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Repositioning cruises: One-way adventures with value

SmarterTravel

Twice a year, ships that sail in seasonal regions need to relocate to more appealing waters. You might expect these one-way journeys to be perfunctory, hurried affairs, but cruise companies have instead turned them into a special kind of sailing called the repositioning or “repo” cruise, which ultimately provides added value for enthusiastic cruisers.

The basic trend for repo cruises is to move ships towards warmer climates in the fall and towards cooler destinations in the spring. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line’s April 27 repo cruise aboard the Norwegian Sun from Los Angeles to Vancouver placed it near Alaskan waters just in time for the start of the summer season, while its 13-day Baltimore to Miami cruise aboard the Norwegian Crown in November will position it perfectly for a busy winter season in the Caribbean. This process is akin to cruise industry osmosis, in which cruise lines aim to acheive the perfect balance of ships for shifting consumer demands.

Repositioning cruises are unique in that they tend to be longer than regular sailings, since they are often covering long distances, with average length falling in the 10- to 20-day range. Longer haul examples include Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen, Los Angeles to Sydney, and Osaka, Japan, to Seattle. The shortest repo cruises are usually no less than seven days in length, although you can occasionally find sailings in the three- to five-day range. Shorter repo cruises often involve moving within home waters, such as between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Boston and New York, or New York and Miami.

People sometimes assume that repo cruises have fewer ports-of-call than regular cruises. While in some cases this may be true, you can still expect a variety of ports along the way. And often, lines go out of their way to make sure that your time aboard is full of extra activities. According to Jennifer de la Cruz, company spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines, the line often adds activities such as more classes and supplementary entertainment acts for passengers on its longer repo cruises to keep everyone busy and happy.

De la Cruz also says that repositioning cruises tend to offer great value, especially when you consider the daily rate. For instance, rates for the 16-day Miami to San Diego Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Spirit that departed March 30 for the Panama Canal, with ports-of-call in Columbia, Costa Rica, and four Mexico destinations, started at $1,249 per person, based on double occupancy. While that may seem like a hefty sum up front, the cost comes out to just $78 per day, including accommodations, food, and entertainment. Plus, since repo sailings stray slightly off the beaten path, your cruise can offer combined itineraries and a chance to call at less-visited ports.

Repositioning cruises are scheduled in advance, so you can generally find and book them through traditional avenues such as travel agents, online cruise sellers, or the cruise lines’ own sites. Some sites, such as Norwegian Cruise Line’s, even have a page that lists its current repositioning specials.

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