Why Taking a One-Way Cruise Might be the Ultimate Vacation

Last updated on January 27th, 2023 at 03:27 pm

Around 20 million people each year will enjoy a cruise vacation. If you’re one of those people, you know how fun, relaxing, and luxurious a cruise vacation can be. But, do you ever wish you had a little more time at your port of call? There are a lot of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your cruise vacation, but what do you do if you want to stay in port a little longer, enjoying your destination? A one-way cruise, or a repositioning cruise, may be the perfect solution for you.

A Repositioning Cruise vs. A One-Way Cruise

A repositioning cruise and a one-way cruise are two different things but are often presented as the same. Ask the cruise line those questions about the type of cruise it is before booking. Repositioning cruises are usually less expensive than a one-way cruise, but you have less control over ports of call in a repositioning cruise.

A Repositioning Cruise

Typically, a repositioning cruise is when the embarkation port and the disembarkation port are different, a repositioning cruise is like a one-way ticket. These types of cruises are less common than destination cruises, but they can also be less expensive.

Cruise ships will need to reposition their ships depending on the season. One example is Alaska cruises. During the winter, ships do not cruise to Alaska. Alaskan cruises are from late spring to early autumn. When winter approaches in Alaska, cruise ships will need to move, or reposition, elsewhere.

Cruises might operate in Meditteranean and Europe for that season, and then reposition by sailing into North or South America for another season. A cruise line prefers not to reposition empty ships from one location to another. These transfers can be two or more weeks in length. Cruise lines will offer passengers the opportunity to take a repositioning cruise at a rate that is less expensive than a destination cruise.

The majority of repositioning cruises are not direct routes, but cruise lines will schedule interesting ports along the way to entice guests to sail along with them. Again, these voyages tend to be two weeks or more as the ships are crossing oceans or changing hemispheres.

A One-Way Cruise

As you might have guessed, a one-way cruise starts at one point and ends at another. Most cruises are round trips, where you start and end at the same point.

Just as with a repositioning cruise, you will need to plan to be able to get yourself back to your point of origin. One-way cruises allow you the opportunity of spending time at your disembarkation port. For those who have the luxury of time, this is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a new place and truly learn what it is like. Some travelers feel like they may only get to their chosen port once in their life. By being able to spend time there, you can truly absorb the sights and the culture.

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The downside is that not every cruise line offers one-way cruises, and some may only be offered at only certain times of the year. There are not the same extensive lists of one-way cruises as there are of round-trips. However, if you plan your vacation well enough in advance, you should be able to find the cruise you’re looking for without any trouble.

Where Can I Go On A Repositioning or One-Way Cruise?

For the traveler looking to embark and disembark in the United States, you may look into a cruise that goes through the Panama Canal. You can sail from Florida, tour the Canal, and arrive in Los Angeles. Once there, you can spend a little time at the Santa Monica Pier, stroll down Rodeo Drive, or hike up to the Hollywood sign. If you live in LA, you could plan your trip in reverse. Fly to Florida, do your sightseeing beforehand, and take a relaxing, leisurely cruise home. Feeling a little more adventurous? Try cruising from the U.S. to Quebec and spend some time in our neighboring country, Canada, before coming home.

Looking between buildings at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.
Quebec City, Canada

You can get a taste of Old Quebec City by exploring the Petit-Champlain District, which dates back to the 1600s. Or, take a day to do a little whale watching. That is one of the perks of a repositioning cruise. Rather than an itinerary mapped out for you, you are the one who can choose what you would like to do and see.

If you have the time, try a transatlantic, repositioning cruise. Get on the ship in New York, and sail across the ocean to places like Spain, France, and England. Enjoy the sandy beaches of Ibiza, a romantic gondola ride in Venice, or an enlightening walking tour in the historic streets of London.

Aerial view of cruise ship docked at Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton. England. It is surrounded by cargo areas with the city in the background.
Ocean Cruise Terminal, Credit: cruisesouthampton.com

Spend a little time in Hong Kong before hopping on a 13-day cruise through Southwest Asia over to Thailand where you can see some of the beautiful beaches in Phuket. Or get on the ship in Rome, and go for an Arabian adventure that sees you through Egypt, Israel, Greece, and other places that many people dream of seeing.

When Is The Best Time For Repositioning Cruises?

The information below, with maps of cruise routes for spring and fall, came from https://www.roamingaroundtheworld.com/, and we appreciate their input.

These transatlantic repositioning cruises are the most common routes. But there are many more repositioning cruise routes that happen during these seasonal changes. Here’s a look at some of the more common Spring (March-May) repositioning cruise routes.

Map of the world with arrows showing where cruise ships reposition in the spring.

  • Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports to European ports
  • Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports to Pacific Northwest ports such as Vancouver
  • South America to Europe (less frequent and often European lines)
  • Australia to Asia (particularly Singapore)
  • Asia/Oceania to Pacific Northwest (less frequent)
  • Other: Every once in a while, there is just an odd repositioning route in which a cruise line may be repositioning a ship not just for a season, but changing a ship’s itinerary on a more permanent basis. Or they may just be less common repositioning cruise routes. Use some creative search filters and find these unique voyages, which may pack a very rare and interesting repositioning cruise itinerary. We’ve seen some interesting itineraries, for example, from Australia through the Pacific islands to Hawaii!
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Here’s a look at some of the more common Fall (September-November) repositioning cruise routes. (You’ll notice it is essentially the opposite of what was mentioned above.)

Map of the world with arrows showing where cruise ships reposition in the fall.

  • Europe to the Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports
  • Pacific Northwest (e.g., Vancouver) to the Caribbean, Florida, and other Southern US ports.
  • Europe to South America ports (less frequent and often European lines)
  • Asia (particularly Singapore) to Australia
  • Pacific Northwest to Asia/Oceania (less frequent)
  • Other: Every once in a while, there is just an odd repositioning route in which a cruise line may be repositioning a ship not just for a season, but changing a ship’s itinerary on a more permanent basis. Or they may just be less common. Use some creative search filters and find these unique voyages, which may pack a very rare and interesting itinerary.

Other Things To Know About A Repositioning Cruise

There Is Still A Lot To Do

While a repositioning cruise may be less expensive than a round-trip cruise, you can expect all the same amenities and activities as a round-trip cruise. There are complimentary dining options, activities, and entertainment just as a round-trip cruise would have.

You will spend more days at sea, and there will still be ports of call. There are times when these ports are not usual that are typically stopped at by cruises. This means that you may be seeing destinations that are not your run-of-the-mill stops.

Cruise lines strive to fill their ships with passengers, even at reduced rates when they reposition their ships, and so they make the prospect attractive by providing the same level of entertainment that you would expect on a round-trip cruise. Comedians, Broadway performers, and singers will still be put on in the evenings. Some cruises will add lectures on a variety of subjects like marine life, astronomy, cultures, or even cooking demonstrations. There are still typical activities like bingo and trivia games.

All of the other options on a cruise ship, like the swimming pools, rock climbing walls, water slides, and everything else on that particular cruise line are available. On a repositioning cruise, there tends not to be long lines or much of a wait for these activities.

You Will Need A Return Ticket

As was mentioned before, your starting point of the journey and your stopping point will be two different locations. You will need to get yourself back home whether it be by flying or renting a car depending on where your final stop is.

This is going to add to the overall cost of your trip, but if you look for flights in the off-season, it can be well worth the time you put into researching cruises and flights.

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Repositioning Cruises Tend To Be Longer In Duration

Round-trip cruises can be a week or less, while transatlantic repositioning cruises can be about two weeks. Transpacific cruises can be three weeks or longer.

Who Travels On Repositioning Cruises?

As you might expect, with the duration of repositioning cruises, a good portion of the passengers will be the over-60 crowd. They are the people with a bit of time on their hands and want some adventure. They also tend to be savvy travelers who know about getting the most out of your vacation dollar. Others on a repositioning cruise might be professionals who are freelance or remote workers, others on a sabbatical, or those who are relocating might also take advantage of one of these cruises. Those who are wanting to continue to work while on the water, they need to know that WiFi on a cruise can be problematic. It can be slow and expensive as it runs off a satellite signal.

One-Way Cruises

Not all transatlantic cruises are for repositioning. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 Luxury Cruise Ship crosses the Atlantic several times a year. These one-way cruises are an alternative to flying between North America and Europe.

You can also cruise from Quebec, Canada to Boston one way. These cruises typically sail from May through October, with the most popular time being August when the trees start to turn colors.

Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean cruise lines offer Canada/New England one-way trips in the fall for the foliage.

There are seasonal one-way cruises that sail southbound from either Seward or Whittier, Alaska, or northbound from Vancouver. One of the advantages of a one-way cruise is that it offers you time in the disembarkation port. Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and luxury lines like Silversea and Regent Seven Seas Cruises offer one-way sailing.

Just as with a repositioning cruise, you will need to provide your transportation back home.

Some Final Thoughts

Book your reservations ahead of time if you can, or at least, get an idea of what you plan on doing and seeing. Then, brush up on the cultures that you’ll be visiting. Take the time to learn a few words in the native language, and watch the faces of the locals light up. Even just a simple “hello,” “excuse me,” “thank you,” or “have a nice day” is more than enough to win bonus points. But don’t worry if you won’t have the opportunity, you’ll find that many countries speak English in addition to their first language – and often, a couple more on top of that! Just make sure that your travel documents, safeguards, and necessities are in line before you go; that should be your main priority. Bring along a travel binder that holds copies of your passport and ID, travel insurance policy documents, trip itineraries, boarding passes, etc.

Trying a repositioning or a one-way cruise at least once will give you a good idea of how to work this type of cruise into your life.

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