The best time to cruise the Caribbean isn't as clear cut as you might think at first. Yes, the winter is warm and sunny and the region is an incredible year-round cruise destination. For the most part sun and mild conditions are the norm, so deciding what month is best for you can be a challenge.
Caribbean ports are open January to December, and variations in weather, cost and crowds will all factor into choosing the best time to cruise the Caribbean for you. With that in mind, we've weighed factors like price and activities to help you figure out the best month for a Caribbean cruise. Read on and get planning your next cruise vacation.
January and February are two of the best months to cruise the Caribbean for those who need a break from gray, wet winter weather. You'll also find the some of the most diverse cruise lengths and itineraries throughout the region in January and February.
Caribbean cruises in January and February can be extremely budget friendly, with sailings available from $50 per person, per night.
February just might be the best time of year to cruise the Caribbean, as blue skies and warm temperatures are the norm throughout the region. You can expect highs in the mid-80s in the Southern Caribbean, with lows typically no cooler than the mid-60s in more northern destinations like the Bahamas or Puerto Rico.
Water temperatures in the Caribbean can be cool in January and February, depending on how exposed your destination is to the chilly waters of the open Atlantic. The occasional winter storm and breezy conditions can make waters a bit rougher in January and February as well.
Carnival, like Mardi Gras, is celebrated across many Caribbean islands on Ash Wednesday. That typically falls in February, but depending on the year it could be in March. Check your calendar. (It's also worth noting that some islands celebrate Carnival during other times of year.)
Most Caribbean cruises in March and April run close to $100 per person, per night. Spring break is a popular time to cruise and fares can fluctuate during that time. Booking well in advance is wise.
Caribbean temperatures in March and April are great for those who want to get warm. Northern islands like Bahamas or Turks and Caicos are hotter than earlier in the year, and it can get reach the 90s in southern islands like Trinidad and Tobago.
March is still the middle of the Caribbean dry season. Rainfall is minimal in places like Puerto Rico or the Cayman Islands. April is the driest month for southern islands like Aruba and Curacao. Waters are also generally warmer as spring comes around.
If your Caribbean cruise takes place over Easter, Virgin Gorda (part of the British Virgin Islands) holds a weekend filled with parties and calypso music. In Jamaica, parades known as Bacchanal, take to the streets during both months.
Keep in mind that spring break -- for both younger kids and college students -- can mean things are crowded and lively on board and on land at this time of year. Expect an atmosphere that matches the celebratory annual ritual and rite of passage.
The late spring and early summer months are great for enjoying the Caribbean at its relative quietest. Hot temperatures make long days near the sea enticing, though you are more likely to encounter a day or two of rain in some parts of the Caribbean in May or June. You might also find bargains on short sailings.
Cruise traffic ramps up in May and June to prepare for the influx of summer-month vacationers. That means ships may be below capacity as high season comes into swing later in the summer. Short cruises remain relatively cheap, but prices for weeklong sailings increase -- some into the four-digit range, per person.
May and June are hot in the Caribbean, with highs in the 80s and 90s during the day. Humidity will also be higher this time of year, and nighttime temps won't fall lower than the 70s.
June is the official start of hurricane season in the Atlantic basin, though things generally stay quiet in the Caribbean. The Southern Caribbean does stay dry, though late May and June can mean showers in Antigua, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The Caribbean Sea is warm at this time of year, averaging around 80 degrees.
Beginning at the very end of April and into May, Antigua Sailing Week is globally known for its prestigious sailing races and parties. Tons of music and jazz festivals take place around the Caribbean this time of year, including the Pure Grenada Music Festival in May and the St. Kitts Music Festival in June.
July and August can be the most expensive months to cruise the Caribbean, but there are plenty of exceptions. Because more and more ships sail the region every year, prices can be competitive for families, couples and friends planning their summer getaway. Travel agents can help locate these deals.
While temperatures rise in many places across the U.S. during the height of summer, July and August temperatures in the Caribbean are in the upper 70s and 80s. More cloud cover from tropical systems helps keep temps down.
July brings rain to the Eastern Caribbean (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and August is wet in the Bahamas, Martinique and Dominica. Caribbean Sea temperatures are at their warmest in August, reaching 83 degrees on average.
Crop Over is a summer festival in Barbados that celebrates the end of the sugar cane harvest. During July and into early August, expect special markets, parades and celebrations. In Grenada, Spicemas, held during the second Monday and Tuesday in August, celebrates the island's multicultural heritage with live music and festivities.
Keep in mind that July and August means families are taking advantage of school breaks and vacation days. If you're looking for a more low-key Caribbean cruise this time of year, look to the smaller islands of the region.
Because fall weather in the Caribbean is unpredictable, you'll find some of the best cruise deals of the year. Reduced cruise fares can drop below $50 per person, per night. As the end of November transitions to the holidays, though, Caribbean cruise prices begin to increase again.
While cruise lines are usually prepared to sail away from storms, it's always a good idea to supplement low fares with travel insurance for incidentals like flight changes.
As we said, the fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean. While temperatures remains steady in September, October and November (70s and 80s), sunny days might be tempered by winds and rains during stormy conditions.
October is the rainiest month for destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. Ocean temperatures stay around 83 degrees, but due to hurricane season, sea conditions be choppy and rough.
Pirates Week is the national festival of the Cayman Islands, taking place in November. As you might imagine, it's a week filled with reenactments and spectacle, paying homage to the islands' rich history and cultural ties to piracy.
December can be the best time to cruise the Caribbean or a slightly less awesome one, depending on you. Earlier in the month brings a lull to the islands as hurricane season has ended, though by the end of the month expect higher prices and more crowds.
Caribbean Cruise Prices in December:
December fares depend when you're planning to travel. Look at the first week or two of the month if you're after a bargain. Once the calendar is closer to the holidays, winter break increases the demand and prices can spike to reflect that.
Caribbean Weather in December:
Weather is drier and warm in December, making the early part of the month a great relaxing getaway. Rain is generally limited to the Southern Caribbean, including islands like Aruba. Ocean temperatures in the winter hover around a pleasant 79 degrees and average highs and lows in St. Kitts, for example, are 85 and 74 degrees, respectively.
Things to Do in the Caribbean in December:
The Bahamian and Jamaican street parade known as Junkanoo is held on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day each year.