For cruisers, fall and spring mean more than just transitioning wardrobes. These seasons are the prime times of year for repositioning cruises.
Though some ships spend 365 days sailing the same itineraries or sticking to the same regions, many relocate a few times a year -- depending on the season -- from Canada/New England to the Caribbean or Alaska to Mexico, for example. Cruise lines sell these one-way routes (usually at a discount), rather than sail the ships without passengers. These voyages, known as repositioning cruises, are sometimes themed with subjects ranging from theater to wine, while others are enhanced with enrichment options, such as guest lecturers.
The following are answers to some of the questions about repo cruises that we're asked most frequently here at Cruise Critic.
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How do I find a repositioning cruise?
Look to regions that have very specific annual seasons. For example, ships that spend summertime in Alaska have no choice but to relocate come September, and they frequently offer unique itineraries along the coast of California to Hawaii or through the Panama Canal. (They travel the opposite route in the springtime.) Also look for transatlantic cruises as ships reposition from U.S. East Coast ports (like New York and Fort Lauderdale) to Europe for a season of Mediterranean or Northern European sailings. This often happens in fall and spring. Other repositioning itineraries journey to Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Why should I take a repositioning cruise?
You can visit broad swaths of the Caribbean or an entire coastline all at once, cross the Atlantic with pit stops in off-the-beaten-path places like Greenland, or hit several cruise regions and continents on one trip. Repositioning cruises often incorporate a multitude of sea days, offering a more relaxing vacation without hectic, back-to-back port calls. Finally, when ships reposition, you save. Per-diem rates for repositioning cruises are often much lower than they are for "regular" sailings. However, this brings us to our next point....
What are the downsides?
Because repositioning cruises begin in one city and end in another -- sometimes many, many miles away -- passengers are often responsible for picking up typically expensive one-way or open-jaw flights. Be on the lookout for cruise deals that include the one-way fare, which make a repositioning cruise an extraordinarily good value. For some passengers, spending days on end in the middle of nowhere -- particularly on ocean crossings -- is more maddening than relaxing. Plus, repositioning voyages tend to be long (some nearly a month), which often limits them to retired seafarers and the lucky few with a decent amount of vacation time.
Intrigued? Read on for details on several of our favorite repositioning cruises for 2016 and 2017.
Editor's Note: Remember that these are just a few of the many repositioning cruises available. Contact your favorite cruise line or travel agent for more options.
The Trip: Barcelona to New York City, 13-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: October 21
Itinerary: Barcelona, Gibraltar, Ponta Delgada, King's Wharf, New York City
The Perks: Carnival Vista will take just under two weeks to cross the Atlantic from Barcelona to New York, and the itinerary features eight sea days, stops in unique ports like Gibraltar and the Azores islands and an overnight stay in King's Wharf, Bermuda. The ship, which is the first in its class and the largest Carnival ship to date, includes new "fun" features such as an IMAX theater, a more than 450-foot-long water tube slide and an onboard brewery.
Who Should Go: This sailing is ideal for Carnival fans looking to experience the line's newest ship, with plenty of time to explore the vessel from top to bottom. If you live in or near New York and don't need to fly home from the cruise port, even better.
The Trip: Boston to Fort Lauderdale, 12-night Caribbean cruise
Departs: October 30
Itinerary: Boston, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Curacao, Aruba, Fort Lauderdale
The Perks: Royal Caribbean's highly rated Serenade of the Seas offers an impressive array of dining and entertainment options for a ship of its size. This mid-sized vessel offers features and activities including a rotating bar, glitzy stage productions, a 10-story all-glass atrium and a rock climbing wall. With six days at sea, cruisers will have no problem keeping busy between Caribbean ports.
Who Should Go: Cruisers looking to escape the cool Northeast weather will enjoy this sailing, which travels into the warm-all-year-round Southern Caribbean. However, this trip is ideal for just about any cruiser, with plenty of offerings for families, singles, couples and groups alike.
The Trip: Vancouver to Yokohama, 15-night Bering Sea and Japan cruise
Departs: September 2
Itinerary: Vancouver, Petropavlovsk, Otaru, Hakodate, Tokyo, Yokohama
The Perks: From Vancouver to Yokohama -- and from seascapes to mountaintops -- Celebrity Millennium travels to far-off regions that are rich in tradition and culture. You'll voyage across the International Date Line and visit off-the-beaten-path ports like Petropavlovsk, Russia. Even better, the ship projects an intimate atmosphere, and offers an excellent spa and fitness center, plentiful dining options and a bustling entertainment hub on Deck 4 to help pass long sea days.
Who Should Go: Calling all culture and history buffs: This is your cruise. You can make headway on your bucket list with a wide variety of destinations not commonly found on cruise itineraries. Cruisers who want to avoid an abundance of sea days should opt for a different itinerary, as this ship spends a week straight at sea before arriving at its first port of call.
The Trip: Boston to New Orleans, 14-night Caribbean cruise
Departs: October 28
Itinerary: Boston, San Juan, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, New Orleans
The Perks: This itinerary lets you cover a lot of cruising ground without crossing an ocean or breaking the bank on airfare. Plus, port stops in Aruba and Bonaire are less heavily trafficked by cruise ships than other Caribbean ports, and the southern destinations provide a tropical escape from the approaching winter. Norwegian Dawn is a highly rated ship with plenty of dining, family and entertainment options for all ages.
Who Should Go: This sailing is a great option for cruisers who prefer not to have too many sea days in a row. Just keep in mind that the first few days onboard might be chilly as the ship moves from New England toward the Caribbean. If you've got extra time, both embark and debark ports are fabulous cities for pre- or post-cruise stays.
The Trip: Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale, 15-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: November 4
Itinerary: Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Malaga, Cadiz, Funchal, Fort Lauderdale
The Perks: Relaxation is the name of the game on this two-week transatlantic voyage, packed with sea days and a smattering of ports. Eurodam -- one of Holland America Line's highest-rated vessels -- offers a mix of tradition and innovation with a variety of cuisine options, Las Vegas-style revues and sophisticated lounges. Despite a week straight at sea, this itinerary offers a neat mix of landscapes and cityscapes as it makes its way through Spain and Portugal, and across the Atlantic.
Who Should Go: This is a prime trip for veteran cruisers who can handle the fast-paced port stops during the beginning of the sailing, and the lengthy time at sea at the end. If you live in or near Fort Lauderdale, this sailing becomes an even better value.
The Trip: Port Canaveral to Copenhagen, 15-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: May 13
Itinerary: Port Canaveral, Ponta Delgada, Portland (England), Dover, Amsterdam, Copenhagen
The Perks: This two-week transatlantic voyage is great for passengers interested in a Disney cruise without the summer crowds. Although this sailing features a lot of sea days (nine in all!), it offers some pretty incredible on-land adventures too. In-port activities include a visit to the famous Stonehenge, a trip to a pineapple plantation in the Azores and a dinner canal cruise during an overnight stay in Copenhagen. Disney appeals to all ages with its dedicated adults-only areas, spacious standard cabins, top-rated kids clubs and first-run Disney movies.
Who Should Go: This itinerary is ideal for travelers looking for a rare two-week Disney cruise or one that has fewer kids onboard than normal. It's also great for the dedicated Disney Cruise Line fan who wants to try a different itinerary than the line's standard Bahamas and Caribbean.
The Trip: Tampa to Barcelona, 14-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: April 29
Itinerary: Tampa, Key West, St. Maarten, Malaga, Cartagena, Barcelona
The Perks: This international sailing has an interesting mix of tropical and Mediterranean port visits, as well as a large number of sea days as the ship sails the Atlantic. Rhapsody of the Seas, a Vision-class ship (updated with Oasis-class amenities such as an outdoor movie screen and specialty dining venues), is a great place to be if you're spending more than a week crossing the ocean. At-sea activities include wine-tasting classes, dance classes, cooking demonstrations, fitness classes, rock climbing, aerial shows and even salsa dancing.
Who Should Go: This cruise is suited to travelers who thoroughly enjoy sea days, as the itinerary features nine full days at sea, including seven days in a row. And since it sails from one continent to another, it calls for passengers willing to pony up for open-jaw international airfare.
The Trip: Vancouver to Seattle, eight-night Glacier Bay cruise
Departs: April 30
Itinerary: Vancouver, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Seattle
The Perks: The month of May marks the start of Alaska season, and this port-heavy itinerary is perfect for passengers seeking a good balance of scenic cruising, diverse wildlife and city stops. Apart from scenic cruising of the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, this sailing includes two full sea days and full-day stops at some of Alaska's most popular ports.
Who Should Go: People looking for an Alaska cruise with a good amount of port stops will enjoy this action-packed itinerary. Just be aware that the weather can still be chilly in the spring months, and open-jaw airfare into Vancouver and out of Seattle might be more expensive than a round trip out of either city.
The Trip: New Orleans to Boston, 12-night Central America and Eastern Caribbean cruise
Departs: April 23
Itinerary: New Orleans, Cozumel, Roatan, Cartagena, San Juan, Tortola, Boston
The Perks: The sailing offers a nice mix of sea days and port days; you're never onboard or in port for too many days in a row. Further, April is a great time to visit Caribbean and Central American destinations before the summer heat is in full effect. Norwegian Dawn is one of the line's older ships, but it underwent a huge refurbishment in summer 2016, gaining new restaurants and bars, as well as upgrades on all its cabins.
Who Should Go: This cruise is the perfect Caribbean getaway for passengers living in the Northeast, especially those who can get away with just booking a one-way flight to New Orleans and then driving home from Boston. Beach-lovers will appreciate the tropical port stops on the way up to Boston, too.
The Trip: Buenos Aires to Ft. Lauderdale, 19-night South America and Caribbean cruise
Departs: March 1
Itinerary: Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Barbados, Martinique, Antiqua, St. Kitts, Fort Lauderdale
The Perks: This long sailing combines an almost even balance of South American and Caribbean ports as the ship sails north from Brazil to the U.S. A whopping 10 sea days will allow you to take full advantage of the ship's many offerings, while overnights in Rio and Buenos Aires mean not having to rush your southern exploration. Onboard Crown Princess, you'll find plenty to do from dining at multiple venues, watching Movies Under the Stars and participating in an array of onboard activities.
Who Should Go: This is a great pick for adventurous cruisers (with the leisure time to take a multi-week voyage) who want to experience a variety of cultures and destinations. Keep in mind that an international one-way flight to Buenos Aires could be pricy, but it may be worth the cost if you're seeking a long, far-flung cruise that visits a diverse assortment of islands and South American cities.
The Trip: Boston to Fort Lauderdale, 12-night Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruise
Departs: October 20
Itinerary: Boston, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Curacao, Aruba, Fort Lauderdale
The Perks: Get ready to explore the Caribbean: Mid-sized Serenade of the Seas, which features 3 acres of exterior glass (plus glass elevators), is a great vessel for taking in endless water views -- even if you didn't spring for a balcony cabin. This sailing has nearly a week of sea days, during which you can enjoy an impressive amount of entertainment offerings for a ship this size. Test your luck in the casino, take a wine-tasting class, celebrate the cruise life in the Champagne Bar or enjoy nightly live music and dancing in the ship's all-glass 10-story atrium.
Who Should Go: East Coast folks, as well as cruisers who want to experience a mix of Eastern and Southern Caribbean ports. This sailing is a good opportunity for Boston- or New York-area residents to cruise south from a port to which they can drive or take the train. (All you need to get home is a one-way domestic flight.)
The Trip: Seattle to Sydney, 23-night Hawaii, South Pacific and Australia cruise
Departs: October 6
Itinerary: Seattle, Honolulu, Maui, Lautoka, Suva, Mystery Island (Vanuatu), Lifou, Mare, Sydney
The Perks: You'll start in Seattle, head to Hawaii and cross the international date line before journeying to a handful of breezy South Pacific islands on this exotic sea-day-intensive sailing. Love snorkeling and roaming barely touched beaches? This cruise goes to some off-the-beaten-path tropical destinations like Mare, a raised coral atoll, and Lifou. And Explorer of the Seas offers plenty to do during the many sea days on this itinerary, from a TV studio and 3D movie theater to ice skating shows and parades.
Who Should Go: Beach aficionados who like sea days -- this sailing has 15 days at sea and stops at seven different islands.
The Trip: Vancouver to Los Angeles, six-night Pacific Coast cruise
Departs: October 1
Itinerary: Vancouver, Astoria (Oregon), San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles
The Perks: Fall foliage meets sun-dappled wine country on this West Coast sailing. Cruisers can explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest during autumn, before heading south to warmer climes. October is an excellent time to visit California's wine regions, and to view the changing autumn colors in Oregon and Vancouver. Further, Ruby Princess offers lots of free onboard dining options and activities, which will help you while away the two sea days on this itinerary.
Who Should Go: With way more port stops than sea days, this cruise is ideal for active travelers who want to explore port cities and go on excursions. Plus, those who love wine might especially enjoy the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara. And of course, folks residing on the West Coast will likely find it affordable to book one-way flights into Vancouver and out of Los Angeles -- or even drive to one of the ports.
The Trip: Copenhagen to Miami, 14-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: October 15
Itinerary: Copenhagen, Ponta Delgada, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Miami
The Perks: The bulk of this sailing is comprised of sea days, which will give you plenty of time to try the abundant mix of entertainment and dining options onboard this humongous cruise ship. Getaway has 28 dining spots, a large sports complex, five water slides and even a Broadway musical show. The itinerary includes an exciting combination of Caribbean and European locales, including a stop in the beautiful, wind-swept Azores.
Who Should Go: Cruisers who love big ships. With minimal ports to distract you, this cruise lets you fully experience everything a 21st-century floating skyscraper has to offer without feeling rushed or like you'll run out of time to do it all.
The Trip: Vancouver to Honolulu, 10-night Hawaii cruise
Departs: September 12
Itinerary: Vancouver, Hilo, Kona, Kauai, Maui, Honolulu
The Perks: As Carnival Legend moves to Sydney for the winter, come along for part of the ride and sail the open waters of the Pacific. After a spate of sea days, you get to explore five Hawaiian Islands -- and you only have to unpack once.
Who Should Go: September (the start of the school year) is the perfect time to sail if you're looking to avoid the families that frequent Legend. And if you want to explore multiple Hawaiian Islands, taking a cruise is a great way to avoid having to plan your own itinerary with multiple flights and hotel rooms. But keep in mind: You must love sea days, as this sailing features five in a row.