Savvy cruisers who yearn for days at sea, as well as great deals, look forward to spring and autumn more than any other time of year. This is when repositioning cruises feature as an unsung element of cruise lines’ rosters.
Though some ships spend the entire year sailing the same itineraries, many relocate to follow the sun. Few ships stay in Europe when the weather turns, so between September and November there is a veritable armada of ships crossing from Britain to the U.S. and Caribbean, calling at Iceland and the Canadian Maritimes en route. Likewise, in spring many ships, having spent winter in the Caribbean and South America, head back to Britain via the Azores, Canary Islands and Iberian Peninsula.
These one-way voyages are often sold at discount prices as they are not part of regular sailing schedules. To attract passengers, cruise lines may theme them with topics ranging from food and wine, to theatre, and big band music. Enhanced enrichment programmes also make these voyages appealing.
How do I find a repositioning cruise?
Some cruise lines’ websites have a transatlantic or oceanic voyages category in their search options. For those that don’t, entering March, April and May in the sailing months search box usually reveals springtime sailings from North American ports as well as hubs in the Caribbean and sometimes cities in Latin America. Similarly, searching for cruises between September and November will show westbound repositioning voyages.
Why should I take a repositioning cruise?
With unbelievably low rates per day, these voyages offer great value for money. Cruise companies occasionally take delivery of a new vessel from a European shipyard before it sails in U.S. waters and these trips are snapped up by those who want to be the first to sail on new ships.
Plus you get to make a Transatlantic crossing – which for more many years was offered by just one cruise line, Cunard, as a formal voyage from Southampton to New York with no port stops. The definable difference between a repositioning cruise and a regular scheduled voyage is the added advantage of ports of call. There is the chance to visit off-the-beaten-track ports — the bragging rights of places such as Qaqortoq, Greenland; Trois-Rivieres, Canada; or Ponta Delgada, the Azores are legion. These blended with restful sea days as you cross a vast expanse of ocean.
What are the downsides?
The Atlantic can be tempestuous and ships have to navigate many nautical miles of open sea. Fortunately, eastbound courses call for a southerly track — avoiding the storms — while westbound sailings hug the Eastern Seaboard after calling at the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland and Canadian Maritimes. Repositioning cruises are one-way voyages. Nearly all cruise companies include the outbound or return flight as part of the package — but it does mean a transatlantic flight of around eight hours.