Repositioning cruises are the one-off, one-way itineraries when ships sail across oceans or change seasonal homeports. When the seasons change, cruise ships tend to relocate (or reposition) to chase warm weather -- for example, a ship moving its itineraries in the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.
What does that mean for repositioning cruise passengers? They're offered the unique chance to sail a new, offbeat route -- and often at a lower-than-average price.
As exciting as they sound, "repo" cruises aren't for everyone. We answer common questions about reposition cruises to help you determine if one is right for you and your next cruise vacation.
A repositioning cruise offers possibilities for seeing more of the world on one sailing. 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.
That might sound like a busy schedule, but it's actually not. Repositioning cruises often incorporate a multitude of sea days, offering a more relaxing vacation without hectic, back-to-back port calls.
Yet not all repositioning cruises are lengthy. For those itching to try out a new cruise line, a handful of ships sail one- to three-night repo cruises (many of which are along the California coast or from Seattle to Vancouver) that are great for sampling.
For some passengers, spending days on end in the middle of nowhere -- particularly on ocean crossings -- is more maddening than relaxing. This can be especially true for passengers prone to seasickness.
Repositioning cruises also tend to be long (some can be nearly a month long), which often limits them to retired seafarers and the lucky few with a hefty amount of vacation time. Also, the one-way nature of the cruises means you'll need to book one-way or open-jaw flights, which can be more expensive than roundtrip airfare.
Repositioning cruises often have much lower per day rates than "regular" sailings. That's because they're not as universally appealing due to the reasons mentioned above.
Guests can often snag a good daily rate on the cruise, but the total fare could still be high -- in addition to potentially pricey one-way airfare. Be on the lookout for cruise deals that include airfare or shorter repo sailings, which offer even better value.
As you make your way from one region to another, temperatures are bound to fluctuate. The weather on a repo cruise depends on where and when you go, and always involves slightly more thoughtful packing. For example, a ship sailing from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean during fall will kick off with brisk weather but end in a warm, humid climate.
Keep in mind also that ocean crossings may mean a bumpier ride, especially on smaller ships. It's a good idea to have some type of seasickness remedy on hand, even if you're not typically sensitive to motion.
The best ship is the one whose onboard vibe, amenities and entertainment jive with your personality. The last thing you want is to be bored when you're out at sea, days away from your next port of call.
Some cruise lines also spice up their repo itineraries with themes, such as food and wine or bridge, which makes for a fun opportunity to learn something new or simply spend your sea days relishing a hobby you love.
Look to regions that have very specific annual seasons. For example, ships that spend summertime in Alaska have no choice but to relocate come autumn, and they frequently offer unique itineraries along the coast of California, across the Pacific to Hawaii or through the Panama Canal. These same ships will travel the opposite route in the springtime.
Or 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 Western Mediterranean or Northern European sailings and then come back for Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda cruises in the colder months.
Want to try a super short repositioning? Simply search for sailings of one- to two-nights or set a budget for your search, like $149 for two nights or less, and you'll find wallet-friendly repositioning cruises to sample.