Imagine arriving in Europe completely relaxed, well rested, with no jet lag, ready to enjoy your trip to France, Spain, Italy or wherever you are headed. Think of an international trip without fighting the airport mayhem, putting up with other peoples’ screaming babies, and stomaching airplane “food” for ten or more hours! We will rarely endure those headaches again because we’ve discovered repositioning cruises! My husband and I have enjoyed four transatlantic crossings with two different cruise lines in the last couple of years, sometimes paying less than we would for airfare!
In 2011 we sold our California home, ditched most of our belongings, put the rest in storage, and set out to live internationally, seeing the world one country at a time. We’re not wealthy, but we placed our house proceeds to our financial advisor, who added it to our portfolio. He sends us a monthly check from its earnings and that, combined with our Social Security checks, affords us to live carefully but comfortably almost anywhere we like. Since we have no permanent home right now, we must pay rent for a place to sleep every night, so living aboard is a real bargain for us.
Many cruise lines move their equipment from one part of the world to another twice a year. When they move from North America to Europe or Australia to the U.S. during the off-seasons the passengers get tremendous discounts for coming along. On our last cruise from Barcelona to Miami we paid less that $2200 for both of us for a twelve day cruise. We had a mini-suite with a balcony and enjoyed being pampered and spoiled all the way home after a nine-month stay in Europe.
A repositioning cruise does mean diminished rates, but not diminished services. The cruise ships offer the same entertainment, formal evenings for those who enjoy them, and specialty restaurants where passengers can dine in more intimate surroundings for a small additional charge. On our last cruise we enjoyed Asian food on several evenings, a great steakhouse experience, a wonderful Italian restaurant, and, of course, there are always snacks, hot dogs, ice cream, and several very active bars aboard all the ships. Three meals a day are offered in the dining room, too, and there is a casual buffet as well. There is always a casino aboard, and usually at least two swimming pools. The gyms are always well-equipped, and it’s a thrill to be pounding away on a treadmill watching the wake of a huge ship disappear into the horizon instead of looking a the TV screen on a blank wall at home!
The ships offer plenty of group activities, so there are bridge games, backgammon tournaments and wine tastings offered every day, along with walking groups, miniature golf contests and trivia games for passengers who enjoy those pursuits. I once joined a tour of the entire ship, which was a fascinating experience. It was amazing to see how the vast kitchens provide the enormous amount of food required by two thousand people every day and how the tremendous engines are controlled from one small room. The highlight was the bridge, the command central of the huge ship. Our group was agog at the vast array of electronic gear, all spotlessly efficient-looking, and the view from the bow of eleven stories above the deck. I noticed a fellow in a track suit standing at the very tip of the bridge. He was perfectly still, peering out into the distance. When I inquired about what he was doing I was told that he was the lookout, and that there is a person performing that duty twenty-four hours a day. I thought it was fantastic that in this modern age of technology there was a human being who was ultimately responsible for keeping all of us aboard that ship safe from oncoming traffic or a floating island!
Our stewards were charming young men who offered the pampering people expect on cruises. Each time we left our quarters they would swoop in, tidy up, straighten or replace towels, empty the trash, and be sure our ice bucket was full. We were thoroughly spoiled every morning because our coffee and breakfast were brought exactly at the time we requested on the card we hung on our door the night before. It always takes me weeks to recover once we’ve landed because, although my darling spouse does bring my coffee to me, there is no freshly squeezed orange juice, croissant or fruit plate accompanying it! Cruising can turn us all into brats.
We have heard from many readers of my blog and my book that they’ve followed our lead and enjoyed repositioning cruises all over the world. We’re working on a plan right now to sail from Los Angeles to Sydney, via the Panama Canal next year. We think it’s the only way NOT to fly, and we hope we’ve given you some ideas for your next trip.