If you are looking to book a cruise you may have come across “Repositioning” cruises.
Repositioning cruises offer great value for money but they start and end in different places, so are not always the most convenient option.
I have been on a few repositioning cruises and in this post, we will explore what a repositioning cruise is and look at why so many people love taking them.
What is a Repositioning Cruise?
A repositioning cruise is a one-off itinerary that moves a cruise ship from one destination to another.
The most common repositioning cruises happen in Spring and Autumn/Fall. Almost all cruise lines and ships will reposition their ships to make the best of the weather.
Repositioning cruises provide some great opportunities to experience unique itineraries for cheap prices.
There are several benefits to this type of itinerary which we will explore below.
Repositioning Cruises Include Unique Itineraries
The most common repositioning itineraries are Transatlantic and Transpacific cruises. That said, these aren’t the only itineraries available.
Cruise ships usually complete a season in one part of the world and then move on to another area for another season.
Lots of cruise ships will be moving across the Atlantic and Pacific in the Fall/Autumn or Spring to reposition for their new seasons.
Generally speaking, cruise ships tend to move to warmer climates in Autumn/Fall.
Transatlantic Cruises are Often Repositioning Cruises
A Transatlantic cruise is a cruise that – rather unsurprisingly, crosses the Atlantic.
Cruise ships usually come from the USA to Europe in spring and then return to the USA in Autumn/Fall.
The cruise lines usually find it more profitable for their ships to be in warmer climates during the colder months.
Many transatlantic cruises will extend their itineraries at either end to provide guests with a chance to either see the Caribbean or parts of Europe.
A typical transatlantic itinerary may look something like the itinerary below:
– Southampton, Madeira, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados.
Alternatively, the itinerary may spend longer in Europe like the following:
– Southampton, Zeebrugge, Portland, Le Verdun, Bilbao, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Fort Lauderdale.
Transatlantic cruises typically take 14-16 days – but they can be completed in as little as 7 days.
The amount of time depends on how many port stops they make on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.
A typical transatlantic cruise with no port stops will have between 6-7 sea days.
Cunard offers Transatlantic cruises year-round on the last Ocean Liner, the Queen Mary 2.
These sailings aren’t Repositioning cruises as such, they provide a scheduled service.
Find out more about the differences between Cruise Ships and Ocean Liners in the post below:
This is a great service for people who want to cross the Atlantic, but don’t like to fly. They even have kennels onboard so that you can take your dog if you are relocating!
I sailed on the Queen Mary, a ship unlike any other. Find out all about that here:
Transpacific Cruises Are Repositioning Cruises
There are a lot of cruise itineraries that cross the Pacific Ocean.
The Pacific Ocean actually covers more than 30% of the world’s surface so there are lots of options or places to start/finish.
I don’t think that being from the UK I really appreciated the size of the Pacific Ocean until I started looking at cruises that sailed there.
A typical spring Transpacific itinerary may look like this:
– Brisbane, Yorkeys Knob, Kiriwina, Rabaul, Puerto Princesa, Singapore.
Other transpacific cruises may begin in China/Japan and finish in Alaska, itineraries like this will usually stop in Canada.
Cruising Across The International Date Line
Transpacific cruises will cross the international dateline.
If you cross the line moving east you will have to add a day, for example, you will go from Thursday to Saturday!
If you cross the dateline sailing west you’ll lose a day. Many cruise lines will have special parties when crossing the international dateline.
Other Repositioning Itineraries
Cruise ships stationed in Alaska for the summer season typically relocate to Hawaii or the Caribbean for the Autumn/Fall.
Ships located in Northern Europe and Norway typically relocate to warmer climates in the Autumn/Fall.
The ships will usually return to Norway in May/June. To find out more about the Norwegian Fjords cruise season check out this post:
Are Repositioning Cruises Cheaper?
Repositioning cruises are usually significantly cheaper than a normal cruise that starts and ends in one place. The savings can often be 50% per person per night.
I recently took a cruise onboard P&O’s largest ship, Arvia from the UK to the Mediterranean.
After I had booked it, I noticed that the sailing after mine was a repositioning cruise – Arvia was moving to the Caribbean for the winter.
I could have stayed onboard Arvia for under £800/$1K for an extra fifteen nights – including the flight back to the UK at the end!
Unfortunately, I had other things booked, and couldn’t fit it into my calendar…
That works price out at around £53/$67 per night – with a free flight home included!
If you see a cruise deal that is under £50 per night, chances are it’ll be a repositioning cruise.
These cruise itineraries are usually less popular and as a result, have cheaper prices.
Why Are Repositioning Cruises Cheaper?
Repositioning cruises are cheaper than other itineraries because they are more inconvenient and there is less demand for them from passengers.
Repositioning itineraries usually come with extra costs – such as public transport or flights – which makes repositioning cruises less desirable and therefore cheaper.
Repositioning Cruises Can be Inconvenient
Generally speaking, it is more convenient to take a cruise which starts and ends in the same place. It makes things like transport and car parking much easier.
I took a repositioning cruise which left Newcastle and sailed to Southampton.
Ordinarily, I’d drive home from the cruise port but because I hadn’t started in the same place I didn’t have my car waiting. In this situation, I got the train home – but it definitely did delay my journey.
There Are Extra Costs to Repositioning Cruises
If you have to embark or disembark in ports far from you it can mean that you have extra expenses to pay. This may include a flight at one end of the cruise and possible hotel stays.
When cruising from Newcastle I decided to fly up the night before and stay in a hotel. I’d always recommend getting to the cruise port the day before your cruise to reduce the risk of any last-minute disasters.
It is possible to find a cheap one-way flight by looking at budget airlines but it is much easier to do this in advance.
You also need to factor in the cost of other public transport you will need to use to get home – buses, trains etc.
Repositioning Cruises Have Quieter Ships/Themed Cruises
Repositioning Cruises Are Quiet
When sailing a repositioning cruise, cruise ships will often be sailing at less than full capacity.
Repositioning cruises are usually outside of the school holidays so families tend to avoid them.
This means that a ship that could hold 4000 guests at full capacity may only have 3000 onboard.
I took a repositioning cruise from Singapore to Tokyo and there were only a few children on board.
This meant that most cabins that could berth 3 or 4 only had 2 occupants.
We never struggled to find a seat on board and personally, I prefer my cruises to be a little more on the quiet side.
Cruise ships will still have full entertainment schedules on repositioning cruises.
The same shows will be shown in the theatre and although the schedule may be slightly different from on a regular cruise it will have the same elements.
Repositioning cruises are often longer than regular cruises so you might actually have some extra entertainment onboard.
Repositioning Cruises Are Often Themed Cruises
In contrast to the idea of quieter itineraries, some repositioning cruises may actually be busier.
To attract cruisers to the route, the cruise line may put on a themed cruise. Cruise themes range from TV shows, food, celebrities or musical decades.
The cruise that I took from Newcastle to Southampton was 1990s themed which is why I, and most other guests, took the cruise.
(If the cruise wasn’t 90s themed there would be no reason for me to fly to Newcastle to board the ship when I would ordinarily cruise from Southampton.)
Marella are a cruise line who regularly offer themed cruises – some are repositioning cruises, and some are not. Their 2024-themed cruise is an 80’s versus 90’s cruise. It sounds like fun!
Find out more about that here:*
Repositioning Cruises Happen Year-Round, not just in Spring and Autumn/Fall
Repositioning cruises allows guests to cruise year-round!
In some parts of the world, there aren’t very many options if you want to cruise in November to March – repositioning cruises mean that guests can keep cruising all year.
Cruising year-round also means that cruise lines can keep making a profit.
River Cruising Isn’t Available All Year Round
This is very different from river cruising where the ships typically don’t sail year-round.
River cruise ships will usually do a season and then go into a sort of hibernation over the winter months!
Often they will sail lucrative Christmas market sailings in Europe, and then take their ships out of service until the spring.
I have a Christmas Markets river cruise booked, and I am really looking forward to it.
Find out about Christmas market cruises like the one I will be taking, and other great value Tui river cruises here*:
How Do Cruise Lines Decide Where To Go?
The positioning of all cruise ships is based on where there is the highest demand and where passengers want to go.
The majority of cruise ships leave Norway in the autumn/winter because guests prefer to head to warmer climates.
There are a few who stay to see the Northern Lights but generally speaking people from Northern Europe want to get away to warmer weather when they cruise.
I took a cruise on Fred Olsen’s traditional cruise ship Bolette “In Search of the Northern Lights.”
The sea was quite rough, but I was cruising in the North Sea in February! It was a very memorable trip, but I understand why many cruise lines would want to move their ships to somewhere with better weather.
Find out more about that amazing trip here:
Repositioning Cruises Are Often Available Last-Minute
Repositioning cruises don’t book up quite as fast as regular itineraries so this means that they are often available last minute.
It is normally possible to book a repositioning cruise as little as a week or two before the cruise.
By this point, the other passengers who have booked on the cruise have paid their cruise fare in full so the cruise line knows how many more cabins it has to fill. This is usually when the prices are lowest.
To learn more about the perfect time to book a cruise make sure you check out this post next:
I took a winter repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Sun from Lisbon in Portugal to Malaga in Spain.
This is one of NCL’s oldest ships, and the weather wasn’t very kind to us. Find out about that bargain trip here:
Repositioning Cruises Are Often Longer Cruises
The most common cruise itineraries last between 7 and 14 days.
Repositioning cruises can often be much longer than this. To do longer cruises, some cruisers do ‘back to back’ cruise itineraries which means that they stay on the ship on disembarkation day and continue on the next cruise.
World cruises are often broken up into smaller segments for guests to join the cruise for 2-4 weeks on partial world cruises.
Repositioning Cruises Visit Different Ports
Repositioning cruises often visit ports that aren’t typically included on most mainstream cruise itineraries.
On Transatlantic cruises, the itinerary often includes The Canary Islands, Madeira or The Azores.
I visited The Azores on a land-based trip and would thoroughly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance.
The Azores are nine islands full of lakes, hot springs, and mountains. They are one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal – the other is Madeira. (Madeira is also another lovely place to stop on a cruise!)
Repositioning Cruises Include More Sea Days
Repositioning cruises usually have a lot of sea days because they’re covering long distances.
Many cruisers love sea days and actively search out itineraries with a lot of them. Sea days can be a great way to relax and recharge.
I personally don’t choose cruise itineraries with a lot of sea days because I prefer to be able to get off the ship and wander around.
I also occasionally get seasick, so it is nice to be able to get off of the ship.
What Onboard Activities Are On A Repositioning Cruise?
On most cruise lines there will be extra activities happening onboard during sea days to keep guests entertained.
The number of activities offered does vary by cruise line but most will have live music, theatre performances, game shows, parties, quizzes, and plenty of food to eat.
Some cruise ships will have things like go-karts, waterslides, and ropes courses to keep you entertained too.
It is really important to choose the right cruise line when taking a repositioning cruise.
I’d argue that it is more important than choosing a cruise line for a regular cruise because of the length of time you’ll spend on board.
There are cruise lines to suit everybody but you must do your research into things like the formality of dining and onboard dress codes before your cruise.
Before You Go
Find out when is the best time to book your cruise to get the best price here:
Find out whether you are best to book directly with the cruise line, or use a trusted travel agent below: