Many folks are not familiar with a repositioning cruise (repo cruise) but once you learn about them you may be a fan of the great value. As my travel agent told me “you can’t live at home for that price” and she is right (sorta). Just like the birds that fly south for the winter, cruise ships need to move about the world to reposition for the various seasons. Europe in summer is big cruise season in the Mediterranean so many ships leave their winter ports in the Caribbean and Florida to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to their summer ports in Europe. From bases like Barcelona, England (Harwich and Southampton), Venice, Rome and Istanbul, the ships are ready to welcome guests. The cruise companies don’t want the ships to sail empty so they’d rather fire sale the repositioning cruise to fill it up and hope for big spenders for all of the extras (there are lots of extras – wine, spa, experiences, etc.).
Sailing across the Atlantic on a repositioning cruise isn’t fun for those who want to be in port everyday, you see the sea, everyday for at least 8-10+ days with no port stops. Look out the window and it’s just like yesterday and tomorrow – water everywhere. Not everyone’s cup of tea until you see that the lowest price for an 11 day cruise on a larger ship like the Norwegian Epic is $399 per person plus taxes/fees (the solo studios are a bit more). My travel agent is right, for 11 days at home, I’m sure I spend more than that. The basic price gets you fed and fed pretty well. Everything else is additional like the following (not an all-inclusive list):
- Staff Gratuities (required) about $150 per person
- Specialty restaurants have an additional fee
- Alcohol, specialty drinks (including Starbucks), sodas, bottled water, will be additional
- Spa services – additional fee
- Wi-Fi (I cruise to be disconnected others need their social media fix) – very expensive additional fee for slow speeds
- Exercise classes – additional fee for that downward dog
- Laundry – additional fee
- Seminars/Activities – additional
No biggie you say – You will happily eat the included foods, drink only the free drinks and not spend another dime. Ok, I’ve seen folks do this, live frugality on the ship but the kicker is the ONE WAY return flight home. As most flights are priced as roundtrip (return) flights, this is the part of the cruise that can often break the decision to go. Great time to use your miles/points.
5 Tips for a Repositioning Cruise
1. Budget – be realistic. It’s definitely much more than advertised! Find a good cruise travel agent
- Cruise: Base Price + Taxes/Fees + Gratuities (Mandatory) + Drinks + Fun + 20% cushion for surprises + Airfare Home
- Destination: Sightseeing, Accommodation, Food, Souvenirs, Cruise Port Transit, Airport Transit
2. Are you ok to see nothing but the inside of a ship for long sea days? Spending all that time with your companion in a small cabin?
- Sleeping late, lounging at the pool, visiting the casino, eating, working out, seminars, movies, entertainment, the bar, the spa, etc? You’ll definitely be as busy as you want to be. If you want to write that novel now’s your chance! Want to clear out your kindle queue, find a lounge chair and start reading! (update: I was so busy on the repositioning cruise, I didn’t open that book or find that lounge chair!)
3. What type of ship do you want for your repositioning cruise?
- Large mass market 5,000+ people? Mid-Market 2,000+ people? Small, Intimate? In my opinion, if you want to be busy at sea, pick a larger ship with more restaurants, more activities, more to do. If you want to do nothing but sleep in, swim, read and relax, then the smaller ships will be better. If you are a foodie, then find the ship that does the best food (note it won’t be the massive ships in my opinion)
4. When you arrive at the new port, will you immediately jump on a plane home?
- If yes – that’s no fun! Don’t go back to work already -roll the dice again until it says “EXPLORE”
- If no – good for you! Time to explore the new culture, indulge in the food/wine and support the economy with private guides and local artisan souvenirs
5. Where do you want to reposition to?
- Transatlantic – to Europe in April and back to the U.S. in November
- Transpacific – more sea days but the reward is Asia or Australia. On the way to Sydney stop you can stop at Pacific islands (who does want to go to Bora Bora?).
- Do a portion of the repositioning cruise – I lucked out on a bespoke itinerary in November from Venice to Lisbon. Despite it being winter, we had a great time in the various cities because there were so few crowds. We saw the cities as the local do. In fact, one town Eze was closed (yes, the town was closed) and had the whole place to ourselves – that was pretty cool.
The Repositioning Cruise True Costs
So for the $399 advertised teaser fare for the repositioning cruise fare above, I’d estimate the lowest all in cost to be $1,700 (if you are flying to Turkey) – $2,200 which frankly isn’t bad considering eleven days of food, accommodation, flight and maybe an extra day at the destination. Considering this is normal coach summer fare to Europe, you can definitely find value in the repositioning cruise option. So let’s go! Who’s with me? I’ll bring the books, the cookies should be included.
So what say you? Would you sail on a repositioning cruise and if so, where would you go?