11 Inexpensive Winter Cruises to Sunny Destinations

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CHART A NEW COURSE THIS WINTER

This may sound a bit counterintuitive, but winter is not a bad time to snag a deal on a cruise. Why? Because most people are busy with the holidays, or their children are in school.

"The reality is there are a lot of limitations in people's personal lives," says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor at Cruise Critic. "It's tough to grab kids and take them out of school. That's one of the primary reasons you can get deals this time of year."

For those without such limitations, here's a quick look at some of the least-expensive cruise offerings of the season recommended by Cruise Critic, Cruiseline.com, and Priceline. Prices stated here were found in late November and may fluctuate as the season progresses.

Related: 11 Ways to Go on a Disney Cruise for Less
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CARNIVAL: BAJA MEXICO

Four sun-drenched days begin with a visit to Catalina Island on a mini-getaway aboard the Carnival Imagination. On Catalina, entertainment options include kayaking, zip lining, parasailing, and just relaxing at a harbor-front restaurant. Next, it's on to Ensenada, Mexico, where wine-country tours, horseback riding, and ATV tours await. The cheapest time to take this cruise is Jan. 28, when interior cabins start at $179 a person.

Related: How to Get the Best Deal on the Top Cheap Cruises
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NORWEGIAN: BAHAMAS

How does island-hopping in the Bahamas sound? And how about swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, or kayaking? There's all that and more on this Norwegian Cruise Line trip, named "Best Short Duration Cruise" by Porthole Cruise magazine. The itinerary includes visits to Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay, where parasailing is among the activities. Prices start at $269 a person, and that includes a free open bar on the ship.
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NORWEGIAN: WESTERN CARIBBEAN

Ancient civilizations and tropical beauty are among the highlights of this Norwegian Cruise Line adventure, which travels from Miami to the island of Roatán, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; and then on to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. In Costa Maya, there are mysterious pre-Columbian Mayan ruins to explore, while Harvest Caye offers mangrove estuaries filled with lagoon wildlife. Interior rooms on this journey start at $449 a person depending on the sailing date.
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ROYAL CARIBBEAN: YUCATAN ESCAPE

One of the top budget cruises recommended by Cruiseline.com, this seven-night Royal Caribbean getaway begins in Miami and includes the so-called Conch Republic of Key West, Florida; Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Costa Maya, Mexico. In Key West, visitors can find art galleries, fine restaurants, and Ernest Hemingway's home. Cozumel, meanwhile, offers stretches of unspoiled jungle and pristine beaches. Prices for the February sailing start at $458 a person. Bonuses include a free spa voucher and a free specialty dinner for two.
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MSC CRUISES: EASTERN CARIBBEAN

Highlights of this seven-night cruise aboard the MSC Divina include visits to Philipsburg, St. Maarten; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Nassau, Bahamas. Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St. Maarten and offers duty-free shopping, art galleries, historic forts, and glitzy casinos. The stop in Puerto Rico provides a chance to visit cobblestoned Old San Juan with its colorful Spanish colonial buildings and 16th-century landmarks. Prices start at $400, and as an added bonus, kids sail for free. The cruise line is also offering a 10 percent discount on shore excursions.
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CARNIVAL: WESTERN CARIBBEAN

One of Priceline's favorite budget cruises this winter, the Carnival Glory sails from Miami to George Town, Grand Cayman; Mahogany Bay, Roatán, and the Bay Islands, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and finally Cozumel, Mexico. Late January sailings for this seven-night trip start at $469 for an interior room. Ocean-view rooms on some sailings are as low as $519. Bonus offers include room upgrades and up to $1,000 worth of onboard spending, which can be used for liquor, dining, spa visits, and shore excursions.
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NORWEGIAN: BAHAMAS AND FLORIDA

Beaches, amusement parks, and shopping are just some of the attractions on this Norwegian Cruise Line trip aboard the Breakaway. Starting in New York, the seven-day itinerary includes stops in Orlando, Florida, and Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas. Amid all of the destination-hopping, there are three days at sea -- plenty of time to explore the Breakaway, dubbed "Best New Ship" by Cruise Critic editors. Completed in 2015, the ship has a quarter-mile-long promenade lined with restaurants and bars. It also has a multi-level sports complex and an aqua park with the fastest waterslides at sea. An inside cabin for the Feb. 12 trip is $549.
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ROYAL CARIBBEAN: BAHAMAS

Here's a chance to sail on one of Royal Caribbean's newest ships. Inside cabins on the March 19 sailing of the Anthem of the Seas to the Bahamas are $549. That's less than $80 a night for this seven-night cruise, which starts in New Jersey and stops in Orlando, Florida (via Port Canaveral), and CocoCay -- the cruise line's private island -- and Nassau in the Bahamas. The ship, completed in 2015, has a rock-climbing wall, simulated skydiving, and an indoor play space with bumper cars, a roller rink, and a circus school. For adults, there are bionic bars, where drinks are served by robots.
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CARNIVAL: MEXICAN RIVIERA

The Mexican Riviera in mid-winter can be exactly what the doctor ordered. Sun-soaked ports of call like Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta are pretty inviting come February. And that's when one of the best deals is available on this Carnival cruise. The Feb. 25 sailing of this seven-night cruise is currently offered at $620, or about $89 a night. The price includes a three-category room upgrade and up to $1,000 in onboard spending. The activities are exactly what one would expect from a warm-weather paradise – kayaking, snorkeling, whale watching, sport fishing, and much more.
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PRINCESS CRUISES: WESTERN CARIBBEAN

In yet another take on the Western Caribbean, this Princess cruise begins in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and sails to Isla Roatán, Honduras, as well as Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. Roatán, a remote 40-mile-long island that's just 2.5 miles across at its widest point, is known for white-sand beaches and spectacular coral reefs. As for Cozumel, Jacques Cousteau once declared it one of the most beautiful areas in the world for scuba diving. Belize, also known for its natural beauty, has set aside 20 percent of its land as nature reserves. Interior cabins on the March 5 sailing of this cruise start at $499.
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ROYAL CARIBBEAN: WESTERN CARIBBEAN

This seven-night cruise with Royal Caribbean includes the usual stops of Roatán, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico, but also adds Costa Maya. Located south of Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Costa Maya is a private island that was developed specifically for cruisers. The port offers pools, restaurants, well-known bars, and the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Interior cabins in January can be as low as $498. Special booking offers include 50 percent off for a second guest, free spa vouchers, and a free specialty dinner for two.