The charms of autumn -- apple-picking, trick-or-treating -- are distracting you for now, but this season could only mean one thing: Winter is coming. The months of late November through March are a prime opportunity to cruise. Whether you're dodging in-laws, avoiding low temperatures or treating yourself to a well-deserved break, we offer the following seven reasons why you should drop everything and cruise this winter.
1. You haven't used all your vacation days yet.
So, what are you waiting for? Short cruises (typically three to five nights) are a convenient way to feel as if you've escaped the doldrums of everyday life, without taking too much time off work. Prices are typically low -- sometimes in the ballpark of $50 per person, per night.
Carnival offers short cruises from homeports around the U.S., and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line even offers two-night cruises that depart, on an endless loop, from West Palm Beach to Freeport, Bahamas.
Out of vacation days? For most people, that paid-time-off clock resets on January 1 -- plenty of wintry months left to sail away.
2. Cold weather is for suckers.
Not everywhere in the Western Hemisphere turns icy when winter blows in, but for those already having nightmares of salt melt and snowblowers, a cruise could be your cure. Winter is one of the best times to sail into the Caribbean. If you avoid the weeks of school breaks, you can likely find a low-cost and quiet cruise to St. Maarten, Grenada or Jamaica.
Also, if you're looking for less of a jaunt and more of a trek, North American winter is Australian summer; head Down Under for a dose of sun while you walkabout downtown Sydney or while away the hours in the Whitsundays.
3. Hurricane season ends in November.
The months of June through mid-November are fair game for hurricanes. That means you might find some great deals in the Atlantic, but if you'd rather avoid the idea of having your cruise canceled or rerouted, winter is the season to book. Storms aside, find some great last-minute deals right after hurricane season, as cruise lines are looking to offload the rest of their inventory for the year between November and December.
4. You can't cook another Thanksgiving turkey.
Or latkes, or Christmas ham or any other kind of feast expected by your family. If the holidays are more stressful for you than a time to reflect and rejoice, then book your winter cruise right now. Let someone else cook the turkey (or couple of hundred turkeys), clean the dishes, hand out hot toddies and make your bed after a long night of drunken caroling.
If you're feeling that familial guilt, just bring them; Disney goes all-out for the holidays, and is a good choice if you've got young kids. It's still better to spend time with your family on a cruise vacation than arguing over how to make the stuffing in your great-aunt's tiny kitchen.
5. You don't want another disappointing New Year's Eve.
An overpriced dinner, a bottle of affordable bubbly and the ball dropping in Times Square -- another 365 days go by. If you're tired of the same year-end routine, mix it up by ringing in the New Year from the middle of the ocean.
Special (included) dinner menus, festive parties and a midnight Champagne toast are just some of the ways cruise lines celebrate onboard their ships. Plus, all the bars are within walking distance of your accommodations. Book a New Year's Eve cruise and you definitely won't have a boring holiday, guaranteed.
6. Politics have got you down.
If you just can't handle any more current events, consider sailing away from it all. Cruise ships can navigate waterways to remote locations such as the Galapagos, Seychelles, French Polynesia or even Easter Island. Shut off your phone and embark on an itinerary that will take you far away. (Just don't turn on your cabin television!)
7. The deal is too good to say no.
Although the period of cruise line promotions known as wave season doesn't technically start until January, we've been seeing deals earlier and earlier each year. A very good reason to drop everything and book a cruise? A fantastic deal.
Shop around and find reduced pricing or perks like free drink packages, included internet, onboard credit, gratuities and even reduced passenger fares. While cruising during the holiday season can be in high demand, more and more cruise lines are offering sales and onboard credit specifically for those bookings.