Last Updated: March 2018
Using repositioning cruise deals to travel around the world can provide for an incredibly affordable way to get from one continent to another in complete luxury. We know this because we’ve now taken over ten different repositioning cruises all across the world’s oceans, sailing between North America, South America, Europe, and Asia!
It’s a wonderful travel experience to slowly voyage from one continent to another, stopping at far-flung ports along the way all with the easy, carefree living that cruise travel provides. We’ve found repositioning cruise deals can often be cheaper than flights between the same locations, yet it includes so much more, providing for what we think is one of the best travel values out there. The decadent four-course dinners, broadway-style entertainment, and super comfy staterooms all make for an extravagant travel experience that we would otherwise never be able to afford.
We’re even used a series of repositioning cruise to travel entirely around the world without flights. You can all the details on our strategy and budget from that 300-day voyage in this separate post: How To Achieve the Impossible: A Cheap Cruise Entirely Around the World.
We’re now spilling our secrets of how we find these deals and have even picked out some of the best ones we’re seeing at time of writing. But first, we just wanted to take a minute to explain a little bit how these one-way repositioning cruise deals work and the costs involved.
So How Cheap Are Repositioning Cruise Deals Really?
Repositioning cruise deals can vary in cost, but they can regularly be found ranging in price from $400-$800 for a two-week crossing. That breaks down to about $30-$60 per night! We try to shoot for prices under $60 per night, but sometimes go beyond that for a great itinerary.
For those who have been following our journey on Facebook, you know our most recent voyage was six weeks of cruising from Hong Kong to Italy, as our latest segment while accomplishing our goal of a round the world trip on a budget without using any flights! Many were surprised to learn that this lengthy journey from Asia to Europe, using two different ships, came in at a cost of only $49 per night! It was an incredible month and a half of Champagne living on a Budweiser budget, as we got to check out so many interesting places along the way.
Yet previous years of roaming around the world, we’ve come across repositioning cruise deals for far cheaper.
We once spotted a transatlantic cruise deal for $159! The $12/night price even included the very rare feat of an open bar beverage package throughout the entire sailing. It almost seemed impossible, so in 2016 we booked this insanely low-priced cruise to find out. If you’re curious to know what a $159 two-week cruise is like, you can see our Pullmantur Monarch Review here.
So What’s The Catch?
These repositioning cruise deals may seem like they’re too good to be true, but they’re totally legit. There are no major catches, really. It’s a common misnomer that these repositioning cruises are cheap because they’re boring and stripped down cruises. Not true! It’s actually exactly the opposite, as cruise lines tend to ramp up activities, lectures, and entertainment during the days at sea. Meanwhile, the more exotic ports that are visited can be very appealing too!
Yet there are some aspects about repositioning cruises to bear in mind:
- Travel dates are very specific, not at all flexible, and often the deal are only at certain times each year
- These are lengthy journeys, so you’ll need the luxury of time (great for nomads, long-term travelers, or retirees)
- Some of the best deals are last-minute, making advanced planning complicated
- The cheapest staterooms are usually interior (no balcony or window), although balcony upgrades exist
- There tends to be many “sea days,” which are fun-filled & relaxing (we never get bored), but may not be for everyone
- Expenses onshore are at your own cost
- Wifi is expensive and slow, which can be a major problem for anyone that needs to stay connected
- Repositioning cruise prices are usually based on double occupancy, so you’ll need a travel buddy
- Alcohol drinks onboard are usually not included and pricey, but there are ways around this
- Service gratuities will usually add $10-$15 per person, per night to your daily cost
- You’ve got to know how to find these repositioning cruise deals, but we’re about to help with that! 🙂
Understand the Common Repositioning Cruise Routes & Timing
Repositioning cruises tend to be most active during the change in seasons: Spring and Fall.
This is because cruise lines are trying to “reposition” their fleets from one part of the world to another, as weather conditions and travel patterns changes. (Hence the etymology of a repositioning cruise.)
For example, since the Mediterranean Sea boasts warm weather and is high season for travel in the summer, cruise lines often move ships to the Med in the late Spring to take advantage of this. Meanwhile the summer is actually the off-season for the Caribbean, so it’s only natural for cruise lines to move ships across the Atlantic around March-May. The reverse occurs in the Fall, as ships are moved from Europe across the Atlantic to Florida, among other North American locations.
These transatlantic cruises are the most common repositioning cruise routes. As such, transatlantic cruises tend to provide the cheapest repositioning cruise deals each year. In the Fall, you can find many affordable routes across the Atlantic from European locations such as London, Barcelona, Rome, and Copenhagen. While in the Spring loads of ships travel westbound from the US to ports throughout Europe.
But there are many other repositioning cruise routes to consider. Alaskan cruises can’t sail in the winter, so those ships need to go elsewhere, of course! As a result, transpacific cruises can provide interesting itineraries that tend to either voyage through Alaska or even the South Pacific Islands!
Meanwhile Europe-Asia repositioning cruises can provide for more port intensive journeys. And transiting from North to South America (or vice versa) can be an interesting voyage that often includes the Panama Canal.
Here are some repositioning cruise routes you can usually find during the Spring.
During the Fall, this is where cruise lines tend to reposition their ships.
Note: the above maps are simply for example purposes to provide some general idea as to the timing of repositioning cruises. Exact routes are constantly changing and there are always exceptions. Often additional itineraries come about from odd world cruise segments or even brand new ships that are built in one place but need to be positioned somewhere. We’re always looking to see what may be out there.
So where do we find these repositioning cruise deals? We’re getting to that!
2018 Repositioning Cruise Deals You Can Book Right Now!
We’ll soon delve into our tactics for finding the best repositioning cruise deals. But here are a few deals we’ve found that you can book right now through our affiliate at CruiseDirect, which offers easy online booking, a low price guarantee, and has some of the best deals & promos. In fact, it’s what we just used ourselves to book our next repositioning cruise deal that departs in April!
Prices do change, sometimes even daily, so be sure to follow the links we’ve left below to confirm the most up-to-date price quote. The prices we’ve listed are current at the time of last updating this post (March 25, 2018) and may have since changed higher or lower since posting.
Spring 2018 Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deals, US to Europe
Right now there are some fantastic transatlantic deals for anyone wanting to get from the US to Europe for the summer at the last minute. These are the up-to-date cheapest transatlantic deals being sold right now.
Below are some of our favorite repositioning cruise deals we’ve spotted from US to Europe in Spring 2018. There are some great itineraries here stopping along the Azores Islands and many ports in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, England, and France! Currently the NCL Breakaway holds the absolute best value, from NYC to London on a 5-star ship with some awesome ports in between!
|Norwegian Breakaway||15-April-2018||New York City||London (Southampton)||$35|
|Norwegian Jade||21-April-2018||Miami||London (Southampton)||$38|
|Holland America Oosterdam||3-April-2018||Fort Lauderdale||Barcelona||$40|
|Royal Caribbean Rhapsody||6-May-2018||Tampa||Barcelona||$50|
|Royal Caribbean Navigator||22-April-2018||Miami||London (Southampton)||$52|
Spring 2018 Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deals, Europe to US
Westbound Transatlatic cruises are very uncommon to find in Spring, but this year there are two due to brand new ships that were built in Europe that need to be repositioned elsewhere. So the Carnival Horizon (currently sold out) and Norwegian Bliss ($849) will be crossing the Atlantic in April and May, respectively. You may even find us on the Bliss when it crosses! 😉
|Norwegian Bliss||21-April-2018||London (Southampton)||New York City||$71|
Spring 2018 Transpacific Repositioning Cruise Deals, Asia to US
Right now there are two very attractive repositioning cruise deals from Asia to the US that stop off in Alaska. We can personally vouch for crossing the Pacific on the Volendam, as we did the reserve route last year and loved cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. Yet the Norwegian Jewel’s port intensive itinerary and last-minute pricing looks particularly appealing – wow!
|Holland America Volendam||25-April-2018||Tokyo||Vancouver||$67|
Fall 2018 Repositioning Cruise Deals from Europe to Asia
Our recent voyage from Singapore to Italy was aboard the Italian cruise line, Costa. If you’re interested in doing a similar trip but in reverse, there’s currently a great deal on the Costa NeoRiviera departing in November that goes from Venice to the Maldives or continue all the way to India, both are priced around $53 per night!
More Fall 2018 Repositioning Cruise Deals
We will update this post and add some Fall 2018 repositioning cruise deals soon. There are currently some decent transatlantic deals already available, but the best ones are yet to come. Stand by!
Or start searching now yourself. The remainder of this post details our process of how we find some of the best repositioning cruise deals. We’ve already noted the best deals that are departing for this Spring, but if you want to start scouting out other potential itineraries later in the year or further, continue reading. Just know that prices will likely shift, sometimes dramatically, the further out you look. That’s exactly the topic we’ll explain next.
Step-by-Step Process to Find the Best Repositioning Cruise Deals
There are so many cruise search sites out there and so many options to book a cruise, it can become a bit overwhelming and confusing to know where to find these repositioning cruise deals. It can take some time, sleuthing, price monitoring, and perhaps even a bit of gambling to nail them down. But the deals are out there!
We do like booking with CruiseDirect as they’re quite simple, straight forward and often have the lowest price. Yet for more complicated routes and searching, we actually begin searching else, then move on to sites like CruiseDirect to price compare. You also need to have some understanding on when to buy to get a cheap repositioning cruise deal.
The following offers a step-by-step process on what we use to try to hunt down some of the best repositioning cruise deals.
Step 1) Know the Best Timing to Book a Repositioning Cruise Deal
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. While planning our round the world trips, we meticulously stalk these repositioning cruise prices 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, particularly for common routes like transatlantics.
At about 45-90 days prior to embarkation is when cruise lines begin to understand what their exact 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 price, 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. There have been instances where we’ve found some great repositioning cruise deals in February (or earlier) but they went even lower in early March. Other times, we’ve waited for these early-March bargains, only to find prices rose! It’s a bit of a gamble depending on booking trends whether the price may rise or fall from there. And these repositioning cruises actually do sometimes sell out. So 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!
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, under $50 per night. But if there is a particular ship or itinerary that you definitely want to cruise on, then be careful, as prices may rise unexpectedly, leaving you heartbroken.
Step 2) Our Favorite Search Engine for Repositioning Cruise Deals
Although, we sometimes book with other sites, a first stop to uncovering these repositioning cruise deals is to 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.
We advocate searching 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, while other cruise search engines may only have a half-dozen or so search criteria to use.
Also their listings are always up-to-date and they tend to have very good pricing. Often we’ve found it to be the lowest price and if not, they are usually pretty close.
Despite our love for searching using 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 9 repositioning cruise purchases, VacationsToGo ended up providing the best (or equal) combination of pricing and perks 5 of those times and I could have skipped the remaining steps entirely. But in other instances, we have found better price and perk combinations by booking through other sites/agencies. Usually the differences were fairly minor, within $100 or so. But we find that additional value to be worth the time it takes to cross-check a few other sites.
We’ll dive into further detail about which sites we check in a minute. 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 VacationsToGo, 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. 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. 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: Cross Reference Prices 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. Very often VacationsToGo indeed has the best (or equal) prices, but on occasion we have found them to be beat.
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 (that adds up to hundreds of dollars!), free hotel stays, or even something simple like a bottle of champagne in your cabin.
But paying attention to the perks in addition to the pricing, can ultimately be the difference of hundreds of dollars, and sometimes it’s not so clear. 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 actually would make sense to book with Agency B even despite their higher price. (Note: you can even turn that onboard credit into cash using one of these cruise hacks).
Compare Repositioning Cruise Prices on These Two Sites
Whenever we have found an offer that beats VacationsToGo, it has been through one of our these two sites we’re that are also affiliates of ours: CruiseDirect or Priceline. (Yes, Priceline does cruises too!) So we find it very worthwhile to check those two sites to get a second opinion and to cross check cruise prices. Sometimes the prices are all the same, sometimes one of them has a better price.
Another thing we like about booking through CruiseDirect or 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. Meanwhile for VacationsToGo, you must call an agent over the phone in order to get the complete pricing that includes these taxes and port fees, wait on hold, give them your phone number, let them try to “sell” you, etc. We’d rather just book online.
CruiseDirect or Priceline allow you to complete the entire transaction online, without having the hassle of dealing with an agent over the phone. Instead, your cruise is just a few clicks away and you can even visually see your cabin options.
So after completing these two price comparisons, you’ll now have prices from three different competing agencies (VacationsToGo, CruiseDirect, and Priceline), which should give you confidence to book the one with the best price or at least know they’re all the same. Likely, most price quotes will be very close to one another. But, again, look closely for those perks, promos, and bonuses!
(Optional) Continue to Compare Across Even More Agencies
Warning: the following steps can be tedious, time consuming, and ultimately not prove worthwhile. 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 repositioning cruise 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, then perhaps just go ahead and book it.
Below are more popular online cruise travel agencies to consider searching. We’re affiliated with some, yet we don’t recommend any one of these over the other. If you have the time to compare, give ’em all a try. They’re all reputable sites, so go with whoever has the best price.
- Expedia Cruises
- CruiseCritic’s Find A Cruise page is a clunky interface to filter through but ultimately provides the ability to search multiple additional sites all at once. If you can manage to get to a page where there’s a “View All Deals” tab, this gives you the ability to see the prices compared across 10 different sites (such as cruise.com, Avoya, cruiseonly, etc.). Beware, though, that often those prices can be misleading and change upon clicking through to the actual site.
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 if you really want to confirm if they can’t beat the best deal you’ve found so far.
Step 4: 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 really like the repositioning cruise deal you see now, it’s probably best to strike while you can. Prices could 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, but usually courtesy holds can only be handled over the phone, not online. When we find a price we like, we 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 5: 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.
- 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. That’s what we do.
- 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.
- 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 are a worthwhile way to effortlessly keep tabs on the fare. We’ve 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.