Repo cruises: more for less
With the change of seasons come changes in cruise destinations, especially in
spring and fall when cruise lines offer new itineraries in anticipation of
warmer or colder weather. At these times, cruise lines move their ships from one
home port to another in a strategic fleet movement that’s called
“repositioning.” Of course, those ships don’t move around empty; instead, what
you get is a “repositioning cruise” (or “repo cruise”) — a unique, one-way
itinerary that is available only once a year.
In spring, the most common repositioning itineraries are from the Caribbean
to Europe or from the Caribbean to Alaska; in fall, these itineraries are
reversed. Repo cruises to Alaska commonly include popular stops on the cruise
line’s eastern, western, and southern Caribbean itineraries, a transit of the
Panama Canal and stops along the Mexican Riviera. Silversea Cruises adds an interesting side
trip to the Pacific leg, sending its Silver Shadow across the Bering Sea for a
stop in Petropavlovsk, Russia, before ending the cruise in Anchorage.
Trans-Atlantic repositioning cruises from the Caribbean to Europe can include
stops in Portugal, Spain and Morocco. For example, when Holland America’s Prinsendam sets sail
from its winter port of Fort Lauderdale to begin its Mediterranean season, it
will visit Madeira, Palma and Casablanca.
Some repo cruises really go off the beaten track. When Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony
returns to New York after its summer season in Europe, it will make stops in
Tórshavn (Faroe Islands), Denmark, Reykjavík, and Nuuk, Greenland. Because these
are one-time itineraries, repositioning cruises feel fresh and have great appeal
to travelers who are looking for something new in cruising.
But if you’re not up for adventure, or you don’t want to be that cold, there
are spring repo cruises that stop in warmer, more familiar ports. For example,
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Majesty
offers spring repositioning cruises from the Caribbean to Boston that stop in
Charleston, South Carolina; there are return trips in the fall.
Repositioning cruises are usually longer than conventional cruises, and they
can offer unique ports of call. They also offer great value. In fact,
repositioning cruises usually cost significantly less per day than other
sailings on the same ship. This is partly because longer cruises do not suit
everyone’s schedule, and partly because these cruises sail during the shoulder
seasons, when fewer people travel.
Luxury cruise specialist Lucy Hirleman, president of Berkshire Travel in
Newfoundland, N.J., says, “Cruise lines offer very attractive packages on repo
cruises to ensure that their ships sail as full as possible. Pricing is
sometimes 50 percent of the normal per diem on a regular itinerary. Depending
upon the cruise line, pricing can be anywhere from $75 to $500 per day, per
Cruise lines will sometimes dangle bigger savings on these sailings by
offering free airfare or two-for-one pricing (and sometimes both). Currently,
for example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
(formally known as Radisson Seven Sea Cruises) is offering free air on selected
Alaska sailings and Oceania Cruises
is offering free round-trip air and two-for-one cruise fares on selected cruises
in Asia and Europe. All cruise lines feature repositioning cruises in their
brochures, but it pays to check with a travel agent, who may know of
unadvertised last-minute offers.
“Tai chi at sea”
Repositioning cruises generally make fewer port stops than conventional
cruises; there is a lot of ocean to cross, so there will more days at sea. If
shore excursions are your thing, this may not be the cruise for you. But for
those who want to savor shipboard accommodations and services, this is a great
way to do it.
In fact, there is a certain romantic aura around repositioning cruises.
Devotees of trans-Atlantic crossings aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 will attest to the
pleasures of slowly navigating the time zones in luxury rather than suffering
the frantic pace — and jetlag — of air travel.
Many travelers just love being at sea, and they prefer gentle shipboard
rhythms to the stressful on-and-off of nonstop port calls.
“In our hectic-paced world, a repo cruise will definitely soothe the savage
beast,” Hirleman says. “It’s like tai chi at sea.”
Moreover, the cruise lines often schedule additional activities and special
themed events for their repositioning cruises. Cooking classes, wine tastings
and guest lectures prove popular among those who want to be edified, while
others find enjoyment in such old-fashioned pleasures as a good book, breakfast
in bed and pampering spa treatments.
“A repositioning cruise offers long, restful days at sea,” says Linda
Coffman, editor of Cruise Diva, a
cruise Web site, and author of Fodor’s The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises.”
“If you see yourself lazing in a deck chair sipping morning coffee while
gazing at the endless horizon,” Coffman says, “a repositioning cruise may just
be your ticket.”
Last week, I wrote a column on getting bumped from a long-anticipated
cruise. Reader Richard Johnson replied with the following comment: “As a young
woman coming over from England, my grandmother was bumped from the Titanic. This
has always given me a useful perspective on travel delays.” In travel, as in all
things, perspective is important. Thanks, Richard! —ADP
Click here to return to article index