For cruisers, fall and spring mean more than just transitioning wardrobes. These seasons are among the prime times of year for repositioning cruises.
Though some ships spend 365 days sailing the same itineraries or sticking to the same regions, many relocate a few times a year - depending on the season - from Canada/New England to the Caribbean or Alaska to Mexico, for example. Cruise lines sell these one-way routes (usually at a discount), rather than sail the ships without passengers. These voyages, known as repositioning cruises, are sometimes themed with subjects ranging from theater to wine, while others are enhanced with enrichment options, such as guest lecturers.
The following are answers to some of the questions about repo cruises that we're asked most frequently here at Cruise Critic.
How do I find a repositioning cruise?
Look to regions that have very specific annual seasons. For example, ships that spend summertime in Alaska have no choice but to relocate come September, and they frequently offer unique itineraries along the coast of California to Hawaii or through the Panama Canal. (They travel the opposite route in the springtime.) Also 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 Mediterranean or Northern European sailings. This often happens in fall and spring. Other repositioning itineraries journey to Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Why should I take a repositioning cruise?
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. Repositioning cruises often incorporate a multitude of sea days, offering a more relaxing vacation without hectic, back-to-back port calls. Finally, when ships reposition, you save: Per-diem rates for repositioning cruises are often much lower than they are for "regular" sailings. However, this brings us to our next point...
What are the downsides?
Because repositioning cruises begin in one city and end in another - sometimes many, many miles away - passengers are often responsible for picking up typically expensive one-way or open-jaw flights. Be on the lookout for cruise deals that include the one-way fare, which make a repositioning cruise an extraordinarily good value. For some passengers, spending days on end in the middle of nowhere - particularly on ocean crossings - is more maddening than relaxing. Plus, repositioning voyages tend to be long (some nearly a month), which often limits them to retired seafarers and the lucky few with a decent amount of vacation time.
Intrigued? Read on for details on several of our favorite repositioning cruises for and .
Editor's Note: Remember, these are just a few of the many repositioning cruises available. Contact your favorite cruise line or travel agent for more options.
The Ship: Disney Magic
The Trip: Port Canaveral to Dover, 14-night transatlantic cruise
Departs: May 15
Itinerary: Port Canaveral, Boston, Sydney (Nova Scotia), Dublin, Liverpool, Dover
The Perks: This two-week transatlantic voyage is great for passengers interested in a Disney cruise without the summer crowds. Rather than sailing directly to Dover, Disney Magic will travel up the East Coast - with stops in Boston and Nova Scotia - before making its way across the Atlantic. Disney appeals to all ages with its dedicated adults-only areas, spacious standard cabins, top-rated kids clubs and first-run Disney movies.
Who Should Go: This itinerary is ideal for travelers looking for a rare two-week Disney cruise or one that has fewer kids onboard than normal. It's also great for the dedicated Disney Cruise Line fan who wants to try a different itinerary than the line's standard Bahamas and Caribbean.
The Ship: Star Princess
The Trip: Santiago (Valparaiso) to Los Angeles, 17-night South America cruise
Departs: March 14
Itinerary: Santiago (Valparaiso), La Serena (Coquimbo), Pisco (San Martin), Lima (Callao), Puntarenas, San Juan del Sur, Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles
The Perks: This sailing is a good balance between busy days of sightseeing and relaxing days at sea. But the most interesting part of this cruise is its unique itinerary - stops throughout Chile, Peru, Costa Rica Nicaragua and Mexico - which will take you to ports rich in culture, cuisines and shore excursion opportunities. The ship itself has great drink and dining offerings, strong enrichment programs and a sophisticated ambiance that only add to the 5, 600-mile journey.
Who Should Go: This cruise is suited to more adventurous travelers looking to experience as many interesting locales as possible during a single voyage. For passengers who live in or near Los Angeles, this sailing is an even better value, and only requires airfare one way.
The Ship: Norwegian Pearl
The Trip: Vancouver to Seattle, 10-night Glacier Bay cruise
Departs: May 5
Itinerary: Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Victoria, Seattle
The Perks: The month of May marks the start of Alaska season, and this port-heavy itinerary is perfect for passengers seeking a good balance of scenic cruising, diverse wildlife and city stops. Apart from scenic cruising of the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, this sailing includes a single sea day and full-day stops at some of Alaska's most popular ports.
Who Should Go: People looking for a longer-than-normal Alaska cruise with extra port stops will enjoy this action-packed 10-night itinerary. Just be aware that the weather can still be chilly in the spring months, and open-jaw airfare into Vancouver and out of Seattle might be more expensive than a round trip out of either city. Cruisers with lots of time on their hands can opt for the full, 31-night repositioning from Miami, which sails through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
The Ship: Celebrity Summit
The Trip: San Juan to Cape Liberty, eight-night Bermuda and Caribbean cruise
Departs: April 23
Itinerary: San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, King's Wharf, Cape Liberty
The Perks: The sailing offers a nice mix of sea days and port days; you're never onboard or in port for too many days in a row. Plus, Celebrity Summit is absolutely loaded with fun amenities, including a special Top Chef menu, big-name stage shows, themed events (including a "Frozen"-inspired white party) and live music at the ship's bars and lounges.
Who Should Go: This cruise is the perfect Caribbean getaway for passengers living in the Northeast, especially those who can get away with just booking a one-way flight to San Juan and then driving home from New Jersey. Active types will make the most of the dynamic ship and ports.