When Should I Cruise? – Weather

Another factor in choosing a time to cruise is weather. If you wish to cruise in the Caribbean, hurricane season (officially June 1 through November 30, but more realistically late August through mid-November) can often be unpredictable. Since hurricanes can be forecasted and tracked, cruise ships are usually able to avoid them, but there may be missed ports and rough seas without warning. Cruise lines know this, and the prices for Caribbean cruises during this time reflect the unreliability of the weather and itineraries.

Weather can also play a significant part in where cruise lines will sail. Alaska and northern Europe have cool temperatures, and are generally only ‘bearable’ to cruisers in the summer months. South American and Australian cruises tend to be popular in the American winter, as it is summer in the southern hemisphere during those months. Caribbean, Mexican and Hawaiian cruises are also much more readily available during the winter months. European cruises sail from spring through the fall, but usually not during the winter.

As you can see, changing weather makes for changing itineraries, but that also leads to another interesting aspect of cruising: the repositioning cruise. If a cruise ship winters in the Caribbean, but spends its summers in Europe, then it will have to sail to Europe in the spring, and return back to Florida in the fall. These one way repositioning cruises are often the best cruising deals available. Cruise lines normally have a difficult time filling a long cruise, during school weeks, with few ports, particularly when one way airfare is taken into account (many airlines charge as much for a one way ticket as a round trip, particularly when you are talking about overseas travel). For this reason, there are many adherents of repositioning cruises: people who like the long sea days, uncrowded ships and cheap cruise fares. Yet they are not enough to completely fill the ships. If you are flexible in your schedule and can travel last minute, you will usually find many last minute specials on such cruise vacations.

When Should I Cruise? – Timing

Yes, I know it’s been a little over a month since I last posted on this blog, but there were reasons for that. The holidays, getting kids back to school, going back to work… and most importantly, a cruise. We took a two week cruise to Hawaii that was both wonderful and relaxing. Interestingly, during the time I since I last posted on this blog, both the busiest and the slowest times of year for cruising have passed. And that got me thinking: what is the best time of year to cruise?

The number one factor in picking a time to cruise is when you are available. While some people are flexible in their schedules, those of us who work a fixed set of dates or who have children in school may be restricted as to the time of year when they can travel. For this reason, school holidays tend to be the busiest times of year for the cruise industry, and the prices will match. Christmas week and New Year’s week are the busiest, with the weeks before and after Easter, the week of American Thanksgiving, and summer holidays (mid June to mid August) being high demand times as well. March and April (outside of the weeks around Easter) can also be a little more crowded, as various school districts and universities have their spring breaks. Early June and late August are ‘shoulder seasons’, where some schools are in session while others are not. January (after New Year’s) and February, May, and mid-September through mid-November tend to be the least busy times of year to cruise.

The advantage to traveling during a busy time is that there are sometime special activities aboard ship (particularly during the holidays) and if you have children, the children’s programs will be more active, with more opportunities for your younger ones to interact with others their own age. The obvious disadvantages are crowding, particularly in the theatre, at the buffet and around the pools, and pricing. Traveling at the most popular times of year comes with an added premium, and the price may not be reflective of what you wish to pay.

If you are able to be a bit more flexible in your schedule, you will find that moving your cruise vacation by two to six weeks can save you a significant amount in cruise cost and airfare, while still visiting the same ports. As with all traveling, convenience comes at a price, and the more you can ‘inconvenience’ yourself, the better deal you will find.

Next time, I’ll talk about how weather can play a role in selecting your cruise.