With more than 25 different countries spread out over about 7,000 islands, each with different cultures, climates and selling points, the Caribbean is a year-round destination for cruising. While each port is definitely unique, the weather is fairly consistent through the whole area, reliably sunny for most of the year.
When to go
When to schedule your luxury cruise vacation here depends on many details, including the weather, the conditions of the seas, the event schedule for your destination and the price.
December through mid-April is high season, the warmest and driest, and busy with North Americans wanting to escape the cold at home. Early December is one of the best times to cruise, while the rest of the world prepares for the holiday season – why not skip that all together with a little getaway? But beware the holiday season itself: It is a very popular time and pricing is at its peak.
January signals the start of the dry season in places like the Bahamas and Jamaica. February, in particular, is great because the temps are pleasant and rainfall is low, especially in the Eastern Caribbean. Both months are busy in the Caribbean for carnivals, religious or otherwise, if you have the join-in attitude required to dance in the streets.
March and April are favorites for spring breakers, families and university students looking for fun in the sun, so crowds swell – but maybe that’s not a concern for you. The weather is excellent and there is very little rainfall on islands such as Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico. This time of year is still considered the dry season, particularly in the southern Caribbean.
The whole of the Caribbean is quiet in the early summer. While the south is still dry, rain begins in places like Antigua and the Bahamas. May and June are big months for sailing regattas and music festivals on islands such as Grenada and St. Kitts.
For late June through August, expect a lot of families taking advantage of the school break. The weather is hot, but usually stays within a 70- to 80-degree range. The Eastern Caribbean has a wet July and August in the Bahamas and Martinique.
In the fall, you’ll find the best prices, mainly because this is hurricane season, with steady temperatures but unpredictable wind and rain from mid-August to late October. There are an average of a dozen storms swirling through the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea at this time, half of which will become hurricanes. If you’re traveling at this time, head to the southern Caribbean, a week in Curaçao or Grenada perhaps, to avoid all the fuss.
Aerial View of St. Martin
Best Time to Book a Cruise
The best time to make a cruise booking is from six months to a year in advance of the sailing. And as a general rule of thumb, booking early is your best bet.
The best cruise ship rates are those that are offered when fares are first released for sale. Booking right out of the gate also allows you to snap up the top-tier cabins or the most preferred routes and dates before they sell out. Know that there will definitely be sales to take advantage of by holding back, but biding your time is a bit of a gamble. You may not be comfortable waiting until the last minute and you may not get exactly what you want.
If you’re looking to cruise on popular dates such as during school holiday breaks, peak religious periods or annual festivals, book extra early. With luxury cruises and new ships, the earlier the better, because the prices will increase as the ship fills up.