The Riskiest Places to Cruise Off Season

by Donna Heiderstadt

The Riskiest Places to Cruise Off Season

by Donna Heiderstadt

There’s a reason cruise fares tend to be low in the off season: weather ... and not just any weather. We're talking tropical storms, hurricanes, and even typhoons, all of which can put a damper on your vacation. The biggest risks? What was supposed to be a sun-filled week could turn out to be a rain-drenched washout, and the ship may need to skip a port or two as it alters course to avoid a storm. In addition, rough seas may result in seasickness and a more somber mood on board. Still willing to take a risk to nab a bargain? Read on for the off-season threats to some of cruising's most popular regions.

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Tahiti / iStock / CrisP77
Grenada's Grand Anse Bay
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The Caribbean

Tropical storms and hurricanes threaten the Caribbean during the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 to November 30), but it’s the 10 weeks from mid-August to late October when most major storms form. If you plan to cruise in this part of the world in the fall, your safest bet is a Southern Caribbean itinerary — to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, the Grenadines, and Barbados — which sails below the hurricane belt.

Tropical storms and hurricanes threaten the Caribbean during the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 to November 30), but it’s the 10 weeks from mid-August to late October when most major storms form. If you plan to cruise in this part of the world in the fall, your safest bet is a Southern Caribbean itinerary — to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, the Grenadines, and Barbados — which sails below the hurricane belt.

Lifeguard station on a Maui beach
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Hawaii

The Pacific hurricane season also runs from June through November, but severe storms impact Hawaii much less frequently than they do in the Caribbean. Just as in the beachy areas to our south, August through October are the riskiest months to head here for luaus and surfing. Also worth noting: March can be rainy, too.

The Pacific hurricane season also runs from June through November, but severe storms impact Hawaii much less frequently than they do in the Caribbean. Just as in the beachy areas to our south, August through October are the riskiest months to head here for luaus and surfing. Also worth noting: March can be rainy, too.

Tulum
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Mexico

Sure, the palapas, tequila, and tacos make for a fantastic vacation, but Mexico's coasts are in the potential path of both Atlantic (Cozumel and Riviera Maya) and Pacific (Cabo San Lucas to Acapulco) hurricanes. So June through November is considered off season, with mid-August through late October the likely stormiest period.

Sure, the palapas, tequila, and tacos make for a fantastic vacation, but Mexico's coasts are in the potential path of both Atlantic (Cozumel and Riviera Maya) and Pacific (Cabo San Lucas to Acapulco) hurricanes. So June through November is considered off season, with mid-August through late October the likely stormiest period.

Alaska's Prince William Sound
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Alaska

Ships do not cruise here in the off season — it's just too cold, and there's too much ice to contend with. But even during the region's short cruise season, the shoulder months of May and September can be quite cool. Sure, you can find fewer crowds and fewer mosquitoes as you hike and kayak, but the chill in the air can be biting, especially during extended periods of whale watching on deck. 

Ships do not cruise here in the off season — it's just too cold, and there's too much ice to contend with. But even during the region's short cruise season, the shoulder months of May and September can be quite cool. Sure, you can find fewer crowds and fewer mosquitoes as you hike and kayak, but the chill in the air can be biting, especially during extended periods of whale watching on deck. 

Storm in the middle of the Atlantic
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Transatlantic

Ships crossing the Atlantic can simply reroute further north or south if a tropical storm or hurricane is churning nearby, but the seas can be quite rough even out of the path of a major storm. For the smoothest transatlantic journey, cruise in spring or summertime — which are also gorgeous times to be in New York City and London. 

Ships crossing the Atlantic can simply reroute further north or south if a tropical storm or hurricane is churning nearby, but the seas can be quite rough even out of the path of a major storm. For the smoothest transatlantic journey, cruise in spring or summertime — which are also gorgeous times to be in New York City and London. 

Lavender field in Provence
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The Mediterranean

The mistral — a cold wind that blows south from central France during winter and early spring — can send even a mega ship rocking and rolling in waters from Italy all the way to Spain. In ports, you'll feel the fierceness of the wind as it blows dust into your eyes and mouth; it's not the ideal time to wander around, say Aix-en-Provence or Avignon. And whatever you do, don't wear a skirt or leave your windbreaker at home.

The mistral — a cold wind that blows south from central France during winter and early spring — can send even a mega ship rocking and rolling in waters from Italy all the way to Spain. In ports, you'll feel the fierceness of the wind as it blows dust into your eyes and mouth; it's not the ideal time to wander around, say Aix-en-Provence or Avignon. And whatever you do, don't wear a skirt or leave your windbreaker at home.

Bora Bora
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The South Pacific

November through April is rainy season in French Polynesia, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. This is the time of year when cyclones (a hurricane by another name) are most likely to form. For better odds of snorkeling and blue skies — not to mention fire dancing performances and learning how to tie pareos — cruise between May and September. 

November through April is rainy season in French Polynesia, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. This is the time of year when cyclones (a hurricane by another name) are most likely to form. For better odds of snorkeling and blue skies — not to mention fire dancing performances and learning how to tie pareos — cruise between May and September. 

Hong Kong during monsoon season
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Southeast Asia

Cruisers in this region face a potential double weather whammy when shopping for sailings that take you to temples and noodle bars: typhoons and cyclones. These storm systems are most likely to form from May through October, which is also monsoon season and a risky time to take one of these once-in-a-lifetime sailings. 

Cruisers in this region face a potential double weather whammy when shopping for sailings that take you to temples and noodle bars: typhoons and cyclones. These storm systems are most likely to form from May through October, which is also monsoon season and a risky time to take one of these once-in-a-lifetime sailings. 

Storm over the Seychelles
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Indian Ocean

Whether you're cruising around the Seychelles or as part of a larger cruise across the region, weather is definitely a consideration here. Fierce storms are called tropical cyclones in this part of the world, and they form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea from April through June and September through December.

Whether you're cruising around the Seychelles or as part of a larger cruise across the region, weather is definitely a consideration here. Fierce storms are called tropical cyclones in this part of the world, and they form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea from April through June and September through December.

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