How to Pick the Best Time to Go on a Cruise

We breakdown the best time to go on a cruise based on the region as well as several different factors like price, weather, and crowds.

best time to go on a cruise

When considering the best time to go on a cruise, there are multiple factors that have to be accounted for — namely the region you want to sail. The best time for a Caribbean cruise isn’t going to be the same as the best time for a northern Europe or Alaska voyage, for example. Other factors like cost, weather, and crowds might also be things you take into consideration.

To help you figure out when you should best aim for taking a cruise, we’re breaking down our recommendations by region.

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How to Pick the Best Time to Go on a Cruise

Caribbean and Bahamas

There isn’t necessarily any “bad” time to cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas, with the region welcoming cruise ships all year-round. However there are things to take into consideration, such as hurricane season which runs from June through November. Prices tend to be a bit cheaper from September through November, because of this and because kids are back in school.

Best Time to Go on a Cruise

Weather and crowd-wise, we recommend taking a Caribbean or Bahamas cruise in the January to mid-May time period, not counting school break weeks. The weather is more mild this time of year, it’s not hurricane season, and crowds shouldn’t be quite as heavy when school is in session.

Alaska

The Alaska cruise season generally runs from mid-April through September; cruise ships don’t sail in the region when it’s at its coldest throughout the winter. Of the cruising season, there isn’t a clear-cut answer when it comes to when is “best.”

To avoid crowds, choose a voyage during the shoulder season in April, May, or September. The least rainy month is May, while the warmest (and busiest) will be July and August. Certain times of the Alaska cruise season also increase your chances of seeing wildlife and/or the Norther Lights.

Mediterranean

Cruise ships sail in the Mediterranean all year long, but the primary season runs from April into early November. For more mild weather and less crowds than during the busy summer season, aim for a Mediterranean voyage in early May or September.

Best Time to Go on a Cruise

For the lowest crowds, look for one of the few voyages sailing in the winter or early spring. If you’re looking for warmth and sunbathing weather, June and July are good bets — avoid August if possible due to the hottest temperatures and highest crowd levels.

Mexican Riviera

There isn’t really a “bad” time to cruise to Mexico’s west coast, as the weather ranges from balmy to hot the majority of the year, and cruise ships sail there year-round.

For warm weather that isn’t too hot and the best chance at no rain, look to visit the Mexican Riviera during the winter and into early spring. As long as you avoid time periods where kids are off from school (Christmas break, winter break, spring break, etc.), you’ll also encounter fewer crowds during this timeframe.

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Bermuda

The Bermuda cruise season generally runs from late March into early November. For mild weather, cheaper cruise fares, and fewer crowds, try to sail right at the beginning of the season in April or May. If you don’t mind spring break crowds, Good Friday and Easter is a fun time to visit Bermuda as there are lots of fun treats to eat and a Good Friday kite flying event at Horseshoe Bay Beach.

If enjoying the fanfare of a yacht racing event is more your speed, try to plan your cruise for the end of April at the beginning of the Bermuda International Invitational Race Week.

Best Time to Go on a Cruise

Northern Europe

Though cruises are available in northern Europe year-round, you’ll find the largest amount of voyages during the warmer months in spring, summer, and the beginning of fall. The best season to take a cruise in northern Europe weather-wise is in the summer from June through August. If you’re okay with cooler weather and want fewer crowds, opt for a sailing in September or October.

Canada/New England

The best time to visit Canada and New England is highly subjective based on what your goal is in going there. If you want the warmest, sunniest weather to explore quaint coastal towns and cities on the northern Atlantic seaboard, July and August are your best bets.

But many travelers head to this region specifically to see the dazzling fall foliage, in which case the best time to visit is October. September can be a good middle ground, because crowds will thin out (as school is back in session) but the weather will still be warm. There’s also a chance to see the start of the leaves changing towards the end of the month, though it varies from year-to-year and is never guaranteed.

Australia/New Zealand

Cruises sail Down Under year-round, and there is no cut-and-dry answer as to when the best season is to sail. Different parts of the region experience different weather in relation to the seasons, and it comes down to what’s most important to you.

For sunny skies and hot days in many parts of the continent where cruise ships sail, take a cruise during the austral summer. Since the seasons are flipped for the northern and southern hemispheres, that means during our winter season, from around December through March.

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Waiting until at least February or March is a good idea for avoiding crowds, as Australian and New Zealander kids’ summer break generally runs from mid-December through January. For a voyage in northern Australia, consider March or later, as the cyclone season runs through February.

Hawaii

Like many other regions, there isn’t really a “bad” time to visit Hawaii. Certain times of year are preferable than others based on one factor, but another time of year will be more desirable based on another factor.

If you want more mild weather that isn’t in the rainy season, consider April to May or September to October. For the least chance of a rain shower (but the hottest temperatures), take a cruise to Hawaii in June, July, or August. For the best prices, look into voyages that sail in November and early December.

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Comments

What’s your best time to go on a cruise? Which of these regions have you visited on a cruise? Drop us an anchor below to share what time of year you like to vacation.

Sarah has been writing about the cruise industry since 2015, and in that time has taken a dozen cruises and counting. Her favorite onboard activities include trying the casual dining options, spending time in the spa’s thermal suite, and attending the love & marriage show. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @IAmSarahJaneB.
Sarah Bretz, Contributor
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