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The best small ship winter sun cruises for 2023/2024

Cruise Advice

We might have barely reached the peak of the UK summer but that doesn't stop us looking ahead for when the nights start drawing in. Now is the perfect time to start planning a trip to round out the year in style or to start 2024 with some rest and rejuvenation. Luckily there are some fabulous itineraries out there for this coming winter and here are some of our favourite winter sun cruises for 2023, 2024 and 2025.


It's no secret that the Caribbean is popular with tourists in winter, due to the beautiful beaches, relaxed lifestyle and warm seas, but perhaps it's time to experience the hidden gems of this region from a new perspective.

The tiny 112- guest yachts of SeaDream Yacht Club are almost a permanent feature here in winter and their small size means they can visit lesser-known and relatively unspoilt islands including Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, Terre de Haut and Bequia. The SeaDream experience is akin to sailing on your own private yacht with friendly and personalised service from the 95-strong crew, a water sports marina, and an intimate and sociable atmosphere onboard.

Central America

For something further off the beaten track, Ponant's Le Dumont D'Urville is operating a brand-new itinerary exploring Belize and Honduras this December, during which you can expect extraordinary biodiversity, friendly local communities and untouched tropical wilderness. The onboard team together with local naturalists ensure guests are fully immersed in this unique region, offering guided hikes, snorkelling trips and Zodiac outings.

Experience Ponant's trademark elegance and flair on board with just 92 rooms and suites, a stylish pool deck and a refined ambience, all whilst sailing to little-known locales boasting some of the best beaches, reefs and nature reserves in the world.

Or, having launched last year, Emerald's 100-guest luxury yacht Emerald Azzurra ends 2023 in the Caribbean before making her way west to sail 7-night itineraries between Panama and Costa Rica in January.

A nature-lover's dream, excursions to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Darién National Park in Panama and Costa Rica's Curú National Wildlife Refugeare included. The yacht's small size means it is the perfect way to explore the scenic coastline including a chance to swim and use the water toys from the onboard marina in Panama's Pearl Islands and Isla Cebaco.

Canary Islands

Seabourn has a collection of 14 and 21-day itineraries to the Canary Islands sailing round-trip from Lisbon, with voyages including lesser-known La Gomera, along with calls in to Morocco's Tangier and Casablanca. The sailings depart in November 2023 and 2024 when the weather is still pleasantly warm without the chill that can come in December and January.

Santa Catalina beach, La Gomera

Arabian Peninsula

In November one of Windstar's motor yachts, the 312-guest Star Legend, travels from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal to spend the winter months cruising the Arabian Peninsula.

The small yacht is perfect for cruising this region which is rich with history and incredible architecture including the impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, plus it is a great time of year to visit as the temperatures have eased off from the intense heat of summer. Enjoy the laid-back luxury onboard with intimate lounges, low-key entertainment and outdoor dining to truly soak up your surroundings.

Indian Ocean

Ponant's chic and stylish Explorer Class yachts are operating in the Indian Ocean this winter from January 2024, with Le Jacques Cartier and Le Champlain offering itineraries focused on the beautiful Seychelles. Enjoy Ponant's trademark élan and flair on board intimate ships with just 92 rooms and suites, a stylish pool deck and a refined onboard ambience, all whilst sailing amongst islands boasting some of the best beaches, reefs and nature reserves in the world.

Ponant - Le Laperouse small ship cruise in the Seychelles

Australia and New Zealand

Crystal Cruises relaunches this year and the newly enhanced 606-guest Crystal Symphony heads Down Under in December just in time for the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Perhaps opt for the holiday sailing on 20th December and spend New Year's Eve in vibrant Melbourne, explore the raw beauty of New Zealand's North and South Islands in January, or take an extended voyage which visits Tasmania, Sydney and tropical Cairns before continuing on to Indonesia. On board, expect refreshed and elegant décor, improved guest-to- space ratio and the exceptional service for which Crystal has been known over the past 30 years.

South Africa

For an exotic destination with minimal time difference from the UK, look no further than the beautiful landscapes and incredible wildlife of South Africa. Silversea's Silver Spirit spends the winter months here from mid-December to mid-February sailing 6-, 9- or 15-day itineraries.

The shorter 6-day itinerary enjoys overnights in Durban and Richard's Bay, both gateways to the magnificent reserves of the KwaZulu-Natal region, and the two-week itinerary extends up the coast to the tidal lagoon and resident flamingo colony of Walvis Bay, Namibia. On board, enjoy all-suite accommodation, eight varied and elegant dining options and spacious yet intimate lounges.

Meet the author

Louise is Marketing Executive at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Explora Journeys and has also sailed with Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Seabourn, Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is New Zealand however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Pacific Islands, Norwegian Fjords, Indian Ocean and South Africa. When she’s not travelling she loves cooking and trying new restaurants.

More about Louise

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