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A palm tree and desert dunes of Dunas de Maspalomas Gran Canaria
The rolling dunes of Gran Canaria's Maspalomas reserve (Photo: Tourism Spain)

Canary Islands Cruises: Everything to Know from When to Go to Typical Itineraries

A palm tree and desert dunes of Dunas de Maspalomas Gran Canaria
The rolling dunes of Gran Canaria's Maspalomas reserve (Photo: Tourism Spain)
Contributor
Gilly Pickup

Last updated
May 15, 2024

Read time
6 min read

Lying in the Atlantic Ocean, off the southern tip of Morocco, the Canary Islands is made up of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.

This dramatic Spanish archipelago offers soaring volcanoes, color-splashed towns, rolling deserts and emerald forests. Most visitors to the Canary Islands, however, are lured by the 600 miles of coastline and more than 500 beaches, with an abundance of watersports and regular whale and dolphin sightings offshore.

Cruise ships stop at all of the Canary Islands, although not typically all in one itinerary; it's common for a ship to visit three or four as part of a longer sailing. Of the islands, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and La Gomera are the ones most frequently included on itineraries.

From when to visit to which cruise lines sail to this wonderful archipelago, here's everything to know about Canary Islands cruises.


The Best Time for Canary Islands Cruises

Traditionally dressed men and women playing guitars at the annual Carnival in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
February is a fantastic time to cruise to Tenerife, when the annual Carnival takes place in Santa Cruz (Photo: Tourism Spain)

Cruise ships call on the Canary Islands year-round, as warm, sunny weather is guaranteed whatever time of year you decide to sail.

July to September are the hottest months, with average temperatures in the high 80s (Remember the sunscreen!).

Spring and fall are also pleasantly warm in the Canary Islands, with warm days perfect for beach hopping and sightseeing.

Though winter is not quite as warm, January and February are good times to visit, as the islands are at their lushest after the rain. December to March is generally a busy season for the Canaries, with visitors coming to lap up some sunshine.

If you're in Tenerife in February, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a pretty spectacular event, which attracts thousands of people from around the world, and cruisers are encouraged to take part.


A Myriad of Cruise Lines Call on the Canary Islands

Queen Anne's funnel (Photo: Cunard)
Cunard's Queen Anne is an exciting addition to the Canary Islands (Photo: Cunard)

Several cruise lines — including British lines Saga Cruises, Marella, Fred. Olsen, P&O Cruises and Cunard (though the latter two are owned by U.S. cruise giant Carnival Corp.) — offer Canary Islands itineraries.

A range of other U.S. and international lines sail to these breathtaking islands, too, including Celebrity and MSC Cruises. Ships departing from European ports, such as Southampton, tend to call on ports in Spain and Portugal, and the Portuguese island of Madeira, en route.

On the luxury end, tall ship Sea Cloud offers Canary Islands and Morocco voyages, departing from Casablanca and sailing to Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and Gran Canaria. Silversea offers cruises from Spain and Portugal to the Canaries; Seabourn has a series of longer trips, also from Spain; Azamara offers sailings from Barcelona and Lisbon, and Star Clippers departs Malaga, calling at Tangier, Arrecife and Las Palmas.


Canary Islands Cruises Itineraries

Parasailing off the shore in Tenerife
Tenerife is the largest and one of the most popular of the Canary Islands (Photo: Tourism Spain)

Canary Islands-only itineraries: Very few cruise lines offer Canary Islands only itineraries. There is one exception, TUI-owned British line, Marella Cruises, bases Marella Explorer 2 in the Canaries during winter. Typically, these itineraries depart from Santa Cruz de Tenerife or Las Palmas and call on San Sebastian (La Gomera), Arrecife (Lanzarote), Puerto del Rosario (Fuerteventura) and Santa Cruz and Tenerife/Gran Canaria.

Western Europe Cruises: In general, cruises down the Atlantic coast and back are normally 10 nights or longer. One of the most exciting itineraries is Cunard's, sailing aboard the line's latest ship — the first in 14 years — Queen Anne. Departures from Southampton in November and December 2024 and 2024 include stops in Spain, Portugal, including Madeira, and Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Western Mediterranean Cruises: The Canaries often appear on Western Mediterranean cruise itineraries, too. These generally depart from Genoa, Civitavecchia (Rome) or Barcelona. MSC cruises, for example, call on Santa Cruz de la Palma, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Arrecife, San Sebastian de la Gomera and Puerto del Rosario, calling on ports in Spain and Madeira enroute.

Europe/West Africa Cruises: Some 13- and 14-night cruises combine the Canary Islands with Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa, or include calls on Agadir or Casablanca in Morocco.

Transatlantic Cruises: Round-the-world and transatlantic voyages usually also visit one or two ports in the Canaries. Repositioning cruises, too, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, or vice versa, tend to stop in the Canary Islands to break the voyage up.


Canary Islands Cruise Port Highlights

A traditional blue-painted house in the Canary Islands.
Traditional colonial-period architecture in the Canary Islands (Photo: Tourism Spain)

Canary Islands cruise ports offer a delicious blend of old-world charm, complete with cobbled old quarters, easy access to beaches and fantastic sun-dappled restaurants.

From Santa Cruz de Tenerife's period architecture to La Gomera's green-covered mountains, Canary Islands cruise ports offer nature, culture, gastronomy and beaches.

Check out our round-up of the best ports in the Canary Islands to plan your trip to this Spanish archipelago.


Canary Islands Cruise Tips

A traditional windmill in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands enjoy a diverse landscape of volcanoes, desert, vineyards, forests and beaches

Pack plenty of sunscreen. The Canary Islands are warm year round and typically become hotter during summer. The islands' Atlantic location, just to the west of the Sahara, also means they pick up plenty of (warm) breeze and sunscreen is always essential.

Factor in opening times and siestas. If you intend to do some shopping, keep in mind that traditional hours are Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate an afternoon siesta. Many of the large shopping centers are open all day.

Avoid tourist resorts. Some of the island's large tourist resorts are pretty disheartening. Think Irish pubs and fast food chains. It's wise to choose shore excursions that allow you to visit more traditional towns and villages, such as San Cristóbal de La Laguna in Tenerife, as well as the many attractions these glorious islands have to offer. Or, if you prefer to choose your own itinerary, rent a car.

Become a beach bum. The Canary Islands offer some spectacular beaches, from glowing-white stretches in Fuerteventura to black-sand coves in Tenerife and sublime golden strips in Gran Canaria.

In fact, Gran Canaria has countless sandy beaches that are ideal for relaxing. One of the best is the urban beach Playa de las Canteras, with its bustling promenade full of stalls, cafes and souvenir shops. Many of Lanzarote's beaches have black sand, while Arrecife, the capital, has lots of lovely white-sand beaches for sun-worshippers to kick back on.

Imbibe on local libations. While in Lanzarote, sample some local wine. La Geria, Masdache and Tinajo are the island's main growing areas, with grapes grow in volcanic ash, resulting in many first-class wines.

Take a tip on tipping. If you use taxis on the islands, it's customary to tip 10 to 15 percent if the taxi is metered.


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