Top 30 Cruises for 2016
Published 13/12/2015 | 11:27
Checking out a cruise holiday for 2016? Our expert trawls the travel agents for the best offers.
Best for bargains
When booking a budget-friendly cruise, it pays to keep your eye on the inclusions. The cost of extra meals, drinks and gratuities can quickly rack up, with your bargain holiday suddenly becoming anything but. This Thomson Majesty cruise is full-board, currently available at a saving of €200pp, with the all-inclusive drinks upgrade just €70pp (instead of €239pp). All tips and transfers are included too.
How: The cruise departs from Majorca on May 3 and includes flights from Dublin. Prices start at €979pps.
2 Arabian Gulf
While the price might not scream bargain at first sight, when you take into consideration the cost of flights to Dubai, you're getting good bang for your buck here. The Royal Caribbean cruise includes stops at Khasab and Muscat in Oman and Abu Dhabi before returning to Dubai, so you get a great overview of the Gulf. You'll sail on Splendour of the Seas, with an outdoor movie screen and indoor/outdoor pool.
How: The seven-night trip costs from €1,199pps, including flights, departing February 15. This and other cruises are also available to book at clickandgo.com.
3 East Mediterranean
You mightn't get the soaring heat of summer, but you can't argue with this price. ITAA member King Travel has an 11-night cruise, taking in Genoa, Katakolon, Piraeus, Rhodes, Haifa, Heraklion and Civitavecchia, as well as one night post-cruise in Milan, from just €625pps. You'll get to see the sights without the gaggles of tourists the summer season draws, and return to the MSC Fantasia each evening.
How: The package includes the 11-night cruise, one night in Milan, full board, flights and transfers, from €625pps.
See: kingtravel.ie, itaa.ie/offers
4 Winter in the Canaries
It's home to one of the largest spas at sea, so the Norwegian Epic really does live up to its name. This package from Sunway sails from Barcelona, calling at Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Madeira, Malaga and Tangiers, giving you an in-depth tour of the Canary Islands and beyond. It'll be just the spell of sun you'll need come February.
How: The 10-night holiday starts at €839pps, including flights and free soda drinks package, departing February 14.
5 Winter in the Med
Sunway currently has a seven-night cruise, full board with a balcony room and flights included, from just €679pps. The trip departs February 19 and 26 from Barcelona, and takes in Marseille, Genoa, Rome, Sicily and Malta. You'll sail on the MSC Preziosa, which is perfect for kids but also home to a dedicated adults-only deck space.
How: The seven-night cruise includes flights from Dublin and is based on a February 19/26 departure. Prices from €679pps.
Best for families
6 Western Mediterranean
Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas was voted the No.1 cruise ship for families this year, and it's easy to see why. As well as a rock climbing wall, numerous pools and a surf simulator, there's an on-board ice rink, where you can also watch professionals perform. On this 13-night cruise, you'll visit Gibraltar, Cartagena, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Seville and Lisbon.
How: Prices start at €5,365 for two adults and two children, including flights from Dublin, departing August 27 from Southampton.
7 Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia
The MSC Magnifica is a beast of a ship, with a huge open-air pool complex, four whirlpools, a solarium and an indoor pool with retractable roof, so you can swim whatever the weather. Kids will love the 4D cinema (and the unlimited ice cream, of course). You'll be departing from Venice, stopping in Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik before heading back to port.
How: The seven-night cruise is currently priced at €4,758 for two adults and two children on a fully inclusive package, including flights, departing August 6. You can also book MSC with Cruisescapes, among others.
See: msccruises.ie; cruisescapes.ie.
A cruise mightn't immediately spring to mind when planning a family holiday. But the last few years have seen a huge increase in popularity for family cruises. The kids are kept occupied with endless activities and distractions on board, and you can relax knowing that there's zero chance of boredom. Independent Travel has prices starting at €899pps for adults in May - but children under 12 go for €499pps throughout the summer (when travelling with two adults).
How: The seven-night cruise departs from Barcelona and the package includes flights, transfers, meals and transfers, from €899pps.
9 Italy, Spain and France
When booking any cruise, you need to keep a close eye on what your package includes, and this is particularly true when it comes to family holidays. But this MSC cruise is fully all-inclusive, with food available 20 hours a day, as well as all drinks, including alcohol and premium coffee. On board the MSC Preziosa, you'll find Vertigo, the longest single-rider water slide on the seas, and the Doremi Castle kids aqua park.
How: The seven-night cruise currently costs €4,796 for two adults and two children in a Balcony Cabin, departing July 31.
As well as the usual pools on board, the Thomson Dream has a dedicated kids club, open for 3 to 11-year-olds. There, kids can join in with arts and crafts sessions, movie nights, pyjama parties and more, all organised in two-hour chunks (leaving you free to pop to the adults-only pool). The Aegean Shores cruise departs from Corfu, stopping at Kefalonia, Istanbul, Kalamata and more.
How: The seven-night cruise departs August 12, and costs from €1,279pps, including flights (€859 per child). You can upgrade to all-inclusive for €10pppn.
Best for couples
11 Italy and the Greek Isles
A cruise can be a great way to see islands that are usually tricky to fly to. This package from Cassidy Travel takes in some of the most beautiful Greek isles, without the hassle of endless flights. You'll start in Rome before heading to Sicily, Myknonos, Ephesus, Rhodes, Santorini and Athens, and then finishing in Naples.
How: The 10-night cruise on Celebrity Reflection starts at €2,289pps, with flights from Dublin and a balcony, departing September 30. Meals and gratuities included.
Quantum of the Seas hit the headlines in recent years thanks to its robot bartenders. The Bionic Bar has now been introduced to other liners, including the brand new Harmony of the Seas. The technology continues in the interior bedrooms, which have Virtual Balconies with changing "views". You can sail among the robots on a five-night cruise in the Mediterranean, sailing from Barcelona and taking in Rome and Naples too.
How: The five-night cruise starts at €1,349pps, including flights, departing on June 7.
13 Bordeaux River Cruise
A cruise needn't mean an ocean liner - river cruises have seen a surge in popularity over the last few years. Next spring, AmaWaterways is launching a wine-themed river cruise, following a route along the Garonne river, exploring one of the world's wine capitals. There will be wine-themed excursions, presentations and tastings on board, and all meals are included.
How: The Taste of Bordeaux cruise sailing on August 5 costs from €2,199pps (saving €1,540pp), including flights from Dublin.
14 Aegean Sea To Rome
Celebrate the start of the summer with a voyage through some of Europe's most romantic sights. Azamara Club Cruises have a strong focus on "destination immersion", meaning you have longer to spend in each city - which you'll need on this cruise, which stops in Santorini, Sorrento, Tuscany, Athens and Valletta, as well as the Amalfi coast and more.
How: The 12-night cruise starts at €2,939pps, including a pre-cruise hotel stay and flights from Dublin, departing June 4. John Galligan (jgt.ie) also does Azamara.
15 Seattle and Alaska
If you fancy spending a bit more time on solid ground, then a combined city package is the perfect introduction to cruising. This trip with American Holidays gives you two nights to explore Seattle before boarding the Norwegian Jewel and sailing off to Alaska. The state's beautiful coastline is stunning in the summer, where you can take in the Sawyer Glacier and the picturesque town of Skagway.
How: The package starts at €1,899pps, including flights, two nights pre-cruise in Seattle and seven nights on board Norwegian Jewel, for travel in May.
Best for something different
Cruises aren't all about tropical sunsets and lounging on sundecks. There are some truly unique adventures to be had at sea, like a trip on the Antarctic Explorer. This once in a lifetime voyage explores the wild Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula, the ship passing through sheets of ice where penguins zip between icebergs. You can explore off-deck too, with stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and even camping available.
How: Prices start at £4,000/€5,665pps for 11 or 12 days. Flights aren't included but can be arranged.
17 River Ganges
Instead of expanses of ocean, look out your window on this cruise and you'll see the changing shoreline of the River Ganges. Hop off the small boat each day to visit temples, explore local villages and the ruins at Rajmahal. This is one in a programme of river cruises launched by G Adventures, aimed at younger travellers, which strongly feature cultural activities and visits to support local communities.
How: The 15-day trip costs from €2,599pps, including most meals, activities and transfers, but not flights.
18 Festival Cruise
Sixthman have been holding festivals at sea since 2002, and the clue to their ethos is in their motto: Live Loud. Their cruises take place on Norwegian ships and have included artists such as KISS, Kid Rock and John Mayer. There are numerous cruises in 2016, including 'Cayamo, A Journey Through Song' with John Prine, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle and more.
How: The Impractical Jokers cruise costs from $925/€871pps in a double room, without flights, from January 11-15.
19 Grand Asia Discovery
If you want to tick several Asian hotspots off your bucket list in one trip, then this is the cruise for you. Beginning with two nights in a Singapore hotel, you'll board the Sapphire Princess for a 17-night cruise, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan and South Korea. You'll finish up in Beijing, where you'll have three nights in a hotel before flying home.
How: The 22-night trip costs from €2,699pps, including flights, meals and transfers, departing March 19.
20 Northern Lights
The elusive Northern Lights are an enchanting sight, but sometimes tricky to spot. However, on this 11-night voyage with Hurtigruten, the nights spent at sea greatly increase your chances of a lightshow. And if you're unsuccessful, the "Northern Lights Promise" means you can have a second chance with a free six or seven-day voyage next season.
How: The Astronomy Cruise package includes hotel nights in Bergen before and after the 11-night cruise, starting from €2,146pps. Departure dates include January 28 and March 1, as well as dates later in 2016.
Best for Caribbean
21 Orlando & Caribbean
A great deal of Caribbean cruises depart from Florida, so many packages include an overnight stay before you set sail. But if you want to see a bit more of the sunshine state, this package has five nights in Orlando before your cruise. Car hire is also included, so you can hit the theme parks, or the quaint towns of Sarasota and St Petersburg on the west coast.
How: The trip starts at €1,359pps and includes hotel accommodation in Orlando, a seven-night Caribbean cruise, car hire and flights from Dublin, on February 17.
22 Puerto Rico & Southern Caribbean
Experience a side of the Caribbean often overlooked, with this cruise taking in the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts, Dominica and Martinique. You'll have at least nine hours on each island, which leaves plenty of time for relaxation and exploration. The trip includes three nights in the vibrant city of San Juan, so you can immerse yourself in the Puerto Rican vibe.
How: The package includes three nights pre-cruise in San Juan and seven at sea on the Celebrity Summit, including flights, from €1,565pps for travel in April.
23 Eastern Caribbean
Fancy swapping the dreariness of an Irish January with the warmth of the Bahamas? Royal Caribbean has an all-inclusive deal on a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, stopping in the Bahamas, St Thomas and St Maarten. Selected drinks and gratuities are included, so you won't be hit with a big bill upon departure.
How: The seven-night cruise departs January 9 from Florida on Oasis of the Seas, starting at €1,625pps, including flights from Dublin. Offer ends December 22.
See: royalcaribbean.ie or e-travel.ie.
24 Southern Caribbean
Plan ahead for next winter and you can pick up some great deals. Like this one from Celebrity Cruises - book now for winter 2016, and you'll get $300/€283 to spend on board. Head off to the Southern Caribbean and you can enjoy a flutter in the on-board spa or the cocktail bar.
How: The 12-night Exotic Southern Caribbean cruise costs from €2,149pps in an ocean view room, including overnights, meals on board and flights, departing December 10. Offer ends December 14.
25 Bahamas, St Maarten and Puerto Rico
If you're going to do the Caribbean, you might as well do it in style. The new MSC Divinia ship was apparently inspired by Sophia Loren, so you can live out all of your screen siren fantasies on board. This trip includes a two-night hotel stay in Miami prior to departure, as well as all meals on the ship. Gratuities are charged upon departure.
How: The nine-night trip starts at €1,045pps, including flights, departing May 5.
Best for luxury
26 Malaysia, Thailand and Kuala Lumpur
Silversea cruises are among the most luxurious in the world. The ships are ultra swish and smaller than usual, so you can see more of a city. Accommodation is in spacious suites, complete with butler service and sea views. This cruise incorporates a three-night stopover in Myanmar, so you can explore the ancient wonders of Yangon.
How: The 12-day all-inclusive trip begins and ends in Singapore, and costs from €5,250pps in a Vista Suite, departing February 13. Flights aren't included.
27 Monte Carlo to Barcelona
The Seabourn Odyssey accommodates just 450 guests, with the highest space-per-guest ratio in the industry. That means you'll have more room around the sun terrace or the pool patio. This cruise takes in Livorno (for Florence/Pisa), Corsica, Marseille and Valencia, before finishing in Barcelona. Shore excursions include visits to Monaco's old town and the Nice flower market.
How: The seven-night trip departs on November 16 and costs from around €3,540pps, all-inclusive, not including flights.
28 European Capitals
You'll sail through all the highlights of Northern Europe with this Azamara cruise. The spacious ship will pass through Oslo, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Rostock, with the option of taking the complimentary shuttle to Berlin. On board, you'll be treated to fine cuisine and unlimited drinks, with gratuities also included. Special excursions are available at an extra cost, allowing unique access to sights within the cities.
How: The trip runs from August 26-September 9, costing from €4,769pps with flights.
29 Northern Italy
According to Sandra Mooney of Cassidy Travel, river cruising is the biggest single sector growing at a fast rate in Ireland. The smaller ships mean better service levels and an increase in access, particularly when cities are involved. Cassidy Travel has a great deal on a 10-day luxury river cruise, travelling from Milan to Venice with Uniworld. The price is currently €2,679pps, down from €4,601.
How: The 10-day luxury river cruise starts at €2,679pps, all inclusive, departing May 6.
Hapag-Lloyd's EUROPA 2 is comprised only of suites, equipped with verandas, tablets and a complimentary minibar. There's room for only 500 passengers on board, thus creating a small resort feel. The ship is coming to Dublin next Summer - then cruising to Scotland and Germany, but if you fancy a bit of sun later in the year then hop on board in Caracas for a Caribbean jaunt to Cuba.
How: The 12-night cruise departs October 24 and starts at €7,020pp, with a 50pc discount offer currently applying for the second guest. The rate is cruise only, but can be booked with flights through John Galligan Travel (jgt.ie).
NB: All prices subject to change/availability.