure this spring break on one of Variety Cruises’ yacht-style ships. Right now the company is running a special offer on their Treasures of Costa Rica and The Panama Canal sailing just in time for spring break which includes a 40 percent discount based on double occupancy and a free cabin category upgrade. The sailings, which start in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and end in Panama City, Panama, includes stops for forest canopy tours, beach BBQ’s, and a visit with an indigenous Embera Indians.
Best For: A Cruise for the Cruise Adverse
How Much: Starting at $1,400 for two people
Star Clippers may only have three ships in their fleet, but with several departure dates in March and April and a killer buy one get one free deal with prices starting at $1,400 for two passengers, this is a solid option for the casual and more cruise adverse traveler. With 7-night sailings around Southern and Northern Phuket, Star Clippers is known for their laid back and informal atmosphere allowing passengers the freedom to plan their own schedules and activities.
Best For: A Little Aloha Magic
How Much: $1,399 per person
Hawaii is always a good idea, and right in time for spring break, Norwegian Cruise Line is offering cruisers 7-day itineraries including two overnight stays in port starting at $1,399 as part of their free at sea package. The deal includes up to 6 free offerings including things like free Wi-Fi, shore excursions, unlimited drinks, specialty dining, and free or reduced airfare.
Best For: Adrenaline and Adventure
How Much: $1,199
From white water rafting to kayaking through glow worm caves, there’s a reason why New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world. So for spring breakers looking to get a little high-intensity action, Celebrity Cruises is now offering a 14-night cruise on Celebrity Solstice starting at $1,199 along with their Sail Beyond deal that includes a classic beverage package, unlimited Wi-Fi, prepaid tips, and $150 onboard credit.
Best For: Temple Hoppers and Cherry Blossom Peepers
How Much: Starting at $834 per person
There’s no better time or excuse to bear witness to the majesty of cherry blossom season than spring break. Luckily for travelers, Princess Cruises offers a variety of last minute cruise deals in March and April to do just that. From a 7-day California Coast sailings and a wine tasting cruise from $548 to their 8-Day Spring Flowers cruise starting in Tokyo, Japan at $834 per person. Stops include Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park as well as Busan, South Korea where flower and cherry blossom peepers have a chance to visit sites like Yongdusan Park and Haedong Yonggungsa, a beautiful 14th-century Buddhist temple set directly on the coast. No matter what coast you choose, these are some seriously great bargains with one of the more venerable cruise operators in town.
The Greek Isles
Best For: Romance and Mamma Mia Fanatics
How Much: Starting at $579 per person
For many travelers (or any of you “Mamma Mia” fans out there), a cruise through the Greek Isles and the Mediterranean is the very definition of travel goals. While there are a variety of cruise operators in the area, Greece-based cruise line Celestyal Cruises is offering a special promotion just in time for spring break that includes an all-inclusive deal starting at $579 per person on select three-night itineraries and $1,259 per person on 7-night itineraries through March and April. What sets Celestyal apart is the fact that their heavenly ships are considered small to mid-size and are able to travel to smaller and less touristy islands around the Greek isles.
Best For: Sun Seeking Spring Breakers
How Much: Starting at $659 per person
Known as “the ship that follows the sun,” MSC Cruises made their Caribbean debut only a couple years ago and now offers some of the most competitive rates to the region. Currently, as part of their All In deal, MSC is offering a starting rate of $659 per person inclusive of unlimited drinks and free Wi-Fi as well as a $99 reduced deposit. Departing from Miami with stops in Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, and Havana, MSC Armonia is a great option for spring breakers looking to trade in colder temps for crystal clear water, beautiful beaches and some fun in the Caribbean sun.
Best For: Nature, Beauty, and Relaxation
How Much: Starting at $629 euros per person
There’s something truly magical about sailing through the narrow channels and fjords in Norway. British based cruise line P&O Cruises is currently offering a 7-night deal that will see you through the Norwegian fjords and includes $75 on board spending credit to use towards the spa, drinks, or fitness classes.
Best For: The Spring Break Purist
How Much: Cruises starting at $224 p/p
No one does spring break quite like Mexico does and for travelers looking to really let their hair down, Carnival’s Let Fun Live promotion includes a four-night Baja, Mexico cruise starting at $224 and a 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Carnival Splendor starting at $484 per person.
Best For: An Easy (And Cost Effective) Spring Break Escape
How Much: Cruises starting at $159
For travelers on a tighter schedule, a three-day cruise may be the perfect solution. What’s great about a Bahamas cruise is, depending on the itinerary you really have time to max out on relaxation on board. Royal Caribbean’s WOW Sale includes 60 percent off of a second guest and up to $400 to spend at sea, from a three-night Bahamas cruise starting at $338 to a 7-night Bahama cruise from $579. Also in time for spring break, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is offering a “Triple Play” package on select two-night sailings including five free drinks, $25 onboard credit, and $50 casino match play on sailings out of Palm Beach.