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Ideally, the best time to go on a cruise is when you’re able to get away and have fun. Of course, the timing also varies with the cruise destination, cruise line, weather and your budget. Usually it will depend on your family’s work and school schedules. But there are other factors to take into consideration.
“The most important thing to determine when looking for the best time to cruise is what experience you want. While some destinations do have very specific seasons – like Alaska – you’ll likely have a different experience depending on what month you visit,” says Chris Gray Faust, Managing Editor of Cruise Critic.
If you’re looking for the best time to visit a destination, you’ll likely pay higher cruise prices and have more crowds, but will also have the most choice in terms of cruise options and things to do in port.
If you’re looking for the best time to visit and save money, look at the shoulder season for your particular destination. In many destinations, that might be when weather can be a bit more unpredictable, and in others it might just be led by when crowds start to dissipate. For example, when kids start returning to school, says Gray Faust.
Whether it’s your first time sailing or you’re a seasoned traveler, here are some tips to plan your cruise vacation.
Best Time for a Caribbean Cruise
You can sail to the Caribbean any time of year. However, if you’re looking to sail during the Caribbean’s best weather – the dry season – then plan for a December to mid-April cruise. To visit Cozumel and other ports of call in the Western Caribbean, book your cruise vacation for March to May.
Cruising to the Caribbean during peak season
Expect more crowds and higher cruise prices from December to April. On the plus side, you’ll have more cruise options. For many families, holidays, summer vacation and spring break are the popular time to cruise. Kids’ programs and activities will be in full swing during this high season for families.
Cruising to the Caribbean during shoulder season
To avoid crowds, book your trip from late summer to fall. However, that’s hurricane season, so be aware that your itinerary may change. Early December or May are also good months for the best cruise experience with pleasant weather minus crowds.
Best Time to Cruise to the Bahamas
With sunshine 80 percent of the year, cruise lines sail to the Bahamas year-round. The winter months are best for the driest weather, while summers are humid and busy with tourists and families on summer vacation.
Cruising to the Bahamas during peak season
January and February are among the best months to go on a cruise to the Bahamas. It’s the beginning of the dry season so you probably won’t have to worry about rain in Nassau, the nation’s main cruise port. But you may want to avoid New Year’s, which can be crowded with festivities.
Cruising to the Bahamas during shoulder season
May marks the beginning of the low season and is a good time to travel. The hurricane season in the Atlantic starts around June, so you’ll see cruise deals cropping up.
Best Time to Cruise to Hawaii
Hawaii is a fun destination year-round and is an ideal cruise vacation. On shore excursions you can go snorkeling, visit a volcano, hike to waterfalls and much more.
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Cruising to Hawaii during peak season
For the best weather, cruise to Hawaii between April and November. The driest months are June and July, making this an ideal time of the year for helicopter tours and shore excursions. To avoid summer crowds, cruise to Hawaii in the early fall.
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Cruising to Hawaii during shoulder season
The winter months are the rainy season, but Christmas is a festive time of year to experience the aloha of the islands.
Best Time to Cruise to Alaska
An Alaska cruise is thrilling, especially if you enjoy outdoor adventures and wildlife viewing. However, Alaska has a more limited cruise season.
Cruising to Alaska during peak season
The best time of year to visit Alaska is between May and September. Keep in mind that June through August is the most popular time to visit Alaska. It’s the best time of year to see bears, whales, salmon and caribou.
Cruising to Alaska during shoulder season
May and September will have fewer crowds and you’ll still have good weather and see wildlife. Plus, you can save money during spring and early fall.
Best Time to Cruise to Mexico
From Mayan ruins and underground rivers to sunny beaches and Xcaret theme parks, Mexico has a lot to offer travelers.
Cruising to Mexico during peak season
November – January is the best time to cruise to Mexico for best weather conditions and fewer crowds. It’s a great time to visit the Riviera Maya and Mexican Riviera.
Cruising to Mexico during shoulder season
Summers are usually humid and it’s hurricane season, but you’ll generally find good rates June – November.
Best Time to Cruise to Bermuda
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is a charming island with pink sand beaches and a mix of British and American culture and history. Typically, cruise ships sail to Bermuda from April through mid-November.
Cruising to Bermuda during peak season
June through August is the best time of year to cruise to Bermuda, which means you’ll find higher cruise prices during these summer months.
Cruising to Bermuda during shoulder season
May is also the best month to visit Bermuda for discounts and good weather. But look for spring deals April through early June, and fall specials September through November.
Best Time to Cruise to New England and Canada
Like Alaska, New England and Canada have limited sailing times, usually between May and October before the cold winter months. May and late October are usually the cheapest months to cruise.
Cruising to New England and Canada during peak season
The summer months are the most popular time for a cruise vacation to these destinations. The pleasant weather makes it ideal to explore these regions.
Cruising to New England and Canada during shoulder season
If you don’t mind cooler weather, a fall cruise vacation is ideal for admiring the beautiful sight of leaves changing colors. This usually happens in October when cruise prices drop.
Best Time for Mediterranean Cruises
Western Mediterranean cruises typically have ports of call in Spain, Italy, France and Malta, while Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries visit Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey.
Cruising to the Mediterranean during peak season
For optimal weather, cruise the Western Mediterranean from April through November, and Eastern Mediterranean between April and December.
Cruising to the Mediterranean during shoulder season
Score cruise deals while still enjoying good weather in May or September on a Western Mediterranean cruise vacation. For the Eastern Mediterranean, consider April and October.
Best Time to Go on a River Cruise
With fewer passengers than large cruise ships, river cruises in Europe offer an intimate experience onboard the ships and on shore excursions.
Cruising on Europe’s rivers during peak season
Enjoy long, warm days for sightseeing from May through September. However, keep in mind this is the busy tourist season. Plus, sometimes heat waves and low rainfall can drain rivers, making them too low for sailing.
Cruising on Europe’s rivers during shoulder season
Spring blooms and milder temperatures translate to cheaper fares around April. Itineraries for tulip viewing are popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. Downside? The possibility of heavy rains and early spring flooding.