Discover Repositioning Cruises
One-way sailings are perfect for those
who love to be on the ocean
By Rebecca Matheson Ortiz
However, each morning before leaving the ship at our fabulous ports of call, there was a part of me that wanted to linger on board to test my skills on the rock climbing wall, try new restaurants and lounge by the pool, drink in hand. I felt the old adage nagging at me: So much to do and so little time -- we wouldn't get to enjoy all the amenities during our weeklong trip. Repositioning cruises solve that problem.
What is a repositioning cruise? It's the journey a ship makes when it transitions to a new home port between sailing seasons. For instance, in the fall vessels migrate across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to Florida embarkation ports, from which they'll begin tropical sailings that last through winter. The following spring, they make the trek back to Barcelona, Venice, Copenhagen and other European cities to start another period of Mediterranean or Baltic cruising.
Rather than letting them go empty, cruise lines offer attractive pricing to fill berths for one-way jaunts. These are laid-back journeys, and they appeal especially to travelers who love to be on the water and want to savor leisurely days where they can do as much -- or as little -- as they wish.
While you'll spend long stretches at sea, repositioning cruises do incorporate a few stops along their routes. Some ships linger in Spain's Canary Islands, about 60 miles west of Morocco, before crossing the Atlantic, and those moving from the Caribbean to Alaskan waters will transit the Panama Canal and spend time in ports in Mexico and Central America.
From a per-diem perspective, these itineraries traditionally are more affordable than their round-trip counterparts. For example: On a 15-night sailing departing Dec. 8 from Miami to Santiago, Chile, on the Norwegian Sun, you can enjoy cozy accommodations and a wide array of food and activities for $849 -- that's just $56 per night. Along with a transit of the Panama Canal, six days at sea dot the itinerary between dockings along the South American coast in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
Refurbished in 2016, the 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun boasts a spa, casino and entertainment such as the "Rock You Tonight" shows that feature tributes to icons like Journey and Queen. Fourteen dining options include Brazilian, Japanese, Italian and French cuisines. The Splash Academy is on hand to keep children entertained with arts and crafts and themed nights, giving parents a break. The Norwegian Sun also harbors a jogging track and a library so guests can stay physically and mentally fit.
The most popular repositionings travel between the United States and Europe. Celebrity Cruises' 3,030-guest Celebrity Reflection leaves Civitavecchia, Italy -- the port for Rome -- on Oct. 20 and reaches Fort Lauderdale, FL, two weeks later. It calls at three cities on the Spanish mainland -- Barcelona, Cartagena and Malaga -- then spends a day in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands (famous for its beaches, in hues from golden to black sand).
After that, there are seven languid days at sea to investigate the Reflection, the newest ship in Celebrity's Solstice class. Book an organic sea salt scrub or vitamin infusion facial in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and loosen muscles in the herbal sauna or steam room. Show off your kitchen skills in a cooking competition styled after the Quickfire Challenges of Bravo's "Top Chef." Take a self-guided tour of the ship's art with the aid of an interactive iPad, or take a peek at the engine room, main galley and the bridge on a behind-the-scenes excursion.
And, 14 nights of sailing provide ample opportunity to sample the ship's culinary offerings, from the pastries, gelato and coffee concoctions of cozy Cafe al Bacio to the superb, exquisitely served French dishes of Murano. Prices begin at $1,149, or $82 a night.
A 13-night venture aboard the 3,835-passenger Navigator of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International sets off from Southampton, England, on Nov. 6, and spends six consecutive days on the open water before dropping anchor in Boston and then New York, where it overnights at the dock. After a couple more sea days and 12 hours in Port Canaveral, FL, the liner pulls into Miami.
Put aside any worries about cabin fever while on the 15-deck Navigator. You can master the FlowRider -- a surf and boogie board simulator -- tackle the rock climbing wall, play mini-golf, ice skate, join yoga classes, attend a Broadway-style performance and more. There are 13 bars, clubs and lounges where guests can dance the night away and savor sips of frosty tropical libations and classic cocktails.
Specialty restaurants run the gamut from the Italian Giovanni's Table to Chops Grille, the resident steakhouse, and Izumi Japanese Cuisine, where you can nosh on top-quality sushi. The main dining room and Windjammer Cafe dish up tasty creations daily. Prices for this getaway begin at $738, or $56 a night.
Beginning April 11, 2018, a 29-night Holland America Line getaway (don't worry, there's a launderette on board!) on the 1,440-passenger Volendam transports guests from Yokohama, Japan (about 25 miles from Tokyo) to Vancouver, British Columbia, with 13 at-sea days and port calls across Asia and Alaska. These include 10 Japanese destinations such as Okinawa, Hiroshima and Osaka; Busan, South Korea; and Shanghai before the ship crosses the international date line and visits the Alaskan towns of Kodiak and Ketchikan.
The ship will navigate the Inside Passage, where sharp-eyed cruisers may spot whales, bald eagles and sea lions. On the vessel, guests can enjoy a culinary arts center, piano bar, fitness room, tennis and basketball courts, spa, salon and more. Prices for this sailing start at $4,429, or $153 a night.
For a far-flung Polynesian fling, Oceania Cruises' elegant 1,258-passenger Marina explores the islands of the Pacific Ocean, leaving from Papeete, Tahiti, on March 19, 2018, for an 18-night adventure that concludes in Los Angeles. Stops in French Polynesia's Society and Marquesas islands include the unspoiled isles of Bora Bora and Nuku Hiva, which offer glimpses of volcanoes, waterfalls and lush vegetation and strolls on white-sand beaches.
The next leg of the jaunt takes you to Hawaii, where you can experience the full spectrum of the aloha spirit on the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai before the final stretch to California. When you're not soaking up the tropical beauty of the islands, you'll have 10 full days to explore the Marina.
The ship was designed for epicureans and touts wine seminars, tastings, food pairings, a hands-on cooking school and the restaurant Jacques, which features a menu of dishes created by master chef Jacques Pepin. Prices start at $3,499, or $194 a day. (Oceania does not levy a surcharge for its specialty restaurants, and soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees are included in the fare.)
Some repositioning cruises have special themes, and a 15-night Nov. 10 Atlantic crossing with luxury line Silversea Cruises from Barcelona to Bridgetown, Barbados, serves up two: wine and the game of bridge. Experts come aboard the 296-passenger Silver Wind for talks on winemaking accompanied by sipping and sampling; there's also an optional shore excursion from Casablanca that explores Morocco's growing wine industry. Meanwhile, certified masters from the American Contract Bridge League will oversee a program of contract and duplicate bridge with daily games (twice a day while at sea) and also give lectures for newcomers to the game.
As for the journey, it starts with a transit through the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea between Morocco's northern tip and Spain's southern coast. In addition to Casablanca, you'll get to check out Agadir in Morocco and the scenic Canary Islands -- the last land you'll set foot on before hopping the pond.
Aboard the all-suite Silver Wind, you can dine at a renowned Relais & Chateaux restaurant, take a seat in the show lounge that hosts entertainment ranging from films to classical concerts, shop designer brands in boutiques and enjoy a snifter of cognac and a fine cigar in the Connoisseur's Corner.
Prices start at $6,700, making it the most expensive of our suggestions at around $450 a day for a six-star vacation with ocean-view accommodations, impeccable service and fine cuisine. But consider this: The upfront rate includes gratuities, beverages in your suite and throughout the vessel (including wine, beer and spirits), butler service, in-room dinners served course by course and transportation from the pier into town.
For more options and to browse itineraries and dates, contact the repositioning cruise experts at Vacations To Go.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Summer 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.