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Cruise ship wake or trail on ocean surface (Photo: Alena Stalmashonak/Shutterstock)
Cruise ship wake or trail on ocean surface (Photo: Alena Stalmashonak/Shutterstock)

Repositioning Cruises: What Are They and Why Should You Take One?

Cruise ship wake or trail on ocean surface (Photo: Alena Stalmashonak/Shutterstock)
Cruise ship wake or trail on ocean surface (Photo: Alena Stalmashonak/Shutterstock)
Gina Kramer
Lori A. May

Last updated
Oct 6, 2023

Read time
5 min read

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.

Find our editor's recommendation on the top repositioning cruises sailing in 2024.

Repositioning Cruises: What Are the Positives?

Transatlantic Cruise Tips (Photo: Cunard Line)
Transatlantic Cruise Tips (Photo: Cunard Line)

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.

Repositioning Cruises: What Are the Negatives?

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.

Are Repositioning Cruises Cheaper?

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.

What Are Repositioning Cruise Deals Like?

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.

What Weather Can I Expect on a Repositioning Cruise?

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.

What Are the Best Cruise Lines for a Repositioning Cruise?

A passenger looks out over the stern of Queen Mary 2 on the Atlantic. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
A passenger looks out over the stern of Queen Mary 2 on the Atlantic. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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.

Active types would fare well with lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, while those interested in a more laid back atmosphere should consider Celebrity, Princess or Holland America.

Of course, when it comes to the best transatlantic cruises, Cunard is a classic option.

If you've got room to splurge, you may want to consider a luxury line like Silversea or the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

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.

How to Find a Repositioning Cruise and Plan for It

Look to regions that have very specific annual seasons. For example, ships that spend summers cruising in Alaska have no choice but to relocate come autumn, and they frequently offer unique itineraries along the coast of California, cruising to Hawaii across the Pacific, or through the Panama Canal. These same ships will travel the opposite route in the springtime.

Keep an eye on transpacific cruises from the U.S. West Coast to Japan, or Australia or New Zealand, and the seasonal repositioning in reverse.

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 cruises or Northern European sailings and then come back for Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda cruises in the colder months.

This often happens in fall and spring. Other repositioning itineraries journey to the Middle East, South America and Africa.

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.

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