My neighbours, Tom and Anne-Marie, have been taking last-minute cruises for years. Now retired, they have discovered the benefits of repositioning cruises. Repositioning cruises are a different breed of trip. Generally run in the spring and fall, these cruises mark the return of ships from the southern hemisphere to the north, or from the Caribbean to Europe, and vice versa. As their primary purpose is to relocate the liners for another cruise season elsewhere, they often spend more days at sea than would a normal cruise, take somewhat longer, and visit unusual ports. Experienced cruisers seek them for many reasons. Off season, they are generally cheaper. They tend to attract retired folk and seasoned travellers, who have greater flexibility in booking and lots of experiences to share. Cruises can be booked back-to-back, with greater discounts the more the trip is extended.
Tom and Anne-Marie returned in early May from a 30-day trip across the Pacific, from Sydney, Australia to Vancouver. Their itinerary took them to New Zealand, the French Polynesian islands of Mo’orea, Bora-Bora, Pape’ete in Tahiti, then around the islands of Hawai’i before heading to Vancouver. In essence, their trip was two cruises, an 18-day trip from Sydney to Hawai’i, followed by another 12-day trip to Vancouver. Both agreed they would readily do another cruise of that length again.
So, what do you do when you are at sea, day after day? Normal cruises are scheduled so that each day offers a new port with excursions on land. The lack of ports for an extended period means that the ship tries harder to entertain and enlighten their passengers. Tom and Anne-Marie love the activities on board and the many lectures which run the gamut. Do you want a short course on the history of Pacific peoples? Or maybe you are interested in tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanos and the other natural wonders of the region? Depending on the resource people on board, you can catch a music series on the history of opera from a retired tenor, cooking lessons from a range of chefs, hints on renovations from a Mike Holmes clone or maybe an introduction to renewing antique vehicles. Craft activities, karaoke, talent nights, trivia, musical performances, sports and fitness; whatever your interest, the cruise will provide. Like summer camp for adults.
On arrival at a port, passengers generally have a day to see the local sights. Tom and Anne-Marie tend to avoid excursions which can be costly and cumbersome. They speak to the waiters and other staff about how to get into town, what to see and where to go. Off on their own, they see more and have interesting experiences. At Pearl Harbor, for example, they found several free museums which were every bit as interesting and informative as any official tour.
And the cost of such a 30-day cruise? Approximately $3500 per person plus gratuities for an outside cabin with a balcony. Air fares may be extra or may be available at discounted rates through the cruise line. Prices vary considerably, depending primarily on demand. Some people book early and may find themselves upgraded to better cabins if prices fall later. Others book late and get a great deal on superior accommodation because no one has booked it. Larger rooms are available for those with mobility issues. Cruising wannabes can go to numerous internet websites specializing in repositioning cruises and find information from all the cruise lines; they can choose a particular route or a particular ship and read the reviews. Even with all the internet information available, Tom thinks that a good travel agent can access better deals than may be evident to the novice. Thanks to Tom and Anne-Marie for the photo.