When to Cruise Where
OK, fine, there's no bad time to go to the Caribbean, but perhaps you didn't know that January and February (when the weather is mild, and before spring break jacks up the rates) is considered the ideal time to take a cruise to Belize. Or that folks cruising through Southeast Asia in February and March are the least likely to encounter mugginess. Or that tulips make April the perfect time to traverse the waters near Amsterdam.
Related: Great All-Inclusive Cruises
Expert cruisers travel seasonally, so before planning your next voyage, read on.
The Caribbean + Mexico
When To Go: January and February (but not March, when spring break begins)
Now’s the time to book Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, before it moves to Shanghai in the spring. The January 23 sailing (10 nights from $1,749) combines classic ports of call (Puerto Rico, St. Kitts) with five days at sea.
In February, Celebrity Constellation travels round-trip from Fort Lauderdale (five nights from $399), visiting Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.
Though popular with the yachting crowd, the Grenadines have yet to be touched by mass tourism. Star Clippers Cruises offers voyages (seven nights from $1,560) on the five-masted Royal Clipper—a true sailing vessel.
Note: Rates quoted include all meals and are per person based on double occupancy for the lowest category cabin. Alcohol, gratuities, and airfare are not included unless otherwise specified.
South + Central America
When To Go: January through March, for low humidity and blue skies
Most Cape Horn sailings begin and end in Chile or Argentina, but Oceania Cruises’ February 3 itinerary on the Regatta (19 nights from $6,199, with airfare) starts in Lima, Peru—which gives you time to visit Machu Picchu before cruising Patagonia’s dramatic fjords.
Leaving from Rio de Janeiro, the February 7 sailing (12 nights from $1,799, all- inclusive) on the Azamara Journey includes two additional nights in Rio mid-cruise during Carnival.
Windstar Cruises’ 148- passenger Wind Spirit has trips (seven nights from $2,499) through the Panama Canal with stops in Costa Rica’s national parks.
When To Go: January through March, the least muggy months
Crystal Symphony’s February 24 voyage (13 nights from $5,295, all-inclusive) visits Malaysia and “it” destination Myanmar. The highlight: two nights in Yangon, with an optional overnight excursion to the 1,000-year-old temples of Bagan.
For a more immersive experience in Myanmar, AmaWaterways’ new AmaPura sails to or from Mandalay (12 nights from $4,899, including drinks), with trips to Salay’s monasteries and the Mahamuni Buddha.
Leaving from Hong Kong, Silversea’s March 10 voyage (nine nights from $4,350, all-inclusive) is Vietnam 101: the 296-passenger Silver Wind docks in Ha Long Bay, Chan May, and Ho Chi Minh City.
The Netherlands + Belgium
When To Go: April—prime time to see tulips
Tour operator Cox & Kings recently launched river cruises on Scenic Cruises’ upscale ships. The April 27 sailing (seven nights from $2,585, including drinks), round-trip from Amsterdam, calls at Keukenhof, the world’s second-largest flower garden, open only during the spring, and Bruges.
Viking follows a similar itinerary on its new Longships with its Tulips and Windmills sailings (nine nights from $3,072, including drinks).
The Mediterranean + The Greek Isles
When To Go: May and early June, before the summer rush
A benefit of SeaDream Yacht Club: its twin 112-passenger yachts can stop in smaller ports. The May 30 sailing, round-trip from Civitavecchia, Italy (seven nights from $5,299, all-inclusive), on the SeaDream II, features three days on the Amalfi Coast.
Oceania Cruises’ May 20 voyage from Istanbul to Lisbon (10 nights from $4,199 with airfare) on the 684-passenger Nautica incorporates destinations rarely found in the same itinerary, including Tunis, Tunisia, and Málaga, Spain.
Seabourn Odyssey hits popular Greek isles (Mykonos, Santorini) on its May 16 sailing from Venice to Istanbul (13 nights from $7,699, all-inclusive).
When To Go: Mid-May and June, for fewer crowds and more affordable fares
Princess offers voyages along the Inside Passage (seven nights from $799) on the 3,082-passenger Crown Princess and Ruby Princess. You’ll stop at Glacier Bay National Park, where regulations limit ship traffic.
Consider adding a land tour: Holland America Line’s itineraries combine a cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage on the 1,432- passenger Zaandam with a rail trip to Denali National Park (12 nights from $1,699).
Ponant’s small, luxurious ships are often chartered by tour operators like Abercrombie & Kent. It makes its Alaska debut with L’Austral sailing the Inside Passage (seven nights from $3,700, all-inclusive).
Northern Europe + Iceland
When To Go: July and August, for the white nights
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Viking Odyssey itinerary, leaving July 6, combines the Norwegian fjords with a trip to the Arctic Circle on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager (20 nights from $17,599, all-inclusive, with airfare).
The August 13 journey on the Azamara Quest (12 nights from $4,799, all-inclusive) visits traditional Baltic ports (St. Petersburg, Russia, and Tallinn, Estonia), and includes two nights each in Stockholm and Amsterdam.
Tauck is one of the few companies to offer Iceland-specific cruises. Explore Grimsey Island and the Snæfellsnes peninsula on a round-trip voyage from Reykjavík (seven nights from $6,690, all-inclusive) on Ponant’s upscale ships.
The Transatlantic Crossing
When To Go: July and August, so you can soak up the sun on the pool deck
Cunard helped pioneer transatlantic cruising—and its fleet is the only one to offer regular seven- and eight-night sailings across the pond. On July 2, the Queen Mary 2 (12 nights from $2,813) will make a commemorative voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, nearly 175 years to the day after Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, made its maiden voyage. The QM2 then returns across the Atlantic to Southampton on July 14 (eight nights from $1,735) and offers more sailings throughout July and August.
The South Pacific + Hawaii
When To Go: September and October, to miss the summer crowds
The 332-passenger Paul Gauguin regularly sails French Polynesia’s Society Islands, visiting Bora-Bora and Moorea (seven nights from $3,995, all-inclusive, with airfare from L.A.). The October 17 voyage (13 nights from $7,195, all- inclusive, with airfare from L.A.; pgcruises.com) includes these but also goes farther afield to the Cook Islands and Fiji.
If you prefer to see the Society Islands on a smaller ship, choose Windstar’s 148-passenger Wind Spirit (seven nights from $3,199).
Closer to home, cruise from Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands on the 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder (10 nights from $1,650).
The Rhine + Danube Rivers
When To Go: November and December, to see the Christmas markets
AmaWaterways’ Christmas on the Rhine voyages aboard the new AmaSerena (seven nights from $2,899, including wine and beer) start with an optional land-based tour in Switzerland—two nights each in Zurich and Lucerne. The cruise itself goes from Basel to Amsterdam (and vice versa), featuring cities such as Heidelberg, Germany, and Strasbourg, France, all decked out for the holidays.
Cruise the Danube River from Nuremberg to Vienna on Uniworld River Cruises’ 132-passenger, Art Deco–inspired River Princess (seven nights from $2,899, all-inclusive).
When To Go: November through February, the only season you can travel here
Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic’s Journey to Antarctica sailings (13 nights from $12,350) spotlight a rotating series of signature speakers, including John Evans, who climbed the White Continent’s highest peak.
Hurtigruten’s Land of the Penguins voyage (10 nights from $7,985) on the 256-guest Fram allows passengers to camp overnight on the ice.
For a more luxurious (and in-depth) experience, the 450-passenger Seabourn Quest has longer voyages (21 nights from $14,999, all-inclusive), including six full days in the Antarctic region, as well as in the Falkland Islands and the Chilean fjords.
Spotlight: Norwegian Escape
Fall’s biggest debut is the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, which will be based in Miami and sail seven-night voyages to the eastern Caribbean. Fans of the brand’s “Haven” concept—an exclusive wing with its own pool—will find 13 additional suites in the complex. The ship is also the new permanent home of the iconic downtown Miami bar Tobacco Road, bringing the city’s flair on board.