Repositioning Cruises are a Unique Budget Travel Option

Repositioning cruises have become much more popular in recent years, but they still represent a curiosity that needs further explanation. Many budget travelers have no idea this option exists, much less why cruise lines launch such journeys.

Find out more about these cruises. The linked articles explain more about why these cruises exist, what you should expect as a passenger, and places where you could do some "repo shopping."

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    Turtle Beach with cruise ship in background.
    ••• Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

    Twice a year (usually in the spring and the fall), many cruise lines reposition their ships. A cruise itinerary that was lucrative along the coast of Norway in July won't do so well in January. So that ship will be geographically repositioned to a travel destination in a warmer climate, sometimes as far away as the Caribbean. In the spring, the process will reverse.

    It's not something you'd think much about unless you own a cruise line.

    Most people simply have no idea many cruise ships have to be repositioned twice a year. Repositioning cruises (frequently called "repo" cruises in the travel business) are advertised, but usually not to the extent of conventional trips. Let's face it: many travelers don't have the time required for these longer voyages. Cruise lines depend upon people with flexible schedules and the word-of-mouth publicity that's hard to buy. All of that means repo offers can be sparse and fleeting. You'll have to look carefully for a...MORE repo itinerary that suits your schedule and interests.

    Why do cruise lines accept paying passengers for these trips?

    Fuel and crew costs can be offset with some passenger revenue. The ports and length of time at sea both play important roles in shaping a unique itinerary that is attractive in the marketplace. Many years ago, the lines decided to accept paying customers and create themed shipboard entertainment during those many consecutive days at sea. 

    Since these trips are longer in duration, the total tabs can be significantly higher than a standard cruise. So why are we including this as a budget travel option? The answer can be found in the average daily costs, which frequently come in lower than a conventional itinerary.

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    Repositioning Cruises - What to Expect

    Cruise ships provide lots of shipboard entertainment.
    ••• (c)Mark Kahler

    You'll visit some ports that might not be on standard cruise itineraries. Your bottom line price, due to the length of the trip, could be quite high.

    But these trips are popular, and frequently sell out from repeat customers and word-of-mouth rather than extensive advertising.

    Ever dreamed of honing your kitchen skills alongside the ship's top chef? Do you like to stop in ports that typically don't see many cruise passengers throughout the year? Or are you simply looking forward to many quiet days at sea and a chance to catch up on your reading at poolside?

    Think for a moment about the possibilities. You will do and see things on a repositioning cruise that most other passengers never experience. If you have a sense of adventure, this kind of cruise can be invigorating. If you aren't interested in such things, and you don't have the extra time required for these itineraries, you might want to shop for a traditional cruise option

    But everyone should at least take a...MORE moment and learn more about what to expect on a typical repo cruise. Who knows? You might find a trip and a price that exceeds your expectations.

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    Repositioning Cruises - Shopping for a Bargain

    Cruise ships offer recreational opportunities on board.
    ••• (c)Mark Kahler

    Because the trips are one-way and rather long, they aren't for every budget traveler. But if you have a flexible schedule, you might find the daily costs of a repositioning cruise is attractive. 

    Understand that there are many ways to shop for an affordable cruise, and looking at a repo option is only one of them.

    Begin your shopping many months before the intended travel time. Unless you snag a last-minute bargain, plan on being at least six months ahead of departure for your serious shopping. You'll probably shop in early winter for a spring sailing date, or summer for a repo in late fall.

    Why so far in advance? These limited offerings tend to fill up quickly. Barring cancellations, there are not too many openings in the final weeks before departure. That's a general observation that doesn't hold true for every cruise, but it's the point at which you should begin your preparations.

    Ready to shop? Take a look at a few links for finding repositioning cruises. You'll...MORE need to know what you want before you start shopping, and you'll need to be prepared to make a quick buy if you find the right trip.