Repositioning cruises are sought after by budget travelers with flexible schedules and some extra time to be away from home. In their simplest form, these cruises can be defined as semi-annual chores that cruise lines must perform to be efficient and profitable in the marketplace.
Twice a year, you might clean out the garage or attic. Maybe you visit relatives in the winter and summer.
If you run a cruise line, you must reposition many of your ships twice a year, too.
Because there isn't big demand for cruising the fjords in January, your ship that spent the summer in Scandinavia or Alaska might find more profitable waters in the Eastern Caribbean or Mexican coast during the colder months.
Alaskan cruise liners might winter in San Diego, a base from which to explore the Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta as Sitka shivers.
Come spring, the process reverses. They're known as repositioning or "repo" cruises in the travel industry.
Most travelers never considered this fairly mundane, insider duty. They just look for the ships that cruise when and where they want to go.
But this is more than cruise industry trivia. You can bet the owners of those ships want as many as many paying travelers aboard as possible when ships must be moved. Savvy travelers book those cabins and take trips they otherwise could not afford.
Maybe it's time for you to "reposition" your thoughts on cruising.
Repo Cruise Examples
Consider a typical repositioning cruise that took passengers from Genoa, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 16 days.
The first week, ports-of-call included Genoa, Italy; Marseille, France and St. Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands. Not bad!
But four of the first seven days on that cruise, there were no stops.
This is not standard fare for most traditional itineraries. A day at sea or two will appear on most cruises, but rarely will you have four or more consecutive days at sea. Bring reading material and an appreciation for the open sea.
The ports you do visit might not see cruise ships at any other time of year. You'll find rare opportunities to visit African or South American cities off the usual tourist paths. These are ports that usually see only freighter cruise passengers.
Another example: Celebrity offers a host of Trans-Atlantic cruises at prices of less than $1500, and some include a cabin with an ocean view. Think about how difficult it is these days to find a quality cruise for $150/person per day or less. When you start in Europe, you'll enjoy an itinerary front-loaded with stops, and then features many days at sea crossing the Atlantic, with the reverse true of Europe-bound repo cruises in the Spring. A typical Europe-to-United States repor cruise could include an itinerary similar to this: Rome (Civitavecchia), Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Provence, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, and Tenerife, Canary Islands within the first eight days.
Fall or Spring? Which one is right for you? A key consideration is whether you'd like your ports at the beginning or end of the trip. Either way, you'll spend better than a week at sea.
Because the trips are longer in duration, the total price might equal or exceed what you'd expect to pay for a standard cruise. But when you begin to divide money into days, the per diem costs are attractive.
Not all repo cruises are inexpensive. The $150/day standard can be met, but frequently will not come close to actual cost. These trips might cost as much as $3,000 USD/per person. But remember that the daily costs fall because you're spending more time on the ship and traveling a greater distance.
Another way repo cruise costs add up is overspending on-board during those days at sea. Learn to control cruise expenses while enjoying the sun and surf.
More information: What to expect on a repositioning cruise.