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Repositioning cruises explained


Manuela wants to book a cruise and has heard about repositioning cruises but isn’t quite sure how they work (and how she’ll get home). So Leon gives her the lowdown on why repositioning cruises may be the best value voyages.



Q. Manuela
I’ve been saving up for a cruise and I now have enough money and the time to book. I’d like to go on a long cruise and have heard that repositioning cruises can be fun and also good value. But I don’t really know how they work. Do I have to book airfare home? Where do they depart and where will they take me?


A. While some cruise ships will stick to the same homeport in one country, others move around according to the seasons. Rather than sail an empty vessel, cruise lines prefer to fill them with passengers and quite often offer cut-price rates to get them aboard.


These one-way cruises are called repositioning cruises, and they usually sail on a route that is not offered as a regular cruise route.


Depending on which route you choose, a repositioning cruise from Sydney, Brisbane or Fremantle may drop in on ports along the Southeast coastline of Asia, or pull in at various Hawaiian or Tahitian ports, even Bali, Malaysia or the Philippines.


You could fly to Alaska and take a cruise back to the west coast of the United States or try a trip to Europe and catch a cruise to the Mediterranean. Of course, this will mean you’ll need a return airfare, whereas a repositioning cruise from an Australian port will mean you only need a one-way plane ticket home.


Still, the rates at which these ‘repo’ cruises are sometimes offered could mean you get the airfare and the cruise for the price of a regular cruise. And besides, a return ticket can be around the same price as a one-way, so if you have your heart set on a European cruise, maybe this will be your ideal opportunity.


Oh, and some cruise lines also offer one-way fares home as part of the deal. 



Repo cruises usually spend more days at sea, and so they can be quite relaxing, if you’re into being out of touch and on the open water. Of course, some routes are rougher than others, but the bigger the ship, the less you’ll feel it. Many cruise lines will theme a repositioning cruise, so you could have a chance to try your hand at cookery classes, wine tasting, salsa dancing or have a go at skydiving.


Check out the itineraries first and make sure you won’t be bored. Pulling into ports is exciting, if you like the countries you’re visiting, but long days at sea without sufficient stimulation can make them seem even longer.


If you’re after a relaxing vibe, try Princess, Holland America or Celebrity, or if it’s fun and activities that you’re chasing, try Royal Caribbean or Carnival.


Also, be aware that the weather could change dramatically if you’re leaving one hemisphere for the other, so pack accordingly.


To find a repositioning cruise, look for countries that have specific cruising seasons. Alaska, for example, won’t sail in winter, because the seas freeze up on some parts of the normal routes. Autumn in the northern hemisphere is the best time to find a repo cruise in this region. You could take a cruise from Alaska to California, Hawaii or even as far as the Panama Canal.


Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas sails from Honolulu to Sydney in September, and Holland America’s Noordam leaves Vancouver for Sydney in September as well.


Then in spring, they cruise from east coast ports, such as New York and Florida, to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Bermuda. You can even find cruises to Asia, South America or Africa.


You could try flying to the UK and catching the CMV Astor from London back to Fremantle (that’s a long one, though). From the southern hemisphere, ships sail from Australia in the autumn season over to Singapore, Hawaii, Tahiti or Los Angeles. I will say, though, that if you’re looking to cruise this year, you may have missed the season to sail from Australia, although there may still be berths on P&O Australia’s Pacific Aria leaving Brisbane in July. Or, if you’re happy to wait until 2019, you’ll have a range to choose from, such as the Princess Cruises Golden Princess, which leaves Sydney for Los Angeles in April next year; Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas which heads to Honolulu from Sydney in April, as does Celebrity Solstice.


To find out which lines are leaving when, visit their websites and look for promotions for repositioning cruises. You’ll be amazed at how inexpensive they can be.


Hope that helps!


If you have a Travel SOS question, email it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can!


Have you ever taken a repositioning cruise? Did you enjoy it? Was it good value for money?


Related articles:
Cruising extras worth the money
Your cruising questions answered
Cruising on a budget

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