An Alternative to One Way Flights – Repositioning Cruises

by brian on January 21, 2010

Hitting the High Seas on the Cheap

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I have never been on a cruise. *GASP* I know, I feel like the only person who hasn’t. And I would have never figured I could get on cruise to continue my round the world trip. But there is a way anyone can cruise the Seven Seas, and save a tremendous amount of money to boot.

Cruise lines have what they call “repositioning cruises” in the spring and fall. This means the ship moves to warmer weather when the sailing season for one part of the world is over.

For example, a ship that normally cruises the Mediterranean for the summer may go to Florida or South America to avoid the European winter and cruise the Caribbean or Brazil. A ship that tours Alaska may head out to Hawaii, the California coast or the Mexican Rivera for the winter and go back to Alaska when things thaw out.

There are even trans-Pacific repositioning cruises – from Vancouver to Beijing!

Cruise lines HAVE to move their ships regardless. So they cut prices to fill the ship for a ONE-WAY voyage.

These ships still make stops at ports of call along they way. Look at the end of the post for examples.

Before you book, here are some things to consider:

Most IMPORTANT – These trips are ONE-WAY
You’ll need to get a ticket back to your point of origin if you are not continuing on from the ship’s final stop. Depending on where you are trying to return to, you could get a cheap plane ticket or find some other means home.

Repositioning cruises can be LOOONG
As in 10-24 days long, with many of those out at sea. If you’re going from Barcelona to Florida, that’s at least 6-7 days crossing the Atlantic with nothing but open water and your fellow passengers to look at. If you think you might go crazy, this is not for you.

As @WhyGo on Twitter said – worth it since I was RTW traveling without a RTW ticket (cheaper than 2 weeks of food/lodging/flight) mind-numbing though icon wink An Alternative to One Way Flights   Repositioning Cruises

These trips are generally during the spring and fall
The ships need to move after the cruise season end or the winter begins. You’ll rarely find a repositioning cruise at the height of the cruise season.

Great option if you’re on a RTW trip
If you’re in Brazil in March you can catch a cruise to Europe. If you’re in London in October you could get to the Caribbean or Florida. You just need to time things correctly. Sick of flying? A cruise to the next continent may be a welcome break and a new way to save on a round the world trip.

Significant savings can be had with a repositioning cruise
Cost per day can be as low as $50. A ten day cruise for $500US. A three day cruise for $200US. Yes there are three day repositioning cruises.
But make sure you know what is included when you’re on board the ship. If meals and drinks are extra, make sure you know that beforehand or you could be paying more than you expected to. The cost should ideally be all-inclusive.

But know what your expectations are
As @sing4mike on Twitter – Its not for everyone. I define this as a vacation which is totally different from what I consider “traveling” to be.
All the major cruise lines have repositioning cruises. Contact them directly or your travel agent. Open your favorite search engine and enter “repositioning cruise”. You’ll find plenty of info.
The cruises start in late March and then again in late September.

Whether you’re on a round the world trip, or looking to break or your routine for a few days, or have 3 weeks to cruise from one continent to another, a repositioning cruise may be what you’re looking for.

You’ll find some upcoming cruise examples, prices and ports of call here.

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Have you been on a repositioning cruise? How much did you save? Would you do it again? Let us know in the comments below.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 21, 2010 at 7:41 AM

We've been on a repositioning cruise. There are a couple things to keep in mind.

Pricing doesn't include tips (expect an extra $10-15 USD/day for this per person). The cheaper ships are generally the older, smaller ships (so likely no climbing wall, pool slides, etc). The prices aren't necessarily super discounted as they're plenty of cruisers out there who do these all the time (most of the people on our cruise had done over 20 cruises and some even closer to 100). Since repositioning cruises generally attract the nearly dead, expect the ship activities to be geared to a much older crowd. Also, people traveling solo still have to deal with a single supplement.

That said we had a good time and there are plenty of things to keep yourself entertained while at sea. We ate (obviously), exercised at the gym, read, watched movies in our cabin, caught the evening entertainment, and the days just slipped by.

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brian January 21, 2010 at 12:09 PM

@Anon
Thanks for your firsthand perspective! Anyone reading your comment will gain valuable info if they are planning to take this type of cruise.

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FOGG Odyssey January 21, 2010 at 8:08 PM

I seen your tip on this before and loved it, as I had never heard of it before. Thanks for the follow up post that you did. I'm a solo traveler and trying to rack my mind on how I can get around the single-supplement though.

Any one got any suggestions on that? This is 10x better then taking cargo ships (which normally run about $90-100 per day) and their is nothing to do on those.

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Anonymous January 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM

I'll add a few more things I forgot on the first post.

The price you'll see advertised probably won't include taxes. Our taxes ran us about $75/each. We found a cheaper cruise when booking through the UK (probably due to the currency shifts, so its worth looking around). Also, you'll have to get to the ports (not necessarily easy to get to by public transport) so you could easily add a $25+ taxi ride on each end. And internet on the ship will run you $0.50/min (or more) so you might be spending a week at sea without it.

Anyway, all things totaled up our initial price was around $515/person for a 14 day transatlantic. However, once you added taxes, land transport to/from the port, tips, etc. it was another $280/person.

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brian January 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

@FOGG Odyssey
There is an article on cruise lines waiving the single supplement. If you can get one of these ships, that will be a way avoid the cargo ships and tankers.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35009775/ns/travel-cruising/

@Anon
Thanks for your followup. Great info.

Essentially you paid $800 for 14 days so roughly $60 a day. Still a bargain!

What was the cruise line and what were the beginning and end ports?

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Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 5:30 AM

@ brian

The cruise line was Celebrity and it was from Barcelona to Miami

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Bryan January 25, 2010 at 12:42 PM

Good advice. I wish I had looked into this on my trip (which sadly just ended). We did a cruise once, and I actually think we enjoyed the "cruise" part of the cruise over the sightseeing part because it was so organized and sheltered.

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Aly January 25, 2010 at 12:43 PM

We were looking at this alternative when we where in Colombia wanting to get back up north. I wish I would have ran across this article then! We sailed across the Caribbean so being at sea on an floating city would of been sensory overload for us. Compared to doing a month on a 36ft sailboat with three people on it and 6months on a 35ft with four people!

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brian January 25, 2010 at 3:37 PM

@Anon
Thanks for the follow-up. You added a lot to the conversation.

@Bryan
It's not something most people would think about. You think of a cruise leaving port and then coming back. You would never think of one-way cruises.

@Aly
A cruise ship would have offered plenty of options as opposed to staring at the same 4 people for 6 months! That does not sound like fun at all.

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Sheri February 1, 2010 at 1:03 PM

This is a fabulous idea for road trips as well. Some countries have rental car agreements that make traveling thru another country cost prohibitive. Depending on location, this could be a fun way to take a break from the car, reposition for another trip, and see the country differently.

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brian February 5, 2010 at 5:41 PM

@Sheri
You're right. The 3 day one-way cruises like NYC to Florida would be perfect for that.

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Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 10:58 AM

My wife and I went on a repositioning cruise with Costa December 2 to December 21. This was from Savona in Italy to Buenos Aires it cost around £1000 each, on the cruise I found others who had paid less by shopping around on the internet. We stayed in Buenos Aires for 7 weeks dancing tango every day. We returned on AirEuropa via Madrid. The cruise was very nice, we did not buy one drink because they are expensive. This bit may be of interest – this cruise stops at various places in Europe before crossing the Atlantic. The last stop was Tenerife We got on at Savona but in order to save money and time you can get on at Tenerife. Likewise its first stop in South America was 5 days later at Recife in Brazil 5 you could get off there instead of going all the way to Buenos Aires you have crossed the Atlantic in 5 days on a 19 day cruise! We plan next year to board at Tenerife get off att Rio and fly on to Bs As. Tom

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brian February 16, 2010 at 1:32 PM

@Anon
You sound like you had a great trip. Many of the repositioning cruises DO make port stops. I should have stressed that more in the article.

Just like a regular cruise, they get you with the extra costs on board. Drinks are generally not included and some ships search your bags and confiscate any alcohol!

If you're a big drinker on board a cruise, repositioning or otherwise, account for that in your budget.

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Olivier Wagner September 23, 2010 at 4:43 PM

Hi,

Great post .I made a website for the very purpose of identifying repositioning cruises. It is cruisetosomewhere.com – hope this helps.

Thank you

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brian October 25, 2010 at 8:18 PM

Thanks for the link!

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Stacey October 25, 2010 at 3:17 PM

I love this idea! It’s perfect for people who want to get somewhere cheaply and have plenty of time to take the slow route! :)

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brian October 25, 2010 at 8:17 PM

Definitely different. Just have to think about being on a boat for days at a time crossing an ocean.

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Anne June 27, 2011 at 4:33 AM

I did a repositioning cruise in mid November. I flew to Rio visited Salvador, Fortaleza then crossed the Atlantic for 5 days. Nice crossing. Called in at Sta Cruz, Casablanca, Gibraltar,Palma,Valletta and Venice. MSC Musica was a beautiful ship. No single supplement but I paid extra for a balcony only £400 more for a lengthy cruise.Couldn’t have done The Atlantic in an inside cabin. There was a mixture of ages onboard and lots of nationalities. The shows were very good. A mixture of classical and showbusiness. Cabins were beautiful , food fantastic. All flights and cruise cost about £1800 for 21 nights. Great value as I,ve often paid £1000 single supplement for a Hawaiian holiday.

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brian June 28, 2011 at 12:08 AM

The inside cabin on any cruise sounds horrible. Even if it is endless miles and miles of ocean I’d prefer a view of something. Roughly looking at the numbers, £1800 = $2900 US over 21 days is about $138 per day. That may seem pricey but considering you’re getting room, board, all meals (I’m presuming) and a trip across the Atlantic, I’d almost call that a bargain.

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