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When Is The Worst Time To Cruise


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Linn Pullen



When it comes to planning a cruise, timing can be everything. While cruising offers a wonderful opportunity to explore different destinations and enjoy luxurious amenities, there are certain times of the year that may not be ideal for a smooth and enjoyable experience. Understanding when the worst times to cruise are can help you make informed decisions and avoid potential disappointments or inconveniences during your vacation.


There are several factors to consider when determining the worst times to cruise. These factors include peak travel season, hurricane season, school holidays, winter months, holiday periods, and off-season travel. By understanding the challenges associated with each of these time frames, you can adjust your plans accordingly and ensure a more enjoyable cruise experience.


It’s important to note that while these times may present certain challenges, they should not discourage you from cruising altogether. With proper planning and consideration, it is still possible to have a wonderful time on a cruise even during these less ideal periods.


Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and explore why they may contribute to the worst times to cruise.


Peak Travel Season

Peak travel season, also known as high season, is when a particular destination experiences the highest number of visitors. For popular cruise destinations like the Caribbean, Alaska, and the Mediterranean, peak travel season usually coincides with the summer months and major holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s. While cruising during peak travel season may offer pleasant weather and a lively atmosphere, it can also mean larger crowds and higher prices.


During peak travel season, cruise ships are often at maximum capacity, which can result in longer lines and crowded amenities. Popular attractions and excursions may also be fully booked or crowded, making it difficult to fully enjoy the experiences you had hoped for. Additionally, cruise prices tend to be higher during this time due to the high demand.


If you prefer a more relaxed and less crowded cruise experience, it may be best to avoid traveling during peak travel season. Consider cruising during shoulder seasons, which are the periods just before or after peak travel season. The weather is still favorable, but the crowds and prices are usually more manageable. Not only will you have a better chance of enjoying the ship’s amenities and excursions, but you may also find some great deals and discounts.


It’s important to note that peak travel season can vary depending on the destination. For example, while summer is the peak season for European cruises, it may be the off-season for cruises to the Caribbean or South Pacific. Researching the specific destination you are interested in can help you determine the best time to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed cruise.


Hurricane Season

Hurricane season is a significant factor to consider when planning a cruise, especially if you are considering destinations in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane season typically runs from June through November, with the peak months being August and September. During this time, cruise itineraries can be affected by severe weather conditions, including hurricanes and tropical storms.


Cruising during hurricane season can be risky as it increases the chance of encountering rough seas, itinerary changes, or even cancellations. Cruise lines closely monitor weather patterns and may alter routes or skip ports to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. While cruise ships are equipped to handle inclement weather, it can still be a less enjoyable experience for those who are prone to seasickness or prefer calm sailing conditions.


To mitigate the risks associated with hurricane season, it is advisable to book travel insurance that includes coverage for trip interruptions or cancellations due to weather-related events. This way, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are protected financially if your cruise is impacted by a hurricane or storm.


If you are set on cruising during hurricane season, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Opt for a cruise itinerary that includes ports of call outside of hurricane-prone areas, such as cruises to the Western Caribbean or Southern Caribbean. These regions are less likely to be affected by severe tropical weather.


Lastly, it’s important to remain flexible and have backup plans in case of itinerary changes. Cruise lines will do their best to provide alternative ports or activities to ensure that passengers still have an enjoyable experience, even in the face of adverse weather conditions.


School Holidays

For families planning a cruise vacation, school holidays are often the most convenient time to travel. However, it is important to note that school holidays are also some of the busiest times in the cruise industry. When schools are out, families flock to cruise ships, resulting in increased demand and higher prices.


Booking a cruise during school holidays means you can expect larger crowds, especially on family-friendly cruise lines. The pool decks, buffet restaurants, and entertainment venues can become crowded, and it may be more challenging to secure reservations for specialty dining or onboard activities. Kids’ clubs and teen clubs may also be busier, making it more difficult for children to fully enjoy the dedicated amenities and programs.


If you have the flexibility to travel outside of school holidays, it can be advantageous to do so. Consider taking advantage of the fall or spring break periods when fewer families are traveling. Not only will you likely encounter fewer crowds, but you may also find better deals and promotions during these off-peak times.


However, if you must travel during school holidays, there are a few strategies to help mitigate the potential downsides. Firstly, book your cruise well in advance to secure your preferred cabin and dining options. Additionally, plan for alternative activities and excursions to avoid crowded tourist attractions in port. Finally, make use of the onboard amenities during less busy times, such as early mornings or late evenings when many passengers may be dining or participating in evening entertainment.


By being aware of the increased demand during school holidays and being prepared to manage the larger crowds, you can still have a memorable and enjoyable cruise vacation with your family.


Winter Months

While winter months may be a tempting time to escape the cold weather and embark on a cruise, there are a few factors to consider before planning your trip. The winter season varies depending on the region, but generally, it encompasses the months of December, January, and February.


One of the key considerations during the winter months is the weather. Depending on the cruise destination, you may encounter cooler temperatures, especially if you are sailing to regions such as Northern Europe or Alaska. It’s important to pack accordingly and be prepared for varying climates.


Another factor to bear in mind is the potential for rough seas. Stormy weather and higher winds can create choppier waters, which may lead to motion discomfort for some passengers. If you are prone to seasickness or prefer calmer sailing conditions, it may be wise to choose a cruise route that navigates warmer and more sheltered waters during the winter months.


Additionally, during the winter season, peak travel and holiday periods such as Christmas and New Year’s may coincide. This means that cruise ships may be at maximum capacity and destinations could be more crowded. If you desire a more relaxed and less crowded experience, it may be advisable to avoid cruising during these busy holiday periods.


On the positive side, winter cruises often offer unique experiences, such as festive onboard decorations and themed activities during the holiday season. Cruises to warmer regions like the Caribbean or the South Pacific can provide a welcome escape from cold winter climates.


If you do opt for a winter cruise, it’s recommended to book well in advance to secure your preferred cabin category and take advantage of early booking promotions. Be sure to pack appropriately for both the potential cooler temperatures and the unique events that may take place during the winter season.


Overall, cruising during the winter months can be a wonderful way to break away from the winter blues, but it’s essential to consider the weather, potential for rough seas, and the increased demand during peak travel and holiday periods.


Holiday Periods

Holiday periods, specifically major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving, are popular times for people to go on cruises. While these holiday cruises can offer a festive and memorable experience, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.


Firstly, cruise ships tend to be at maximum capacity during holiday periods. This means that there will be more people onboard, resulting in busier dining areas, crowded amenities, and potentially longer wait times for various activities. If you prefer a more relaxed and intimate cruise experience, it may be wise to consider other times of the year.


In addition to the increased number of passengers, holiday cruises often come with higher prices. It is important to budget accordingly and anticipate potential surcharges related to holiday festivities and special events. Booking your holiday cruise well in advance can help secure a better price and cabin category.


Another factor to consider is the availability of ports of call and excursion options. During holidays, some destinations may have limited or altered operational hours, or certain attractions may be closed. It’s crucial to research and plan your shore excursions accordingly to ensure you can make the most of your time in port.


On the brighter side, holiday cruises often feature special onboard celebrations, themed decorations, and festive activities. If you enjoy the holiday spirit and want to experience unique events and entertainment, a holiday cruise can provide a memorable and joyous experience for you and your fellow travelers.


If you are considering a holiday cruise, it is advisable to book well in advance, as these cruises tend to sell out quickly. Additionally, consult with your preferred cruise line to learn about any holiday-specific offerings or promotions that may be available.


While holiday cruises can be delightful, it’s important to be prepared for the crowds, higher prices, and potential changes in destination offerings. By planning ahead and having realistic expectations, you can still have a fantastic holiday cruise experience filled with festive cheer.


Off-Season Travel

Off-season travel, also known as low season or shoulder season, refers to the periods when there is less demand for cruises. These are typically times when most people are not on vacation or when the weather is less favorable in certain regions. While off-season travel may have some drawbacks, it can also offer unique advantages for savvy cruisers.


One of the most significant advantages of off-season travel is the potential for cost savings. During these periods, cruise lines often offer discounted prices and promotions to attract travelers. This can result in significant savings on fares, cabin upgrades, or onboard amenities. Additionally, you may have a better chance of finding deals on shore excursions or pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodations.


Another benefit of off-season travel is the reduced crowds. With fewer people on board, you can enjoy a more relaxed and intimate cruise experience. The amenities, such as pools, restaurants, and entertainment venues, are less crowded, making it easier to secure reservations and find your preferred spot. You may also have a better chance of interacting with the crew and receiving personalized service.


While weather conditions during the off-season may not be as optimal as during peak travel times, there can still be advantages. For instance, destinations such as the Caribbean may experience milder temperatures, making outdoor activities more enjoyable. It’s essential to research the climate of your chosen destination during the off-season to ensure it aligns with your preferences.


However, it’s important to note that off-season travel may also have some drawbacks. The weather can be more unpredictable, and certain attractions or activities may have limited availability or be closed for maintenance. Additionally, some amenities or facilities on the cruise ship itself may not be fully operational during this time.


If you decide to travel during the off-season, it’s crucial to plan accordingly. Be prepared for potential itinerary changes, pack appropriate clothing for varying weather conditions, and research alternative activities in case of closures. By having a flexible mindset and embracing the unique advantages of off-season travel, you can have a rewarding and cost-effective cruise experience.



Timing is a crucial factor when planning a cruise vacation. While there are certain times that may not be ideal for cruising, such as the peak travel season, hurricane season, school holidays, winter months, holiday periods, and off-season travel, each period offers its own pros and cons.


Peak travel season brings pleasant weather but also larger crowds and higher prices. Hurricane season presents the risk of adverse weather and itinerary changes. School holidays can result in crowded ships and popular attractions. Winter months may have cooler temperatures and rough seas, but also unique experiences and festive onboard celebrations. Holiday periods bring a festive atmosphere but higher prices and increased demand. Off-season travel offers cost savings and fewer crowds, but may come with unpredictable weather and limited availability.


Ultimately, the worst time to cruise depends on your preferences, priorities, and flexibility. Consider what factors are most important to you, such as weather, crowd levels, and pricing, and plan accordingly. It is possible to have a fantastic cruise experience during any time of the year by being aware of the challenges and making the necessary adjustments.


Remember to research your chosen destinations, consult with your travel agent or cruise line, and stay informed about any potential risks or challenges associated with the specific time frame you plan to cruise. By doing so, you can make informed decisions and ensure a smooth and enjoyable vacation on the high seas.