When most people think of taking cruise vacations, they think of tropical beaches and island sunsets, honeymoons and special occasions, and expensive once-in-a-lifetime voyages. When to take a cruise depends on several factors, including the climate you will be experiencing, the personal considerations about your vacation, and the best time a cruise will fit in your budget.
Taking Cruise Vacations: Climate Considerations
The first thing to consider when taking a cruise vacation is the climate you will be entering. The vast majority of cruises focus on the Caribbean, and while the moderating effects of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea help keep the islands temperate throughout the year, there are exceptional circumstances. Hurricane season is the biggest concern, and cruise itineraries can be altered, delayed, or cancelled altogether because of vicious storms. Even if a tropical storm or hurricane is not directly altering the path of your particular cruise, the water may be rougher and the voyage more unpleasant for sensitive seagoers. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, so if rough water or altered itineraries is a concern for your vacation, it is best to book outside those dates.
It is always prudent to investigate your destination's climate before you pack for your vacation. Knowing average temperatures, rainfall amounts, and other weather-related facts will help you be prepared for any weather patterns and your experiences will not be dampened by the lack of an umbrella or appropriate clothing.
Special Itineraries: Alaska and Hawaii
Both Alaskan and Hawaiian cruises have some special considerations with regards to their particular climates. Though Hawaii benefits from the same moderating effects of water that Caribbean islands do, if you still plan to book your cruise during the popular summer months you must be aware that very few ships operate Hawaiian cruises during that time. Therefore, itineraries are more limited and the costs are greater. Alaskan cruises only operate between the months of May and September or early October. This is because cruising the breathtaking Inside Passage is a highlight for nearly all Alaskan cruises, and during the winter months ice buildup is too great for passenger ships. Furthermore, because of the northerly latitude, Alaskan cruises are only practical during the summer when there are a greater number of daylight hours.
When to Take a Cruise: Special Occasions
Cruises are popular honeymoon getaways, but they are exceptionally suitable for other special occasions as well. Most cruise lines offer vow renewal, anniversary, and romance packages for anyone wishing to put a little more sparkle into their vacation. Such packages often include private refreshments, wine or champagne, photographs, and other amenities. Package costs vary depending on the length of the cruise, the number of people involved, the desired amenities, and the cruise line.
Cruise lines are always willing to help you celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, promotions, retirements, or other momentous events. Small party cakes (available for a nominal fee) can be customized for any event or recipient, and can often be presented at dinner or delivered to your cabin for a more intimate celebration. Non-cruisers can even purchase gifts for the honored guest such as cabin decorations, onboard coupons, wine, flowers, and other items that will be ready in their stateroom when they board. Reviews of all cruise lines are available at CruiseReviews.com
Holidays, including Christmas, Easter, and other long weekends are always popular cruise dates. If you wish to sail during a holiday, be sure to book your vacation well in advance. Because the cruise lines wish to respect the different faiths of all their passengers, most religious holiday events (Easter, Christmas) will be subdued or confined to specialized venues. Secular holidays such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and other occasions often have small tokens to recognize the event, such as complimentary flowers for mothers on Mother's Day.
Taking Cruise Vacations: Cost
Many people choose to book their cruise during less expensive, off-season months. While cruises are available year-round, several months offer more discounted rates and free upgrades because of reduced bookings, particularly September and October, when most families are back to school and there are no major holidays. Even during busier months, discounted rates can often be found on particular dates. An early December cruise, for example, is likely to be less expensive than one closer to Christmas. Other dates to avoid include major holidays, the Spring Break season (mid-March to the end of April), and late June (wedding season).
Whether you have taken a dozen voyages or you are planning your first cruise, considering when you want to depart is a crucial decision. Climate considerations, holidays, special occasions, and cost are all factors that can affect departure date, but with careful planning and savvy shopping, you can easily find just the right cruise for you and your budget.