We’ve all been in that situation where it’s time to plan your holidays for next year but you’ve got no idea where to go. Even though the local weather and climate don’t affect where and when you should cruise compared to other types of holidays, there are still some things to bear in mind. We’ve gathered a few tips to make it easier to find the perfect destination for your next cruise.
January/February: See in the new year with a cruise
At the beginning of the year, cruise ships generally stick to warmer regions such as the Caribbean, the Far East, and the Canary Islands. For cruisers in the north of Europe, the Canary Islands make for a relatively nearby destination, reachable in just a few hours by plane. Many cruise lines offer routes between the Canary Islands, Morocco, and Madeira. Other popular mid-winter destinations include cruises to the Caribbean, Middle East cruises departing from Dubai towards the UAE and Oman, and the southern coast of Africa. If you’re looking for warm weather, a cruise through the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Thailand is definitely worth considering.
It might sound obvious but keep in mind that whilst the northern hemisphere is going through winter, it’s summer in the south. This is the perfect time to discover Australia and New Zealand by ship. The weather is consistently warm on the coast.
The southern hemisphere summer, which runs from November to March, is also the perfect time for a cruise to Antarctica. In the weeks before and after the New Year, visitors can look forward to nearly 24 hours of daylight and this is also the best time to see newly hatched penguin chicks. Whale-watching season begins in February, and Antarctic fur seals can also be spotted.
February is possibly the best month to visit Brazil as Carnival is in full swing and the most famous Brazilian Carnival is the one in Rio de Janeiro. This colourful spectacle is sure to be the highlight of any well-timed South America cruise.
March/April: Home time for ships – repositioning cruises
While most cruise ships are still bobbing around the warm-weather destinations at the beginning of March, by mid-March, the first ships are making their way across the Atlantic back over to Europe. During this time of the year, you can find a wide range of transatlantic and repositioning cruises on offer. These journeys see ships travelling back to their home port after their winter getaways, often stopping at interesting ports that get overlooked during the typical round-trip itineraries. Because repositioning cruises don’t bring passengers back to the departure port at the end of the trip, these cruises are often cheaper than round-trip tours.
Many ships also return to the Mediterranean in March and April. The temperatures rise and are very comfortable, meaning that both Eastern and Western Mediterranean itineraries are a good choice for this time of year. The mild temperatures also make this an especially good time to travel for passengers who are interested in sightseeing and visiting holy sites.
In April, the first ships take off for the Baltic Sea and Norwegian fjords. The weather is often still unpredictable at this time of year and the water is still cold, so make sure to pack a scarf and gloves if you cruise to northern Europe or Scandinavia in early spring.
If you’re looking for something a bit more of the beaten path then look no further than a cruise to the South Pacific! April to December is typically the best time to visit the Pacific islands, though it varies from island to island.
At Easter the demand for cruising is particularly high, as the school holidays offer a convenient time for family vacations. During this time, you’ll find more children onboard. It’s worth remembering that public holidays are a very popular time to cruise, and you’ll have to book far in advance, or else risk that your dream cruise is sold out.
May and June: Great to cruise close to home
Take advantage of the chance to visit northern Europe in early summer. Even though the temperatures are still on the cooler side, pre-season is the best time to visit Scandinavia, the Baltic, western Europe, and the British Isles. If you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted by pleasant temperatures, but most importantly, the islands and port cities won’t be overrun with tourists yet, and the prices are relatively affordable. Don’t forget that in Scandinavia and north-eastern Europe, the summer solstice takes place in the night of June 21. It’s a magical experience to spend the longest day of the year by the sea, which is why Baltic Sea cruises are particularly popular at this time of year. The so-called “white nights“ are legendary, and many cruise lines offer overnight stays in ports to allow passengers to make the most of their time there.
The Mediterranean is growing warmer at this time and the cities are a little quieter than the peak Summer period. Many cruise lines are also setting their sights on the Pacific.
July/August: Adventure in the Arctic and Alaska
July and August are the most beautiful times of year in the northern hemisphere. Children have their summer holidays and the high season for summer travel begins. Cruise ships have noticeably more families with children, and most cruise lines increase the number of children’s activities and babysitting services onboard. The most popular destinations for families are the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Of course temperatures can get extremely hot during this time and older passengers often prefer Baltic Sea and northern Europe itineraries, as well as the Norwegian fjords. Cruises to Iceland, Greenland, and the North Sea are also in high season.
High summer is also the best season to hop across the pond to the American East Coast to New York and Canada, or the American West Coast with Alaska. Cruises to Alaska are especially popular among nature lovers, with the untouched nature, charming small towns, and of course, the impressive glacial landscapes. Wildlife such as moose, wolves and birds also draw visitors to the Last Frontier, and curious travellers will relish the opportunity to learn about Alaskan Natives. There is also excellent whale watching along the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada, and lucky passengers may get a glimpse of the area’s resident orcas. Good to know: the summer season in Alaska is very short and ends in mid-September.
The best and warmest months for an Arctic cruise are July and August. This is high season to watch for polar bears and seals as they dive and swim among the ice floes. A cruise to the islands of northern Norway (Spitsbergen) or an expedition into the Arctic come with the promise of spectacular landscapes and midnight sun, and lucky passengers may even experience the Aurora Borealis.
Indian Summer in September/October
The second wave of repositioning cruises starts in late September and early October as cruise ships switch regions once again. Passengers can look forward to another round of repositioning or transatlantic cruises. There tend to be fewer cruises to destinations in the northern hemisphere such as the Baltic Sea, Europe, the United States, and Canada, and even ships in the Mediterranean usually make a break for the Caribbean. A handful of cruise lines offer Canada and New England cruises so passengers can experience the beautiful fall colours before winter sets in.
Another option is to cruise the Middle East, cruising through the Suez Canal towards Dubai. A handful of ships continue on through the Persian Gulf, while others head towards the Indian Ocean or southeast Asia, making places like Singapore or Hong Kong their seasonal home port.
November/December: Say goodbye to the year in the sun
The weeks leading up to the Christmas period are also a popular time to cruise. Make sure to book early. Holiday cruises fill up fast! White palm beaches, turquoise waters, and sunshine seven days of the week are waiting for you in the Caribbean. Hurricane season ends in November and so many cruise lines resume itineraries to the Caribbean, including Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Cuba. While most itineraries start in Florida, some start in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
In southeast Asia, bustling metropolises and tropical nature await. November to February offers the ideal time to cruise to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, with warm temperatures and relatively little precipitation making for a very comfortable climate. Cruises around the Indian Ocean, Australia, and the west coast of South America are also in season.
In the southern hemisphere, Antarctica draws visitors with its extraordinary natural phenomena. Here, it’s the beginning of summer: the coastline is still covered in ice and the penguins are returning to their colonies and beginning to build their nests.
Destinations and ships for any time of the year
One of the most popular destinations to cruise year-round is the Canary Islands. The subtropical climate ensures comfortable temperatures throughout the year. It’s not without reason that the islands are nicknamed “The Land of Eternal Spring.”
Some cruise lines also sail the Mediterranean year-round, although the number of ships in southern Europe drops drastically from November to March as sunny weather can’t be guaranteed. By sailing in the off-season, however, you can be sure to get the best deals on Mediterranean cruises!
Hawaii is another great destination that you can travel to the whole year round. The temperature is always around 25-29 degrees Celsius and the water is permanently warm. Just keep in mind that the rainy season runs from December to March and is particularly noticeable in the northeast.
Last but not least, some ships are more suitable to year-round cruising than others. The MSC Meraviglia, the AIDAprima, and the AIDAperla all have covered promenades, decks, and pools, meaning these can be great ships for cooler climates as well.
The best time to cruise to different destination isn’t an exact science. Mid-summer offers the warmest weather, so you’ll have the most destinations to choose from – but you’ll also have to be prepared to share your trip with more people. If you’re looking for an off-season cruise, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and the Canary Islands offer the best year-round warm temperatures, and the Mediterranean, Europe, and South America are all great seasonal destinations. If you’re still not sure which destination is right for you then give our cruise experts a call on +448081595342.
We’ll help you to book your perfect cruise!