When is the best time to go on a cruise?

Read this to make an informed decision.
Woman in sun hat looking out to sea on a cruise ship

It’s a big question and while there is no simple answer, there are some guidelines around when to go on a cruise that can help make your next cruise the best ever. As a general rule of thumb, remember ocean-going ships follow the sun around the world, sailing during the warmer months in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

Fares in the most popular cruise regions vary according to demand; in Australia and New Zealand for example, the peak season, which is also the best time to go on a cruise, is December-January, when Christmas and school holidays (usually) coincide with warm weather – although the ‘official’ cruise season runs from October to April. Carnival Cruises, P&O and Princess operate ships year-round in local waters and to the Pacific islands, and cruising in the increasingly sought-after Kimberley runs from March to October.

When to go on a cruise depends on the destination

The best time to go on a cruise doesn’t just depend on the months that ships are sailing, however; there are hundreds of Mediterranean sailings between April and October for example, but travelling in spring, summer and autumn offers very different experiences – and very different airline and cruise fares. River cruises in Europe operate from April to December, taking in everything from tulip season in the Netherlands to Christmas markets all through Europe in December.

Your personal best time to go on a cruise anywhere involves a bunch of variables such as your budget, whether you have to travel during school holidays, enjoy hot or cool weather, what wildlife is active and what kind of activities you’re planning ashore.

Bearing all that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the best time to cruise in the overseas regions most popular with Aussie cruisers.

Best time to cruise the Mediterranean

It’s perhaps the best year-round cruise destination. The weather in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Croatia) usually warms up earlier and cools later than in the Western Mediterranean (France, Spain, Italy) so a few cruise lines such as Viking sail in the region almost year-round. Most Mediterranean cruises operate between April and October/November. The weather is more temperate in spring and autumn, and there are fewer crowds, but it’s all a matter of personal choice.

When to cruise the Pacific Islands

Pacific Island cruises operate most of the year from Australia; the rainy season peaks in November but it’s never cold. Windstar, Paul Gauguin and Aranui sail year-round in French Polynesia, although it’s hot and humid between November and April.

What about the Caribbean islands?

December to April is peak holiday season because it’s dry, sunny and the water is calm, although you can sail there almost year-round. Just remember that fares are lower in late summer and autumn for a reason – it’s hurricane season.

The best time to cruise Alaska

Alaska’s cruise season runs from April to September. May is the driest month and June to August are the warmest. Wildlife sightings are plentiful but vary according to animals’ breeding, hibernation and migration patterns, so check with an expert cruise travel agent [subs link to CLIA Australasia] if, say, seeing brown bears is your top priority!

Cruise season in Asia

Whether you’re planning an ocean or river cruise, November to March are the driest, least humid months – and as it’s the peak season, fares are highest. In autumn (September to November) and spring (March to May) the weather can be rainy but there are fewer crowds and fares are cheaper. Spring and autumn are also the best times to cruise in Japan, for the cherry-blossom and fall-foliage seasons.

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