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 Caribbean cruise.
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.
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.
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!
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.