Most ships follow the sun, positioning themselves in the warmest, most pleasant regions of the world. Why? Because they can. Ships float, of course, and therefore they can pick up and just move from one side of the world to another when it suits them. Hotels, on the hand, are out of luck. They're stuck where they are.
Most Alaska, Europe, Mediterranean and Bermuda cruises, for instance, are offered in the summer when the weather is the best in those regions. For cruises to South America, the preferred time is winter (our winter, when it's summertime in the southern hemisphere). The Caribbean is warm year-round, though since hurricane season stretches from June through November, the optimal time to cruise the islands is winter and spring, though many ships are there year-round. In Asia, since much of the cruising region is near or just north of the equator, temps are very warm year round, though the wintertime months are slightly more comfortable.
To be in all of these places at the right time, ships reposition from one region to another, typically between seasons, during the months of September and October and April and May. These one-off oddball itineraries are called repositioning cruises and they're often deeply discounted because most don't include a whole lot of port calls. Many are two to three weeks in length, with a long, lazy stretch at sea crossing the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian oceans -- perfect for people who don't need too much action, though many lines feature guest lecturers and special entertainment and activities revolving around music, food, wine or other topics.
You'll find some repositioning cruises that don't include crossing over vast oceans and therefore offer more ports of call -- for example, when ships move between the Caribbean and New England/Canada, stopping at points on the eastern coast of the US along the way. There are a slew of options.
"The majority of vacationers know very little about repositioning cruises - or for that matter, what they really are," said Terry L. Dale, Cruise Line International Association's (CLIA) president and CEO. "These repositioning itineraries offer guests a tremendous opportunity to experience unusual journeys that normally feature more leisurely days at sea and out-of-the way ports of call. Even better, in most cases, repositioning voyages offer travelers significant value compared with 'standard' itineraries."
A Sampling of Repositioning Cruises in 2005/2006
Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com) has four ships doing 12- to 15-night itineraries through November on itineraries that include: Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale; Rome/Civitavecchia to Galveston; and Dover, England to Cape Liberty, N.J. Plus, the Summit is doing a 14-nighter from Vancouver to Los Angeles in September, while the Constellation is offering a 9-night repo cruise from Cape Liberty to San Juan.
Costa Cruises (tel. 800/462-6782; www.costacruises.com) has nine ships doing repositioning cruises between late August and November. Seven of the ships reposition within Europe while two others sail from Europe to North America. Costa Mediterranea and Costa Magica will sail on 16- and 17-day sailings from Genoa to Fort Lauderdale, respectively.
Crystal Cruises (tel. 800/446-6620; www.crystalcruises.com) is offering a transatlantic crossing in November aboard the Crystal Serenity from Lisbon to Ft. Lauderdale. Crystal Symphony's September transatlantic sails from London/Southampton to New York and a repo cruise in October sails from Quebec City to Ft. Lauderdale.
Holland America (tel. 800/426-0327; www.hollandamerica.com) has the Westerdam doing a 15-night crossing from Rome/Civitavecchia to Fort Lauderdale in October. The Prinsendam sails a 15-night itinerary from Lisbon to Fort Lauderdale in November, while the Rotterdam is doing a 17-night trip from Lisbon to Rio cruise. Three fall Panama Canal sailings aboard Veendam, Volendnam and Zaandam reposition the ships from Vancouver to the Caribbean.
MSC Cruises (tel. 800/666-9333; www.msccruises.com) has the MSC Lirica doing a 17-night Genoa to Fort Lauderdale journey in November, while also in November, the MSC Armonia does a 17-night journey from Genoa to Rio de Janeiro and the MSC Melody does a 16-nighter between these same two ports. In September, MSC Rhapsody is offering a 9-night cruise from Copenhagen to Genoa.
Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) has the new Norwegian Jewel doing a 10-night cruise in September between London/Southampton and New York, while October repositionings include two 13-night Caribbean routes, one between Philadelphia and Miami and the other between Boston and Charleston.
Oceania Cruises (tel. 800/531-5619; www.oceaniacruises.com) is sending the Regatta on a 10-night crossing from Lisbon to Miami in November, while the Insignia does a 12-night Barcelona to Rio de Janeiro voyage in November.
Princess Cruises (tel. 800/774-6237; www.princesscruises.com) is offering four transatlantic routes in late August, September and November: London/Southampton to New York; Civitavecchia/Rome to Galveston or Fort Lauderdale; and Copenhagen to Fort Lauderdale or New York. Coral Princess and Sun Princess reposition from the West Coast to Fort Lauderdale in September via the Panama Canal, while the Diamond Princess does a 17-night transpacific voyage in late September from Seattle to Osaka, Japan.
Radisson (tel. 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com) has the Seven Seas Voyager doing an eight-night crossing in November from Madeira to Fort Lauderdale.
Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royacaribbean.com) offers four cruises from Europe to North America in late August, October and November. Routes include Barcelona to Miami; Harwich, England to Boston; Barcelona to Galveston; and Southampton to Tampa. The line has a range of other repositioning voyages, including sailings from the east coast to the Caribbean and cruises from Vancouver to Honolulu and Los Angeles.
Seabourn Cruise Line (tel. 800/ 929-9595; www.seabourn.com) has the Seabourn Pride doing a London to New York crossing in late August, followed a short time later by a sailing from New York to Nassau in October. Seabourn Legend sails from Tenerife to Fort Lauderdale in November, while the Seabourn Spirit positions from Egypt to Asia.
Silversea Cruises (tel. 800/722-9955; www.silversea.com) offers a late August 12-night crossing on the Silver Whisper from London to Boston. In October, Silver Cloud sails a 14-night itinerary from Lisbon to Barbados.
A Sampling of Repositioning Cruise Deals
Vacation Shoppe, Inc (tel. 866/7-CRUISE; www.vacationshoppe.com)
- Celebrity Constellation: 8-night westbound Transatlantic, from Cape Liberty, NJ to Dover, stopping at Plymouth, England. From $525, April 28, 2006, sailing.
- Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas: 14-night eastbound Transatlantic, Southampton to Tampa, with stops along the way at Vigo, Spain; St. Maarten; St. Thomas; and San Juan. From $1,099, Oct 22, 2005, sailing.
- Celebrity Infinity: 14-night Panama Canal transit from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale (from where the ship will depart for a winter in South America), including calls at Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Vallerta, Ixtapa and Huatulco, Mexico; plus Puntarenas, Costa Rica; and Aruba. From $1,299, Dec. 10, 2005, sailing.
Cruise Value Center (tel. 800/231-7447; www.cruisevaluecenter.com)
- Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas: 11-night Transatlantic crossing, Barcelona to Miami, calling on Alicante and Malaga, Spain, and also Lisbon. From $699, Nov 11 sailing.
- Celebrity Constellation: 9-night eastern Caribbean, Cape Liberty (New Jersey) to San Juan, calling on the Bahamas, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. From $700, Nov 10 sailing.
- Princess Island Princess: 3-night coastal cruise, Vancouver to Los Angeles. From $187, Sept 20 sailing.
Mann Travel & Cruises/123travel (tel. 800/835-9828; www.123travel.com)
- Holland America Westerdam: 15-night Transatlantic, Rome/Civitavecchia to Ft. Lauderdale, calling on Cadiz, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco; Funchal, Madeira; St. Maarten; and Half Moon Cay. From $1599, Oct. 22 sailing.
Have you gone on a repositioning cruise? Head to our Cruise Message Boards to talk with fellow Frommer's cruisers.