What is a Repositioning Cruise?
For those Savvy cruisers who love relaxing leisure days on a cruise, nothing beats the appeal of repositioning cruises. Spring and Autumn are important times of the year for these cruisers as this is when some great cruise deals are available, and cruise ship occupancy rates are generally lower.
Though some ships spend the entire year sailing identical itineraries in a single location, many relocate to follow the sun. As part of their itinerary planning, cruise lines move ships from one cruise region to another, referred to as repositioning cruises or relocation cruises. For example, very few ships stay in Europe as the season turns from Autumn/Fall to Winter.
Between September and November, ships start crossing from the UK and Europe to the US and the Caribbean. With different routings, ships call a visit Iceland, Greenland and Canada en route or take in the Fall in New England. Likewise, in Spring, many ships, having spent winter in the Caribbean and South America, head back to the UK and Europe via the Azores, Canary Islands and the Iberian Peninsula. These one-way voyages often have discounted fares to attract guests to fill ships on these non-regular sailing schedules.
Repositioning Cruises Are Also Known As
Cruise line marketing teams are very creative in their quest for more bookings for repositioning cruises. Often these cruises are “Themed” with topics ranging from Food and Wine Extravaganzas to Theatre and Big Band music. Onboard enrichment onboard programmes and guest speakers also make these voyages very appealing.
The marketing gurus also have some other tricks when naming these relocation or repositioning cruises and often use alternative names to help entice guests to book. “Transit” or “Transition Cruises”, “Eastbound or Westbound Crossings”.
You may also see terms like “One-Way”, “Panama Canal”, “Suez Canal”, “Transpacific”, and “Transatlantic”. Some Ultra Luxury cruise lines have now adopted Extended Explorations to describe longer voyages to different parts of the world, e.g. Europe to Asia or Australasia.
Related: Guide to Themed Cruises
Where Do Repositioning Cruises Go?
The most common repositioning cruise routes are “transatlantic” from Caribbean/Florida ports to European ports and vice versa.
The winter and spring months are a very popular time to cruise the Caribbean as the weather in that part of the world tends to be ideal too. But come the summer season, Mediterranean and European cruises are extremely popular itineraries.
As a result, the cruise lines must reposition their fleets from Florida to Europe in the late Spring. There are many ships that base themselves in ports like Fort Lauderdale or Miami in the winter that are transferred to ports like Barcelona and Rome to run summer itineraries. In the autumn/fall months, it’s the reverse repositioning of cruise routes and this cycle starts all over again.
These transatlantic repositioning cruises are the most common routes. But there are actually many more repositioning cruise routes that happen during these seasonal changes. Here’s a look at some of the more common Spring (March-May) repositioning cruise routes.
- Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports to European ports
- Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports to Pacific Northwest ports such as Vancouver
- South America to Europe (less frequent and often European lines)
- Australia to Asia (particularly Singapore)
- Asia/Oceania to Pacific Northwest (less frequent)
- Other: Every once in a while, there is just an odd repositioning route in which a cruise line may be repositioning a ship not just for a season, but changing a ship’s itinerary on a more permanent basis. Or they may just be less common repositioning cruise routes. Use some creative search filters and find these unique voyages, which may pack a very rare and interesting repositioning cruise itinerary. We’ve seen some interesting itineraries, for example, from Australia through the Pacific islands to Hawaii!
Here’s a look at some of the more common Fall/Autumn (September-November) repositioning cruise routes.
As you can see they are essentially the opposite of the Spring Repositioning Cruises routes.
- Europe to Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports
- Pacific Northwest (e.g., Vancouver) to the Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports.
- Europe to South America ports (less frequent and often European lines)
- Asia (particularly Singapore) to Australia
- Pacific Northwest to Asia/Oceania (less frequent)
- Other: Every once in awhile, there is just an odd repositioning route in which a cruise line may be repositioning a ship not just for a season, but changing a ship’s itinerary on a more permanent basis. Or they may just be less common. Use some creative search filters and find these unique voyages, which may pack a very rare and interesting itinerary. We’ve expereinced interesting itineraries to India and Dubai through the Suez Canal from Europe on Seabourn, one of our favorite cruise lines.Related: Ten Reaons we Love Cruising with Seabourn
Longer Voyages and more Relaxing Sea Days
Whenever you book a repositioning cruise, you should generally expect fewer ports of call. More days at sea means more time to relax and enjoy the ship and all its amenities. Don’t worry about being bored – cruise ships offer more than enough activities to keep you busy. However, this is an ideal opportunity to unwind far away from any distractions.
Life seems simpler, surrounded by nothing but blue sea. Larger ships typically have more activities for you to enjoy. Transatlantic repositioning cruises are always popular, but there are many other you can consider.
Value for Money
Repositioning cruises offer some of the best deals in the cruising industry. It is a cost-effective way to travel from the US to Europe or reverse if you have the time. With cruise companies anxious to fill their cabins for these trips, prices can sometimes be very attractive. Some repositioning cruises across the Atlantic can cost as little as $65 per person per day.
Not bad, considering you are getting an all-inclusive deal with high-quality accommodation, food, entertainment, transportation, and some unusual ports of call along the way! Always look at the daily rate for your cruise and see how it compares with other cruise line sailings.
Fewer Guests on Board
We have always found that, particularly on transatlantic repositioning cruises, there are fewer guests on board. That means more space to chill out and relax, plus with fewer guests to attend to; the service levels can be higher.
The resulting ratio shows the number of passengers each crew member is expected to look after. The ultimate ratio is 1:1 or better. This means as a passenger you should expect exceptional service. In theory, the more attractive the ratio (i.e. the fewer passengers each crew member must look after, the better the service.
These programs are one of the big plusses for us. Most cruise lines offer extensive enrichment programs allowing you to expand your mind (at the same time as increasing your waistline with all the tempting food choices onboard).
You could learn to cook, dance, play the organ or perhaps bridge is your thing?. We have even experienced learning about photography, how to create videos, and much more. It’s like taking half a dozen adult education classes all in one week!
Today’s cruise ships offer a wide range of entertainment, including Bingo and trivia games to shows featuring magicians, comedians and even some stunning Broadway productions. Repositioning Cruises are a great way to enjoy these facilities. Seabourn has a fantastic show entitled an Evening with Sir Tim Rice. Music lovers can choose between elegant Classical string quartets and raucous dance bands.
There are often smaller venues where you can dance the night away, listening to your favourite music. If you’re feeling lucky, you can visit the casino. Shopaholics can browse the onboard shops and snap up some duty-free bargains. If this is all too much for you, you can retire to your cabin or suite ad watch a movie on the on-demand entertainment system.
No Jet Lag
Our first transatlantic repositioning cruise was with Cunard. To avoid the problem of time zone changes, they adjust the ship’s time at noon each day by one hour. In this way, you avoid the issue of the one-hit time change.
So rather than crossing half a dozen time zones in one night, you make the change gradually, one hour at a time. By cruising east to west, you gain an hour of sleep almost every other night. All this means you arrive at your destination with no Jet Lag.
Repositioning cruises generally begin or end in some of Europe’s finest cities, creating the perfect addition to a European adventure. The most popular itineraries include Rome, Lisbon, and Barcelona, but the repositioning circuit also includes European wonders like Athens and Venice.
Whatever your itinerary, take some time to experience the architecture in Barcelona, take a gondola ride along a Venetian canal, or get lost in the antiquities of the stunning cities of Athens or Rome.
Unusual or Offbeat Ports of Call
A repositioning cruise across the Atlantic will more than likely stop at one or more of the exotic islands off the coast of West Africa.
Possibilities include the Island of Madeira, part of Portugal, a floral wonder with unusual hiking trails and watercourses; the Azores Islands also part of Portugal, known for whale-watching and pineapple plantations; or one of Spain’s seven Canary Islands where the weather seems stuck in an eternal spring, and dormant volcanoes add to the natural beauty. Other common ports include Malaga and Cadiz on Spain’s southern coast and Moroccan cities like Tangier and Casablanca.
Many times the ports of call during your repositioning cruise are a little more off-the-beaten-track than standard ports, meaning you can often visit regions a little more exotic and varied when compared to previous voyages.
DISCOUNTED New Ship Experiences
Sailing on newer cruise ships can be very expensive, particularly if you are lucky enough to sail on an inaugural cruise. Bearing in mind that most cruise ships are built in European shipyards, these new ships often have to transit to home ports elsewhere in the world.
These initial relocation or repositioning cruises can often be snapped up for a bargain and can be a great way to experience a new ship at a discount. They also provide an opportunity to visit beautiful ports across two continents on the latest ships. Often they will include stops in ports such as Malaga and Vigo, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
An Alternative to Flying
Next time you’re booking an international flight, if is always worth checking to see if a repositioning cruise is going to the same place! Once you arrive at your destination, you will soon realise that there are sometimes better alternatives to flying everywhere. Instead of hours in a cramped seat, unless you upgrade to business or first class, and the associated jet lag, you will be enjoying luxurious service and a private stateroom.
Repositioning Cruises – Frequently Asked Questions
Where Do Repositioning Cruises Go?
The most common repositioning cruise routes are “transatlantic” from Caribbean/Florida ports to European ports and vice versa. The winter and spring months are very popular times to cruise the Caribbean, and the weather tends to be ideal too. But come summer, Mediterranean and European cruises are the popular itineraries.
Are repositioning cruises worth it?
The main reason cruise aficionados love repositioning cruises is because they’re cheap. Fares may be half the cost of a typical cruise because cruise lines just want to offset the cost of moving the ship from port to port. There are less tangible benefits, too.
Are Repostioning Cruises Crowded?
Generally, repositioning cruises are less crowded.
As they often sail below capacity, there are fewer passengers. However, the staff size is the same, resulting in a higher staff to passenger ratio, and the illusion of better service.
Why Are Repositioning Cruises Cheaper?
A repositioning cruise is usually cheaper than a regular cruise due to a large number of sea days. However, try to avoid booking your cruise too early as last-minute deals can be picked up closer to the departure date.