Best Time to Go On a Cruise? Here’s How to Time Your Trip.

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Exterior of the Celebrity Beyond, showcasing its Sunset Bar.
Sunset Bar on Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, Celebrity Beyond, designed by American interior designer Nate Berkus. Photo courtesy: Celebrity Cruises

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.

Beach in Grand Turk in the Caribbean with cruise ship in background.
Carnival Vista in Grand Turk, one of the few places where passengers can enjoy a nice beach a few steps from the ship. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

Picture of Castaway Cay in the Bahamas with Disney Cruise Lines ship during the peak season
Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Lines’ private island in the Bahamas. Photo courtesy: Disney Cruise Line

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.

View of Honolulu, HI from Diamond Head.
View of Honolulu, the largest commercial and passenger port in Hawaii. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

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.

Woman enjoying view of Alaska from a cruise ship during peak summer cruise season
Glacier Bay is among many scenic stops in Alaska with Princess Cruises. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

Exterior view of a Royal Caribbean ship in Cozumel, Mexico.
Royal Caribbean in Cozumel. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

View of a beach in Bermuda.
Bermuda’s beaches make it a popular stop for cruise lines. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

A view of Montreal, Quebec.
View of Montreal, a popular port city for many cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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.

Exterior view of the Celebrity Apex sailing in Santorini, Greece.
Celebrity Apex in Santorini. Photo courtesy: Celebrity Cruises

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.

An AmaWaterways river cruise ship.
AmaBella sails along the Danube River in the Krems-Land district, in the Austrian state of Lower Austria. Photo courtesy: AmaWaterways

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.

Native Angeleno and seasoned travel journalist Mimi Slawoff writes for numerous print and digital publications. She is also the author of Oldest Los Angeles (Reedy Press, 2022). A lifelong world traveler, Mimi is an award-winning journalist who writes about outdoor adventures, cruises, Europe and cultural activities. Mimi has three grown kids and lives with her husband and their dog, Maya, in Los Angeles.
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