If you are looking to book a cruise you may have come across ‘repositioning’ cruises. I have been on two repositioning cruises and during this post, we will explore what a repositioning cruise is and look into why so many people love taking them.
What is a Repositioning Cruise?
A repositioning cruise is a one-off itinerary which moves a cruise ship from one destination to another. The most common repositioning cruises happen in spring and autumn/fall. Almost all cruise lines and ships will reposition at some point.
Repositioning cruises provide some great opportunities to experience unique itineraries for cheap prices. There are a number of benefits to this type of itinerary which we will explore below.
The most common repositioning itineraries are transatlantic and transpacific cruises. That said, these definitely aren’t the only itineraries available.
Cruise ships usually complete a season in one part of the world then move onto another area for another season. This means that lots of cruise ships will be moving across the Atlantic and Pacific in fall/autumn or spring to reposition for their new seasons. Generally speaking cruise ships tend to move to warmer climates in autumn/fall.
A transatlantic cruise is a cruise which, rather unsurprisingly, crosses the Atlantic. Cruise ships usually come from the USA to Europe in spring and then return to the USA in Autumn/fall. The cruise lines usually find it more profitable to be in warmer climates during the colder months.
Many transatlantic cruises will extend their itineraries at either end to provide guests with a chance to either see the Caribbean or parts of Europe.
A typical transatlantic itinerary may look something like the itinerary below:
– Southampton, Madeira, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados.
Alternatively, the itinerary may spend longer in Europe like the following itinerary:
– Southampton, Zeebrugge, Portland, Le Verdun, Bilbao, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Fort Lauderdale.
Transatlantic cruises typically take 14-16 days but they can be completed in as little as 7 days if they head straight across the Atlantic. A typical transatlantic cruise will have between 6-7 sea days.
Cunard offers transatlantic cruises year-round in a traditional setting. The ships cross the Atlantic and then come back.
There are a lot of cruise itineraries that cross the Pacific ocean. The Pacific ocean actually covers more than 30% of the world’s surface so there are LOTS of options or places to start/finish. I don’t think that being from the UK I really appreciated the size of the Pacific ocean until I started looking into cruises.
A typical spring transpacific itinerary may look like the following:
– Brisbane, Yorkeys Knob, Kiriwina, Rabaul, Puerto Princesa, Singapore.
Other transpacific cruises may begin in China/Japan and finish in Alaska, itineraries like this will usually stop in Russia and Canada.
International Date Line
Transpacific cruises will cross the international dateline. If you cross the line moving east you will have to add a day, for example, you will go from Thursday and then BAM, it’s Saturday. If you cross the line moving west you’ll go backward a day. Many cruise lines will have special parties when crossing the international dateline.
Other Repositioning Itineraries
Cruise ships stationed in Alaska for the summer season typically relocate to Hawaii or Caribbean for the autumn/fall.
Ships located in Northern Europe and Norway typically relocate to warmer climates in the autumn/fall. The ships will usually return to Norway in May/June. To find out more about the Norwegian Fjords cruise season check out this post: Norwegian Fjords Cruise Guide – Month by Month.
My November cruise is a repositioning cruise, one of the best things about them is that the price per night is usually significantly cheaper than a normal circular cruise – 20 nights, all inclusive, for £948pp sailing from Rome to Dubai (flights were extra but still only £250 each) – Shelley. (Facebook Group Member)
If you see a cruise deal which is under £50 per night, chances are it’ll be a repositioning cruise. These cruise itineraries are usually less popular and as a result, have cheaper prices.
Why Are Repositioning Cruises So Cheap?
Generally speaking, it is more convenient to take a cruise which starts and ends in the same place. It makes things like transport and car parking MUCH easier.
I recently took a cruise which left Newcastle and came back to Southampton. Ordinarily, I’d drive home from the cruise port but because I hadn’t started in the same place I didn’t have my car waiting. In this situation, I got the train home but it definitely did delay my journey.
If you have to embark or disembark in ports far from you it can mean that you have extra expenses to pay. This may include a flight at one end of the cruise and possible hotel stays. When cruising from Newcastle I decided to fly up the night before and stay in a hotel. I’d always recommend getting to the cruise port the day before your cruise in order to reduce the risk of any last-minute disasters.
It is possible to find a cheap one-way flight by looking at budget airlines but it is much easier to do this in advance.
Quieter Ships/Themed Cruises
When cruising on a repositioning cruise, cruise ships will often cruise at less than full capacity. Repositioning cruises are usually outside of the school holidays so families tend to avoid them. This means that a ship that could hold 4000 guests at full capacity may only have 3000 onboard.
I took a repositioning cruise from Singapore to Tokyo and there were only a few children on board. This meant that most cabins that could berth 3 or 4 only had 2 occupants. We never struggled to find a seat on board and personally I prefer my cruises to be a little more on the quiet side.
Cruise ships will still have full entertainment schedules on repositioning cruises. The same shows will be shown in the theatre and although the schedule may be slightly different from on a regular cruise it will have the same elements. Repositioning cruises are often longer than regular cruises so you might actually have some extra entertainment onboard.
In contract to the idea of quieter itineraries, some repositioning cruises will actually be busier. In order to attract cruisers to the route, the cruise line may put on a themed cruise. Cruise themes range from tv shows, food or celebrities all the way up to entire decades.
The cruise that I took from Newcastle to Southampton was 90s themed which is why I, and most other guests, took the cruise. If the cruise wasn’t 90s themed there would be no reason for me to fly to Newcastle to board the ship when I would ordinarily cruise from Southampton.
You can follow my adventures on the 90s themed cruise below:
Marella are doing another repositioning cruise from Newcastle to Southampton in September 2020. To learn more about that, visit Marella’s website here: https://bit.ly/2n3I0d6 (affiliate link).
Repositioning cruises allow guests to cruise year-round! In some parts of the world, there aren’t very many options if you want to cruise in November or March so repositioning cruises mean that guests can keep cruising all year.
Cruising year-round also means that cruise lines can keep making a profit. This is very different from river cruising where the ships typically don’t sail year-round. River cruise ships will usually do a season and then go into a sort of hibernation over the winter months!
How Do Cruise Lines Decide Where To Go?
The positioning of all cruise ships is based on where there is the highest demand and where passengers want to go. The majority of cruise ships leave Norway in the autumn/winter because guests prefer to head to warmer climates. There are a few who stay to see the northern lights but generally speaking people from Northern Europe want to get away to warmer weather when they cruise.
Repositioning cruises don’t book up quite as fast as regular itineraries so this means that they are often available last minute. It is normally possible to book a repositioning cruise as little as a week or two before the cruise.
Ordinarily, I’d recommend booking a cruise between 60-90 days before the sail date. At this point, the other passengers who have booked on the cruise have paid their cruise fare in full so the cruise line knows how many more cabins it has to fill. This is usually when the prices are lowest.
To learn more about the perfect time to book a cruise make sure you check out this post: Do Cruises Get Cheaper Closer To The Sail Date?
The most common cruise itineraries last between 7 and 14 days. Repositioning cruises can often be much longer than this. In order to do longer cruises, some cruisers do ‘back to back’ cruise itineraries which means that they stay on the ship on disembarkation day and continue on the next cruise.
World cruises are often broken up into smaller segments for guests to join the cruise for 2-4 weeks on partial world cruises.
Repositioning cruises often visit ports that aren’t typically included on most mainstream cruise itineraries. On Transatlantic cruises, the itinerary often includes canary islands and The Azores.
I visited The Azores on a land-based trip and would thoroughly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance. The Azores are nine islands full of lakes, hot springs, and mountains. They are owned by Portugal.
More Sea Days
Repositioning cruises usually have a LOT of sea days because they’re covering long distances. Many cruisers love sea days and actively search out itineraries with a lot of them. Sea days can be a great way to relax and recharge.
I personally don’t choose cruise itineraries with a lot of sea days because I prefer to be able to get off the ship and wander around. This is mainly because I have limited annual leave from my job and feel as though too many sea days would be a little bit of a waste. Gasp!
If I had more time off I’d love to cruise back from the US so I could avoid the jet lag!
On most cruise lines there will be extra activities happening onboard during sea days to keep guests entertained. The number of activities offered does vary by cruise line but most will have live music, theatre performances, game shows, parties, quizzes and LOTS of food to eat. Some cruise ships will have things like go-karts, waterslides and ropes courses to keep you entertained too.
We were on a repositioning cruise last year, from Vancouver down to Los Angeles. Just five days and only one port stop, so the crew concentrated on making the on-board experience special. And it was. There was a great deal to do if you so desired, or you could just relax. It was possibly our best cruise ever. – Brian (Facebook Group Member).
It is really important to choose the right cruise line when taking a repositioning cruise. I’d argue that it is more important than choosing a cruise line for a regular cruise because of the length of time you’ll spend on board. There are cruise lines to suit everybody but it is vital that you do your research into things like the formality of dining and onboard dress codes before your cruise.
If you are a first-time cruiser and feeling a bit overwhelmed, this post is a great place to start. It guides you through from embarkation to disembarkation and answers the most frequently asked questions from first-time cruisers: 67 Cruise Tips From 67 Cruisers.
Where To Next?
If you’re considering your first cruise, or would just like to learn a little more about cruising, this post is a brilliant place to start: 67 Cruise Tips From 67 Cruisers.
If you have any cruise questions or stories/photos you’d like to share, please join us in our Facebook group!