I’ve been lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve on a cruise several times over the years. I’ll never forget standing on the decks of the old P&O Cruises ship M.V. Victoria, watching the fireworks over Table Mountain in Cape Town for the Millennium. I also remember the last time I was away for New Year, when I was travelling with my husband and we stopped in Madeira. All the crew and relatives came together for a fabulous celebration, watching the island’s famous fireworks. I’ve also been to Barcelona and the Caribbean at this time of year, but I found their New Year’s Eve events a bit disappointing.
This year I’ll be at home, so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the best places to see in New Year on a cruise. Perhaps I’ll get to experience more of these one day!
This is a personal favourite for me, as the fireworks display is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It lasts around 20 minutes and you definitely get the best view from the ship. During the day, Funchal is abuzz with excitement as everyone gets ready for the big event. This is a popular port for many cruise ships, so the harbour can become busy. Some ships will be anchored off shore, so views of the fireworks may be more restricted.
It goes without saying that seeing in the New Year in Sydney is an unforgettable experience. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the iconic images of fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a structured order to the proceedings, with events commencing at 6pm. Expect aerial displays, Aboriginal dancing, a light parade and, of course, fireworks. The Rocks is one of the best vantage points and it’s close to the cruise terminals. The official New Year’s Eve event website has a full schedule and list of the best vantage points.
New York is magical on New Year’s Eve. It’s estimated that one million people flock to Times Square to see the famous Ball drop. The crystal ball starts to drop at 11.59pm, finishing its descent at midnight. This tradition began in 1907 and has continued to this day. It is recommended that you arrive by 3pm, but be warned, there are no toilets within the immediate vicinity. As well as live entertainment, you can see a spectacular fireworks display at midnight. There are also celebrations taking place at many of the city’s tourist attractions, including Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Park.
New Orleans is one of my favourite cruise ports and I always get a real buzz when I step ashore there. On a normal day the city is vibrant, exciting and lively, so I can only imagine what it’s like on New Year’s Eve! This year there are a variety of events taking place across the city. These include fireworks at Jackson Square, parties on the iconic paddleboat and live music in Bourbon Street. At midnight, the waterfront comes alive with a colourful pyrotechnic display.
Rio de Janeiro
New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro is meant to be incredible and the main party happens on Copacabana Beach. Over two million people take to the beach to witness the stunning fireworks display at midnight. But this does mean the area can be unsafe and dangerous. From 8pm revellers can soak up live music and a delicious selection of food and drink. It is also traditional to wear white to this particular party. If you don’t want to be with the crowds, you could celebrate at one of the seafront hotels which have excellent vantage points over the beach area.
Victoria Harbour is the place to be when celebrating New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong. The city’s famous fireworks over Hong Kong Island, are best viewed from a pleasure cruise or cruise ship (depending on where you are docked). You may find that your cruise line offers a special ‘pleasure cruise’ excursion. Other events take place in Times Square and Lan Kwai Fong and there will be parties in many of the more luxurious hotels.
One of my most memorable New Year’s Eve experiences was in Cape Town. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront becomes electric with its mix of entertainment and special activity zones. It’s free to enter and the celebrations culminate in an impressive firework display at midnight. You’ll have a great view of the fireworks from your cruise ship. You can also experience the last sunset of the year (with a ride up Table Mountain on the cable car), or you could attend one of the many concerts or parties taking place along the waterfront.
You can read more tips about cruising on the Cruise Advice section of my website.
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