Although cruises are available year-round, the best time to go depends on your destination, budget and, of course, vacation schedule.
Cruisers looking to save money while sailing the seas will need to travel primarily during the shoulder season. Scheduling your vacation for those times when the weather is slightly less optimal lets you cut costs while escaping the crowds — and that means a more relaxing trip overall. Check out these tips for choosing the best time to go on a cruise, and save money on your trip.
Best Time to Go on a Caribbean Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: Late April to May and September to January
You can cruise to the Caribbean any time of year, as nearly every major line sails there. However, the traditional vacation season (June to August) is not an optimal time for scoring cruise deals, said Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of CruiseCritic.
“For lower fares, look to visit the Caribbean when the crowds lessen — late April through May and September to early January (holiday weeks excluded). You can usually save hundreds per passenger by cruising during those times,” she said.
Tips for Finding Caribbean Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 7-day Carnival Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston, Texas, in September 2017
- Cost: From $549
You can also opt for shorter itineraries and choose closer cruise destinations to increase savings.
“Many cruisers pick Western Caribbean itineraries that reach destinations such as Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman and Jamaica,” said McDaniel. “These can be reached with a short cruise from Florida, New Orleans and even Galveston, Texas.”
Best Time to Go on a Canadian or New England Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: Late October
Early autumn can be a wonderful time to explore the coastlines and historic ports of Canada and New England. Prices, however, generally increase during “leaf-peeping” season, which lasts from early September to mid-October, said Simon Duvall of Cruiseline.
“For the best deals and lowest prices, look to late October,” said Duvall. “It’s past the ‘leaf peeping’ prime, but depending on the itinerary, [there] will still likely be some color left to see.”
Tips for Finding Canadian or New England Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 7-night Norwegian Cruise Line Canada/New England cruise from Boston in October 2017
- Cost: From $599
For the best airfare value, Duvall recommends looking for round-trip cruises from a U.S. port, as “a lot of Canada/New England cruises are open-jaw, sailing from, say, New York to Montreal or Boston to Quebec City,” which tend be more expensive. To find more airfare deals, use these insider secrets to get a free flight.
Best Time to Go on an Alaskan Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: May and September
It’s easy to understand the allure of Alaska, with its exotic wilderness, glaciers and mountains. The best time to visit with regard to both weather and wildlife encounters is from June to August, said McDaniel.
But to find the best Alaska cruise packages, she suggests traveling during the shoulder season — May and September. And if you need help planning your itinerary for your Alaskan cruise, check out these affordable destinations.
Tips for Finding Alaskan Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 7-day Norwegian Cruise Line Alaskan cruise from Seattle in Sept. 2017
- Cost: From $649
McDaniel also said it's possible to score discount cruises in the prime season if you travel on northbound glacier routes.
“Southbound itineraries are more popular — and thus higher priced — because passengers often combine land tours with cruises, and the preference is to tackle the busy land portion at the front of the trip, then relax a little with the cruise portion,” said McDaniel.
If order doesn’t matter to you, McDaniel suggests picking a less popular route when exploring cruise offers. Doing so could save you anywhere from $50 to hundreds per person. To save on costs to port, Duvall recommends looking for round-trip cruises from Seattle, as Vancouver departures can be more expensive.
"Open-jaw cruises (one-way between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier) are often a bit cheaper than round-trip Seattle or Vancouver cruises, but you might end up paying more with one-way air to/from Anchorage," he said.
Best Time to Cruise the Mediterranean
- Best time to go on a cruise: April or October
The best times to book a cruise to the Mediterranean for price and weather are in April and October, said Duvall. This, of course, bypasses the summer crowds. Although you can find cruise packages with good deals in November and March, “the risk of cold temperatures or inclement weather make them not ideal months to cruise in the Mediterranean,” he said.
It’s also important to note that there are a limited number of ships that offer Mediterranean itineraries year-round, said McDaniel. If you're traveling in the off-season, she recommends cruising to Spain, Morocco and the Canary Islands.
“Since those are warmer areas of the region, you’ll have more choice," she said.
Tips for Finding Mediterranean Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 7-night Norwegian Cruise Line Western Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona in Oct. 2017
- Cost: From $599
You can also opt for a more intimate experience on your Mediterranean cruise. It might not necessarily be cheaper — but you might be able to score more perks.
"Look to the smaller lines, which might be more money upfront but will be able to get into some of the smaller, less-visited ports — and oftentimes spend more time in port," McDaniel said. "And while your base fare might be higher than visiting with a mainstream cruise line, you’ll likely experience a more inclusive experience — oftentimes, smaller lines offer things like alcoholic beverages, WiFi, select shore excursions and gratuities in the cost of their base fare.”
Best Time to Go on a Mexican Riviera Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: Early January and May
As is true of the Caribbean, the best time to take a cruise vacation to the Riviera is when temps cool down up north — although you’ll want to avoid traveling around the holidays, when many people are on vacation. But if you don't mind paying more money, you might want to cruise on one of these luxurious ships during the holidays.
But if you want to save money, McDaniel said early January and May are ideal for both weather and pricing, as crowds dwindle and rates drop during these times.
“By cruising during shoulder season, you could save hundreds on your cruise,” she said. There’s also the opportunity to find deals during hurricane season in the fall, but McDaniel said those come with the risk of itineraries being altered.
Tips for Finding Mexican Riviera Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 7-night Princess Cruises Mexican Riviera cruise from Los Angeles in Jan. 2018
- Cost: From $599
When considering cruise lines, McDaniel said to look to Carnival and Disney for quick escapes. If you want to take a longer vacation, consider the Princess cruise line. And if you're thinking about taking an extended cruise, check out these cruise lines first.
Best Time to Go on a Southeast Asia Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: March to May
Southeast Asia offers stunning beaches and other sights to see. Unfortunately, the best times to cruise for weather and price don’t match up for this part of the world. The ideal time to visit Southeast Asia would be during the dry season, said McDaniel, noting that this period from November to February tends to feature higher costs.
“If you’re looking for a deal, consider shoulder seasons and be prepared for hot — sometimes really hot — weather,” said McDaniel.
Tips for Finding Southeast Asia Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 13-Day Royal Caribbean Southeast Asia cruise from Singapore in April 2018
- Cost: From $875
For the best cruise specials to Southeast Asia, McDaniel recommends looking at different lines and cruise lengths. There’s the potential to save hundreds or even thousands if you're flexible, she added.
“You’ll visit the same countries as the longer cruises, but might visit fewer ports or have less time in port,” she said.
But if you have the time and money, perhaps you'll want to visit more ports and take a longer cruise? If so, you can take a journey of a lifetime with one of these around-the-world trips.
Best Time to Go on a Disney Cruise
- Best time to go on a cruise: Fall
According to the Disney Cruise Line website, the fall is a good time to go on a Disney Cruise if you want "best-value pricing."
However, the site does recommend travelers book their cruises at least one year in advance if sailing during the peak season. And if you're planning a trip to a Disney park, remember these are the best and worst times to book.
Tips for Finding Disney Cruise Deals
- Cruise option: 3-night Disney Bahamian cruise from Port Canaveral in September 2018
- Cost: $1,393
"The truth about planning a Disney cruise is that you likely won’t find the larger discounts that you will on other mainstream lines — they’re a popular option throughout the year," said McDaniel. "That said, it’s still worth following destination high and low seasons, as cruise fares will likely fluctuate with those, and it can’t hurt to travel while school is in session and fewer families are traveling.”
*Note: Sample pricing is accurate as of Aug. 9, 2017.