When is the best time to cruise? It is one of the first questions you will ask yourself when planning a cruise vacation, and truthfully, there is no right answer. The “best” time to cruise depends on your destination, budget, and travel style, and it can vary widely from person to person.
Every destination has a peak season, low season, and shoulder season. Peak season is where you will encounter the best temperatures, but these sailings come with higher cruise fares and more crowded ships since they often correspond with the American school calendar.
Low season, on the other hand, can lead to the best savings, but you may come across poor weather and itinerary changes (i.e. hurricane season). In some destinations, such as Australia, cruises are simply not offered by Royal Caribbean during the low season due to lack of demand.
Finally, there is shoulder season, where you will find lower cruise fares and fewer crowds along with relatively comfortable temperatures.
Knowing the best time to cruise in each region can be confusing, so we have put together a destination by destination guide to better help you plan your next cruise. Let’s jump in!
Best time to cruise the Caribbean: December - April
Cruises to the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean are offered year-round, and each season comes with pros and cons. Therefore, you should weigh which factors are important to you in each season before booking a cruise.
Winter is one of the best times to cruise the Caribbean, especially if you are looking to trade out blizzards for beaches. You will find temperatures in the 70s and 80s throughout the winter months, although ports located further north (such as Nassau or Perfect Day at CocoCay) might be chilly, as they are subject to the occasional cold front.
Summer is also a popular time to cruise the Caribbean, and many guests appreciate more hours of daylight during this time of year. However, summer brings some of the highest crowds and temperatures, so it is not necessarily the best time to sail for all guests.
Surprisingly, hurricane season can be a great time to cruise the Caribbean, but only if you remain flexible. Weather during the later part of hurricane season (August through October) is hot and humid, but you can often find fantastic cruise deals during this time of year.
In July 2024, for instance, a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on Harmony of the Seas starts around $980 per person for an inside cabin. The same cruise is offered for $440 less, or $540 per person, in September 2024.
However, you will have to be prepared for last-minute itinerary changes. Royal Caribbean will not sail into a hurricane, of course, so they might switch from a Western Caribbean to Eastern Caribbean itinerary (or vice versa) to avoid the storm.
Best time to cruise The Bahamas: March - May
Bahamas cruises are popular year-round, but what many passengers do not realize is that The Bahamas are located further north than other Caribbean cruise ports. The location of the islands can impact their weather patterns more than ports located further south.
Throughout most of the year, cruising to The Bahamas results in warm, sunny weather, but there is always the possibility of unfavorable forecasts in the winter months.
Related: Bahamas cruise guide
January is the coldest month for Bahamas cruises, although temperatures can be unpredictable. One week may have lows in the mid-50s with high winds and rain, whereas the following week can be 75 degrees with sunny skies.
Expect more precipitation from June to September and drier conditions between November and April. The months of March, April, May, and November often see the most comfortable temperatures with little precipitation.
Pricing is similar to that of Caribbean cruises. Summer months tend to be more expensive than cruises in the shoulder season. Likewise, since many cruises to the Bahamas are only 3- and 4-nights, any 3-day weekend will see an increase in pricing, too.
As an example, a 3-night cruise on Allure of the Seas departing on February 23, 2024 starts at $392 per person, while a cruise the weekend prior over President's Day costs $522 each!
Best time to cruise Bermuda: April-June
Contrary to what some may believe, Bermuda is not located in the Caribbean! It is actually about 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Bermuda cruises are offered between April and October, and the island makes a popular port stop for those cruising from the northeast.
The early season in Bermuda (April and May) sees some of the lowest prices and has comfortable temperatures in the 70s. The water temperature, however, can be cold at this time of year, so it is not the best time to visit for those hoping to enjoy beach activities.
Nonetheless, April and May are excellent times to enjoy Bermuda outside of just beaches, from cycling the historic Railway Trail to horseback riding and celebrating local holidays.
A 5-night cruise on Liberty of the Seas departing from Cape Liberty (New York) can cost as little as $460 per person during this time of the year. Expect them to increase at least $200 during the summer months, sometimes more!
Related: What to do in Bermuda on a cruise
June, July, and August bring more crowds and higher cruise fares, but offer the best temperatures for water and beach activities. You can enjoy snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking, and relaxing on the beach during these months.
The late season (September and October) is also a nice time to visit the island. Temperatures are still warm during these months, but there are far fewer tourists. This makes the island’s pace much more relaxed than the peak summer season, although you do have to remain flexible with your itinerary since September and October fall in hurricane season.
Best time to cruise Alaska: May-June
Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruise season runs between May and September, with peak season starting in mid-June and continuing until late August. During the five month season, the weather can vary considerably, so it is important to know which type of weather should be expected before you book your cruise.
The best months for an Alaska cruise are in June, July, and August. The summer months bring the warmest temperatures, most wildlife viewing opportunities, and longest daylight hours. If you are hoping to participate in outdoor activities while in Alaska such as hiking or whale watching, the summer months are your best bet.
This time of year is extremely popular, so many itineraries can book up quickly. Therefore, it is recommended to book an Alaska cruise during the peak season as early as possible.
Related: Alaska cruise guide
The cheapest cruise fares to Alaska are found during the shoulder season months of May and September. In September 2024, for instance, you can book a 7-night one-way cruise on Radiance of the Seas for less than $450 per person for an inside cabin. Balcony cabins are always more expensive; however, they are often still less than $1,000 per person during the shoulder season.
Although these months may not bring the best weather (frequent rainfall and cold temperatures are to be expected), they are undoubtedly the cheapest months to cruise Alaska. As a plus, you will find far fewer crowds during the shoulder season as well.
Best time to cruise to Europe: April-May, September-October
Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from late April to late October, and itineraries are offered in a range of destinations, from the snowy fjords of Norway to the dramatic coastlines of the Greek Isles.
Due to the variety of destinations offered, the best time to cruise can vary from place to place.
Northern Europe itineraries are most popular during the peak of summer in June, July, and August. This is when you will find the best weather and most daylight in Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland, although higher cruise fares should be expected.
A 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton begins at $1,270 for sailings that depart in July 2024.
The Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Greek Isles are popular throughout the entire cruise season, but summer can bring very warm temperatures. Unlike on a Caribbean cruise, you will likely spend less time at the beach and more time sightseeing in busy cities while cruising Europe. Walking around ports like Florence, Athens, and Barcelona in the summer can be uncomfortably hot.
Moreover, summer is busy in general with many land-based tourists and Europeans taking summer holidays, meaning that you will encounter more people while exploring each port of call.
Related: Western Mediterranean cruise guide
Because of this, the spring or fall can be a wonderful time to cruise these regions of Europe. Temperatures are not nearly as warm as in the summer, making it a perfect time to sightsee in cities like Rome and Paris. In addition, crowds will be far fewer as many families are at work and school.
As another benefit, airfare tends to be much cheaper in the spring and fall compared to the summer months.
Cruises to Mexico from Los Angeles sail to the Mexican Riviera, a name coined for the country’s picturesque towns along the Pacific Coast and Baja California. Ports like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Catalina Island are found on Mexican Riviera itineraries.
While the Mexican Riviera is a year-round cruising destination, the region sees more diverse weather patterns compared to the Caribbean side of Mexico. Ports on Mexican Riviera itineraries are located in different climates and latitudes, so the best time to cruise to one port may not be the best time for another.
Related: Mexican Riviera cruise guide
There are two main Mexican Riviera itineraries found on Royal Caribbean cruises:
- 3 & 4-night cruises to Ensenada, Mexico and Catalina Island
- 7-night cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta
Short cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island are best during the summer months, when temperatures are in the mid-80s with sunny skies. During the winter, these more northerly ports can see temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
For itineraries visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta, the peak season to sail is between December and April. Escaping the winter for a sunny holiday is popular during these months, and you’ll find comfortable temperatures in the region, with highs around 75 to 80 degrees.
The Mexican Riviera also has a dry and rainy season, with the dry season from November to June and the most precipitation expected in August and September. More arid ports, such as Cabo San Lucas, will receive little rainfall year-round.
No matter the month you sail, it is recommended to bring a jacket, sweater, or other warm layers. It can be chilly as your ship sails down the coast of Baja California, so it’s common to need a light jacket during the mornings and evenings while onboard.
In terms of pricing, you will encounter the best pricing during the months of January and February, the last week of April after spring break, the end of August through mid-November, and the first two weeks of December for the winter holiday season begins.
A 7-night cruise onboard Navigator of the Seas that departs on January 8, 2024, for instance, is currently priced at $486 per person. The same cruise increases to about $900 per person in June 2024!
Best time to cruise Australia and New Zealand: December-February
The cruise season in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific runs from late October to April each year, coinciding with summer in the southern hemisphere. The most popular time of year for these cruises is in December and January, as these months coincide with school holidays.
Not only are holiday cruises more crowded, they see an increase in pricing, too. If you are cruising from Sydney, you may also want to be prepared for Australia Day, which occurs at the end of January, as this holiday draws large crowds to the city.
The peak summer season in Australia offers the perfect temperatures for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the region’s breathtaking beaches and world-renowned cities. Like Australia, New Zealand is also best visited during the summer months.
South Pacific cruises to Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia are vastly popular, although most sailings are offering during the region’s rainy season from November to March. Just like the Caribbean, though, rain showers do not last all day and should not negatively impact shore excursions and activities.
Like all cruise destinations, shoulder season is the best time to sail for those looking to save money. Some of the cheapest fares are found in October and April when school is in session.
Royal Caribbean offers cruises from Singapore year-round. The majority of these sailings visit Southeast Asian ports like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh City. However, there are occasionally longer itineraries offered visiting ports in Japan, China, and the Philippines.
If you are planning a cruise to Southeast Asia, the most important distinction to make between seasons is the rainy season versus the dry season. Humidity and temperatures are high year-round, but the coolest and driest weather is typically found between November and February.
The warmest time of the year is between March and May, and the region’s monsoon season falls between June and October. Rainfall does not typically last all day, however; instead, it appears in short, strong bursts.
All things considered, the best months for a Southeast Asia cruise from Singapore are November, December, January, and February. Pricing will vary, but you can expect 5-night cruises to cost as little as $650 per person or upwards of $1,050 if you cruise over a holiday, such as Christmas or New Year's.
For cruises visiting ports further north, such as in Japan and China, you will want to sail during spring, summer, and early fall. Royal Caribbean’s itineraries to these destinations are currently being offered only during the peak summer months.
Best time to cruise Canada and New England: September-October
New England and coastal Canada are known for their nature, views of the Atlantic Ocean, and fresh seafood.
Cruises to Canada and New England typically operate between the months of May and October. Sailings in the latter half of the season are popular because of the fall foliage.
Voyages in the beginning of the season are subject to pleasant temperatures in the 60s and low 70s, and since it is not yet peak season, you can often find a great rate. Once June rolls around, summer festivals begin to occur, such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Canada Grand Prix, and more.
The summer months are also a great time to try some fresh seafood. Plus, you are more likely to see wildlife during this time. If you are sailing off the coast of Prince Edward Island, be sure to keep an eye out for seals!
If, however, temperature is a concern, you should know that summer in New England brings temperatures in the 80s, but you should not be surprised if they extend into the high 90s.
As fall rolls around, prices will begin to increase due to the peak foliage opportunities, and while many families may not be onboard, you can expect crowds in port.
Best time to cruise Hawaii: April-June
Hawaii cruises are great because they allow you to travel from island to island without having to worry about going through airport security and other travel logistics--you can visit multiple islands and only have to unpack your suitcase once!
Royal Caribbean does not offer year-round sailings to Hawaii. In 2024, they are only offering Hawaii cruises in April, September, and October. Moreover, none of them are round-trip sailings; they are repositioning cruises.
April is part of the islands' dry season, meaning that you will encounter the lowest amount of rain, and the daytime average temperature is often somewhere between the high 70s and low 80s. Moreover, the spring months are the end of the humpback whale season, so you may be able to spot some migrating up to Alaska!
In the fall, October tends to be wetter than September. Regardless of which month you cruise, the temperature will average somewhere in 80s.
Pricing varies based on length of itinerary and ship age. You can find 9-night cruises priced around $750 per person or 13-night cruises that begin at $1,165 each.
Related: Ultimate Hawaii cruise guide
Best time to cruise the Panama Canal: December-March
Cruising through the 51-mile Panama Canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many cruisers.
The typical cruise season lasts from September to April, with a break in the summer due to the region's rainy season. Deployment schedules can vary, though.
Between the months of December and mid-April, the weather is usually sunny and dry, with the average temperature avenging around the mid- to upper-80s. The region's rainy season begins in mid-April and extends through December. Usually, however, the rainfall does not begin to significantly increase until May.
January through March is often the region's busiest season, as the weather is most ideal and offers passengers an escape from colder temperatures throughout the United States.
The cheapest cruises are most likely going to be during the rainy season. A 14-night cruise onboard Brilliance of the Seas that departs on November 7, 2023, for instance, starts at $1,076 per person. In comparison, a 14-night cruise in April 2024 is currently priced at $1,481 per person.
Thankfully, the rain showers are short-lived and most common in the afternoons and early evenings.