Season to sail

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"When is the best time to sail the Inside Passage and Alaska?" "When will I get the best weather for a cruise in the Caribbean?" "Why are the rates so low if I sail the Mexican Riviera in (insert month here)?" In my line of work I get questions like this every single day - heck, that's why I'm here.

"Seasons" in the travel business don't fall into simple categories like summer, fall, winter and spring. Instead they have interesting names like shoulder, high and low, just to name a few.

So when is the "best" time to travel to a specific destination? A two-word answer: it depends. Are you looking for "best" as in best weather for shore excursions or are you looking for "best" as in lowest possible price?"

Choosing when to travel is just as important as choosing where you travel. Here are some of the most popular cruise destinations with a few ideas about the "best" time to go:

Caribbean
Blessed with balmy weather year around, except for those pesky hurricanes. The "best" time to go is December through May, but the "best" fares are available August through November when the weather is more iffy.

Mexico
October to May is the "best" time to do a 3- or 4-night Baja cruise or the longer Mexican Riviera sailings as you'll have comfortable weather. Summers can be very hot and surprisingly expensive - most of the ships are sailing Alaska at that time, leaving only one major cruise line doing the longer sailings. One cruise line doing an itinerary = high prices. You'll find the "best" prices in August and September, once the kids go back to school.

Hawaii
Another year around cruise destination, with October, November, March, April, May and June offering the "best" weather overall. December and January can be cool in the mornings - although you'll be swimming by 10:00am. August and September are typically the hottest months. You'll get good sale rates after Spring Break and before the end of May when the high season kicks off. You'll also find some great deals in the fall.

Alaska
With such a short season - May through September - this is fairly easy: work outside in. May and September offer the "best" rates with the "best" weather in July and early August. One big plus for this destination: all that summer sunshine (15 to 20 hours) makes for long days of sightseeing!

Panama Canal
The trans-canal repositioning cruises are in the spring and fall - as the cruise lines move their ships to and from Alaska. The "best" weather will be April and May - before it gets warm - but you can find the "best" rates when the temperature goes up.

Bottom line, with any cruise destination, you'll find the best rates when you book in advance, with prices increasing as the sailing gets closer and as various cabin categories fill up. Unfortunately, as we know from experience this summer, the weather doesn't offer such certainty, but a cruise vacation does offer one big advantage over the land-based resorts: these large, lovely floating hotels can sail around the storms. Even storm clouds have a silver lining!

Across town or across the globe - we do it all at Travelation Online! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're from outside the metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623, call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!