Cruise ship on a repositioning cruise in perfect blue waters under clear blue skies with beach and mountains in the background.

Save Big on the High Seas with a Repositioning Cruise

Repositioning cruises are a great way to save money while indulging in luxury. Typically they take place during March or April and again in October and November. These cruises are, as the name suggests, to move the ship from one seasonal cruising ground to another. For example, ships who spent the winter in the warm waters of the Caribbean will set sail across the Atlantic in the early spring to service the Mediterranean Sea. Ships that carry passengers through long summer days in Alaska head “down unda” in the fall for the warm Oceanic summer. These all-inclusive vacations come at a massive discount because filling rooms at cheap rates is always better than sailing empty. 

Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire) on a cloudy day on Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal.

Repositioning cruises are always one way, unless you plan on spending the season there and catching its return trip in a few months. Lasting upwards of 10 days, these cruises inevitably have quite a few consecutive days at sea. Not to worry; the ships are already packed with more things to do than could be completed on a normal cruise. Of course, since you’re on vacation, you could always get some rest and work on your tan. Alternatively, these cruises tend to make stops at places other cruises can’t fit into their itinerary, like the Azores, known as the Hawai’i of Europe. Many of the exotic ports visited along the way are important highlights of the cruise. Reaching some of these places on your own would cost a fortune by plane. In fact, some of these ports would never make it into any other kind of cruise. Many countries, including the US, have laws which demand the ship makes port in another country before making port again to the first country. This is why Hawaiian cruises often stop in Mexico or Vancouver before starting across the ocean. A repositioning cruise can provide a seamless and budget-friendly way to reach many far-flung destinations, all while voyaging across the ocean in luxury.

entioned above, these tickets are a bargain. Often these all-inclusive sailing cost less than an economy airline ticket between the same two destinations. While you’ll find they are usually priced under $1000, most float between $500 and $800 USD. That isn’t to say they don’t come cheaper. This 14-day cruise from Japan to the West Coast cost only $400 USD per person, and I’ve heard of people getting them for $160 as a last minute steal. 

Screen Shot of $400 14 Day Cruise from Celebrity Cruises showing a Repositioning Cruise from Japan to Vancouver.
35 Day South American Repositioning Cruise from Buenos Aires to Fort Lauderdale for only $2000. Thats about $50USD per person!
Royal Caribbean 14 Night Cruise for only $6000. From Tampa to Barcelona.

As always the superior staterooms come with a higher price tag. There are a few tricks for getting free upgrades that may work on any cruise, but with fewer passengers, it’s more likely to work. When you get to the part of the purchase that lets you pick your room, opting out and letting the cruise line pick for you may be in your benefit. Often when this happens, either the cheapest staterooms get sold out and you are automatically pushed up (which works for any cruise) or there will be enough open rooms above yours, that they put you in one just to be nice. Alternatively, you can wait till you get to the boat and simply ask. The rooms are just sitting there complete empty, often the staff will move you as it doesn’t really affect them in any way and people are generally nice. If you run into a rude attendant, wait a bit and just ask someone else.

So how do I find one of these cruises you ask? The first and most important thing is understanding how they work. As mentioned above these cruises follow the seasons, following warm waters and tourist season across the globe. The best time to find these cruises is in the spring and the autumn. If you’re headed to Europe (from North America) look for April cruises; if you’re headed to the southern hemisphere look in October and November. Head to a cruise line’s website or a cruise search engine and see what you can find. Many will ofter “repositioning,” “transatlantic,” or “transpacific” as categories. Some cruise ships also get moved from the east coast to the west coast of the United States, which requires a trip through the Panama Canal. These take place in the spring and fall but within a wider stretch of time. Make sure it’s a repositioning cruise from coast to coast and not a round trip cruise whose destination is Panama, as those will be full price. Armed with this info you can start looking for a good cruise fit for yourself. Remember to be flexible, since the ships only make each journey once a year.

Addressing Concerns:

MSC Cruise Ship

Some of you may think this is just too good to be true but I promise you it isn’t. I mentioned some of the main concerns above, like the ride being one way, having specific dates, or that they tend to be lengthy. Let me put your mind at ease, and address what I believe are the most common concerns. 

 One Way Journey: 

This is often the biggest concern for most people, and it’s a valid one. There are a few things you can do. Like me, you could just continue traveling on and treat it like a pre-vacation; after all, it’ll cost close to a flight. If that’s not going to work for you, don’t worry. Flights are cheaper than they’ve been in a long time.  Four years ago I paid $1200 USD to fly round trip to the UK, this year I paid $384. You can easily find one-way tickets for less than $200. Take a look at the ones below, I was able to find these in about 5 minutes on Google Flights. 

Flight: London Gatwick to Orlando International May 6th $193
Flight: Barcelona El Prat to LAX May 6th $192
An Elderly Affair:

Will it just be older people? For years, news of repositioning cruises has spread by word of mouth through the senior citizen community. While these silver-haired pensioners still make up a large percentage of cruise-goers, you should still be able to find people on board around your own age. Families grab up these bargains; when you’re paying for 4+ people you’ve gotta keep prices down. Also to be found are middle-aged singles, couples with no kids, full-time travelers, digital nomads, blog writers like me, and millennials looking to save a buck. While you’ll find plenty of baby-boomers to be sure, there are going to be enough younger folks on board to mingle with. Of course, you may find these high sailing elders are adventurous souls who are travel savvy and will be very interesting to have a conversation with. 

Dangerous Seas: 

Sometimes the open ocean can be a little rough, especially turning the changing of seasons. This is not always the case though. Cruise ships today are very modern, they are so large and stable that its difficult to even feel the movement of the waves. Even smaller ships give the illusion that you’re standing still until you glance out a window and see the waves. However, if the seas do get rough, most ships have what’s known as stabilizers, which greatly lessen any rocking sensation. In the case of an actually dangerous storm, the line would just reschedule the ship, or stay docked until it’s safe to continue. Weather predictions are very accurate these days and storm warnings come with enough time to get passengers to safety. Of course, most cruises will find sunny warm weather during the day, with perhaps a jacket needed at night. 

Listless Days at Sea: 
Fun Onboard Actives on a Cruise Ship

You may think the extra days at sea will end up being boring, with nothing to do and no land in sight. In fact, the opposite is true. Repositioning cruises book extra entertainment, added lecturers, and load up on extra scheduled activities to fill those additional days at sea Nightly entertainment will range from award-winning Broadway performers to hilarious headlining comedians to shows straight from Vegas. Often the entertainment is above par on these cruises. During the day interesting lectures are held, often about the destinations you’re headed to or something else relevant to travelers. Of course, there are still the increasingly bodacious onboard cruise activities like rock climbing walls, go-kart tracks, surfing waves, ice skating rinks, laser tag, water slides and more. 

Hopefully, this will help you to find a great cruise at a reduced price. Let me know how it goes! Have you been on a repositioning cruise before? Please share your experiences below and let us know what you think.  Any topics you’d like me to cover? Comment below and I’ll write a blog post concerning your question.


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