Cruise ships at sunset.

Excellent values, unique itineraries and the chance to enjoy leisurely days at sea are a few draws of repositioning cruises. (Getty Images)

In the cruise industry, typically in spring and fall, cruise lines relocate many of their ships to new ports. During these seasonal repositioning sailings one-way voyages that cruise companies sell at a reduced price as ships switch locations from Europe and the Caribbean to new home ports – there are significant savings to be had. In the summer, for example, many ships call on Alaska or Europe. Conversely, in the winter, ships relocate from Alaska and the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. Often these routes are unique, with more days at sea, and yield generous discounts. However there are some caveats to consider. While these cruises tend to offer themed onboard programming and activities along with extra perks like free Wi-Fi connectivity, they are longer and call at fewer ports, making them well-suited for those looking for peace and quiet rather than those craving nonstop activity on vacation.

[See: The 2017 Best Cruise Lines for the Money.]

To help you determine whether a repositioning cruise is right for you, U.S. News asked cruise experts to share the key benefits of these one-way sailings, and what to expect onboard.

You Can Snag a Deal

According to Greg Antonelle, managing director of MickeyTravels LLC, a Disney-focused travel agency based in New Jersey, a big reason to take a repositioning cruise is the substantial cost savings. "Repositioning cruises, regardless of the specific cruise line, will almost always be a more cost-effective option than a 'normal' cruise," he says. "Another great benefit is that the ships tend to be less crowded during a repositioning cruise, meaning less hustle and bustle and a higher likelihood of a more relaxing cruise," he adds. Antonelle suggests a 14-night Halloween cruise on the Disney Wonder that departs from San Diego on Oct. 27 and visits the Panama Canal as a great bargain for families. Ports include San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, Cartagena, Colombia and the Cayman Islands, among other destinations.

Voyages Are Less Port-Intensive

For travelers looking for a more laid-back vacation, a repositioning cruise can be a great option, says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of CruiseCritic.com. Unlike port-intensive itineraries, repositioning cruises have more sea days to allow for a more relaxing vacation without the need to constantly be on the go from port to port, she says. "On long repositioning cruises, an added benefit is built-in camaraderie. You really get to know passengers when you spend a week on a ship – no port days with them," McDaniel adds.

[See: 10 Things You Shouldn't Do on a Cruise.]

You Can Opt for a Shorter Voyage

Another perk to a repositioning cruise is that in addition to longer journeys, there are also a number of two- to three-day repositioning cruises that are perfect to experience a new cruise line, McDaniel says. "If you're hesitant to sail with a different line on a longer trip, but are interested in exploring new options, a repositioning cruise is a perfect sampler," she adds.

You'll Start and End at Different Ports

Starting and ending your cruise in two different ports can create a unique travel experience. "The beauty about repositioning voyages is that travelers can combine two or more very different regions of the world in one unforgettable adventure and at an immense value," says Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers repositioning voyages that take cruisers to more than 425 worldwide destinations on six continents. For instance, guests can marvel at the urban splendor of Dubai and embrace the exciting nightlife of Hong Kong on the 33-night voyage aboard Seven Seas Voyager, departing Nov. 14, or combine the sultry colors of Rio de Janeiro with Barcelona's vibrant cultural scene on a 17-night voyage aboard Seven Seas Mariner, departing on Feb. 25, 2018.

You Can Experience a New Ship at a Discount

Sailing on newer ships can be expensive, however, consider a repositioning cruise as a way to experience a new ship at a discount. Carnival Horizon's repositioning cruise from Europe to the U.S. next spring provides an opportunity to visit beautiful ports across two continents on its newest ship. Carnival Horizon, which will offer a 14-day transatlantic crossing departing from Barcelona on May 9, 2018, and will arrive in New York City on May 23, 2018, will include stops in ports such as Malaga and Vigo, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal, as well as at Halifax, Nova Scotia. "Longer length repositioning cruises represent some of the best values in travel with affordable rates and interesting itineraries that visit a variety of beautiful destinations, as well as a wide range of fun and interesting activities on board," says Terry Thornton, Carnival Cruise Line's senior vice president of port operations.

[See: The Top 5 Places to Cruise This Summer.]

You Can Avoid Added Costs With Prior Planning

A repositioning cruise may take more time to plan than a traditional cruise. Because you begin and end in different ports, higher airfare costs and pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations should be factored in. "Many times, you'll find these trips priced lower than a normal sailing, but remember you'll also need to book open-jaw flights, which could be a bit pricier," McDaniel explains.

Tags: travel, vacations, cruises


Erica Lamberg has contributed to U.S. News & World Report since 2015. In addition, she has worked as a correspondent for Gannett for over 15 years, writing business features, book profiles, special section features and travel articles. Under Gannett’s news umbrella, Erica was recently named a lifestyle and travel expert for USA Today's 10 Best platform. Erica’s writing credits also include Bankrate.com, where she writes about personal finance, real estate and travel topics, and she is a regular contributor to well-regarded travel sites including Fodor’s Travel and Cruise Critic. Erica is also a former education and travel correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Erica is also a sought-after author of health content and writes several monthly features for the digital platform of Reader’s Digest. She is also a writing consultant and is retained by corporations in the real estate, higher education and healthcare industries. Erica is based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow Erica on Twitter.

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