Not every cruise itinerary fits every type of traveler. Read our cruise expert’s recommendations for how to find your ideal cruise and season to travel.
The cruise industry has sailed its way to becoming one of the most popular choices in vacation travel. Taking to the seas is a more affordable vacation for many, and an excellent way to explore exotic and far away places. The fun thing about vacationing onboard a ship is waking up every morning in a different port. Ships migrate with the seasons, leaving winter behind them with every repositioning cruise. Keep in mind that the summer cruising season in the Northern Hemisphere runs roughly May through August and in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s September through April.
North American travelers wanting to stay close to home have plenty of cruise options, the most popular of which are Alaska, the Caribbean and Mexico. In these difficult economic times, instead of cutting out travel completely, more vacationers are cruising closer to home and opting for a more affordable vacation.
Encompassing the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and the West Indies, the Caribbean has a lot to offer. Tourism keeps the islands alive and the locals have long since mastered the craft of enticing you to visit paradise.
The Caribbean makes for a quick, easy and warm vacation, especially during the winter. The high season kicks off in November with itineraries to the eastern, western and southern Caribbean. The western run includes Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, the Riviera Maya, Roatán in Honduras, Belize and Jamaica; the eastern run has calls in Saint Marten, Tortola, Saint Thomas, San Juan, Antigua and the Dominican Republic.
If you’re looking for an active or relaxing beach vacation, party cruise or family getaway, the Caribbean is a great destination.
Visiting Alaska is a treat for the senses and home to incredible wildlife. Typically, cruises depart from Vancouver or Seattle and sail the Inside Passage en route to Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Whittier, Haines, Fairbanks, Sawyer Glacier, Hubbard Glacier and Victoria, B.C.
Viewing marine life in this area is a breathtaking experience, and being onboard a ship certainly has its advantages. See schools of whales off the bow of the ship, bald eagles fly overhead and grizzly bears on the banks. Everyone should experience Alaska at least once. By far, the best way to do this is by sea. Juneau, the state capital, is accessible only by air or sea—another reason to cruise into port!
Europe is a great cruising destination from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. Cruising in this part of the world allows you to explore a host of different countries and cultures in a very short period of time. Add on Baltic and Scandinavian countries for more fascinating destinations. From Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, all the way north to Norway, Estonia and Russia, each country is rich in its own history.
Mediterranean cruises offer the largest variety of itineraries; a great time to take a longer cruise. From Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece, to Cyprus, Sicily, Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania and even Egypt, the ships visit every country en route.
Most west coast cruises originate in Los Angeles or San Diego and travel down Baja California to the Mexican mainland. Ports of call include Catalina, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ensenada, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Manzanillo and La Paz. Like the Caribbean, Mexican cruises make for great getaways and family vacations.
Laid back and lush, the Hawaiian Islands are rich in natural beauty, sea life, culture and agriculture. Kona coffee, Dole pineapples and macadamia nuts are just a few well-known local products. Each Hawaiian island has different features and attractions, so be sure to explore them with enthusiasm. Where else in the world can you walk out on deck in the middle of the night and watch an active volcano spewing lava into the ocean as you cruise by? Aloha, Hawaii.
For many, the first leg of a world cruise sets off in early January. Itineraries differ by cruise line and are divided into segments lasting a few weeks to several months, so you can opt to do part of the itinerary or the whole thing.
Most exotic locations in Asia, Africa, the South Pacific and Australia, are included in world cruise itineraries, however many cruise lines deploy ships to these locations just for the season. A South American cruise makes a great trip, especially if visiting Antarctica or if sailing down the Amazon interests you.
Sailing out of Boston, New York, Québec City or Montréal, the Atlantic Canada/New England run is both scenic and beautifully tranquil. The best time to cruise the northeast is during the fall when the leaves start turning and the land comes alive with fall colors. Calling in Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, and sailing down the St. Lawrence or Sageunay rivers are all part of the charm.
The Bermuda run is a little different from most cruises in that the ship docks in Hamilton and Saint George (on either side of the island) for a few days before heading back to Boston, Baltimore or Norfolk, Va.
Repositioning cruises occur when ships reposition during the change of seasons in May and September of each year. As autumn sets in, the Alaskan ships head south through the Panama Canal to the warmth of the Caribbean, while the European ships begin their transatlantic cruises. Those deployed to South America start heading into the Southern Hemisphere until springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, when the ships turn northward. These journeys can often be great bargains too!