If you’re getting ready to embark on your dream vacation, you want to choose the best time to go on a cruise to balance travel with weather and availability of the activities and sights that most excite you.
From balmy summers in the Mediterranean to winter escapes in the Southern Hemisphere, these are the best times to take a cruise all around the world.
May – September
The best time to go on a cruise to Alaska is May through September. As a seasonal destination focusing on sustainable tourism, Alaska has a defined high season when tours are most readily available, businesses are open and energy is high, and many of the major water sightseeing activities (like whale watching) are accessible.
Summer in Alaska is also prime time for King, Sockeye, and Silver salmon fishing, which means it is not unreasonable to expect that you’ll be dining on the best wood-grilled, wild Alaskan salmon of your life.
The months of May through September also present the best opportunities for wildlife spotting, since winter sends many into hiding or hibernation. Whether you are inside a national park or just outside a bar in Ketchikan, keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready to catch guillemots, bald eagles, moose, harbor seals, mountain goats, and bears out and about during your Alaska cruise.
There’s a good reason that ships sail the Caribbean all year. Whether cruising the Eastern, Western, or Southern Caribbean, you are guaranteed the warm temperatures needed for activities like exploring an ancient Mayan ceremonial site in Belize, glass-bottom kayaking above colorful corals in Bonaire, or going for a sail on the azure waters surrounding the island of St. Vincent.
November through April is the dry season, and these months are marked by unbelievably clear days when almost any plans you make are safe from the weather’s interruption. For this reason, the dry season is one of the best times to go on a cruise to the idyllic Caribbean islands.
Short rainstorms are common from May through October, and though they may send diners at alfresco restaurants rushing inside to finish their meals, quick downpours are often what’s needed to take the edge off steamy days, not to mention that they are a perfect excuse to take a break from the sun and browse for souvenirs in air conditioning.
Even during the Atlantic hurricane season from June into October, the weather can be perfect. When it’s not behaving and a storm threatens, meteorological agencies like NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) provide advance warning enough to allow for the postponement of plans. Hurricane season in the Caribbean brings smaller crowds at top attractions, though having travel insurance is recommended for peace of mind.
May – November
Take a clue for the Mediterranean’s perfect cruise season from the Italians, who observe the “Ferragosto,” an entire summer month off work to enjoy beaches, seaside trattorias, and sightseeing up and down the cobblestone lanes and yacht-ringed harbors of island towns around the region.
Summer is peak Mediterranean cruise season, though the entire season begins in May and lasts into November, with lesser crowds at either end. What is most important, really, is that businesses are open and the sun has sufficiently warmed up the clear waters that make the Mediterranean playground ports of the rich and famous so picturesque.
Swim the famous beaches of Mykonos, go cannoli tasting in Sicily, or admire the crimson-topped buildings in Dubrovnik–it’s all best done with the sun heating your shoulders and a cool drink at the end.
May – October
As many of Northern Europe’s most picturesque and historic city centers have harbors at their center, the winter months whip freezing winds off the ocean and into the streets, driving the communities indoors. The best time to go on a cruise to Northern Europe is when the landscape and local hospitality thaws in anticipation of a summer filled with friendly faces and fresh air.
In addition to the extended hours of sun that summer in the northern latitudes brings, the temperatures warm enough for you to leave thick coats out of your luggage and instead focus on using that space to pack a pair of binoculars and all the SPF you’ll need for sparklingly sunny days and, if you’re in the Norwegian Fjords, more waterfalls in sight than you ever thought possible.
In fact, Northern Europe and the Baltics truly awaken from their winter slumber for the months of May through October, and alfresco dining and drinking is practically mandatory.
Read: Baltic Cruise Excursions
June cruises to this region are particularly splendid, as the first taste of summer heightens the energy and festivals bring the communities together to celebrate the arrival of the season. In Sweden, for example, June holds the “Taste of Stockholm” food festival, the Archipelago Boat Day (with boat parades), Sweden’s National Day, and the two-day stretch of traditional dancing and feasting that is Midsommar.
Just across the water, Estonia is similarly celebrating. The capital of Tallinn is all music and parades during June’s Old Town Days, plus their own flavor of Midsommar festivities.
Read: Things to Do in Tallinn
September – April
The best time to go on a cruise to Southeast Asia is autumn and winter, when you’ll find the lowest humidity levels and the highest chances of ideal weather for outdoor activities, whether snorkeling off Ko Samui, Thailand or kayaking in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.
Read: Best Winter Cruises
It’s not just high temperatures that are a reason to avoid Asia in summer; typhoon season begins in May, bringing dangerous deluges of rain and wind. Instead, aim for the dry, cooler seasons of autumn or winter, and most definitely spring.
On a spring cruise to Asia, budding trees and blooming flowers decorate the world’s most stunning gardens and, in Japan for example, seasonal specialty foods (like sakura mochi and prized strawberry sweets) make it onto outdoor snack stands.
Read: What to Eat in Japan
South America & Antarctica
December – March
From the December holiday season through March, South America is at its best for weather and events, making it the best time to take a cruise. These months are sunny but temperate, with seemingly every other week hosting major celebrations.
Chile and Peru enjoy long summer days, ideal for making the most of visiting their top attractions on a cruise to South America. From beaches and archaeological sites to wineries and national parks, opening hours are at their longest and the sites at their lushest.
Speaking of extra-long hours for sightseeing, the Antarctica cruise season is short, lasting only a few months during the height of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, but for good reason.
It is during the months of December through March that ships can sail across the famous Drake Passage—the open water between the southernmost tip of South America and the northernmost tip of Antarctica—and into the archipelago of the Antarctic Peninsula. Ice floes and rough weather rule the rest of the year.
Visiting Antarctica during the southern summer means enjoying more than its best weather; it’s also peak season for whale migration in the region, and whale spouts or the flukes of humpbacks are easily spotted in nearly every direction, keeping curious penguins and giant petrels company in the spectacular natural scenery.
Perhaps the only challenge is coming to terms with the 24-hour daylight. When you understand that a stroll on deck at 2 a.m. may lead to a solo moment spotting a nearby elephant seal snoozing in the silence of “night,” it becomes difficult to make the decision to come inside, close the curtains, and not see the incredible scenery just outside for at least another several hours.
The goal of a Galapagos cruise vacation is seeing and experiencing the best of the destination’s varied wildlife and dramatic scenery, which is possible all year round.
Temperatures don’t wildly fluctuate in the Galapagos; the islands are usually a balmy 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Even during rainy season, you’ll often encounter sunny skies perfect for hikes and photography, ocean conditions that attract more marine animals, and breeding seasons that have species like flamingos, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies showing off their best sides.
May and September
While Hawaii is an extraordinary destination all year round, the two specific months of May and September are notable for the timing of Hawaii cruise itineraries.
In particular, May is “Mele Mai,” a month-long festival of Hawaiian music celebrated across the islands, providing a soundtrack for the end of the winter trade winds, which bring cool air across the islands from the north. Though this can mean rainy conditions in mountainous areas, like Oahu’s Ko’olau Range and the coffee-growing highlands of the Big Island, the beaches and cities are kissed by cool breezes that keep you comfortable at all hours.
September sees another period of transpacific crossings, and cruises often sync up with Honolulu’s hosting of the Aloha Festivals, block parties and parades held in Hawaii’s capital that showcase traditional dances, music, costumes, crafts, and cuisine.
Visiting in either month means the chance to spot spinner dolphins off the coast, sea turtles basking on beaches, and seabirds diving for their lunch. With Hawaii’s position in the Pacific Ocean making it one of the more remote destinations in the world, there are plenty of rare and only-spotted-here varieties of bird, bug, and sea creatures to delight.
Now that you’ve discovered the best times of the year for visiting the destinations of your dreams, it’s time to book the sailings that take you there. Visit CelebrityCruises.com to browse cruise itineraries, shore excursions, and staterooms, and book your next unforgettable cruise today.