Choosing the best time to cruise

Man drinking coffee and reading the nespaper while eating brunch on a cruise ship out at sea
Choosing the right time to cruise can make or break your perfect vacation | Author: Reynier Carl

Blindly booking a cruise is never a great idea. Before you decide to book there are a number of different aspects that you want to take into account. Besides the departure port, the cruise itinerary or the best time to actually book your cruise, it i important when you are taking your cruise. Setting sail on a cruise at the wrong time could mean that you won’t get to enjoy the weather you expected or the activities that you wanted.

On the flip side of that, it could be that you actually want to take a cruise to a destination that is out of cruising season as you want to take advantage of a cheaper cruise deal. Whatever your intentions, knowing what the destinations will be like on the dates of your cruise is important.

Knowing the right time to cruise can be confusing at times, as different regions have different seasons and therefore what works for one might not work for another. Here we break down all the information you need to ensure that you’re cruising at the most optimal time for you.

Is there really a right time to cruise?

There isn’t one rule determining the best time to cruise for everyone. Instead there is only the right time to cruise for you. This is going to depend on your desire and what you want to get out of your cruise. There are also key aspects such as budget that you have to consider.

Every destination is going to have a high season and an off season. There is usually a solid reason for that and it’s a good idea to check what that reason is before you book. If you book without full information, then you might be left with a poor cruise experience.

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Factors to consider while deciding when to cruise

Who is going on the cruise?

There are other considerations that you have to take into account when booking your cruise such as who is going on the cruise. Sometimes you have to keep in mind key dates such as the national holidays and school holidays, with the likes of spring break being very popular. 

Also if you have small children or health issues, then you will be even more concerned by somewhere that is going to be blisteringly hot or incredibly cold. It’s worth talking all these aspects into consideration in order to book a cruise that is going to be ideal for you and everyone you’re going with.

Consider the destination

There are many wonderful destinations that you can visit on cruise ships but traveling at the right time of year is extremely important. The best time to visit can change for a variety of reasons but sometimes you can get good deals at an off peak time.

Here we will go through each cruise region and see when the peak season is and when there is likely to be fewer travelers. We will also look into the reasons for it to see if it’s worth taking the risk in order to take advantage of lower cruise prices. 

Region Peak Season Off Peak
Alaska May - August September - April
Asia November - May June - October
Caribbean December - April May - November
Galapagos December - February March - November
Hawaii January - March September - December
July - August April - June
Mediterranean/ Southern Europe May - August September - April
Mexico December - April May - November
Middle East December - February March - November
Northern Europe/Baltics June - August September - May
Oceania November - February March - October
South America December - February March - November
South Sea Islands May - October September - April
Cruise seasons per region

Pretty much all regions in the world will have a peak season and an off season. While there is usually a reason that most people travel at one particular time, there are usually great deals to be had if you decide to travel in the quieter months. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of traveling in different regions at different times of the year.


Peak: With Alaska being so far north, there are two key reasons why you would prefer an Alaska cruise in the summer months, firstly is that it is going to be warmer but also that there will be a lot more sunlight. The average temperature in July is 72°F and it’s best to travel from May through August.

Off peak: On the northern tip of Alaska, they don’t see the sun for just over two months and there it will have an average of -8°F in January, rising to just above 20°F in the more southern areas. So unless you don’t mind the extreme cold, Alaska needs to be visited in the summer.

A cruise ship in Alaska, which disappears near snow-covered huts and mountains in dense fog
As a colder destination you should rather make cruises to Alaska in summer. | Author: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen


Peak: In the more northern parts of Asia such as Japan, temperatures are fairly stable all year around. In South East Asia though, the colder months are actually the best time to travel as it will still be very warm but without the negatives that can come from their summer.

Off peak: It’s not just the heat that can be suffocating in the South Asian summer but it’s also the humidity too as it is often incredibly high. All that heat can also lead to one big problem, monsoons. The rainy season can see incredible downpours, but feel free to take your chances for a great cruise deal.


Peak: If you wanted to cruise the Caribbean, then it’s best to do it between December and April. It is an incredibly popular cruise region primarily because there a lot of magnificent destinations just within a short distance. It also has fantastic weather and you will get to enjoy white sand beaches in a beautiful climate. 

Off peak: A Caribbean cruise in the off season can mean the potential of hurricanes, which is generally worse in the Eastern Caribbean than in the Western Caribbean. This could mean cancelled stops at certain cruise ports and rough seas. If you want to take the chance of missing a hurricane though then you will be able to see those amazing destinations for a lot cheaper.

An empty beach with white sand, clear blue water, palm trees and two small boats on the ocean
Cruising to the Caribbean you have the opportunity to get real bargains during the off season. | Author: Asad Photo Maldives


PeakThe Galapagos Islands tend to have an explosion of wildlife at the start of the year which can make it hugely popular with lovers of nature and animals. The temperature is also perfect at that time of year which makes it a very popular destination.

Off peak: During the off season in the Galapagos, there is a higher probability of rain, but this isn’t going to be much of a hindrance. This shouldn’t stop you from visiting many of the great sites to see on the island and therefore it’s one of the best destinations for year-round cruising.


Peak: The peak season for Hawaii cruising is in the summer when people love to get away but also the winter when people are looking to escape to a warm destination and away from the cold of home. There isn’t any other reason as to why it is so popular during these times.

Off peak: Due to those reasons, there really isn’t a negative of traveling to Hawaii in the shoulder season of either spring or fall, as it’s just simply an issue of timing. The islands are noticeably quieter at these times which is what a lot of people prefer. 

Mediterranean/Southern Europe

Peak: There are many wonderful destinations in this region and it is warmer in the winter than in other parts of Europe. There is still a significant temperature difference though, which is why people mainly flock to the Mediterranean in the summer months.

Off peak: Temperatures are still decent in the winter, which makes it a good option for those looking for a cheaper cruise. The history and culture of the region is still there even when it’s a bit colder and therefore it makes sense to go off peak even though temperatures do start to cool in September and October.

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PeakMexico is a very large country but generally there is a big difference between the dry season and the rainy season. Obviously the peak season is when it is dry and you will be able to enjoy the great warm weather and wonderful activities such as diving. 

Off peak: If you don’t mind the rain, then traveling during the off peak season can come with a cheaper price. There is also the chance of hurricanes which makes traveling off peak more risky, especially between August and October when it’s usually at its worst.

Middle East

PeakThe Middle East is one of the few cruise destinations when summer is not the best time to go. The average temperature in Dubai, for example, is 97°F in August and it can get a lot hotter than that. This is why the vast majority of people prefer to go in the winter.

Off peak: Whether or not you would like to travel in the off peak season is up to you as people handle temperatures differently. For most people being in 100°F heat is insufferable and therefore would not be able to explore this cruise destination in comfort. 

Northern Europe/Baltics

Peak: The summer months in Northern Europe and the Baltics can be quite pleasant. They often have good temperatures where you’re going to be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and rich history in a nice and comfortable climate.

Off peak: This is in stark contrast to the winter months though, which can be quite brutal with temperatures often going below freezing. That’s why the peak season is quite short, as it’s hard to enjoy yourself when the cold weather bites and therefore it’s usually best to travel in July and August. 

Oceana (Australia/New Zealand)

Peak: Australia is a huge continent and the temperature can vary quite a lot between different cities. It can get very hot in the summer in places but in general the best time to visit is going to be in the summer, especially in New Zealand which is further south.

Off peak: Southern Australia and New Zealand can get quite chilly in the winter and that’s why there is a significant off peak season. Unlike a region like the Baltics, however, this is still comfortably above freezing and therefore manageable if you don’t mind wearing a coat.

The port of Sydney in Australia with skyscrapers and ships on the water
Cruising to Australia or New Zealand you should go in summer if you prefer warm temperatures. | Author: Dan Freeman

South America

PeakSouth America is not only a large continent but it is also very long. In the north the temperature remains hot pretty much all year around but this changes as you go further south. This is why the best time to visit is in their summer months.

Off peak: In the southern regions, the temperature can fall below freezing in the winter months. This makes it unpleasant for most people but for those that are willing to cope with those temperatures, great bargains will definitely be available.

South Sea Islands

Peak: The winter months in the South Sea Islands are generally the best time to go as the temperature will be nice and pleasant and it is also going to be quite dry too. This makes them great to visit as you’ll be able to enjoy their beauty without any limitations.

Off peak: In the summer months the islands will get incredibly hot and humid too. That can be too much for some people but the hot weather also brings the rain which can ruin what would otherwise be a great cruise.

Avoid weather extremes on your cruise

Hurricane season

As we have seen here, while some destinations are good to travel to during off peak seasons, others can be a bit riskier. The hurricane season in the Atlantic basin is technically from June to November but it really peaks between the middle of August and the middle of October.

It’s extremely rare that you would find yourself in the middle of a hurricane at sea but it can cause huge disruptions to cruise ports, destinations and flights too. Hurricanes move slowly but if a big one comes anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea, then it can ruin a vacation. In spite of this the majority of cruise lines still operate during this season.

Monsoon season

A monsoon is not as deadly as a hurricane but it can still cause huge disruptions to your cruise destinations. In Southeast Asia the rainy season is between May and November with the most likely time for monsoons happening between August and October.

Extreme heat

There are plenty of cruise destinations that can get incredibly hot where temperatures will often go above 100°F in the summer months. For most people this is going to be too much and needs to be avoided.

Extreme cold

Sometimes people will actively seek out cold adventures in Alaska and Antarctica among others. However, visiting these destinations in the winter will see brutally cold temperatures. This applies to Northern Europe and the Baltics too where temperatures will often go well below freezing.

The right time to cruise is all dependent on you

Clearly there is no perfect time to cruise as everyone is different. However, there are some cruise destinations that come with a big warning, as their weather can get wild. Some people will desperately want to avoid this whereas others will happily take the risk.

It’s all comes down to what you decide, but here you have all the information that you would need in order to make an informed choice about the best time to cruise to a particular destination. Whatever option you take, hopefully you’re blessed with beautiful weather, calm seas and a fantastic cruise vacation.

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