Update (January 2017): We’ve now scored six repositioning cruise deals over the past three years, each for less than $50 a day using this method!
We absolutely loved each of the repositioning cruises we have used as an extremely affordable way to travel around the globe during the past three years while sailing from Point A to Point B in complete luxury.
Many people are in disbelief when we explain that the cost of a taking such a luxury cruise across the ocean is actually less than a coach flight from the same points.
Too good to be true? We assure you its not. Impossible? See these screen shots below for a few examples
We’ve seen the raved about 5-star Norwegian Epic with transatlantic repositioning cruise deals for low as $299 per person. That comes out to about $25 per person, per day! On this particular sailing, they were even generous enough to throw in an extra hundred bucks of onboard credit on top of that to sweeten the deal even further.
Or take the below repositioning cruise deal, for example, which at $159 is one of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen sailing across the Atlantic. It almost seemed to good to be true, so in 2016 we actually booked this insanely low-priced cruise to find out. See our Pullmantur Monarch Review here if you’re curious to know what a $159 two-week cruise is like.
This Pullmantur cruise (a Spanish cruise line) got us from Panama to Portugal with gusto for only $159 and even included the elusive beverage package (sodas, beer, wine, and cocktails) to sweeten the transatlantic cruise deal. Like any cruise, you do have to pay taxes and port charges, but even so, the total price for this luxury cruise came out to only $320 (plus gratuities), all inclusive, including as many poolside piña coladas as you’d like. Yes please!
Repositioning Cruise Deals: Possibly the Best Travel Bargain Ever?
We firmly believe that repositioning cruises such as these are one of the best travel deals out there. It’s pampered living for two weeks while you get first class transportation from one place in the world to another. It’s a fabulous affordable luxury experience that is simply tough to beat if you have the time. Our first repositioning cruise on Celebrity Eclipse spoiled us rotten and we’ve continued to use these repositioning cruise deals as not only a luxurious means of transportation around the globe but a cheap one too!
Note: If you didn’t catch our first post in this series, What is a Repositioning Cruise and Where Do They Go?, you may want to start there before reading onward. And if you’re not looking for a repositioning cruise, the following 7-step method can still be used to get the best deal on any cruise.
So, want to know exactly how to find a cruise deal like this? We’ve outlined an approach on how to achieve a rock-bottom price on a repositioning cruise (or any cruise). So follow these seven steps and you’ll be sailing across the ocean in no time!
Prices for repositioning cruises can fluctuate greatly. You might even do a search after reading this blog post and find the prices are nowhere near the costs we’ve mentioned. Just wait. 🙂 While planning our big round the world trip we meticulously stalked these repositioning cruises each year to understand exactly when is the best time to book.
Often with cruises it’s a good idea to book as early as possible to score the best deal. But that is not necessarily the case with repositioning cruises.
At about 45-90 days prior to embarkation is when the cruise lines begin to understand exactly what their cabin inventory, since they can now do so because the cancellation period has ended. Once they have a finite occupancy count, the powers that be will usually discount remaining cabins greatly in attempts to fill the ship to capacity. So during the two-month period prior to the desired sail date, you can usually find very attractive prices if you have the nerves to hold out that long.
Exactly when during that 45-90 day period the price dips will vary by cruise line depending on each cruise line’s specific cancelation policy. So if you really want to stalk a cruise’s prices, do a little research to find out when the refundable cancelation period ends (which varies, based on the line and length of the cruise). Take a look at this page on CruiseCritic which details every line’s cancelation period. Then calculate the cancelation date based upon the particular cruise(s) you’re most interested in. To be absolutely certain about the cancelation date policy, it’s best to check directly with each cruise line, who may have updated their policies beyond what was reported on this third-party site. Once you know when the cancelation date is, be vigilant at checking the prices a few times per day during the days surrounding that date. Within a week, you should notice a price change.
A general rule of thumb is the following:
- Spring repositioning cruise sailings: Buy around February or March for an April sailing
- Fall repositioning cruise sailings: Buy around August or September for an October sailing
We’ve found that for an April embarkation across the Atlantic, February and March appear to be the best time of year to make your move. During this timeframe, you actually get a double whammy of good fortune. For one, this time of year is what the cruise industry calls “Wave Season,” a promotional period when cruise lines are offering deep discounts and generous perks such as onboard credit, drink packages, prepaid gratuities, wifi packages, and more.
For the Fall transatlantic crossings from Europe/Mediterranean to Florida/Caribbean, the best time to buy tends to be around August and even into September, all depending on the exact cruises departure date and cancelation policy. We’ve encountered slightly better deals for the eastbound Spring repositioning cruises, but there are always plenty of Fall westbound deals that still remain under $500 per person and less than $50 per day.
While typically waiting a month or two before the cruise’s departure to buy is a good bet, above all else, just buy when you see a great deal regardless of the time of year. In previous years we saw some great deals in February but they went even lower in early March. In 2014 we waited for these early-March bargains, only to find prices rose in many cases. Yet over the past several years, February proved to consistently be a low point for Spring transatlantic sailings. It’s a little bit of a gamble depending on booking trends whether the price may rise or fall from there. If you find a great price, don’t get greedy and wait for it to go lower. Just book it!
So What’s a Good Price for a Repositioning Cruise Deal?
That’s up to you and depends on a variety of factors (ship, itinerary, cabin, etc.). But if we find inside cabins for under $500 per person for a two week transatlantic cruise, we’re extremely happy with that. We’d even splurge an extra hundred bucks or so for a balcony. But again, that’s all a personal call based upon your preferences and budget.
Also, if you’re looking for lots of great bonuses during your sailing, know that while the deals tend to be better waiting until the cancelation period, the perks tend to be fewer during this last-minute time frame. So take that into consideration while waiting to strike. That said, I still firmly believe that the deals you can get after the cancelation period tend to outweigh any extra bonuses offered prior to that timing. And sometimes you can be lucky enough to receive both an excellent deal and some fantastic benefits that include onboard credit, paid gratuities, or even a complimentary cruise drink package! We managed to get a drink package included during our last two transatlantic cruises: Fall 2015 Norwegian Star repositioning cruise and even on that $159 Pullmantur Monarch cruise we took in Sping 2016.
Really, our best advice on timing is this: if you don’t care much about what cruise line, ship, or itinerary you take, then definitely wait it out to the 45-90 cancelation period. You will most certainly get a bargain on a sailing, well under $50 per night. But if there is a particular ship or sailing that you definitely want to cruise on, then be careful, as prices may rise unexpectedly, leaving you heartbroken.
Step 2) How to Search for Repositioning Cruise Deals
As a first step to uncovering these repositioning cruise deals we always search VacationsToGo.com. They are actually a cruise travel agency but their site acts like a great meta search of all major cruise lines and each of their itineraries. Think of it as the Kayak.com of cruising. (Note: this is NOT an advertisement or affiliate link for VacationsToGo, and we don’t get any kickback for recommending them. We truly believe it’s the best cruise search engine out there.)
We advocate VacationsToGo over other cruise searches primarily because we find this site to have the most advanced search criteria available. You can filter by dates, price, stars, cruise line, ports, number of passengers, number of days, and so much more. It has extremely flexible functionality.
Also their listings are always up-to-date and they tend to have very good pricing compared to other agencies or booking directly. Often I’ve found it to be the lowest price and if not, they are usually very close.
Despite our love for VacationsToGo, once you find a bargain you like, it is best to continue on to the next steps to ensure you truly got the best price and perks, which can be different from one agency to another. Of our last 6 repositioning cruise purchases, VacationsToGo ended up providing the best combination of pricing and perks 3 of those times and I could have skipped the remaining steps entirely. But the other three times we did find Priceline offered perks that beat the VacationsToGo repositioning cruise deal (more on that later).
But first, here’s some detail on how we recommend using VacationToGo’s search functions:
2a) Give Up an Email Address
In order to search using this site, you must provide them with your email address. But don’t worry, they don’t spam you with tons of solicitations. I just get one email per week (usually on a Wednesday or Thursdays). And it’s actually an email I look forward to seeing, as it includes all the latest cruise deals. You can always opt out of the emails later if you want. But for now, just give them your email so you can continue with your search.
2b) Perform a “Custom Search”
Next go to “Custom Search.” This may be a little difficult to spot on their busy home page, so I’ve pointed it out for you in the screen shot below.
2c) Filter Your Search Criteria
Under destination, select both “Transatlantic” and “Repositioning” to see listings categorized for each of these. (Or if you’re not looking for a one-way trip, select “Caribbean,” “Mediterranean,” “Alaska,” or whatever region you are interested in.) Now use whatever other filters that may be important for you. You’ll certainly want to filter by dates to select the months and year.
Maybe you also would only consider a 4-star ship or higher. Or perhaps you want to look for cruises leaving only particular ports. Maybe you’re only interested in one particular cruise line because you’ve built loyalty with them.
Those are all great search criteria to consider playing around with. However, for your first few searches, we recommend that you use less filters in order to yield more results. (Remember the advice given in the last post: be flexible). You can always go back and refine your filters later. To start, I’d recommend filtering only by “destination” and “dates.”
2d) Reveal the Cost Per Night
Now before you view the results, lets just tweak one more thing on the results screen. It is important to consider not just the total price of the repositioning cruise deal but also the “Price Per Night” cost of the cruise. A $599 11-day cruise may seem like a great deal compared to $999 cruise. But if that $999 cruise is a 21-day sailing that lengthens the itinerary with some amazing post-transatlantic ports, the $999 cruise would be a much better value than the $599 cruise (if you have the time).
You can normalize the results to account for this by showing the price per night. This nightly price is not shown by default, but you can easily reveal it by selecting the “Price Per Night” button in the upper right hand corner.
Now that you have the price per night enabled, you can even re-sort your listings to sift through the best value cruises based upon the nightly price. See the screen shot below which includes nearly a dozen itineraries on some great ships all for less than $50 per person, per day.
2e) Go Find an Awesome Repositioning Cruise Deal!
Now peruse through all of the itineraries, ships, and prices to find the best cruise that suits you.
Step 3: Find the Best Price Offer for the Cruise You Want
Once you find your perfect voyage using VacationsToGo, you now want to guarantee that you get the best possible price on that sailing. We recommend price comparing among other agencies to ensure this.
When comparing prices, you must factor in more than just the cruise price alone. We recommend to also take into account the perks and bonuses each agency may be offering. Some cruise travel agencies may offer promotions such as onboard credit, prepaid gratuities, free hotel stays, or a bottle of champagne in your cabin. For example, if Agency A offers your desired cabin for $499 with no perks while Agency B offers that same cabin for $599 yet includes a $300 onboard credit, it would make sense to book with Agency B even though their price is higher (as long as you will use that onboard credit or turn it into cash using one of these cruise hacks).
Start By Searching Priceline Cruises
Whenever we have found an offer that beats VacationsToGo, it was with Priceline. (Yes, they do cruises too!) So we find it to be the best place to seek a second opinion for cruise pricing. Another benefit by using Priceline is that it will let you see the entire cruise cost online. Once you get to the payment screen, they’ll show you the true price of the cruise including all the taxes and port charges. For VacationsToGo, you must call an agent over the phone in order to get the complete pricing that includes these additional mandatory fees.
A further reason why we like using Priceline Cruises is because you can complete your entire cruise booking online without the hassle of dealing with an agent over the phone.
Finally, we like Priceline because they give their repeat customers a $50 hotel voucher as an added bonus. We always recommend to show up at your departure port at least one day in advance to ensure travel complications such as flight delays won’t cause you to miss your ship. Doing so, a $50 hotel vouch can always be put to good use.
So go to Priceline.com and search for the specific cruise you found. If their price beats or matches VacationsToGo, consider booking it with them. We’ve now booked three of our last repositioning cruises with Priceline because they tend to have the best price and/or promos.
Also, we should disclose that using those Priceline links above is also a way you can help support Roaming Around the World, as Priceline is nice enough to give us a tiny commission which comes at no extra cost to you. You still pay the absolute lowest price and we wholeheartedly recommend booking through Priceline regardless of this minuscule incentive they give us. (Thanks for the support!)
Check Point – Have You Found the Best Deal Yet?
Of the six repositioning cruises we’ve now booked using this exact method, we’ve always found our best price & perks by this point. Interestingly enough, our best offers have always come from the same two agencies: VacationsToGo (3) and Priceline (3). Yet you still may want to continue on to price compare if you really want to ensure you’re getting the absolute lowest price. It’s just gonna cost you some extra time and effort.
(Optional) Step 4: Price Compare Across Other Agencies
Warning: the following steps can be tedious and time consuming. Plan to spend at least 20-30 minutes completing them, if not longer. Usually this results in time being squandered, as we don’t find any offers that beat what we’ve found by this point. However, we always like to ensure that we’ve definitely found the best deal, so performing these added steps helps us to sleep at night and book with confidence. If you are of a similar mindset, go ahead and proceed with these next few optional steps.
But if you value your time and you’re happy with the deal you’ve found by now using VacationsToGo or Priceline, then perhaps just go ahead and book it. Then skip to Step #7.
4a) Use CruiseCritic’s Metasearch to Search Multiple Agencies
Cruise on over (pun intended) to CruiseCritic’s Find A Cruise page and perform a search for that exact itinerary. It’s a somewhat clunky interface and finding the particular sailing you’re interested in may take a minute or two, but it’s well worth it for the quick ability to price compare between four different agencies at once. If you enter the cruiseline, ship, and to/from month then click “Find a cruise” you’ll usually locate the sailing you’re interested in.
Clicking on “Show Prices” will open up a window with many tabs to select and compare prices, such as: Avoya, Direct Line Cruises, American Discount Cruises, and Cruise.com. Sift through each one and look closely to see if they can beat the prices you’ve scouted out from Priceline and VacationsToGo.
4b) Price Compare With Even More Agencies
By this point you will have gotten at least six price quotes. But why stop now? Go ahead and search a few more agencies to ensure none of them can beat any of the offers you’ve seen so far. Below are even more of the popular online cruise travel agencies to consider searching. We don’t recommend any one of these over the other. And if you’re happy with one of the repositioning cruise deals you’ve already found, consider skipping this altogether. But if you have time and want to ensure there’s no other better deals out there, search them all.
- Expedia Cruises
4c) Check Your Best Offer Against the Cruise Line Directly
If you have completed the above steps, you will now have searched through at least 10 different agencies. Do one more search and check with the cruise line directly. Agencies almost always tend to have a better deal compared to booking directly with the cruise line, but it doesn’t hurt much to double-check. So take an extra 2-3 minutes and go directly to the cruise line’s website to confirm that they can’t beat the best deal you’ve found so far.
4d) Verify Prices & Offers over the Phone
Now you should have price quotes for at least 11 different agencies. It’s time to pick up the phone to call the agency with the most attractive offer to confirm its availability, its price, and that it truly does include all the perk you’re expecting. Sometimes we have found that the price and perks shown online are not the same when you call. Some agencies are worse offenders than others. Be very clear and careful when verifying. Once you’ve found the best cruise price and benefits, lock it in for free with a 24-hour courtesy hold. (More about cruise courtesy holds towards the end on this post.)
Okay, by this point, you are really likely to have found the best deal. But if you have the time and you want to be extremely meticulous to be absolutely certain there is no lower prices or perks out there, continue on with steps 4 & 5.
(Optional) Step 5: Let The Agencies Bid On You
Go to CruiseCompete.com and enter the itinerary you’re interested in. Travel agencies will receive your quote request and will then email you back with their best offer. It is said that agencies will sometimes have offers they can’t publically advertise, so this is a pretty quick and easy way to potentially uncover such deals.
We personally have never had much luck using CruiseCompete, but know people who have. It’s certainly worth your 3 minutes to fill out the information and see what results come back. You’ll usually have a number of offers to sort through within a few days.
But be careful not to wait too long for offers to come in, as the bet price you found elsewhere could change by the next day. If you found a great deal that you’ve put on a courtesy hold, don’t let it expire by waiting for more offers to come in on CruiseCompete. Nonetheless, if someone offers you a better deal than what you’ve already found within those first 24 hours (or even afterwards), call that travel agent to investigate further and consider booking.
(Optional) Step 6: Get Offline and Contact Your Local Travel Agency:
Sometimes your local travel agency may have a little secret that the big online players don’t have access to. The CruiseCompete method noted above can help to sniff some of those out. But if you have the time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to go the old fashion route of giving your local travel agent a call and see if they can beat the best offer you’ve found so far. All you have to loose is 5-10 minutes of your time. What you have to gain is a potentially better repositioning cruise deal.
Step 7: Buy! (Or at least a place a courtesy hold)
If you’ve found a cabin on a sailing you want and your plans are flexible, keep an eye on it until a few months out to purchase. But if your plans aren’t flexible and you like the deal you see now, its probably best to strike while you can. Chances are prices will go down, but you may be very disappointed if it turns the other way.
If you’re still not sure, you can at least place what is called a “courtesy hold.” This will lock in the price that’s been quoted, for 24 hours. No payment or credit card number is required. When we find a price we like, we always place it on a courtesy hold. Then because I’m so persistent on getting the lowest price, I still do my due diligence of the steps mentioned above to see if I can come up with anything lower. If you successfully uncover a lower price, you’re courtesy hold will expire automatically and you don’t have to do anything. Otherwise be sure you call back within 24 hours to turn that courtesy hold into an actual paid reservation.
Step 8: Continue Monitoring the Fare for Price Drops
Even if you’ve purchased your cruise, it’s still very possible to get a lower fare. Most of the time cruise lines and agencies will honor the new pricing and will refund you the difference or at least provide onboard credit if the price drops before the cancelation period. The price change must be for the exact same stateroom category, so watch for that.
If you booked after the cancelation mark, as recommended to get a very low price, you are likely no longer eligible to get a refund or onboard credit, but it doesn’t hurt to call and ask anyways. It may give you some leverage to swing a free cabin upgrade if one is available. (Note: See our post here about 10 Secrets to Getting a Free Balcony Upgrade on a Cruise).
Here’s a few ways you can monitor the prices, which you’ll really want to do if you purchased before the cancelation period.
- Download the Shipmate app (Android or iPhone). One of the many functionalities of the app is providing fare alerts when prices drop. It uses Cruiseline.com to provide these alerts. We’d like to be able to recommend that you go directly to Cruiseline to get these free alerts, but their website seems to be a bit glitchy and often it’s impossible to select the sailing your looking for. So alternatively, downloading the Shipmate app, you can access the same fee alert service.
- Simply use online searches to occasionally keep tabs on the price. It’s cumbersome but effective. Bookmark the cruise’s fare page and check back regularly.
- Find your sailing in the “CruiseCritic roll call” message board for your particular cruise and check in often. Sometimes when’s there’s a price drop for your sailing, other cruise members will share this on the message board. This is also cumbersome but effective. It’s also a fun way to get social with your fellow future cruisers.
- Lastly, there are pay services that will monitor the prices and will email you an alert if and when the price for you exact stateroom room category for your sailing drops. The service starts at about $5 and seems like a legit and worthwhile way to effortlessly keep tabs on the fare. We’ve actually never used them since we almost always buy last minute, post-cancelation period, so we can’t personally recommend them. But you may want to consider looking into cruisefaremonitor.com and cruisefish.net if this service is of interest to you.
Good Luck and Bon Voyage!
So that’s it. We hope you find a hugely discounted repositioning cruise deal! Happy hunting and bon voyage!
And for more ways to cruise happy, be sure to check out our latest article about cruising in which we revealed all of our cruise tips & tricks: Top 50 Cruise Hacks to Save You Money, WiFi, Hassle, and Weight Gain.
If you want to refer back to this post when you’re ready to book a cruise, be sure to bookmark this page or pin it to your pinterest board to save it for later.