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What is the best month to cruise to the Caribbean?

Carnival ship in Grand Turk

Images of palm trees, white powdery beaches, crystal clear and warm ocean waters are why so many people choose a Caribbean cruise.

No longer just a winter break, sailings to southern destinations run all year long. You will not have a short window like if you were to plan an Alaska cruise, as they only run during the summer months. 

But which is the best month to cruise? That depends on a number of factors. Budget, crowds, weather and activities can all play a role in deciding the optimal time to set sail.

With diverse geography, amenities, and culture throughout the Caribbean, the are different advantages to each month during the year. At the end of the day, the best time to take a cruise to the Caribbean is when you can fit it into your schedule since it is such a fantastic year-round destination. 


Here is a look at what to consider when deciding the ideal month for your cruise vacation.

Overview of Caribbean cruises

 Cruise ship Disney Fantasy docked at St Thomas on sunny day.

The Caribbean Sea covers over a million square miles. That makes for a lot of cruising fun and adventure. The major cruise lines offer a wide selection of regional itineraries that run throughout the year. The major categories include:

  • The Bahamas - Many short itineraries (3-4 nights) leave from Florida and sail to the Bahamas, including its famous capital, Nassau. In addition, many cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises all have private islands located in this 700-island archipelago, each offering something different!
  • Eastern Caribbean cruises often include port stops in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), St. Marteen, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Western Caribbean cruises venture to Grand Cayman; Jamaica; Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize.
  • Southern itineraries are often longer and journey to less visited ports in the leeward and windward islands such as Grenada, St. Lucia, and Martinique. The ABC Islands, that comprise Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, are the farthest south in the Caribbean, just off the northern coast of South America.

Price and crowds


Winter, including major holidays like Christmas, New Year's Eve and spring break, see a significant increase in demand for cruising, and prices reflect this. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars more on the same cruise and itinerary if you opt to cruise over New Year's instead of in May or October. However, there are a few pockets of time that offer good value.

Read more: Spring break cruises: are they fun and should you try one?

Early December, along with the first two weeks of January and February, see some discounts. You will see a spike around President's Day Weekend, though. 

Further along into spring, May is an ideal time to cruise as many students are still in school, the weather is not too hot, and the rainy season has not peaked. 

In general, the cheapest time of the year to cruise to the Caribbean is during hurricane season, which offers the best prices of the year and the lowest crowds. During this time, cruises can be priced 50% lower than other more popular times of the year-- a significant saving! You will be able to use the money saved on other cruise add-ons to help make the most out of your time onboard. 

The weather is not the only factor as to why these sailings are cheaper-- since most American schools are back in session, the demand for cruising decreases compared to the peak in June and July. 

Southern itineraries that feature stops in the ABC islands are also a great option, as these nations sit under the hurricane belt and are rarely impacted by tropical storms.

Weather and climate


Seasonal weather patterns play a role in determining the best months to cruise to the Caribbean. Generally speaking, the Caribbean sees its hottest weather and highest humidity in the summer, September, and October. Tropical storms and hurricanes can pester the islands during this time and disrupt, even potentially canceling, certain itineraries.

But the Caribbean is an expansive space, and there are some differences in weather systems based on geography. The northernmost islands in the Caribbean-- the Bahamas-- have some cooler temperatures in late fall and winter when the thermometer can dip into the 70s. However, this also corresponds to the driest season, which is great for outdoor activities. The late summer and fall can reach into the 90s with high humidity and a greater chance of rain.

As you move south, the temperatures tend to be a little warmer, hovering more in the 80s in the cooler months, and higher temperatures and more rainfall in the summer months. The southern Caribbean and the ABC islands, also referred to as the Dutch Leeward islands, have a semi-arid climate, which unlike most of the Caribbean, has its rainy season October through January.

Hurricane Season


Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. The peak occurs during the months of August, September and October, accounting for 96% of major hurricanes. Cruise lines do an excellent job of monitoring tropical storm development and plan well ahead. 

This can mean skipping a port or other deviations in the itinerary, as the ship sails around bad weather. It is perfectly safe, though, to cruise during hurricane season. 

When cruising during this time, guests can expect a lot of hot and humid weather, as well as the occasional rain shower. Hurricanes also impact the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean side of Mexico and Central America, potentially affecting popular ports like Cozumel and Roatan. Of course, it varies year to year, but recent storms have affected the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten to name a few. 


On Thursday, April 13, the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project released their first forecasts for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting that the upcoming season will be "slightly below-normal," with a total 13 named storms, six of which being hurricanes. Two are expected to be major hurricanes. 

The good news is that hurricanes develop over quite some time, often many days. Some fizzle off into the Atlantic, and others gain strength in the warm ocean waters of late summer. This slow process gives cruise lines adequate time to make alternate plans and adjust itineraries as needed. If you are cruising during this period, be mindful that your Eastern Caribbean itinerary might become a Mexican one instead! 

You will also want to ensure that you purchase travel insurance and give yourself enough time to get to the embarkation port should any weather-related travel issues arise. 

Activities and excursions

Harvest Caye lagoon with kayaks

The warm, clear, and calm waters of the Caribbean are a significant part of the appeal of cruising south.

Swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving are common activities for port stops. The Caribbean Sea remains warm much of the year, with ocean temperatures staying in the 80s with minor variation. The warmest period is September and October, after the hot summer months. The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos can see ocean temperatures in the winter months in the 70s due to their more northern location, something to keep in mind.

Outdoor activities like hiking, ATV tours and ziplines are all great in the winter months, which tends to experience the least amount of rain.

For cruisers wanting to explore the local culture through culinary tours or sampling the region’s famous rum products, there are a variety of cultural events throughout the year. Summer can be a great time to enjoy these types of excursions with fewer crowds. However, do note if you are doing a DIY activity that some businesses close during September, the low season.


sea turtle

Beyond the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, many cruisers love to see the incredible wildlife that inhabit these warm waters. For those interested in whale watching, December through April is the best time to see humpback whales on their migratory voyages. The Dominican Republic, Grenada, Northwest Puerto Rico, and Turks and Caicos are some of the best spots to see these incredible creatures during this time.

Sea turtles can be spotted throughout the Caribbean, and their nesting season runs through the summer months to October. Grand Cayman has a fantastic sea turtle conservation center that is open year-round, except on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Enthusiastic bird watchers should consider fall as the optimal time to see this aviary migration as they move south.

For the super adventurous cruisers who want to swim with sharks, there are plenty of excursions, especially in the Bahamas. There is some seasonality to consider, though, as the fierce Bull Shark is best seen between February and April, whereas the odd-looking Hammer head tends to be more prevalent from December to February.

Cultural Events and Holidays


One of the biggest celebrations in many Caribbean nations is Carnaval. A great way to celebrate the culture of the region, Carnaval, as with other Mardi Gras type festivities, has lots of food, dancing, music and parades. 

Festivities occur during the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, which varies year to year but is most often in February. The celebrations have evolved from European traditions to embrace local culture and history, and the biggest parties are held in Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cayman Island and Saint Martin

The Junkanoo is another major event, especially in the Bahamas. Music, dancing, and vibrant costumes are all part of the festivities that happen during the Christmas season. 

Guests can participate in the activities on both December 26th and New Year's Day. Many establishments will be closed during this time.

There are a number of public holidays throughout the Caribbean, and cruisers should expect many local establishments to be closed down on both Christmas Day and December 26th (often called Boxing Day). 

Similarly, New Year’s Day most establishments will be shuttered. Easter, which is often in April, is also a major holiday, with many businesses being shut down on both Friday and Sunday.


That being said, though, many cruise lines host festive events and parties onboard that can incentivize travelers to cruise during certain seasons! Disney Cruise Line, for instance, is known for their "Halloween on the High Seas" and "Very Merrytime Cruises." 

Read more: Best Month to Cruise to the Bahamas

What to pack for a Caribbean cruise


When you are packing for your Caribbean cruise, your mind probably thinks about swim and beachwear first. While that is an important component, there are other things that you will have to bring, too:

  • Comfortable day attire and swim cover-ups (i.e., athletic clothing, t-shirts and tank tops, shorts, sundresses, etc.)
  • Flip-flops and/or sandals 
  • Clothing that meets the requirements of onboard activities -- think zip lining, ropes courses, rock walls, and more (this could mean long pants, closed-toed shoes, etc.)
  • Evening attire (casual, smart casual, formal, etc.)
  • Socks and other undergarments 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat and/or visor 
  • Sneakers 
  • Sleepwear 
  • Medications (Bonine vs. Dramamine for Motion Sickness: Which Is Better for a Cruise?)

You will want to research and see what themed nights you will have on your cruise, too! 

Read more: Caribbean cruise packing list

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