Connect with us

BEFORE YOU GO

Best Time to Cruise The Caribbean By Month

Published

on

If there’s one question we hear over and over, its this: When is the best time to cruise? And to be honest, it’s a tough one to answer because it can, in some ways, be subjective. Maybe you want to cruise when there will be the fewest children on board. Maybe you’re looking to go to Alaska, which has a limited season, and want the best weather possible. There are as many different factors as there are cruise options. But there are ways to get a general idea of what you’re going to pay during various times of the year.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be offering you month-by-month breakdowns on a typical cruise to some of the most popular destinations. I’ll also offer up some pros and cons to each time period. First up? Perhaps the destination most people think of when they think of cruising: the Caribbean.

cruise the caribbean

Keep in mind that when we get into details about pricing, I’m only talking generalities. For each month, I looked at Carnival’s fleet sailing out of Miami and tried to find the lowest price for an inside stateroom. I only looked at Carnival cruises in order to give us a starting point, as opposed to trying to aggregate a price point across numerous cruise lines. But as anybody who has ever booked a cruise knows, the price quoted today could be higher or lower than the one you got yesterday. But the prices mentioned below — which are per person, based on double occupancy — will give you a general idea of how things fluctuate from month to month. And of course, I always recommend that the minute you either find a cruise you’re interested in or actually book one, you set a price alert. (To find out how to set a price alert — not to mention exactly why you should — click here.)

So now… let’s talk about why you should (and, in some cases, probably shouldn’t) book a cruise in each of the 12 months of the year.

Save Money: Set a Cruise Price Drop Here

January

Whether or not you’re actually planning to sail in January, this is a great month to shop for a cruise. Why? Because it’s the kick-off of wave season, which means you can often find great deals. As for prices on January cruises, you can find some pretty good deals. For one thing, there tend to be fewer people sailing. Why? Because we’re just coming off Christmas and New Year’s, which are two times when a whole lot of families take advantage of the fact the kids are out of school. Now that the kids are back in class, ships might have berths to fill. And as we all know, the rule of supply and demand says that the more staterooms they have to fill, the better the odds of you getting a good deal. Now, it’s worth noting that it can be a tad chilly sailing out of Miami in Florida. (People in the north assume it’s 70 and sunny year round, but that’s not always the case!) Also, while the air temperatures in the Bahamas are great during winter months, the water temps can be chilly.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $419 per person.

February

Swimming with the Sting Rays in Grand Cayman.

As with mid-to-late January, this tends to be a very good time of year to sail as kids are back in school. There will, however, be competition for the best deals, as a whole lotta people want to get away from the winter blah’s. The holiday season is over, summer seems so far away… and there’s the Caribbean, beckoning with her white beaches and blue waters. Be warned that it’s tougher to find a good deal around President’s Day. Why? Say it with me: The kids are out of school.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $429 per person

March

Spring Break season means prices are going to go up. Even those 3- and 4- night sailings that were running around $169 just a few weeks ago are now going to jump up into the $300 price range. Spring Break can also mean a whole lotta college kids on sailings, so how you feel about a March cruise may depend on whether you think they’re a party waiting to happen or to be avoided at all costs. There are also going to be more families with kids because, as it turns out, college kids aren’t the only ones who get a spring break! As we discussed earlier, the rules of supply and demand are kicking in again. More people want to cruise, so the cruise lines are going to charge more.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $489 per person.

April

We’re definitely seeing the prices go up as spring hits. For one thing, many lines reposition ships this time of year, meaning there are fewer options. And fewer options means higher prices. Weather wise, we’re just outside the season for ideal temps (which typically runs from January to March), but all those days of warm weather mean the water temps are just about perfect. And of course, sailing out of Miami in April is usually pretty ideal as well. So… guess what? The prices are continuing to go up.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $549 per person.

Cruise the Caribbean in Grand Turk

May

If you want to sail during May, make your plans early. Better to book at a higher price-point and keep your eyes on that price alert I know you set than to wait. Because when May actually rolls around, a lot of people look for last-minute cruises. They might find something, but they won’t get a prime cabin (“We have something directly beneath the theater in which the River Dance Cloggers will be performing, sir… ” ). “The first week of May still offers reasonable pricing,” says Becky Smith from Becky’s Travel. “But with many colleges getting out around the second or third week in May, the prices for cruises start to increase as the month progresses.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $519 per person.

June and July

So you want to sail during the summer months, huh? Well, have at it… but you’re going to need to break out that wallet. When the summer cruise season hits, prices go up significantly. This is peak season and the cruise lines know it. For those who don’t want to take their kids out of school, this is their only shot at a family vacation. (There’s a reason that this is also the most popular/pricy time at Walt Disney World!) Fortunately, if you wind up on a kid-packed sailing for reasons beyond your control, almost every modern ship has an adults-only zone. Having spent more than a little time in the Carnival Sunshine’s Serenity over the years, I can tell you that those areas can make your cruise… and save your sanity!

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $764 per person.

August

Slowly but surely, the education system begins sucking children and college students back in (although some won’t go back until early September, much to the chagrin of some parents!). Prices for mid-to-late August are going to be significantly lower than you’ll get at the beginning of the month. That said, it’s worth noting that we’re right in the heart of hurricane season and, if 2017 taught us anything, it’s that itineraries can change and whole voyages can be cancelled during particularly rough seasons. Translation: Always, always, always buy cruise insurance.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $549 per person.

September

Want a bargain? You’ll find one in September. But you’re a savvy enough shopper to know that where there’s a sale, there’s a sign reading “caveat emptor.” (If there’s one thing I learned watching the Brady Bunch rerun in which Greg buys a used car, it was “buyer beware!”) And in this case, it’s the same as we mentioned above: Hurricane season is in full effect. If you’re willing to roll the dice and take your chance with shifting itineraries and possibly less-than-idea weather, you’ll easily find a bargain. In fact, you’ll find some almost hard to believe ones!

Sponsored Link

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $299 per person.

cruise the caribbean

October

Prices on 7-day cruises out of Miami are going to be right around average this time of year. But if you want to get a real bargain — and have the time to devote to a 14-night-or-longer trip — check out some of the transatlantic voyages that typically take place this time of year. A lot of cruise lines who sent ships to Europe over the summer start bringing them home and generally speaking, when a ship is making a long, one-way voyage, the prices are awesome.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $449 per person.

November

November is an odd month. While it remains right about at the average sweet spot for the most part, Thanksgiving can go one of two ways: You’ll either pay a premium price to let someone else do the cooking for your family (not to mention clean up the mess afterwards), or you’ll find a great bargain. There seems to be no real rhyme nor reason to the disparity in prices. I suspect that a lot of families bypass a Thanksgiving cruise in favor of Christmas, which affords more days off from both work and school.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $439 per person.

December

Perhaps not surprisingly, December offers some of the highest and lowest price points. The lows will be found during the first two week’s of the month, while the highs will (shocker!) hit during the holidays. Everybody is off work and school, and people get awfully sentimental about the holidays and decide spending a week with their loved ones is a great idea. (How good an idea it really is may depend on how well your extended family gets along!) If you want to do a holiday cruise but not pay a premium price, see if you can convince everyone to take off the first or second week of December. The ships will be gorgeously decorated, but not nearly as crowded (or expensive) as they’ll be during the actual Christmas/New Year’s sailings.

The best price I found: Carnival had a 7-night sailing for $419 per person.

Final Thoughts

As you look at the prices above, you’re probably thinking, “There doesn’t seem to be a huge disparity between the highest and lowest prices listed.” But keep a few things in mind: First, I’m looking at the per person price. So if there’s a $150 difference between sailing in, say, early December and late December, that’s actually a $300 difference for a couple. Also, you can count on not only the price of the cruise being higher during premium periods, but the price of everything from shore excursions to plane fare. So what seems like a relatively minor difference to some can add up really quickly!

So… ready to start pricing your own trip? Start here and remember: Sometimes, you have to look beyond the price to other factors before making your final decision!

What’s the best price you ever got on a cruise? When and where did you go on that trip? 

SaveSave

Advertisement

BEFORE YOU GO

12 Differences Between Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista

Published

on

Just because two ships are in the same class doesn’t mean that they are exactly alike. After all, even twin sisters have differences — some subtle, some blatant. In the case of ships, changes can be made for numerous reasons. Perhaps a new feature is being added, or the initial design didn’t work out quite the way everyone imagined it was. Each new ship in a specific class is like a chance to enhance on what came previously.  So it’s not surprising that when Carnival Horizon was being built, the company incorporated lessons learned from the first-in-her-class Carnival Vista while also adding completely new elements to the already successful formula.

So what differences have we noticed so far between the two ships? Take a look at our list below, and then hit the comments if you’ve spotted other differences between the sibling ships.

1. New Lighting in the Atrium

Carnival Horizon

Chances are good that upon entering the atrium, your eyes immediately will be drawn to the Dreamscape funnels and their beautiful, constantly-changing imagery. But take the time to really look around the atrium. You’ll notice that between each of the three levels, there’s a circle of track lighting which not only helps create the illusion of a bigger space, but adds an additional design element which is somehow subtle and striking at the exact same time.

2. Tap Entry to Staterooms 

Carnival Horizon

Your sign-and-sail cards now have RFID technology which allows you to enter the room without sticking your card into the slot. If you look closely, you’ll see a small wire running along the outer edge of the card that lets it communicate with your stateroom door when you get close. This is the same concept utilized by Royal Caribbean for their WOW bands and Disney — both in the parks and on their ships — with the Magic Bands.

3.  Bonsai Teppanyaki

Carnival Horizon

One of the biggest and most noticeable changes is obviously the Bonsai Teppanyaki restaurant. Based on our experience and the difficulty people have had in booking the space (which has limited seatings available), we won’t be a bit surprised if this restaurant is not only included on future builds, but perhaps even added to other ships in the fleet when they go through refurbishments.

READ MORE: Bonsai Teppanyaki Review 

4. The Speeds Bumps are Gone 

Carnival Horizon

On the Carnival Vista there were several areas on decks three, four and five which had slightly-raised edges around the fire doors. Anyone dragging their feet (or using a cane or other mobility device) would definitely notice (and possibly trip over) them. On Horizon, however, they seem to have addressed the potential problem.

5. There are More Havana Suites 

Carnival Horizon

As soon as renderings of the Carnival Vista began circulating, people went nuts for the new Havana Suites and their lanai-like balconies. Not surprisingly, once the ship was actually introduced, the entire Havana area — including the aft area which is reserved for Havana guests during daytime hours — proved crazy popular. So it’s not surprising that when it came time to parse out staterooms on Horizon, they added a few extra cabins in this category.

Read More: Carnival Horizon Trip Report: Embarkation Day

6. The Pig & Anchor Smokehouse

Carnival Horizon

Yes, the RedFrog Pub is gone… but before you get your knickers in a knot, know that the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse is most definitely a worthy replacement. The food is amazing, there’s plenty of cold beer on tap and entertainers keep your toe tapping. This is a very welcome addition to the Carnival fleet… so much so that I actually heard people say the Pig & Anchor alone could sway them to choose Horizon over Vista.

READ MORE: 35 Tips For Sailing The Carnival Vista

7. Entertainment In The Steakhouse

Carnival Horizon

Sometimes, the smallest ideas can have the most surprising results. Who would have thought that simply flipping the locations of Piano Bar 88 and The Library Bar would make such a difference? But because the piano bar is now directly next to the steakhouse, diners can enjoy the smooth sounds of someone tickling the ivories while they enjoy their meal. And as far as I’m concerned, the more live entertainment, the better.

8. The New Doors 

Carnival Horizon

You know how sometimes when you would go outside on deck 5, there’d be a gust of wind and the door might actually be hard to open? Sometimes, depending on the weather, you could hear doors slamming all day and into the night. Well, thanks to the airlock-style doors installed, it’s now a much smoother inside-to-outdoor transition. It may seem like a minor change, but it makes life easier, and isn’t that what we all want out of a vacation?

9. Taste Bar is Gone 

Carnival Horizon

Change is good… usually. But the jury’s still out on this one. Word is that Taste Bar will eventually be eliminated fleet wide. On Horizon, it’s already a gone pecan. You can still grab some limited food here at breakfast time, and on sea days they set up a salad bar, both of which help disperse the crowds at the Lido Deck Marketplace. Personally, I’ll miss the Taste Bar, which often offered samplings of foods from some of the specialty restaurants on board.

1o. A Larger Guest Relations Area 

Carnival Horizon

Frankly, we hope that you never have to visit the Guest Relations deck… at least not because you’re having trouble on your cruise. But if you do, the expansion of this space on deck 3 is a good thing, as it’s created more work stations at which the crew can try and make right whatever has gone wrong. Not only is the space larger, but it has a much more open feel did the same area on Carnival Vista.

11. Additional Seating Outside 

Carnival Horizon

A big reason many of us cruise is to connect with the ocean. There’s something about sitting outside — whether reading, eating or napping — and feeling the sun on your face as you gaze off into the distance that’s about as peaceful as life gets. So it’s only fitting that on a ship named Horizon, they’ve created a lot more spaces from which to… well, gaze at her namesake.xThis is especially true on the starboard side of deck 5, which on Carnival Vista was home to Guy’s Pig & Anchor. Here, the space has been freed up for more seating. In fact, that’s something we noticed at every turn on this ship: There are all sorts of areas, both indoors and out, to sit, whether by yourself or with a group. There are cozy nooks and loungers and quiet corners everywhere.

12. Smart Elevators

Carnival Horizon

Sponsored Link

Carnival Horizon rolled out smart elevators that are often used in busy land-based buildings. These elevators eliminate the stop-and-go at every floor. Instead, you walk up to the elevator and push which floor you’d like to go. From there, the elevator’s brain picks which lift is quicker for you and assigns your an elevator. The new elevators also expedite disembarkation by moving 1,000 guests per hour. The new elevator system is scheduled to be implemented on Carnival Panorama and eventually retrofitted to Vista.

Have you noticed any other differences between the Carnival Horizon and the previous ship in her class? With the Carnival Panorama currently being built, are there any changes you’d like to see implemented on her? 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Continue Reading

BEFORE YOU GO

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 5: The Bars

Published

on

A word of advice: When traveling on the Carnival Horizon, don’t make plans with your friends by saying, “I’ll meet you at the bar.” Why? You might never find one another! Heck, even saying, “I’ll meet you at the bar by the pool” could lead to confusion, because there’s more than one… actually, there’s more than one pool and more than one bar! But never fear, because in Part 5 of our series exploring everything about this massive ship, we’re finally getting around to doing a bar crawl.

The Perfect Place To Start

Carnival Horizon

The Atrium Bar.

For a lot of cruisers — us included — the first thing they do upon boarding a ship is grab a drink with which to toast the beginning of their vacation. On the Carnival Horizon, a lot of people wind up doing so at the Atrium bar… which makes sense on a lot of levels. After all, those gorgeous Dreamscape funnels are the first thing you see, and they draw us in like moths to a flame! And while we’re big fans of everything about the atrium, we suggest coming back later. Why fight the crowds when there’s a whole big ship — jam-packed with bars — waiting to be explored?

Carnival Horizon

Pig and Anchor aboard Carnival Horizon.

Our suggestion?

Head to the Pig & Anchor! After all, it’s not just a smokehouse, but a brewhouse, too… and in fact, takes the place of the beloved RedFrog Pub on this ship. For many cruisers, ourselves included, heading to the Pub to kick off the vacation is a long-standing tradition. Well, trust us… the Pig & Anchor is a fine, fine substitute. (This is also a great place to hit after dark, especially if you prefer your music on the more countrified side.) Lest you think a brewhouse has nothing but beer on tap, belly up to the bar and take a look at the specialty cocktails such as the Blackberry Bourbon Fizz or the Smoky Manhattan (and yes, it automatically became our favorite because it’s topped with a crispy slice of bacon and everybody knows bacon makes everything better).

Lounging By The Pool

Carnival Horizon

Lido deck on Carnival Horizon.

Pick your poison: Tequila or rum? Whichever you prefer, you’ll find a potent potion available at the BlueIguana Tequila Bar or the RedFrog Rum bar, both conveniently located within shouting distance of the main pool. And if you’ve opted for the quieter Tides pool — located at the back of deck 10 and offering killer views of the wake — there’s always the appropriately named Tides Bar. And if you want to get away not only from the typical poolside madness but kids altogether (hey, no judgment here!), there’s a nice little bar up on the Serenity Deck where you can grab a cocktail and then meander over to one of the very, very comfortable loungers, clamshells, or hammocks. (Although careful, because after a couple drinks, those hammocks can be downright dangerous… especially when trying to get out of one!)

A Drink Before Dining

Carnival Horizon

Alchemy Bar on Carnival Horizon.

The pre-dinner (or pre-show) cocktail is, for us, one of the joys of cruising. And if you want to elevate it to the next level, the best place to do so is the Alchemy Bar. A word of warning, however: Don’t go here looking for a beer or a soda, as you will be politely but firmly sent elsewhere.

Sponsored Link
Carnival Horizon

The Alchemy Bar has the cure for what ails you.

This spot is all about the hand-crafted cocktails lovingly prepared by lab coat-wearing mixologists. Another word of warning: Many of the drinks on this limited menu are as potent as they are delicious. Looking to ease your way in? Give the refreshing (and popular) Cucumber Sunrise a try. And if you can’t find something on the menu that sounds appealing, tell the mixologist what ails you (and what you think might cure it), and they’ll whip up something specifically for you.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons To Visit Carnival’s Alchemy Bar

Carnival Horizon

Casino Bar on deck 4.

Alchemy is also a great bar to hit up after dinner and before a show. But you could also swing by the casino bar (home to a second Dreamscape funnel, which comes as a surprise to many people) to get your literal pre-game on. Need to check on the latest sports score? The Skybox Sports Bar, located just off the casino, is a safe bet. (Sports… bet… see what we did there?)

Carnival Horizon

Sports Bar on Carnival Horizon.

After dark, all of the ship’s bars come to life, many featuring live entertainment. If you feel like grooving to a Latin rhythm (or simply watching others do it while you sip a Cuba-inspired drink), hit the Havana Bar. Had a few cocktails and feel like singing (but not quite brave enough to attempt karaoke)? Hit the piano bar, where the only person required to have talent is the piano player, while everyone else can sing along with no fear of judgment from their fellow crooners.

Now that you’ve figured out all the best spots to get your drink on, let’s take this in an entirely different direction. Here’s hoping you don’t have too much of a hangover, because we’re going to be dealing with kids — and all the ways to keep them occupied — in our next entry.

Read our past entries:

Continue Reading

BEFORE YOU GO

Carnival Horizon Bonsai Teppanyaki Review

Published

on

When Carnival rolled out the Horizon, it didn’t just introduce a new ship to its fleet… it also introduced a new dining option into its rotation. Already having had great success with their Bonsai Sushi restaurant, they expanded the brand by introducing Bonsai Teppanyaki. So how does the restaurant stack up to some of the other specialty restaurants on board? We swung by to check the place out, and here’s what we found.

A First For Carnival Cruise Line

Given that cruise ships have a limited amount of space available, the decision to devote prime real estate to something new —as opposed to simply sticking a tried-and-true venue into the spot — is not undertaken lightly. That is especially true when the restaurant in question is a revenue-generating specialty venue, requiring that guests be willing to pay for the experience. So clearly, Carnival had both a lot on the line and complete faith in the idea of a Teppanyaki-style restaurant.

Teppanyaki restaurants are nothing new. On land, Benihana has been using the concept of knife-wielding chefs putting on a show while making a delicious meal since 1964. Variations on the theme have also been introduced on cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, over the past few years. So while Carnival’s not necessarily breaking new ground, it’s managed to turn Bonsai Teppanyaki into a pretty sure-fire hit by using the laws of supply and demand: The restaurant only holds 16 people per seating, meaning that on any given sailing, a relatively small number of passengers will have the opportunity to try the hot spot.

It’s that intimacy which also makes Bonsai Teppanyaki a special experience, and one particularly suited to families and groups of friends. Which, again, means this is one of the first reservations you should make when planning your cruise. You snooze? You will definitely lose… your opportunity to eat here.

About The Dining Experience

Carnival Horizon

From the moment you enter, you’ll be caught up in the aura of Bonsai Teppanyaki. The decor plays on that of Bonsai Sushi, yet steps everything up a notch. This is an absolutely gorgeous space, dominated by warm orange and red colors. Upon arriving, you’re greeted by the chef who’ll be both cooking for and entertaining your table, as well as the server who will provide everything not dished out by the chef.

After the introductions are made, our chef — Edgar, from the Philippines — did a quick check to see if anyone had allergies, and then they took our entree order. This is a seven-course meal, so there’s pretty much always food in front of you. And although it is all prepared at the same time, this is not served family style. (Although if someone in your party isn’t into rice or vegetables, it means you can score some extra… but be quick to stake your claim.)

Remember, this isn’t just dinner… you’re getting a show, too. From the moment we sat down, Edgar had our entire group laughing (and occasionally gasping at some of his knife play).

What’s on the Menu?

Carnival Horizon

As mentioned above, the meal is served in seven courses, but don’t think this means you’re going to spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over what to get… six of those courses are basically pre-determined, with the entree being your only big decision. So what’s on tap?

You can view the full menu here.

Course 1: Teppanyaki White Shrimp

Carnival Horizon

Course 2:  Pork Belly Yakitori

Carnival Horizon

Course 3: Spicy Tuna on the Rocks

Carnival Horizon

Course 4: Miso Soup

Carnival Horizon

Course 5: Salad with Ginger Dressing

Carnival Horizon

Course 6: Here’s where you make your big decision between the various options available for your main course.  I went with the Steak and Shrimp, which is served with fried rice and grilled vegetables. There are also three sauces for dipping: a mayo-based shrimp sauce, ginger sauce, and a Worcestershire-based sauce.

Carnival Horizon

Course 7: Dessert, a chocolate bento box with ginger ice cream.

Sponsored Link

Carnival Horizon

Is it Worth the Cost?

With a cost of $25 to $30 per person — depending on the selected entree — this is a pretty great bargain, especially since you’re getting dinner and a show. With the 15 percent added gratuity, my bill came out to be $34.50. As always, you’re free to bump-up the gratuity if you’d like to show the service team a little extra love.

The focus here is amazing food that is perfectly seasoned and entertainment that will have you laughing long after the meal is over.

Final Thoughts 

Carnival Horizon

After we’d finished eating, I asked everyone around the table what they thought of the meal and the experience. The consensus was that a good time was had by all. (One thing several people mentioned was that their water glasses were constantly kept full… something that’s been a little lacking in some venues around the ship on our sailing.)

It is worth noting, however, that since there’s a price tag attached to the meal — and the menu is somewhat limited in options — you should make sure everyone in your party knows what they’re walking into. This might not be a great spot for picky eaters.

Carnival Horizon

It’s worth stressing again that Bonsai Teppanyaki should really be booked in advance, because with only three seatings per night and 16 guests per seating, this place fills up quickly.

Forget to book in advance? Check the Hub app to see if any slots open up. It’s rare, but hey… it happens. This is especially true on days where the ship has a long day in port. People sometimes come back later than they thought they would (or fuller, having sampled the local foods) and wind up cancelling their dinner reservations.

Would I do this restaurant again? In a heartbeat.

SaveSave

Continue Reading

Sponsored Link

ads

Sponsored Link

Stay in the Know with Cruise Radio

Send this to a friend

Hi, this may be of interest to you: Best Time to Cruise The Caribbean By Month. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/best-time-cruise-caribbean-month/