Everything You Need to Know About Repositioning Cruises

by Donna Heiderstadt

Everything You Need to Know About Repositioning Cruises

by Donna Heiderstadt

If you're hunting for a great cruise deal, you'll likely see "repositioning cruises" pop up among the lowest-priced sailings. But what exactly is a repositioning cruise? In the simplest terms, it's a sailing that relocates a cruise ship from one region to another, usually done seasonally. Since it doesn't make sense for cruise lines to keep their ships empty for the week or two it takes to travel between locations, they offer special fares to make the long cruises more enticing. We're talking 16-day cruises that cost $850 per person (or about $50 per day). There are some trade-offs, though, so before you commit to a repositioning cruise, here’s what to keep in mind.

7
On an MSC Cruise / MSC
Celebrity Infinity in the Panama Canal
1 of 7
1. There are two repositioning "seasons."

You'll find the largest number of repositioning cruises during the months of October and April. In fall, ships tend to relocate south to warmer winter weather. Key sailings include from Europe to Florida or the Caribbean, while some ships relocate from New England to southern U.S. ports or the Caribbean. On the Pacific side, ships that tour Alaska in the summer relocate to Florida via the Panama Canal or to Australia via the South Pacific. You'll also find ships moving from Los Angeles to South America.

The opposite happens in the spring, when ships return to the Mediterranean from the Caribbean and head back to Alaska for the summer sailing season.

You'll find the largest number of repositioning cruises during the months of October and April. In fall, ships tend to relocate south to warmer winter weather. Key sailings include from Europe to Florida or the Caribbean, while some ships relocate from New England to southern U.S. ports or the Caribbean. On the Pacific side, ships that tour Alaska in the summer relocate to Florida via the Panama Canal or to Australia via the South Pacific. You'll also find ships moving from Los Angeles to South America.

The opposite happens in the spring, when ships return to the Mediterranean from the Caribbean and head back to Alaska for the summer sailing season.

Crew versus passengers pool volleyball on Celebrity Silhouette
2 of 7
2. You'll have a lot of sea days.

A transatlantic repositioning cruise might call on just three or four ports over the course of 14 days. That's a lot of time on the ship, and off dry land. You might find yourself getting a little stir crazy, even on a larger ship. Coastal itineraries and canal transits include more stops — but these trips have a noticeably higher price tag than the ocean-crossing itineraries.

A transatlantic repositioning cruise might call on just three or four ports over the course of 14 days. That's a lot of time on the ship, and off dry land. You might find yourself getting a little stir crazy, even on a larger ship. Coastal itineraries and canal transits include more stops — but these trips have a noticeably higher price tag than the ocean-crossing itineraries.

Ruby Princess' deck
3 of 7
3. These cruises aren't for the seasickness-prone.

Spring and fall weather on the open ocean can be fickle, and you're likely to encounter rough seas during your journey. If you tend to get queasy when the ship rocks, be sure to bring prescription-strength remedies. Even if you don't typically get seasick, it's smart to have some medication on hand just in case. Since you won't be stopping in ports with the opportunity to pop into a pharmacy, you'll need to come prepared.

Spring and fall weather on the open ocean can be fickle, and you're likely to encounter rough seas during your journey. If you tend to get queasy when the ship rocks, be sure to bring prescription-strength remedies. Even if you don't typically get seasick, it's smart to have some medication on hand just in case. Since you won't be stopping in ports with the opportunity to pop into a pharmacy, you'll need to come prepared.

Landing plane
4 of 7
4. You need to factor in flight cost.

Many cruise itineraries have you embarking in one port and disembarking in another, necessitating two one-way airline tickets. That's not as much of an issue when you're cruising, say, the Mediterranean, where you can do your transatlantic flights in and out of Barcelona and just need to add a short flight back to Barcelona from somewhere nearby, such as Nice.

Repositioning cruises are a whole different story since you'll be starting and ending on completely different sides of the world. Do your research to see what it will cost to book two open-jaw tickets as you'll be starting in, for example, Southampton and ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That low cruise fare will be negated if you end up spending a fortune on plane tickets.

Many cruise itineraries have you embarking in one port and disembarking in another, necessitating two one-way airline tickets. That's not as much of an issue when you're cruising, say, the Mediterranean, where you can do your transatlantic flights in and out of Barcelona and just need to add a short flight back to Barcelona from somewhere nearby, such as Nice.

Repositioning cruises are a whole different story since you'll be starting and ending on completely different sides of the world. Do your research to see what it will cost to book two open-jaw tickets as you'll be starting in, for example, Southampton and ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That low cruise fare will be negated if you end up spending a fortune on plane tickets.

Eurodam's Culinary Arts Center
5 of 7
5. It's important to have a lot to do on board.

You're going to spend a lot of time on the ship, so be sure there's enough to keep you happy for almost a week straight. Generally, the larger the ship, the more activity options on board — from fitness, cooking, and dance classes to wine tasting, karaoke competitions, and talent shows. But even some small and medium ships offer painting classes and card tournaments to keep the sea days from becoming monotonous. Special guests and lecture series are also popular on repositioning cruises, covering subjects such as history, ecology, and international affairs.

You're going to spend a lot of time on the ship, so be sure there's enough to keep you happy for almost a week straight. Generally, the larger the ship, the more activity options on board — from fitness, cooking, and dance classes to wine tasting, karaoke competitions, and talent shows. But even some small and medium ships offer painting classes and card tournaments to keep the sea days from becoming monotonous. Special guests and lecture series are also popular on repositioning cruises, covering subjects such as history, ecology, and international affairs.

Costa Pacifica's Lido Calypso
6 of 7
6. Some amenities are more valuable than others.

If you want to spend time lounging on a deck chair and taking a daily swim, look for a ship with an enclosed pool. This will allow you to enjoy a dip even when temperatures sink below sunbathing level or wind makes the open deck less pleasant. And even if you would never consider a library a top attraction on a cruise ship, you'll be happy to see those rows of shelves full of books to read by the pool.

If you want to spend time lounging on a deck chair and taking a daily swim, look for a ship with an enclosed pool. This will allow you to enjoy a dip even when temperatures sink below sunbathing level or wind makes the open deck less pleasant. And even if you would never consider a library a top attraction on a cruise ship, you'll be happy to see those rows of shelves full of books to read by the pool.

Lotus Spa Thermal Beds on Ruby Princess
7 of 7
7. You can really relax.

The pace on a repositioning cruise is slow. There's no rush to get off the ship into port and back again, and you have more than enough time to experience what there is to do on board the ship. These sailings are a good opportunity to slow down, go with the flow, and let the rhythm of the ocean set your real-world stress blissfully adrift.

The pace on a repositioning cruise is slow. There's no rush to get off the ship into port and back again, and you have more than enough time to experience what there is to do on board the ship. These sailings are a good opportunity to slow down, go with the flow, and let the rhythm of the ocean set your real-world stress blissfully adrift.

Up next...

10 Best Ports for Fun Fall Activities

Koblenz, Germany
Go Back
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices