Cruises are funny. For some, they are a passion, an obsession even. For others, mention cruises and you get, “Meh, I don’t get it. Not for me.” I’m part of the passion camp. The whole idea of being in the middle of the ocean with the pink sands of Bermuda still lingering in my mind, as I’m spirited away to a new destination, is magical. Combined with all of the restaurants, the casino, pools, bars, activities and new friends to meet, and you have my idea of a superb vacation. But, good cruises don’t come cheap. The very best can run into the high four figure – low five figure range. The secret to taking more cruises for less money is to learn the ins and outs of a little secret called Repositioning Cruises.
Understanding Repositioning Cruises
Many cruise ships operate in certain regions during specific time frames during the year. Then they move to a different region to accommodate the changes in season. For example, once they finish doing their circuits out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami to the Caribbean, they often head to Europe for magnificent journeys through the Baltics or the Norwegian Fjords for the summer season. But, on the trip across the Atlantic they are often operating at 50% capacity or less.
In order to fill up the ship and make the staff earn their keep, they slash the prices to rock bottom and sometimes even completely do away with the solo supplement you usually pay. This year I sailed 14 nights from Tampa, Florida to Copenhagen, Denmark in a balcony room, all by myself, for a tiny $770 USD with no single supplement. An inside cabin was about $550, that’s less than $40 per night! Who goes to their room anyway, right? Of course, you can upgrade to a Concierge Suite with your own butler once you’re on board, but unless you’re on your honeymoon and want special services and amenities in your cabin, go party! In September-October, many ships reposition back to the US and one particular cruise line offered, a 15 night cruise from Spain through Aruba and St Maarten to Panama for $250 with no single supplement.
TransPacific options are usually not as cheap, because they go through year-round, popular ports like Hawaii and Tahiti, but it pays to identify some good cruise sites to monitor as good deals do pop up from time to time. There are also San Diego – Vancouver and Alaska – Hawaii options (which have back to backs to Asia or Australia) if you don’t have much time off work. Asia, Africa, South America and South Pacific journeys are available for the more adventurous travelers with more free time.
Where To Find Repositioning Cruises
There are a number of groups, web pages etc. that share information about cruise repositioning. It’s getting pretty popular with regular cruisers and they want you to join them at the poker table.
Some of the better sites and groups are:
I’m also a member of Travel Hacking Resources on Facebook. They find great deals on airfares that help me take advantage of repositioning opportunities. Vacationstogo splits the cruises up into categories for you. You can search for repositioning, or for cruises with no single supplement etc.
Stay on board: The Back to Back option
Once they have you on board, the cruise operators want to keep you. If you are retired, or get good vacation time and you can be flexible, don’t book a flight home. This is too uncertain for some, I completely understand. But if you don’t have to be at work at 9am the morning after the last day of the cruise, you can usually get a great deal on a back to back cruise at the Future Cruises Desk on the ship.
Some lines even offer future cruise bonus credits. I bought $500 worth of cruise credits for $250. Then I bought the very next cruise, after this Transatlantic one, the day before I was due to disembark.
I got a steal on the back to back 7 night round-trip cruise from Copenhagen, which toured the Norwegian Fjords featuring Alesund, Geirangerfjord and Bergen. I already had a $500 credit so for another $110 I journeyed on for 7 nights into the incredibly beautiful Norwegian Fjords (get a balcony for this one!) from Denmark, for $360. I also managed to convince a friend I had met on board it was a bargain too good to pass up and she joined me.
The next back to back on this ship was also round-trip. Departing again from Copenhagen, this 9 night Baltic Sea adventure included Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. I bought more half price cruise credits and booked the this cruise for about the same price, $360. My 30 night cruise visiting 9 amazing countries could have cost as little as $1220 if I had not chosen the balcony. And I only had to unpack my bags once! Think about this. I:
- found a 14 night Repositioning Cruise from Florida to Denmark with a Balcony Room for $770,
- bought $500 worth of cruise credits while I was on the ship for $250,
- used those credits plus $110 to score cabin on the 7 night cruise through the Norwegian Fjords,
- Bought more half price credits to use towards a 9 night Baltics cruise, and
- ended up with 30 nights of cruising for less than $1500, an average price of less than $50 night! And I could have gotten it cheaper.
If you haven’t taken a cruise and you want an economical voyage, try a repositioning cruise. The odds are you’ll have more fun per dollar spent than a land-based vacation! If you’re already a cruise lover or veteran, I hope these tips help inspire you to book your next voyage. You CAN live the repositioning dream and see the world in luxury and comfort.
Watch this space for more cruise tips on how to spend less, with more tales of my adventures on the high seas in a tin can full of crazies that party til 4am. I’ll see you out there!