I've received a number of emails lately from readers asking me about ocean cruises. They are looking for cruises that are financially realistic for solo travelers. Cruises without 100% single supplement.
Can you hear my frustration? They are hard to find.
So I started looking into repositioning cruises which are a different cruising experience and tend to be much less expensive than regular cruises. What I found were better prices with, again, 100% single supplements. Now, to be sure, that 100% is less than usual because the price of the cruise is less. But it's still 100%!
It's enough to cause me to pull my hair out!
Still. I calm myself as I write this so that I can share with you the goods on repositioning cruises – the good and the bad of them. Since I'm not a cruising expert I turned to someone who is. I spoke with Gia Ly, owner of Cruise Holidays / At Your Service in Toronto. His agency can serve anyone in North America. Here's what I learned.
The Pros & Cons of a Repositioning Cruise
Cruise routes are often seasonal. A cruise to Alaska runs in the warmer months while Caribbean cruises are for colder months. At some point between the two seasons ships move from one location to another. This is a repositioning and cruise lines sell repositioning cruises at reduced prices.
Here's what you need to know so that you can decide whether a repositioning cruise is good for you.
- A repositioning cruise is less expensive. See below for details on this but, to be sure, when broken down on a per night basis a repositioning cruise is less expensive.
- It's a one-way trip. Unlike regular cruises that loop you back to your starting point, a repositioning cruise only goes one way. Unless you're using the cruise as transportation you need to find your way back home. This will likely require a one-way flight.
- Fewer ports of call. The primary purpose of the cruise is the ship's final destination therefore there will be fewer stops along the way.
- Ports may be the less traditional. The ports used in a repositioning may be a bit off the beaten path which you may think is great or not. Check the itinerary carefully.
- Entertainment is not full on. While there is likely entertainment on board it is not necessarily everything that would be offered in a traditional sailing. Find out before you go what they're offering so that you can decide whether the trip is for you.
- The ship is less crowded. A one-way cruise without all the razzmatazz of a typical ship is not for everyone. Therefore the ship doesn't usually operate at capacity.
- It's about relaxation. With fewer people, fewer ports of call, and less entertainment, a repositioning cruise is more relaxed. It's a great opportunity to read and write – which is what I would do.
- There will likely be an educational component. It's far less expensive to book a lecturer or language teacher than put on a musical show. There may be a great opportunity to learn.
- There may be a theme. Because there are fewer ports of call and more time is spent aboard ship there may be a theme to the cruise. It might be wine tasting or learning a new language.
- It's not flying. If you have a fear of flying and have the time a repositioning cruise across the Atlantic or Pacific may be perfect for you.
The Price of a Repositioning Cruise
Pricing of cruises is based on supply and demand. Because repositioning cruises are not as appealing to as many people the demand is lower and the prices are as well. However they still apply a hefty single supplement to the bill for solo travelers.
Here are a couple of examples of repositioning cruises.
12-Day Norwegian Cruise Lines Caribbean Adventure from New Orleans – This cruise only sails on April 23rd, 2017 and travels from New Orleans to Boston. The cheapest fare is CAD$927.00/person double occupancy. For a single person it's CAD$1,824.00. They are also throwing in all sorts of freebies like an open bar and shore excursions. Per night: CAD$165.81
By comparison, a 10-day cruise along the coast of Eastern Canada that starts and ends in New York City works out to be CAD$324.00/night.
14-Days Royal Caribbean Repositioning Cruise from Dubai to Barcelona – This cruise only sails March 13th, 2017. The cheapest fare is CAD$847.00 per person double occupancy. For a single person it's CAD$1,318.00 + CAD$$358.00 for port taxes. Per night: CAD$$128.92
By comparison, another of their longer cruises was CAD$303.00/night.
How to Book a Repositioning Cruise
I've been spinning my wheels online researching this post and for that reason alone I'd recommend going to a reputable travel agent who is a cruise specialist to book a repositioning cruise. Many companies don't identify a particular cruise as a repositioning cruise. Royal Caribbean is the only one I found that does. You have to go through all their cruises and look for the ones that have different beginning and ending locations.
But here, according to Gia, are other reasons you should use an agent:
- They can explain the opportunities that repositioning offers and give you a general idea of what you can expect based on your travel plans.
- They know the ships and which ones have solo cabins that may be scheduled for a repositioning.
- They do the research and comparison shopping for you to get you the cruise with the best value.
- They work directly with the supplier and can act on your behalf should a problem arise. They can't promise you the world but will definitely do their best to resolve any issue for you. An agent's call is more important to a cruise line than one by an individual.
What they can't do is negotiate a better single supplement rate than is on offer. Those figures are all determined by supply and demand and the cruise line's goal of maximizing profits.
So there you have it. The lowdown on repositioning cruises. I think they're a great deal and would certainly suit my interests but finding them is a challenge and there is still that annoying single supplement to deal with. You must decide whether they are right for you.
If you have taken a repositioning cruise please leave your thoughts about them in the comments.