A simple internet search of cruises reveals a mind-boggling array of choices. From every corner of the globe to every type of landscape and weather, the sheer choice of itineraries can be overwhelming. While it might seem an impossible choice, it’s actually great news! It means that, with a little guidance and planning, the perfect cruise is out there waiting for you.
So should you travel in summer or winter? Warm weather or cold? High season or low? Ultimately, picking the best cruise depends on finding that perfect time when your availability to go, the weather, and the crowds all align. Peak season might be best time-wise for you, but do you want to go when the destination is at its busiest? If securing the best weather is a must then the answer will be yes.
There are a few steps and decisions involved in choosing where to go and when. It is worth keeping in mind that summer and winter in the northern and southern hemispheres are in reverse, with destinations such as Australia, South East Asia and South America having their warmer weather during the months of November to March.
It’s likely you’ll already have an idea about the type of cruise you’ve got your heart set on, even if you haven’t narrowed down the destination.
However, before you get a booking, there are some factors involved in choosing the best season to cruise which you may not have considered.
Well-Loved Destinations Change Depending on the Season
There is no best time to cruise. There is, however, the best time to cruise a specific destination. Cruises to the well-loved destinations of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean run almost year-round, but each season brings with it a completely different experience. In the summer months of May to September, the Mediterranean cities are bathed in sunshine, the sea shimmers invitingly and there are shady cafés in cobbled streets from Sardinia to Valetta in which to sip glasses of chilled wine. On the other side of the pond, the Caribbean is a swirl of turquoise, tropical bliss during the winter months of December to April. Over 7,000 islands, from the Bahamas in the north to the Turks and Caicos in the south, promise powder sand beaches, colonial architecture, and vibrant cultures.
Switch the seasons, however, and you have an entirely different cruise. In the Mediterranean winter, cultural itineraries take in Europe’s ancient cities, with excursions to romantic castles and Christmas markets. In the Caribbean, the hurricane season of June to November means there might be diversions to an itinerary depending on weather conditions, but otherwise, the region is open for business.
Some Destinations Can Only be visited at Certain Times of the Year
There are many incredible cruising destinations in the world which are visited seasonally by cruise ships, and so knowing when you can visit them is a major factor in figuring out if they’re the right choice for you. Some of the best summer cruises include destinations such as Alaska, New England, British Columbia, and the Baltic countries open themselves up to cruise ship visitors when the icy conditions and severe weather has passed. Flip the seasonal coin, however, and winter destinations such as Costa Rica, Asia, South America, and Antarctica are available.
Having said that, destinations such as Alaska, for example, will have their rainy season in the middle of summer. Despite this being the high season, if your idea of the perfect cruise doesn’t involve likely showers, then Alaska isn’t the right choice.
Dress to Impress (and to Stay Warm)
Summer cruise wear is fairly straightforward. Flip flops, shorts, dresses, and swimwear will make up the bulk of your suitcase, although don’t forget some smarter attire for the ship’s swankier events, and something warmer for cool evenings on the deck watching the sun go down, or if the ship’s air conditioning is a bit chilly for you.
When it comes to what to pack for a cold-weather cruise, you might have to put a bit more thought into it, and packing light will be harder. Layers are best, with fleeces, a waterproof and windproof jacket, and sturdy, insulated walking shoes perfect for shore excursions. If you’re embarking on an autumnal cruise, you might get away with a few less layers, while a trip to the Arctic or Antarctic will require some specialist clothing.
Consider Travelling in the Shoulder Season for the Best Price Deals
The highest cruise prices are, unsurprisingly, those that fall during the summer, or peak times such as Christmas and New Year. Children’s school holidays usually dictate the biggest price rises, as families set off on their adventures. However, destinations with short cruise windows such as Antarctica, Alaska, and Greenland will have higher demand and often be expensive throughout their short seasons.
Travelling in the shoulder season (the period either side of the high season) or the low season can bring with it some amazing cruise deals and cheap cruises. You still get the incredible destinations, but with fewer crowds and lower prices. The compromise might be reliable sunny weather or guaranteed snow, but chances are the shoulders seasons will still offer plenty of both. Bermuda, for example, is the ideal shoulder season destination. With a long cruising season running from April through mid-November, there are plenty of bargains to be found for the early and late months. And you’ll have the beaches almost to yourself.
Consider Convenience when Booking a Cruise
This is your holiday and you want it to be relaxing and enjoyable. If dragging three children halfway across the world through multiple airports and time zones is the opposite of that, then choose a cruise departure point closer to home with an itinerary to suit the whole family. The Mediterranean and Caribbean are perfect choices for shorter voyages. However, if you have more time, or you’re traveling in a couple or with like-minded friends, it can be easier to venture further and consider destinations such as Patagonia, Peru, South East Asia or the South Pacific.
Cold Weather Cruises aren’t necessarily cheaper than Warm Weather Cruises
The common belief is that embarking on a cold-weather cruise will cost you less than a sunshine-filled one. While this may be true for destinations such as Europe when the low season is during the colder, winter months, there are many popular and intrepid destinations on offer these days and therefore prices can be just as high, if not higher. Cold weather cruise destinations such as Greenland, Scandinavia, Nova Scotia, Antarctica, and Patagonia are gaining popularity, and these off-the-beaten-path places come with a higher price tag due to less competition and the fact that many are aboard small luxury cruise ships.
Not all Excursions are Available Year-Round
Getting off the ship and seeing the incredible destinations is the whole point of a cruise, so it’s worth considering which shore excursions will be running. In the low season some excursion might not operate due to weather constraints, because attractions are closed, or due to a lack of participants. High season cruises will almost always offer the full package of shore excursions, but make sure you book early as they fill up fast. It’s worth remembering that last-minute high season bookings might mean you miss out on your top choices of the excursion. Also, if extreme heat isn’t for you, then shoulder or off-season cruises might work better as you can enjoy walking tours of Barcelona in cooler temperatures. Find this Passenger Cruise Ship for Sale in Greece.
A Final Thought
Ultimately, the best thing about cruises is that there is no one size fits all. With thousands of itineraries, ships, and destinations spanning all corners of the globe, you can find the perfect one to suit you and your interests. Whether that’s a frosty cruise to see Greenland’s whales and icebergs, a cultural escapade to Europe’s ancient cities, or a sun-soaked, fun-for-all-the-family break in the Caribbean, then the right cruise is out there. Just remember to think about what you want from a cruise and find the one which suits you. With so much choice, there is no reason to compromise.
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