The Top 5 Cruise Destinations For Summer

The Norwegian Bliss sailing through Alaska

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The summer season remains the most popular time for vacations. The weather is better, the kids are out of school, and work just seems to be less hectic. Businesses assume that many of their workers (especially those with school-age children) will be taking time off in the summer, so management works all the planned vacations into the schedule. Cruise travel agents and experts usually recommend that cruise travelers not take a cruise vacation in June, July, and August, but sometimes it just can't be helped. Plus, there are some destinations that can best be visited during this time because of weather concerns.

Where are the best summertime cruise destinations? Many people continue to equate a Caribbean cruise with summer travel, and it is a good place to travel if it's the only season you can take a vacation. But, although the Caribbean remains one of the most popular and affordable summer cruise vacations, the weather is hot and tropical storms are more likely. Cruises along the western coast of Mexico (Mexican Riviera) are the same way--hot in the summer, but affordable.  

Many cruise ships that spend the winter in the Caribbean reposition to Europe in the springtime and stay until the fall. Most of these ships sail the Mediterranean, but that region can be very hot in July and August. The Mediterranean is much more enjoyable (if your vacation time permits) in April, May, or October. Some ships stay in the Mediterranean year-round, so it's a great "off-season" destination, but the weather can be cool and rainy.

Let's look at the rest of the world other than North America. Where are the places you can primarily cruise only in the (northern hemisphere) summer months of May through September?

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Hubbard Glacier in Alaska
Linda Garrison

The Alaska cruise season runs from May through September, with July and August usually the busiest months. Most cruises sail the Inside Passage of Alaska, which is covered with rain forests. So, you might have some rainy summer weather, but the scenery and wildlife are magnificent. Large cruise ships or small expedition ships both offer excellent cruise options in Alaska.

Anyone who has traveled to Alaska will agree that it is one of the world's most amazing cruise destinations. Large ships usually sail from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, and small ships usually stay in the Inside Passage, sailing between Juneau and Ketchikan or Sitka.

Alaska Cruise Travel Journals

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Northern Europe - The Baltic

Catherine's Palace near St. Petersburg
Catherine's Palace (c) Linda Garrison

Anchorage, Alaska is almost the same latitude as the northern European capitals of Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Copenhagen. Therefore, northern Europe has the same cruising season-May through September.

Northern Europe is a terrific cruise destination, especially because it is so expensive to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants ashore. Since most cruise ships use the U.S. dollar for the onboard currency, the room and board on a ship costs much less than a land tour would.

Although cruise travelers will love the long summer days in Alaska or northern Europe, these Baltic cruise itineraries primarily focus on the major cities of northern Europe rather than the small towns, majestic mountains, and wildlife you see in Alaska.

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Northern Europe - Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Greenland, and the Northern Cape

Fjords in Greeland

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Several cruise lines travel to the fjords of western Norway, visiting the small towns that dot this spectacular part of the world. A cruise to the Norwegian fjords is more like an Alaskan cruise than one to the Baltic capitals since you will see quaint villages and more wildlife than in the Baltic.

A few ships travel all the way to the North Cape, the northernmost part of Norway where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean. Others visit Spitsbergen, the largest island ​of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, and one of the few places in the world that you might see a polar bear from your cruise ship.

Although most of these cruises take place in the summer months, with their very long hours of daylight, you can also do a cruise to the Norwegian fjords in the winter with Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company that carries visitors to western Norway year-round.

Many Arctic expedition ships and some larger cruise ships visit Iceland and Greenland during the summer months. These cruises focus on the geology, wildlife, and natural beauty of these two fascinating islands.

Norwegian Fjords Cruise Travel Journals

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United Kingdom and Ireland

Loch Ness in Scotland
Linda Garrison

Several cruise ships sail the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) and Ireland in the summer months. The weather can sometimes be hot, but usually, it is quite pleasant as is seen in the photo of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland.  You probably won't see the famous Loch Ness monster, but at least you can tell your friends back home that you were there!

Ships usually sail from one of London's seaports (Harwich, Dover, or Southampton) and circumnavigate the island, stopping at ports such as Liverpool, Greenock (for Edinburgh or Glasgow), Inverness, Dublin, Cobh, and Dover. 

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Russian Waterways Cruises

Wooden churches at UNESCO World Heritage Site Kizhi Island, Russia
Kizhi Island, Russia (c) Linda Garrison

River cruise travelers often think of the great rivers of central Europe, China, or Egypt when planning a river cruise vacation. However, the Volga River and waterways between St. Petersburg and Moscow are fascinating cruise destinations in the May through September time frame. The days are long, the scenery is gorgeous, and river ships like the Viking Truvor spend time in both St. Petersburg and Moscow, plus visit some fascinating small towns and sites along the river.