Alaska is a cruise destination with a short sailing season, from May to September, although you may also find a few sailings offered in late April or early October. The reason for this is the cold and ice that accompanies Alaska’s winter, so cruise ships only sail from late spring to early fall. If you decide on an early season cruise, some waterways or bays may not be fully accessible due to ice. This is why June, July, and August are the peak months for cruising Alaska.
Starting in April, the days get longer in these parts adding to the appeal and giving you extra daylight for exploring. Wildlife is excited by the weather and extra daylight too, so keep your eyes open for sightings right from the ship.
Like whales? The entire Alaska cruise season happens to coincide with prime whale-watching season. If seeing humpbacks is on your bucket list, book an Inside Passage cruise in either late June, July, or August. Got a thing for killer whales? Orcas are likely to be seen on most every cruise, though not guaranteed. Many cruisers report multiple sightings when sailing from Seattle during May and early June.
What about the Northern Lights? It is possible to see them from your ship, but you’ll increase your odds if you sail in late September, when the days start getting shorter and the nights longer. If you add on a land-portion or “cruisetour” to your cruise, head to Fairbanks and try to stay at least three nights. You are all but guaranteed to see them as they happen so frequently in this northern city.
If you love being in the center of the action, then you’ll want to cruise to the Bahamas during their busiest months of December–April. The weather is fantastic, there will be lots of people, plenty of celebrations and you’ll have the most shore excursions to choose from. As the Bahamas tend to attract a younger crowd on the shorter cruise itineraries, you will either love cruising during spring break or you’ll want to avoid it (usually mid-February to early April).
Thinking of spending the holidays in the Bahamas? It’s a delightful plan, whether traveling with family, friends or as a couple. Palm trees with Christmas lights instantly exude a tropical mood and the crowds keep everything festive. This is also when their annual Junkanoo parades happen, with hundreds of revelers filling the streets with music and dancing.
Prefer a quieter beach vacation? Cruise the Bahamas during the off-season between May and November. You won’t have to worry about finding your place on the sand, and the wait for attractions and restaurants is basically non-existent. But you might have to worry about the afternoon sun and getting overheated. Wear a hat and drink lots of water!
The most enticing rates for cruising the Bahamas are in the fall months of September and October. You can find better deals on cruises, better bargains in the straw markets, and cheaper prices on most everything else too.
But the month that wins for best value in cruising to the Bahamas, is awarded to the month of May. The weather is hot, the summer crowds haven’t arrived, and the kids are still in school (at the beginning of May anyway).
Don’t forget to practice your bartering skills before arrival for shopping in the straw markets. And women, if you have long hair, there will be no shortage of Bahamian women who will offer rather boldly to braid your hair. If you want it done, just barter. If you don’t, keep walking!
Thinking of cruising to Bermuda? You’ve got an eight-month window to choose from, starting in April and ending in November. Even though Bermuda is an archipelago in the Atlantic, it does get a bit cooler in the winter months (if you consider the mid-50s Fahrenheit cold).
Peak season for cruising Bermuda is May–August. This is when cruise prices are at their highest, but more cruise lines are sailing here as well. Since Bermuda is known for their pink sand beaches and blue skies with little rain, most cruisers come for the beaches...and summer on the beaches of Bermuda are stellar, with afternoon temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. Pack your sunscreen!
Looking for discounted cruises to Bermuda? Book your sailing in April or October. These months bookend the busiest months and are known as the shoulder season. You’ll find great rates from several port cities on the east coast of the U.S.
Another great thing about shoulder season in Bermuda is the crowds have lessened since the kiddos are back in school, and the temps are downright glorious, with afternoon highs averaging in the mid-70s. It’s still warm enough to catch some rays at the beach, yet pleasant enough to explore the entire island without breaking a sweat.
September also offers low rates, but for the best value all around, we recommend booking a cruise to Bermuda in April. Pack those Bermuda shorts or buy a pair there, and don’t miss sinking your toes in their famous pink sand.
Whether you’re looking to cruise the Western, Eastern or Southern Caribbean, peak cruise season is December through April. And the reason is the weather; it is practically perfect during these months, with average temps ranging from the mid 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit. Another bonus is the humidity is low and if you want to avoid rain, January is the beginning of their dry season.
Come April, things heat up in the Caribbean. Even with the soaring temps, many families and couples choose to cruise the Caribbean during the summer (June through August) because the prices are low. It’s a decent trade-off because the beaches and restaurants are less crowded. But it will be hot and humid—there’s just no sugar-coating that fact. The average temp in August is 90 degrees so if you’re sensitive to warm weather, avoid summer. At night, the tropical breezes can make it tolerable, cooling it down to the mid-70s, but during the day, you’ll be hiding in the shade.
For big savings on a Caribbean cruise, explore their "shoulder season." This is the time just before or after peak season (which in this case is December through April). Using this formula, May is a great time to cruise the Caribbean, as well as in the fall. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are beloved summer and fall destinations.
One last Caribbean tip is to look for cruises during the first two weeks of December, before the craziness of the holidays. Good deals can be found but you’ll need to book early.
Hawaii’s peak cruise season matches that of the Caribbean, from December–April. And because the weather is near perfect during these months, and less-than-stellar in many other parts of the world, the crowds fly and sail to these islands in droves, and so do high prices. But there are advantages too. You’ll find more ships and more sailings from December to April which gives you more choices.
Looking for whales? You’ll want to cruise Hawaii from late winter to early spring. Look for puffs of "smoke" as you gaze out on the horizon. Whales exhale huge plumes of mist through their blowhole and that’s most likely what you’ll see before you even spy a whale tail.
During the summer, Hawaii attracts an abundance of families since the kids are out of school from the end of May till mid-August. And it’s not just families that love Hawaii during these warmer months, summer vacation is a thing, kids or not. The rates, however, may remind you of peak season.
For savvy cruisers, Hawaii’s off-season (a.k.a. shoulder season) is the month of May and then again from September through mid-December. But the "sweet spot" of cruising Hawaii, as far as prices are concerned, is the month of October.
Winter holidays, especially from Thanksgiving in late November through the New Year are the busiest and priciest, bar none. So, if you’re humming that catchy, old Bing Crosby tune, Mele Kalikimaka, about Christmas in Hawaii, prepare to shell out the big bucks.
But seriously, this H-a-w-a-i-i, there is no wrong time to discover its mystical wonders. It is glorious, rain or shine, from volcanoes to rainbows. Whatever month you choose, you are in for an unforgettable voyage.
The Mediterranean has a cruise season, and it is April through November. Many cruisers prefer to sail in the spring (May-June) or fall (September-October) because the weather is nice, the temps are warmer, and the crowds are far fewer.
But the best time to cruise the Mediterranean will vary depending on your particular interests and schedule. Families tend to sail in the summer because school is out, while couples enjoy this region’s shoulder season when the crowds are drastically lessened.
If you’re dreaming of a wine cruise through the Mediterranean, you’ll want to book a cruise during harvest season in September and October, while beach lovers just want sunshine with little chance of rain.
The Mediterranean gets crowded and hot during the months of July and August. If you tend to melt in the heat, avoid sailing during these two months when average daily temperatures often reach at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you think it doesn’t matter, think twice, because many restaurants and shops here don’t have air conditioning so finding a respite while exploring is a challenge.
To avoid the crowds as much as possible, opt for a cruise that departs during the shoulder season (the months that bookend peak and off-peak season), from April through May and September through November.
Mexico’s peak season for cruising is October–April, which also happens to be its dry season. Rates are going to be highest during these months but the weather should be fantastic. In the winter months, visitors from the north flock here to escape the cold with the hopes of getting a tan in somewhat balmy 65-70 degree weather, and catching sight of whales. Most succeed at both! Spring break temps hover in the 70s and 80s, attracting the college crowds and families in droves, so if you’re seeking more of a peaceful Mexi-coma experience, now is not the time to sail. But don’t fret! Mexico is one of those destinations that attracts visitors year round, so it won’t be difficult to choose an alternate sail date. You can explore these festive shores aboard your choice of cruise lines as part of a “Mexican Riviera” or a “Western Caribbean” itinerary.
For great rates, book your cruise to Mexico in May. The weather is tropical and you can score some seriously good deals, providing you more souvenir-spending money for woven blankets and handmade pottery.
June and September offer the best value as these months come right before and directly after the summer travel season. However, the weather is hot and summer showers are common, although they tend to blow past quickly. If you don’t mind the higher prices, sailing to Mexico during its season never disappoints.
Northern Europe has a short season, just like cruising to Alaska, from May through September. The weather is lovely, although it can be fickle, and flowers are bursting with colorful blooms. Basically, the entire Northern Europe (a.k.a. Baltic) cruise season is peak season, but the higher prices are worth it, albeit there will be crowds. Unlike the heat of the Mediterranean in the summer, the Baltic region of Europe has a wide temperature range from about 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. For first time cruisers to this region, that means dress in layers.
Cruises to the Baltic region sail to northernmost ports in Europe, such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in Scandinavia. Several cruise lines even boast an overnight stay in St Petersburg, Russia, allowing you extra time to savor the culture and the cuisine.
To find the best rates and fewer crowds, cruise this unforgettable destination in May.
Canada & New England
May to October is the cruise season for Canada & New England cruises. Depending on what you seek from this destination will determine when you should sail. In the summer, families enjoy the area’s many historic sites, and biking and hiking the many available nature trails. Whale watching is always a popular shore excursion, as is savoring overstuffed lobster rolls and buttered tails in every port.
Come fall, it’s peak time for fall foliage and those autumnal colors paint the shorelines in fiery shades of red, orange and gold. It is not only a photographer’s dream, it’s a sight that anyone would want to behold. For leaf-peeping, your peak season is going to be September–October, but since predicting Mother Nature is always a challenge, so is choosing the precise week to cruise to witness the majestic fall colors. And if you’re looking for your cruise mates to be of a more mature age, September and October will be your ideal months to sail.
For the best rate to Canada & New England, you’ll want to cruise in May–July. You won’t see the changing of the leaves but you will get to explore some of the prettiest ports and their historic districts and lighthouses. It is a natural lovers’ dream with all of the outdoor activities to choose from. Like combing the beaches for sea glass? You can do that too.
For the best value, cruise Canada & New England in the months of May and June. In May, the kids are still in school so they’ll be more of an adult vibe on board, especially if you sail early to mid-month.
River Cruises Europe
River cruises through Europe enjoy a long season, starting in April with the crazy-beautiful tulip fields in Belgium and ending after the New Year celebrations. Peak season, however, is May–September for river cruising through Europe with its comfortable temperatures.
For bargain hunters, the most enticing rates for a river cruise are from October–April. The temperatures drop so a jacket is definitely necessary, as the highs average in the low 60s (Fahrenheit).
Holiday river cruises have a price range all their own but if you’ve never experienced the simple joy of sipping warm, mulled wine and nibbling on made-from-scratch gingerbread as you stroll beneath festive lights and shop the most incredible selection of handmade wares, we beg of you to put it on your list of dream sailings.
November is the month that offers the best value all-around. Although it’s cold with high temps around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, a jacket will keep you warm and so will your sheer happiness, as you enjoy discovering quaint cities and romantic towns free of crowds and kids.
When you choose the Panama Canal as a destination, you will visit a host of different countries and ports, and along the way, you’ll spend a day traversing the canal. Just keep in mind that the Panama Canal has a wet and a dry season. “Wet” season starts in April and runs through December. Locals call these months their ‘green season’ and it’s easy to see why once you admire the lushness of the flora and fauna. The “Dry” season is from December through March.
Like other cruise destinations, peak season revolves around the weather, so peak cruise season for the Panama Canal is October–March. Winter and spring are especially desirable. Although it rains every day during the wet season, it won’t slow you down or hinder your explorations, unless you’re here in the very wet month of November. Then it could literally put a damper on excursion plans. The Panamanian calendar is also filled with public holidays in November so the hotels and tourist attractions are overflowing with local and visitors.
For the lowest rates on a Panama Canal cruise, sail in September or April. For the best value overall, sail in April. The Holy Week holidays end, the weather is good and prices are attractive.