The best time to cruise Caribbean islands depends on several factors but most would agree that there are many reasons to visit Caribbean islands by cruise ship. From pristine white sand beaches with crystal-clear waters to lush forests, waterfalls, and coral reefs, each island offers its unique landscape that can be explored on foot or via a variety of outdoor activities such as snorkelling, sailing, and kayaking.
Additionally, many of these islands feature exciting cultural attractions, from colourful markets to historic cities and vibrant local traditions such as dance and music festivals. And of course, there are plenty of shopping opportunities as well, whether you’re looking for souvenirs or fine jewellery or just want to enjoy some retail therapy while on vacation. So if you’re looking for a holiday that includes some adventure, beauty, and culture, then consider a cruise vacation.
When To Go On A Caribbean Cruise
If you’re looking to avoid any potential travel disruptions from tropical storms and full-scale hurricanes, you’ll want to book your cruise for dates from December to May. However, prices will be higher during these months due to demand.
Another factor to consider is whether you’re looking to escape the cold weather in Europe or North America or escape the crowds. If it’s the former, you’ll obviously want to book your cruise for January or February and enjoy tropical temperatures when everyone at home has the central heating turned up. On the other hand, if you’re looking to avoid large crowds, you might want to book your cruise for dates when the children are still at school and it’s not half-term.
Book the cruise of your dreams and see the Caribbean by sea.
The Best Time for a Caribbean Cruise
Deciding to go on a Caribbean cruise is half the battle. The next step is picking the perfect time to travel. Do you want to dodge hurricane season? Or are you looking for the best deal on your dream vacation? The best time to cruise the Caribbean depends on your attitude to weather, crowds, and the cost.
Avoiding Peak Season
Peak season in the Caribbean falls between December and April, which means that sunny days and beach-perfect weather are practically guaranteed during these months. Unsurprisingly, demand (and prices) are also at their highest during peak season. However, there are still ways to score a deal if you plan ahead. For example, many cruise lines offer early booking discounts if you book 6-12 months in advance.
If you can only travel during peak season but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for your dream vacation, consider booking a sailing that departs mid-week instead of on the weekend. You can also look for discounted last-minute cruises departing within 30 days as cruise lines often slash fares to fill unsold cabins before setting sail.
Finding Cheap Cruises
If finding a cheap cruise is your main goal, here are a few tips that can help:
- Look for balcony cabins—they often cost less than suites but offer more space and privacy than an interior cabin
- Sail during repositioning cruises—this happens when cruise lines move their ships from one region to another (usually at the beginning or end of peak season). Since repositioning cruises involve longer journeys than usual, they tend to be cheaper than 7-day sailings
- Travel with family or friends and book adjoining cabins—many cruise lines offer discounts (or even free upgrades!) when multiple cabins are booked together
The Less Than Ideal Times to Cruise the Caribbean
1. Hurricane Season (June 1 – November 30)
See above. You can still take a chance and probably enjoy reduced prices. If you absolutely must cruise during hurricane season, make sure to purchase travel insurance and keep a close eye on the weather forecast
2. Spring Break (March – April)
The Easter spring break is another time of year that you may want to avoid cruising the Caribbean. Not only will the islands be more crowded with tourists, but prices will also be sky-high due to increased demand. If you have your heart set on cruising during spring break, book your trip well in advance and be prepared for crowds
3. Christmas & New Year’s (December 25 – January 1)
Much like spring break, Christmas and New Year’s is another time of year when cruises to the Caribbean fill up quickly and prices are at a premium. If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds (and save some money), consider cruising during another time of year. You may find that the weather is just as good—if not better—and you’ll have your pick of cabins!
Caribbean Cruise Ports
Eastern Caribbean Cruise Ports
An Eastern Caribbean itinerary offers a blend of stunning beaches and historical landmarks, making it a versatile destination for any cruise-goer.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Geographic Location: Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is situated in the Eastern Caribbean Sea.
Main Attractions: Cruise passengers often flock to Magens Bay for its stunning beach. The Coral World Ocean Park is another popular attraction, offering an underwater observatory.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Geographic Location: San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory in the northeastern Caribbean.
Main Attractions: The historic El Morro fortress is a must-visit, as is the vibrant district of Old San Juan with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Geographic Location: Philipsburg is the main town on the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin in the northeastern Caribbean.
Main Attractions: Maho Beach is famous for its proximity to the airport, offering unique plane-spotting opportunities. The Sint Maarten Zoo and the St. Maarten Museum offer cultural insights.
Check them out and find deals: Eastern Caribbean Cruises
Western Caribbean Cruise Ports
Known for its vibrant marine life and adventurous water activities, the Western Caribbean is a haven for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Geographic Location: Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
Main Attractions: The island is renowned for its scuba diving spots, especially around the Palancar Reef. The San Gervasio Mayan ruins offer a historical perspective.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Geographic Location: Grand Cayman is the largest of the Cayman Islands, located in the western Caribbean Sea.
Main Attractions: The Stingray City sandbar is a unique experience where visitors can interact with stingrays. Seven Mile Beach is another must-visit with its pristine sands.
Belize City, Belize
Geographic Location: Belize City is the largest city in Belize, located on the eastern coast of Central America.
Main Attractions: The ancient Mayan city of Altun Ha is often visited by cruise passengers. The Belize Zoo and the Museum of Belize are other popular spots.
Check them out and find deals: Western Caribbean Cruises
Southern Caribbean Cruise Ports
Boasting unique cultural experiences and idyllic beaches, a cruise to the Southern Caribbean is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in local traditions while enjoying the sun and sea.
Geographic Location: Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island located off the coast of Venezuela.
Main Attractions: Eagle Beach is famous for its clear waters and water sports. The Aruba Aloe Factory provides an educational tour about aloe production.
Geographic Location: Willemstad is the capital city of Curaçao, another Dutch Caribbean island.
Main Attractions: The colorful Handelskade waterfront is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Curaçao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy offer marine life experiences.
Geographic Location: Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados, located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies.
Main Attractions: The Harrison’s Cave offers a unique underground experience. Carlisle Bay is popular for snorkeling and shipwreck diving. There are numerous excursions you can go on, leaving from Bridgetown. The best restaurants are on the west coast of Barbados, north of the cruise terminal.
Check them out and find deals: Southern Caribbean Cruises
Royal Caribbean: Your Gateway to Caribbean Adventures
Royal Caribbean is a leading cruise line that offers an unparalleled experience of luxury, entertainment, and adventure. With a diverse range of itineraries, this cruise line serves as a gateway to explore the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean regions.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Overview
Royal Caribbean is renowned for its innovative ships, top-notch amenities, and a plethora of onboard activities. From rock climbing walls to Broadway-style shows, the cruise line ensures that there’s never a dull moment at sea.
Destinations in the Caribbean
Their Eastern Caribbean cruises often include stops at popular ports like St. Thomas, San Juan, and Philipsburg. These destinations offer a mix of historical sites and natural beauty, from the El Morro fortress in San Juan to the stunning beaches of St. Thomas.
For those interested in water sports and ancient history, their Western Caribbean itineraries are ideal. Ports often include Cozumel, Mexico, known for its scuba diving spots, and Belize City, Belize, where you can visit the ancient Mayan city of Altun Ha.
The Southern Caribbean cruises by Royal Caribbean are perfect for those looking to explore less crowded, culturally rich islands. Ports often include Oranjestad, Aruba, famous for its clear waters and water sports, and Willemstad, Curaçao, known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed waterfront.
Hurricane Season In The Caribbean
The hurricane season in the Caribbean can vary widely from year to year but typically lasts from the beginning of June until the end of November. During this period, tropical storms and hurricanes often form over the Western Atlantic, bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall at sea and to several different islands.
Each island is prone to different types of storms, ranging from tropical depressions to category 5 hurricanes. The path that a hurricane takes means that it can bypass one island while hitting another. The worst storms can cause significant damage.
According to NOAA, “on average, 12 tropical storms form in the Atlantic basin each year. Of those tropical storms, six will become hurricanes, and three of those hurricanes will become major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.”
Over the decades, weather technology has improved and early warning systems have become more accurate. However, if a storm makes landfall then it can still cause damage to all but the strongest and well-protected structures and there can be a risk to life. Residents can take several measures to prepare for these storms, such as securing their homes and businesses and stocking up on food and water in case of power outages. Overall, while the threat of hurricanes certainly poses a challenge for people living in the Caribbean, it is also something that they have become quite adept at handling over time.
Impact Of Storms On Cruise Ships
Incidents are rare, but storms and hurricanes have the potential to have a major impact on cruise ships, both in terms of their risk to the ships themselves and their impact on passengers. High winds and large waves can cause physical damage to a ship’s structures, perhaps causing some temporary flooding on some decks. Additionally, storms can make it difficult for a ship to stay on course, potentially leading to collisions with other vessels or structures where they are moored, or even running aground if the situation escalates due to any mechanical malfunction.
In addition to these more direct effects, storms can also create dangerous conditions for passengers by severely disrupting onboard amenities. For example, strong winds may cause issues with elevators and power outages may leave buildings without air conditioning or working lights, creating unpleasant conditions for everyone onboard.
As you can imagine, storms and hurricanes pose a serious risk to cruise ships and the people who travel on them, but actual incidents are thankfully, quite rare.
Cruise Ships Can Avoid Storms!
One important tool in helping to avoid inclement weather and severe storms while at sea is early warning systems. By tracking atmospheric conditions, satellite images, and meteorological data, these systems can provide a detailed picture of potentially dangerous weather that may be approaching. This information then helps the cruise ship crew to make the best possible decisions about route changes, potential delays or stops to shore, and other necessary measures.
Thanks to these advanced warning systems, ships can successfully avoid stormy conditions and ocean swells that could put passengers in danger. This makes for a smoother and safer sailing experience for everyone on board. It also means that cruise ships still visit the Caribbean during the hurricane season. They simply monitor the weather and take the necessary steps to avoid storms as they manifest in the Atlantic.
Caribbean Cruises – FAQs
Why Timing Matters for a Caribbean Cruise?
Timing is crucial when planning a Caribbean cruise. The weather in the Caribbean varies, and cruise fares fluctuate throughout the year. Knowing the best time to cruise can significantly enhance your experience, from enjoying the best weather to finding fantastic time-sensitive cruise deals.
What is the Best Month to Cruise the Caribbean?
December through April are generally considered the best months to go on a cruise is this sea. These winter months offer pleasant weather and less rainfall. However, this is also a popular time to cruise, so you might encounter higher cruise pricing and crowded Caribbean destinations.
How Does Hurricane Season Impact Cruising?
Hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June to November. While cruise lines are adept at altering itineraries to avoid storms, it’s essential to be aware that your plans could change. Cruising during hurricane season may not be the best time of year but it can be less expensive. You just have to bear in mind that it comes with the risk of itinerary changes and very occasionally some rough seas.
Is Spring Break a Popular Time to Cruise?
Spring break is indeed a popular time to set sail, especially for families and college students. While the atmosphere is festive, cruises are often booked months ahead to get the best deals, and ships can be crowded.
What About the Dry Season in the Caribbean?
The dry season typically runs from December to April. This is an ideal time to sail to the Caribbean if you’re looking to escape the winter chill. The dry season offers the best weather conditions but also coincides with higher cruise fares.
Eastern vs. Western vs. Southern Caribbean: Which to Choose?
The Caribbean is divided into three main regions: Eastern, Western, and Southern. Each offers unique experiences and different weather patterns. For instance, the Southern Caribbean is less affected by hurricanes, making it a safer bet during the summer months.
How Do Itineraries Affect the Best Time to Cruise?
Your choice of itinerary can significantly impact when you should cruise. Longer itineraries may offer more flexibility in terms of timing and may include less-visited Caribbean islands, providing a more exclusive experience.
What are the Cheapest Times to Cruise the Caribbean?
The cheapest times to cruise are generally during the hurricane season and the first two weeks of December. If you’re willing to take a bit of a gamble with the weather, you can find some excellent cruise deals during these periods.
How Does Caribbean Weather Influence Cruise Timing?
The Caribbean weather is warm year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preference for activities and tolerance for heat and humidity. The winter months offer milder temperatures, while the summer can be hot and humid.
How to Find the Best Cruise Deals for the Caribbean?
Finding the best cruise deals involves a combination of timing, research, and flexibility. Keep an eye on cruise line promotions, and consider booking well in advance or last minute for the best prices.
When it comes down to it, there is no single best time for cruising the Caribbean since everyone values different things—whether that’s avoiding bad weather, scoring a deal, or sailing during prime beach season. No matter when you book your Caribbean cruise, one thing is for sure: You’re in for an incredible vacation. Use this guide as a starting point for finding your perfect sailing date but remember to keep your own needs and preferences in mind as well.
- The best time to cruise the Caribbean is generally from December to April during the dry season.
- Be cautious when cruising during the hurricane season from June to November.
- Spring break is a popular but crowded time to cruise.
- Different regions of the Caribbean offer unique experiences and weather conditions.
- Cheapest times to cruise are during the hurricane season and early December.
- Your choice of itinerary can significantly impact your cruise experience and timing.