Like migratory birds, cruise ships regularly shift from one part of the world to another as the seasons shift — from the Caribbean to Europe or South America or from Alaska or the West Coast to Asia or the South Pacific, for example. These usually twice annual exoduses are so huge that they could rival a naval armada, and they offer exceptional bargains, as well as lots of languid days at sea, and, occasionally, even unusual ports of call.
Veteran cruise book author Kay Showker considers repositioning cruises "about the best value in cruising," compared with a regular cruise on the same ship. Many old salts not only find these longer voyages relaxing because of a large number of days spent crossing the pond or the Pacific but also because they usually are not filled to capacity, and, therefore, Showker notes, "the whole tempo of the ship is more low key."
Travel specialist Nancy Kelly, head of Kelly Cruises in Chicago, sees other benefits.
"Some cruise lines," she said, "will offer a special theme on repositioning cruises, so you may be traveling with like-minded people for a big band cruise, jazz cruise, wine and food festival, film and theater or perhaps health and fitness."
For instance, Disney Cruise Lines brings aboard extra performers such as cast members from some of its Broadway shows or renowned musicians such as Boyz II Men to brighten days at sea.
This year for the younger generation, Disney will offer a few new programs specifically for trans-Atlantic crossings, including a slumber party with camp-out games, a singalong and various fun foods throughout the night. "It's a true sleepover, with the children spending the night at the Oceaneer Club and Lab," said Disney spokesman Jason Lasecki.
Of course, there also is the silly stuff that makes a repositioning cruise more like a fortnight at camp. As part of its tradition on trans-Atlantic and Panama Canal sailings, for instance, Disney lets passengers enter a boat-building competition.
With this year's race across the oceans, Kelly noted, "there are hundreds of repositioning cruises to choose from." Kelly spotlighted Princess Cruises' 16-night Venetian Passage in October and Royal Caribbean International's 14-night westbound trans-Atlantic sailing in November as "so reasonably priced, you may feel giddy." (Fares start at $1,270 and $864 per person respectively.) "Crystal Cruises is top-of-the-line six-star luxury," Kelly added, and offering free round-trip airfare, plus two-for-one rates, prepaid gratuities and a $2,000 As You Wish Shipboard Credit on its10-night Big Band Celebration cruise from Lisbon to Miami in December, starting at $4,000.
Other lines too are offering deals sure to lure you to sea. Here's a sampling:
Celebrity Century — 14 nights from Miami to Barcelona departing May 20, from $899 for an inside stateroom; 14 nights from Barcelona to Miami departing Oct. 25, from $799.
Celebrity Equinox — 15 nights from Rome to Fort Lauderdale sailing Oct. 31, from $1,299.
Celebrity Constellation — 14 nights from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale departing Nov. 6, from $999.
Celebrity Eclipse — 13 nights from Southampton to Miami departing Oct. 31, from $1,199.
Costa Atlantica — 17 nights from New York City to Copenhagen departing May 5, from $899.
Queen Mary 2 — Twenty-one trans-Atlantic crossings April-November, including classic six-day voyages between New York and Southampton, plus a seven-day option as well as eight- and nine-day crossings to Cherbourg, France, and Hamburg, Germany, from $895 with savings of as much as $600 per person on select early-booking fares.
Crystal Symphony — From London to New York departing Sept. 5, from $5,710. From New York to Los Angeles, departing Nov. 2, from $4,930. The line is offering shipboard credits of as much as $1,000 per person.
Disney Magic — 14 nights from Barcelona to Port Canaveral, Fla., sailing Sept. 18, $1,649 for a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom.
MS Noordam — 13 days from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona departing May 14, from $899.
MSC Poesia — 18 nights from Kiel, Germany, to New York departing Sept. 4, early-booking rates from $1,199
Norwegian Epic — Seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing, a maiden voyage, from Southampton to New York departing June 24, from $859.
Seven Seas Navigator — 20 nights from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco departing May 6, from $7,865; 18 nights from Seward, Alaska, to Tianjin , China, departing Sept. 15, from $8,775.
Seven Seas Voyager — 14 nights from Fort Lauderdale to Reykjavik, Iceland, departing May 12, from $7,105; 15 nights from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale departing Nov. 8, from $6,945.
Seabourn Legend — 13 days from Malaga, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale departing Nov. 20, from $2,999.
Seabourn Odyssey — 13 days from Nice, France, to Fort Lauderdale departing Dec. 6, from $3,599.
SeaDream I — 13 days from San Juan to Malaga departing April 30, from $2,299; 12 days from Malaga to San Juan, Puerto, Rico, departing Oct. 14, from $2,299.
SeaDream II — 12 days from Barbados to Malaga departing April 25, from $2,299; 12 days from Barbados to Malaga departing Nov. 8, from $2,299.
Silver Spirit — 14 days from New York to Southampton departing April 23, from $6,238.
Silver Whisper — 12 Days from Southampton to New York City departing Sept. 2, from $4,598.
Silver Shadow — 16 Days from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Tokyo departing Sept 12, from $7,197. A free economy promotional air package also is available from select East Coast, central and West Coast gateways.
Wind Surf — 14 days from Lisbon to Barbados departing Nov. 14, from $1,749.
Wind Star — 14 days from St. Martin to Lisbon departing April 10, from $1,849.
Wind Spirit — 14 days from Lisbon to St. Martin departing Nov. 20, from $1,849.
(For details contact the cruise lines or a travel agent.)