Travels with Bob

The Best Time to Cruise


A private island beach day during a Caribbean cruise is good year-round.

People frequently ask me “What’s the best time of year to take a cruise”? 

The short answer is anytime – depending upon where you want to go and the type of cruise you have in mind.

If you are looking for some place warm to escape cold weather, I recommend the Caribbean during first couple of weeks of January. It’s a good way to recover from the holiday blahs while leaving winter at home. Furthermore, Caribbean cruise prices are usually attractive shortly after the new year begins when many people are still packing away holiday decorations and writing thank you notes.

Winter is also an excellent time for a cruise up the west coast of Norway, if your objective is a great view of the Northern Lights as you approach the Arctic Circle at 66˚34΄north latitude. You will need to dress warmly for this adventure where the sun never rises during the winter solstice. It’s an magical experience.

On the other hand, South Pacific cruises “down under” are at their peak during our winter months. I recommend Australia, New Zealand and Society Islands cruises during February and March — remember it’s August and September weather there. Be sure to extend your stay either pre- or post-cruise to explore the Great Barrier Reef while you are in Aussie Land.

If you enjoy days at sea, spring or fall is the perfect time to try a repositioning cruise, when cruise lines “reposition” ships between Europe and the Caribbean. You can probably find excellent accommodations for a 12-night trans-Atlantic itinerary for about $150 a day per person. It’s an excellent way to start a European vacation in the spring or to end one in the fall, if you have the time to extend your trip.

You also will find excellent pricing on European river cruises in early spring or late fall. You might need to pack a heavier jacket compared with mid-summer river journeys, but the savings may be substantial. My favorite time for cruising the Rhine, Danube or Rhone rivers is mid-September to late October — the tourist crowds are mostly gone, the weather is still mild and you can enjoy the local change of seasons.

Cruises along the coast of New England and the Canadian Maritimes are most popular in early fall when the leaves are at peak color and there’s hint of cooler temperatures in the air (book early because the best itineraries sell out quickly).

May and early fall are also great times to cruise the Mediterranean before or after the summer heat and crowds of tourists, but save the Greek Islands for mid-summer. Although the most popular island destinations may be crowded, you will find fabulous beach opportunities there once the water temperatures warm up.

Should Alaska be on your destination wish list, I recommend late May or early June itineraries before the summer crowds arrive and prices increase. Several cruise lines sail the waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage, or make one-way trips between Seward and Vancouver from mid-May to mid-September. I well remember escorting a group Alaska CruiseTour in 2012. When we arrived in Fairbanks on May 24, the temperature was 82˚ and in the low 60s back home. Don’t shy away from Alaska simply because you think it’s too cold; you might be surprised.

The Caribbean is good for a cruise almost anytime, even in October during hurricane season. Cruise ships steer away from such storms but many people are still reluctant to book the Caribbean that time of year, meaning excellent pricing for people who do book.

Finally, if you have the time and the money, you also might consider a world cruise that spans a four-to-six-month itinerary visiting many countries as you circumnavigate the globe. It might also simplify the thought process of determining when you want to be away.

After defining the travel experience you seek, you may enjoy a cruise virtually any time you like!