Cruising at peak season can be expensive. But if you’re flexible with your travel dates, you can often find discounted cruises when you sail off-peak. Here’s the cheapest month to cruise to many of the most popular destinations around the world.
The cheapest times of year to cruise
Telling you what’s the cheapest month to cruise is easy. According to a 2012 Cruise Market Watch analysis of Royal Caribbean cruise fares for sailings worldwide, October is the cheapest month overall to cruise. And although that study was done a decade ago and for just one cruise line, the reasons why it’s the cheapest month to cruise haven’t changed.
In general, October is a month when weather conditions aren’t at peak loveliness. Kids are usually in school, so families aren’t planning vacations. There aren’t any major holidays (though Halloween can drive up prices on kid-centric lines like Disney).
Cruise fares fluctuate because of demand, and October just isn’t an in-demand month on average in the cruise world.
But that doesn’t mean all the cheap fares are only in October—after all, some cruise itineraries don’t even sail during that time of year! Depending on where you want to cruise and what week you’re willing to sail, you can find rock-bottom prices on cruises at many other times of the year. You can often find a cruise that’s much cheaper than any October sailing, if you choose the right week.
In general, look for times of the year when the kids are in school and it’s not a major holiday. Weather is also a major factor. After all, lots of us choose our vacation spots because we’re trying to escape the weather at home—we’re either trying to escape the cold or enjoy a reprieve from the heat and humidity! Cruising to a location when everyone else isn’t clamoring to go is usually the best way to save money.
Shoulder season (the beginning and end of a cruise season) for your specific destination is a great time to sail for cheap. The weather might not be perfect, but you can save a lot of money (and often avoid huge crowds in port). In general, cheap times of year to cruise include:
- January (after New Year’s) through early February
- Late February (after Valentine’s Day)
- Early May
- September (after US Labor Day) through October
- The first half of December
Do you already have a cruise destination in mind? Keep reading to find the cheapest months to cruise to popular destinations around the world. Or, use the links below to jump to the part of the world you’re most interested in.
- Cheapest months to cruise to the Caribbean
- Cheapest months to cruise to Bermuda
- Cheapest months to cruise to Alaska
- Cheapest months to cruise to Hawaii
- Cheapest months to cruise in Canada and New England
- Cheapest months to cruise to the Mexican Riviera
- Cheapest months to cruise in the Mediterranean
- Cheapest months to cruise in Asia
- Cheapest months to cruise in Northern Europe
- Cheapest months to cruise the Panama Canal
- Cheapest months to cruise in Australia and New Zealand
Cheapest months to cruise to the Caribbean
January, May, September through October, and early December
Thanks to year-round warm temperatures, it’s always cruise season in the Caribbean! But cruise prices do drop at some times of the year. Cruising when schools are in session or during hurricane season will generally get you the lowest fares on Caribbean cruises.
For a cheap Caribbean cruise, try a January sailing after New Year’s Day, or an early February itinerary before Valentine’s Day. Hurricane season will be over, but temps usually stay high enough to swim and enjoy the pool.
May is another inexpensive month to cruise in the Caribbean, since most students are still in school.
If you’re fine with cruising during hurricane season, make sure you have travel insurance and you can snap up some bargains! Sailing in September or October can save you lots of money, but prepare to be flexible. Storms tend to pop up during this time of year, and port stops can be canceled or changed on short notice.
Does a December getaway in the sunshine sound good to you? Save money on an early-December booking just before the holidays drive prices up.
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Cheapest months to cruise to Bermuda
April through early June and September through November
Bermuda’s temperate climate and proximity to the US east coast make it a popular getaway with cruisers. But with a relatively short cruise season lasting from April through November, the shoulder seasons are the cheapest times to cruise to Bermuda.
Picking a spring Bermuda cruise can be significantly cheaper than sailing during the peak travel season of late June through August. Although it might not be warm enough to swim in the ocean at the beginning of the cruise season (Bermudians traditionally wait until after Bermuda Day on the last Friday in May to take a dip in the sea), average temps should be warm enough to sunbathe and enjoy the pool while your ship is in port.
Although hurricane season doesn’t affect Bermuda to the extent that it does the Caribbean, the chance of stormy weather can still drive cruise fares down. With schools back in session and cooler weather, booking for September through November can save you lots of money on your Bermuda vacation.
You may also like: 21 Best Things to do in Bermuda on a Cruise
Cheapest months to cruise to Alaska
May and September
Alaska’s cruise season is super-short, from May to the end of September. Most cruisers prefer sailing in the warm summer months, but prices are much higher. If you want to snap up a bargain cruise to Alaska, your best bet is to choose the first or the last month of the season.
A May cruise in Alaska won’t be nearly as warm as a summer sailing, but it’s the driest month of the year for the state. Cruising this early in the season before school lets out can score you a cheap fare to enjoy Alaska’s stunning natural beauty.
September is the peak of Alaska’s rainy season, but temperatures in the 50s and even 60s (10-15°C) during the day around Glacier Bay make it warm enough to enjoy (just don’t forget to pack rain gear!) If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can usually find cheap Alaska cruise fares for the month of September.
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Cheapest months to cruise to Hawaii
November through February (excluding holidays) and mid-April through mid-June
A cruise to Hawaii can be a more inexpensive way to island-hop and get a taste of several ports in this tropical paradise. The cruise season runs year-round, with sailings from the US west coast (only one ship, NCL’s Pride of America, runs seven-day cruises in Hawaii round-trip from Honolulu).
You may also like: Why Do Most US Cruises Have to Stop in a Foreign Port?
November through February (with the exception of holiday weeks) is the slow season for Hawaii cruises, so you’ll be able to book a more budget-friendly sailing during these months. This is the rainy season for the state, so be prepared for showers.
If you’re not a fan of wet weather, prices also tend to be lower in the tail end of spring, from about the middle of April until mid-June. Book your Hawaii cruise when the kids are still in school and you’ll save some cash.
Cheapest months to cruise in Canada and New England
May and late October
Another cruise destination with a short season is Canada and New England, with cruises that visit ports in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and Canada’s Maritime provinces. You can enjoy this region’s natural beauty as well as visit fascinating historical sites on a cruise from May until the end of October.
The shoulder seasons are the cheapest time to cruise in New England and Canada, but weather can be chilly especially out on the open ocean. As a native New Englander, I can attest that temps in May or October are sometimes warm, sometimes cold. As we like to say around here, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes!
A springtime cruise to Canada and New England can be lovely, and you’ll save money by sailing in May before school lets out and the really beautiful summer weather kicks in.
Leaf-peepers intent on seeing beautiful fall foliage will enjoy taking a bargain late-October cruise, but know that it’s just past the peak foliage season in the Maritimes.
You may also like: 10 Scenic Ports You Can Visit on a Canada and New England Cruise
Cheapest months to cruise to the Mexican Riviera
The end of July through November
Mexico’s west coast, often called the Mexican Riviera, is a popular destination for cruisers embarking from California’s ports. You can cruise along Baja California and visit Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, as well as Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta on longer cruises, year-round.
Bargain Mexican Riviera cruises can be up for grabs during the slower season from the end of July through November. But the weather can be hot—an August sailing will save you money, but be prepared for 90° (32°C) temps during your days in port.
Cruises to ports on Mexico’s east coast are often part of Caribbean sailings, so if you’re interested in visiting Progreso, Costa Maya, Cozumel, or Cancún, jump to my section on Caribbean cruises to find the cheapest month to go.
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Cheapest months to cruise in the Mediterranean
March through April and November
Cruise season in the Mediterranean runs from March through November, with the summer months being the most popular for vacationing families.
But the busy season is also the hottest, and you’ll encounter scorching temperatures and blazing sunshine when you cruise the Med in July or August. To avoid the worst of the hot weather and save some money, consider cruising in the off-peak months.
Planning your cruise for the beginning of the season in March or April, or cruising at the tail end in November is the best way to save money on a Mediterranean cruise.
The sea might be too cold for swimming, but you’ll encounter fewer crowds and be able to take advantage of a more enjoyable climate in the shoulder season. Just know that some shops and restaurants that cater to tourists might not be open for business.
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Cheapest months to cruise in Asia
varies by country
Cruising in Asia has become increasingly popular for Western vacationers looking for a chance to experience the region’s rich culture and scenic beauty firsthand. To score a cheap cruise in Asia, you’ll need to sail during the rainier months.
But avoiding peak season in Asia really depends on the ports you’re planning to visit, as the region’s weather can be quite diverse from country to country.
You’ll also need to take into consideration where the cruise embarks—a cruise that is made up of primarily Chinese tourists can see a price spike in January or February during Chinese New Year.
Although I can’t give you a specific month or two that’s always the cheapest time for a cruise in Asia, I’ll share my strategy to find one!
I like to use a cruise-specific travel agency search engine (CruiseDirect is great), filter by destination for Asia, then sort by price. (Or you can just click the button below, and I have it all filtered and sorted for you.)
You may also like: Seven Reasons Why a Cruise Can be a Cheap Vacation
Cheapest months to cruise in Northern Europe
The end of April through May, and October
Whether you’re planning to cruise the majestic fjords in Norway or explore the beautiful ports of the Baltic Sea, you can plan a northern Europe sailing on a budget.
Because of the double-whammy of cold temperatures and the scarce daylight in Northern Europe during winter, the cruise season in this region runs from the end of April through October. Much like cruising in the rest of Europe, you’ll find the best prices if you book a cruise that sails during the shoulder seasons of April and May or October.
Although you won’t be able to take advantage of the famous midnight sun during your shoulder season cruise, you’ll have a much better chance of experiencing the northern lights—peak viewing time is between October and April.
And sure, it’s definitely much chillier in northern Europe when you’re not cruising in the peak summer months, but temps even at the height of the busy season can vary dramatically from day to day. So if you don’t mind cooler weather overall, save some cash and cruise at the beginning or end of the season.
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Cheapest months to cruise the Panama Canal
January, May, September through November
Having the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal on a cruise is a bucket-list journey for lots of travelers. Unlike many other cruise destinations on this list, there’s really no super-cheap way to do it. Between the time it takes for the journey (even a partial transit will take ten-plus days) and the astronomical fees cruise lines have to pay to enter the canal, it’s going to be an expensive journey.
But, you can still save some money by planning your cruise at the right time of year. Although some cruise lines run Panama Canal cruises almost year-round (shutting down only during August’s heat and humidity), demand does ebb and flow during certain times of the year.
Cruising the Panama Canal in January is a lovely time to go with drier conditions and warm, sunny weather. But it’s also one of the cheapest months as long as you avoid New Year’s Day.
May is the beginning of the rainy season, so prices tend to be lower than in the drier months. However, fewer ships sail the canal during the wetter months, so be sure to book super-early to lock in the best price.
September is one of the hottest times of year, and cruises from that month through November will still be rainy. But it’s peak season for enjoying the beauty of the rainforest as well as an inexpensive time to cruise. Just avoid Thanksgiving week at the end of November to get the best cruise fare.
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Cheapest months to cruise in Australia and New Zealand
April through May and November
If you’re from the Northern Hemisphere and planning a cruise in Australia or New Zealand, remember that the seasons are flip-flopped Down Under!
So school summer holidays happen from mid-December until late January, coinciding with the busiest and most expensive time to cruise. Additionally, schoolkids get two-week breaks between terms, so it’s no wonder Aussies and Kiwis are such fans of cruising with the family!
But, it makes picking the right time to cruise in Australia and New Zealand a bit trickier for the rest of us. Generally, April, May, and November are the best months to save money on cruises in this part of the world.
Cyclone season in Australia runs from November through the end of April, with the greatest likelihood of major storms in March and April. Although the weather doesn’t affect cruise schedules as much as hurricane season does in the Caribbean, keep this in mind if you’re thinking of a budget cruise in April or November.
May will be a little chillier than April, as it’s the end of autumn. Temps will be moderate in Australian port cities, but rainy, so take along a rain jacket and umbrella and you can enjoy reduced cruise fares at this time of year.
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What do you think is the cheapest month to cruise? When do you prefer cruising, peak season or during cheaper times of the year? Let me know in the comments below!
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