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From Alaska to the Panama Canal: Here are 9 of TPG’s favorite fall cruise itineraries

Sept. 02, 2022
8 min read
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When it comes to fall cruises, the Canada/New England region snags most of the glory. Seasoned cruisers know the joys of sailing up the New England Coast to Canada, including the beauty of seeing leaves changing colors, the satisfaction of pigging out on lobster and the thrill of spotting whales.

But plenty of other deserving destinations are perfect for autumn cruising. From the Greek Islands with their ancient sites and crazy-beautiful views of the sparkling Aegean to Bermuda with its pink-sand beaches and summerlike temperatures, options abound.

Alaska sailings, which restarted in 2021 after a nearly two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have also been extended into October in an effort to make up for lost time. That means, in addition to seeing glaciers thunderously shed house-sized chunks of ice into the sea, you might have a chance to spot the northern lights.

One thing cruisers can cheer about this fall: bargain fares. With cruise lines struggling to fill ships, prices remain low for the second year in a row, making a cruise a better value than other types of travel in 2022.

Here are our top picks for fall cruising.

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Alaska

JOHN ELK/GETTY IMAGES

The Alaska cruise season typically ends in September, with most ships heading south by mid-month. But, as was the case in 2021, lines this year are trying to make up for lost time by sailing into mid-October.

The sailings will show Alaska from a perspective that cruise guests don’t typically see. Ports such as Juneau and Ketchikan will have fewer visitors, with more locals getting back to their regular lives post-tourist season. The air will be brisk (expect temperatures in the 40s and 50s), with short days.

If you’re lucky, the northern lights will be visible in the evening sky. Wildlife will be preparing for winter: bears filling up on silver salmon, moose looking for berries, bald eagles flying overhead. You might spot humpback and gray whales. Fishermen will still find rainbow trout and Dolly Varden — along with salmon. Fog or clouds near blue glaciers will make for exciting photos, with the ice really popping.

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Plus, the fall cruises have some enticing bargain fares.

Bermuda

Bermuda is a popular summer destination. This year, the season will run through mid-December for some lines. That has its advantages.

Temperatures on the island typically remain in the low 80s in October and are in the pleasant 70s in November, so you can still hit the famous pink sand beaches and comfortably pursue such activities as hiking the historic Railway Trail past cottages, farms and gardens.

Cruisers can partake in fall traditions that include golf, tennis and food festivals. Bonus: The Bermuda Spiny Lobster (also known as rock lobster) season begins in September with the treat appearing on menus around the island.

California coast

As cruise lines move their ships out of Alaska after the summer season, some linger in California, affording an opportunity to view the coast from the sea and, in the case of sailings that spend time in San Francisco, to do a shore excursion to Sonoma wine country or Napa Valley in the height of the grape harvest.

For sailings that depart from ports near Los Angeles, you might consider arriving a day early and taking in some of the city's sights.

Caribbean

FLAVIO VALLENARI/GETTY IMAGES

Fall cruises in the Caribbean include fewer children, except at Thanksgiving; reduced fares, due to lower demand; and cooler temperatures that are still warm enough to draw travelers to the beach.

Hurricane season runs through November, so you are taking a chance that your itinerary may change, but the good news is that cruise ships can reroute to avoid storms.

With Florida's designation as the cruise capital of the world, and given its proximity to the Caribbean, travelers have a large selection of ships to choose from if they depart from the Sunshine State. Since the Caribbean is a year-round destination, there's ample opportunity, but autumn does afford nicer weather and, often, less expensive fares.

European river cruises

Cruises on rivers like the Danube and Rhine are back in full swing, with all of the major river lines sailing again and offering itineraries throughout the fall.

One big advantage of a fall river cruise in Europe is the opportunity to visit vineyards brimming with grapes. If you’re sailing the Danube between Germany and Budapest, take advantage of the cool weather and hike, bike or otherwise visit Austria’s wine-growing Wachau Valley in late September or October.

If you’re on the Rhine, have your camera ready to catch shots of breathtaking castles surrounding the Rhine Gorge. When you're docked, wander the historic cobblestone streets of Petite France in Strasbourg, stop for a cup of Rudesheimer coffee in Rudesheim or pick up a bottle of Cologne's signature fragrance.

Greek Isles

LEVENTE BODO/GETTY IMAGES

If you talk to a Greek, you will likely hear that fall is the best time to visit the islands. Summer temperatures reach well into the 90s, but come September they begin to cool. By October, they are in the very pleasant 70s. Plus you'll avoid the crowds, especially at such must-see sights like the Acropolis in Athens, the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, the expansive archeological site of Delos (off Mykonos) and the hilltop villages of Santorini.

By fall, you can have these places practically to yourself. Last year, Greece was the saving grace for summer cruises, allowing several cruise lines to call with passengers when most other Europe destinations remained closed to travelers.

New England and Canada

The stunning fall colors of New England are startlingly beautiful from the sea. Since Canada has not only reopened to cruisers but also waived its arrival testing requirement, cruises are back in full — or nearly full — force this autumn.

But book ASAP, as we're expecting pent-up demand, which could make cruises to this destination a hot commodity. From mainstream to ultraluxury, small ships to large ones, plus expedition vessels, passengers have lots of options to explore the coast from New York or Boston up to eastern Canada.

In addition to leaf-peeping, cruisers can view lighthouses, eat lobster, spot whales and learn about American history. Popular port calls include Bar Harbor, Maine; St. John, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Pacific Northwest

The Columbia and Snake rivers are beautiful places to cruise in the spring and summer, but they are particularly mind-blowing in the fall. The basalt cliffs and waterfalls of the deep Columbia River Gorge are enhanced by the addition of big-leaf maples ablaze in red, Oregon ash in yellow and cottonwood in orange.

River ships, including paddlewheelers and other small vessels, follow the path of Lewis and Clark in Washington State and Oregon from September to mid-November on sailings ranging from five to 11 days. While you are in the neighborhood, sample the local wines on visits to Washington State wineries.

Panama Canal

In the fall, cruise ships typically reposition from Alaska to the Caribbean through the century-old, manmade engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal. This fall, there are plenty of options, including sailings from several of the industry's most popular lines.

During your time in the Panama Canal, you’ll experience both jungle views and your ship's maneuvering through a series of tight locks, sometimes with mere inches to spare. Be sure to wake up before sunrise if you want to snag a prime spot on the outer decks.

Along the way, you can expect calls on ports in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia, among others.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
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  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees