Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong

Cruise lines charge less per day for repositioning cruises than ANY of their other cruises. Making them some of the most inexpensive and appealing to many cruisers. But, I’ve met so many people on them discovering too late that being inexpensive alone is not a good reason for doing them. They’d been caught out or fallen into some traps. The same ones I see repeatedly.

The first, and basic, thing that I see that trips people up is misunderstanding what a repositioning cruise is and isn’t.

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong: What They Are

A repositioning cruise is when cruise lines move their ships from one major cruising region to another at the beginning and end of each season. When the weather changes, basically, chasing the warmer climates.

The most common repositioning cruises are between the Caribbean, the busiest cruising region, and the Mediterranean and Alaska, the next two biggest cruising regions.

There are other repositioning cruises that now go to and from more far flung, and exotic places, as new regions grow in cruising popularity. For example, a friend of mine went on a Virgin Voyages repositioning cruise. They sent the ship at the end of the Mediterranean summer season though the Suez Canal and Asia, onto Australia for the summer season “Down Under”.

I am now also seeing ships being repositioned to be based in Tokyo, Japan and Cape Town, South Africa for seasons there. And of course, there are repositioning cruises of expedition ships to and from Antarctica and the Arctic when those seasons start and end.

It does surprise me that people don’t always fully grasp that repositioning cruises are one-way trips, and passengers on them must fly long haul one way to either join the ship or get back home. There will not be a ship doing the return leg for many, many months.

They are not for people who want to avoid flying.

This lack of clarity in many passengers’ minds is also evident to me, as people keep asking me about when they can go on them.

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong: When They Can Do Them

Many assume they are available at any time of the year. They are not. As I mentioned, repositioning cruises only happen at the beginning and the end of the cruise region seasons.

So, around March/ April time the ships are sent from the Caribbean to Europe or Alaska. Then all are sent back in October/ November time. You can’t do them at any other time of the year.

This means repositioning cruises are not sailing at the best time of the year for any region. You’re not going to have sunny days, there could be rougher seas, and more disruptions from weather and sea conditions meaning missing ports.

But even when people understand this, some are not factoring in what commitment they require.

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong: Time They Take

Repositioning cruises are longer cruises. They are often 10 days to two weeks for the Caribbean to Mediterranean and Alaska ones. Many weeks if you’re heading down to places like Australia.

And most of that will be sea days with a few ports at either end. So, maybe only 3 or 4 ports in a 10- to 14-day cruise.  The purpose is to get the ship to a new location as fast as possible. Stopping at a couple of places on the way to refuel, and make it a little bit more interesting for the passengers.

For example, the last repositioning cruise I did was 12-nights on P&O Britannia from Southampton to Barbados. We called in at Madeira, and then into two Caribbean ports before Barbados.

There Is Still Potential

Although repositioning cruises are mostly sea days with few ports, there are some where you can see some incredible things. For example, the repositioning cruises to and from the Caribbean and Alaska go through the Panama Canal.

A few ships sail Northern Europe and not the Mediterranean, and reposition with a stop or two in Iceland, Greenland, and New York on their way to the Caribbean. Like friends did on Holland America Nieuw Statendam last year.

It amazed me on the ones I did how many people I met did not like sea days but still booked due to the price, or had only been port intensive cruises with no sea days and were finding them boring.

I found the people who were enjoying repositioning cruises saw the ship more as the destination rather than the ports, or saw it as a chance to unwind.

But for people that do like sea days, there are several unique features of repositioning cruises that I saw people overlooking or not taking full advantage of.

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong: Not Taking Advantage of the Upsides

First, while repositioning cruises are limiting on when you can go and where you can go, there is a staggering amount of choice on who you can go with. Pretty much every single cruise line from the big mass market, mainstream lines like MSC, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival. Right up to the ultra-luxury lines like Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea, all reposition their ships between the regions twice a year.

So, your choice is enormous. Big ships, little ships, premium ships, anything that you want to do.

Second, something else people do not take advantage of enough is that new cruise ships are built in Europe, but most of them are deployed in the Caribbean. This means either when they leave the shipyard or not long after they are repositioned to the Caribbean. So, this is a great way to try new ships with lots of time to explore.

Friends of mine, and a few cruise vloggers, do that all the time and did that on ships like Wonder of the Seas, Norwegian Prima and so on.

Cheaper Costs

Third, because as I mentioned at the start the cost per day is cheaper than a line usually charges, some cruisers, including several friends of mine, use that to try a line that they’ve always want to try but couldn’t afford normally. Or upgrade into a fancy cabin or suite that is usually out of range.

My friends Graham and Pete went on the Norwegian Viva repositioning recently in the Haven “ship-within-as-ship”. Something they would never be able to afford on any other sailing.

Fourth, for solo travellers happy to cruise solo on a longer cruise, they are often attractive either because the fares are lower, so the pain of the surcharge is less, but also often they can snag low solo supplements.

Fifth, as they tend not to be sold out as the sea days and time makes them less appealing, they can be good for travellers who like and can wait for late deals as they often have them.

Passengers boarding cruise ships

Fewer Passengers

The sixth, and I must admit something I saw as a plus, was there are usually fewer passengers than on other sailings and they are not full, so are less busy, with fewer lines, and it’s easier to get into popular restaurants, shows or ride attractions on the big resort-style ships.

Also, there is time to try everything, I found on big ships with lots of features. Like when I was on a regular cruise on Norwegian Viva and Symphony of the Seas I did not get to see and try everything as was off sightseeing. On a repositioning cruise there is time.

There was something I came across some people on the repositioning cruises I did get a bit stressed about though, and it involved money.

Too Many Repositioning Cruisers Get These 5 Things Wrong: Not Budgeting Right

Some got caught up in the incredibly good value fares and booked, but had not considered the real cost.

The trip is long, 10 days to two weeks, so costs like drinks, gratuities, speciality dining, Wi-Fi and then attractions like shopping or the casino to fill up time will mount up. Also, on ships without a guest laundry may mean sending that in.

But the big hit for many was the one-way flight. These can be expensive, and many had not checked, factored that in, nor booked early to get better pricing. For some it wiped out the benefit of the lower fare.




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3 Responses

  1. Cathy Johnston says:

    We love repositioning cruises. But we love sea days and a minimum of 14 days so that makes sense. We’re currently on only our 4th cruise but looking forward to our Holland America repositioning cruise in October. We did HAL from Miami to Spain last April. Their Pinnacle class ships are a delight for long voyages.

  2. Holly Hunt says:

    “I found the people who were enjoying repositioning cruises saw the ship more as the destination rather than the ports, or saw it as a chance to unwind.” We took our first one and loved it. We took advantage of needing additional flights to see extra cities and it made Silver Seas much more affordable! Great advice!

  3. Katie Turner says:


    Last November my husband and I did a back-to-back repositioning cruise. We were able to get a great deal through an online agent which included not only the two cruises, but airfares from Australia to Italy (our embarkation country) and also from New Orleans (disembarkation point) back to Australia, far cheaper than we could have done this ourselves. With the Free-at-Sea campaign that NCL was offering (including wifi, some complimentary specialty dining, drinks package, and some discounted port excursions and gratuities, and a couple of days with hotel accommodation at the start and end of the trip, this worked out to be a very inexpensive holiday. With the money we saved, we were able to have an extended holiday of about a week touring Italy. Admittedly, we were lucky with the weather as this was the rainy season – we had nothing more than a few days of very light rain, and a beautiful snow flurry in NY. The seas were also quite calm, and the only port where we could not dock was at the Azores. The Atlantic crossing was much more pleasant than we anticipated. All in all, it was a great holiday and I would not hesitate to do another repositioning cruise at some future date. Then only downside was that NCL did not offer a self-serve laundry. Luckily we became aware of this just before we started and holiday and was able to obtain a scrubba bag and some dry detergent sheets which saved us quite a bit of money on the laundering service.

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