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Making the move

Repositional cruises can offer unique itineraries for bargain prices. Anthony Pearce looks at some of the most interesting options

As you might expect, a repositional (or repositioning cruise) is an itinerary that moves a ship from one region to another. While some ships plot a path across the world, from one destination to the next, the overwhelming majority leave and return to a seasonal homeport. 

That might be a seven-night cruise from Barcelona to Rome, then seven nights from Rome to Venice, back again to Rome, then Barcelona. The ship might then head back the same way, or head on another route. This is particularly true of the Caribbean, where ships sail from Florida down to the islands and back again. But, at the end of a season, as winter approaches, the ships will be moved to a different part of the world – perhaps from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean; Alaska to South America; or Antarctica to the Arctic, creating some of the lengthiest and most unique itineraries. 

Given the costs of operating a ship, cruise lines don’t like to sail without passengers on board and will avoid it if possible, hence these sailings. 

They’re not always flagged as ‘repositional’ though – you’ll sometimes see them as ‘taster’, ‘discovery’ or transatlantic voyages (although, of course, Cunard specialises in transatlantic voyages year-round), but they’re relatively easy to spot. In this feature, we’re not just talking about open-ended cruises, but those between-season sailings that open up new destinations.

It’s not always the case, but they can often be snapped up for a decent price. For those with smaller budgets but a desire to do something a little bit different, and the luxury of a lot of time, they’re a great bet, although flights from two different destinations can push the price up considerably.

Coast aerial view of Barcelona at night in Spain.

Here we look at some of the best 2020 and 2021 options.

Silversea has a number of exceptional repositional cruises, including a Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon itinerary on Silver Shadow (March 27, 2020 from £3,900pp), but the one that really caught our eye was a 20-night sailing from the tip of South America across the South Atlantic Ocean to South Africa. Departing from Ushuaia on February 28, 2020 this Silver Cloud sailing takes in the Falkland Islands and then spends three full days (four nights) in South Georgia, one of the most incredible destinations on earth for wildlife
and home to millions of penguins. Calls here are usually limited to longer Antarctica cruises, but not
the standard voyages. For customers who have already taken in the Antarctica peninsula, but not South Georgia, this cruise makes a lot of sense (from £11,800pp).

Poseidon Expeditions repositions its ship, Sea Spirit, on a March 18, 2020 sailing from Montevideo, the fascinating capital of Uruguay, across the Atlantic to Cape Verde, arriving April 4 with no other stops on the way (from £1,800pp).

Uniquely, Windstar Cruises has repositional coastal cruises, which are shorter than most voyages listed here. Its seven-day Puerto Vallarta to San Diego cruise transfers from Mexico to the West Coast of America allowing guests to follow in the footsteps of John Steinbeck and Jacques Cousteau by exploring the Baja peninsula’s historic mission towns and wildlife-rich Sea of Cortez (from $1,499pp).

Ponant has a 15-day cruise on Le Boréal, departing on April 25, 2020 from Miami that arrives in Lisbon on May 9. Ports of call include Nassau, Bahamas; Saint George’s, Bermuda; and Horta and Ponta Delgada, Azores. It includes nine days at sea – plenty of time to finish that book you’ve been putting off reading (from £2,714pp).

Azamara, unsurprisingly, has a couple of incredible repositionals. Its 23-night Spice Route Voyage on Azamara Pursuit departs on  May 27, 2021 from Singapore and heads to Greece via some unusual and fascinating ports. It calls at Hambantota and Colombo, Sri Lanka; Kochi, India; Salalah, Oman; Safaga and the Suez Canal, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan; Ashdod, Israel; and Heraklion, Crete and Piraeus, for Athens (from £3,100pp). 

Scenic takes the, er, scenic route on a voyage from Dublin to Boston on a 20-night sailing on September 8, 2021. Instead of heading across the Atlantic, Scenic Eclipse traverses the Arctic Circle, taking in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada’s Nova Scotia en route (from £14,955). 

For those wanting to sail from the UK, Crystal Cruises has a 21-night Epic Atlantic Crossing from Dover to New York on Crystal Serenity on August 27, 2021 calling at Amsterdam (overnight), Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Honfleur (overnight), St Malo and Portland. It then returns to the UK
at Southampton, heads to Cork and over to Boston and Cape Code. This cruise has two themes – film and theatre and golf (from £7,116pp)

Carnival Cruise Line has a 16-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Tampa on Carnival Legend, which departs on October 30, 2020. It visits Malaga, Funchal Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Antigua, San Juan and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic (from £869pp).

Royal Caribbean International also has an Anthem of the Seas 12-night transatlantic cruise on November 1, 2020 from the UK. The ship, back in the UK for the first time since its launch, departs from Southampton and takes in Azores, Bermuda, Cape Liberty and New Jersey (from £1,156pp). 

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