The best months to see the Northern Lights (and 24 other genius cruising tips)

When it comes to planning a cruise, timing can be just as important as the destination. Travel gurus Lonely Planet kindly walk us through the whole year, month by month with their top tips on where to cruise when. 

January - March

— This season has the best weather for cruising through the Caribbean, as long as you avoid the crush of families (and higher prices) during March’s "spring break".
— Sail through the Panama Canal to take advantage of the short dry season.
— Visit South America in all of its sunshiny glory. Travel down the coast of Peru, Chile or Argentina, and set foot on the continent’s most southerly point, Cape Horn.
— Cooler weather in Southeast Asia makes a great time for river boating in Myanmar or overnighting on a junk in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay.
— Avoid French Polynesia during these months when the weather can be intensely rainy.
— The window for travel to Antarctica continues from November and extends through March before the ice pack refreezes.

April - June

— Book a cruise that stops in Japan in early April (or late March) to catch the magic of cherry blossom season.
— Europe is in bloom and the Northern hemisphere Spring is the best time to try a river cruise – especially in Belgium and the Netherlands when the fields of flowers come alive.
— Consider cruising the Greek Isles in May or June before the onslaught of crowds (both onshore and at sea) overwhelms the region.
— Spring is a great time to sail the Mediterranean ports in Spain, France and Italy before the summer high season begins.
— Alaska’s shoulder season in May and early June is significantly more cost-effective than trips in high season.

July – August

— Scandinavia offers virtually 24 hours of daylight in these months which makes it great for sight-seeing (except if you're wanting to see the Northern Lights - stick to winter months).
— This is the best time to go on a transatlantic crossing if you don't do well with cold weather.
— The Baltic capitals come alive in summer, and on sunny days their crystalline waters can look like the Mediterranean.
— The rainy monsoon season in Southeast Asia makes trips less ideal during these months.
— Hurricane season is in full swing in the Caribbean beginning. 

September – October

— Superb weather in Hawaii and Tahiti beckons in early fall, without the summer crowds.
— Taking in the fall foliage in Canada and New England becomes a must-see obsession from mid-September to mid-October.
— Cruising season in the Mediterranean simmers down in fall, but the weather is still welcoming and deals can be found during this shoulder season.
— Consider less traditional cruising destinations like the African coast during these months.

November – December

— The Northern Lights flicker on (and can be seen up until March), perfect for viewing around Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Norway. Norweigan cruise line Hurtigruten (whose ships also deliver mail, cargo and locals up and down the west-coast of Norway) guarantees a Northern Lights viewing on their 12-day cruises or you get a free week-long cruise!
— Christmas markets explode with holiday cheer in Europe, making river cruising the Danube a cheerful destination.
— The short window for seasonal passage to Antarctica starts in November, as the ice pack thaws.

— South American cruising picks up speed as the weather warms up.
— Cyclone season starts the first of November in Australia, but with most storms in March, this is still the most popular time to set sail.
— Consider a cruise down the Nile River during winter, when temperatures have dropped.

For more genius tips, check out Lonely Planet's Cruise Handbook — it's packed with destination insight and expert advice on everything from booking a great deal and family travel to making the most of your time on shore.

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2019;

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