Why a repositioning cruise could be just the ticket

One in 4 of us want to book a cruise this year and there’s a new type of cruise to look out for - a ‘repositioning cruise’. It's a budget-friendly option that's big on luxury.

By Alana House

Australians can’t get enough of cruise holidays. In fact, new research from the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) Australia found one in four of us want to book a cruise this year.

And while there are plenty of cruise bargains to be found in your Sunday newspaper, one of the hottest trends in travel is luxury cruising.

Of the 14 new cruise ships entering service in 2024, 8 are being introduced by premium and luxury brands.

Among the more exclusive cruise lines are Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Ponant and Lindblad. 

Read more of Citro’s cruise curious tips for first-time cruisers.

In addition to providing luxurious accommodation and cruising to exotic locations, they also lavish their guests with extras that can range from bottomless French Champagne to personal butlers and all-you-can-eat caviar.

But are those special touches worth the fancy price tag?

A cost-effective way to take a luxury ship for a test run is to book a repositioning cruise.

The repositioning discount 

These trips are offered at discounted prices when cruise lines need to relocate ships to a different region at the start or end of cruise seasons.

They usually involve few or no ports of call and operators are keen to fill cabins on these journeys.

You can find out which repositioning cruises are on offer by contacting your preferred cruise operator. Or Google ‘repositioning cruise’ to find specialist agents.

All aboard the Le LaPerouse

My partner and I crossed the Tasman Sea in January aboard a Ponant expedition ship called Le Lapérouse. 

We sailed from Hobart bound for Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. It was romantically described as an “ocean voyage” by Ponant, but it was actually a repositioning cruise.

Le Lapérouse had been traversing the Kimberley and Queensland before heading to Hobart for a Christmas/New Year circumnavigation, then moving onto New Zealand.

Around half the passengers on our cruise disembarked in New Zealand. They enjoyed the ocean voyage then headed home or went on a land-based trip in New Zealand.

In our case, the cruise company had offered the opportunity to spend 5 complimentary days at sea if we booked the following cruise that it was hosting around the South and North Islands of New Zealand.

We decided that having a “pre-holiday holiday” would be a great opportunity to unwind after a busy year.

The 5-day repositioning bonus buy

Our boarding time was 12pm and we made our way down to the wharf, where Le Lapérouse sat in the shadow of the enormous Virgin Voyages Resilient Lady. 

While The Resilient Lady has capacity for 2770 passengers, Le Lapérouse only sleeps around 180 passengers.

It was luxury all the way from the moment we stepped on board and greeted with glasses of Charles Heidsieck champagne. 

Then we wandered on deck to the outdoor grill and ordered wild mushroom risotto and steak with Béarnaise sauce as more bubbles flowed.

Le Lapérouse is an all-inclusive ship, with all meals and drinks included, plus a fully stocked mini-bar in your room for those moments when you fancy making your own G&T.

Mind you, there’s also free room service, so you can ask for your cocktails to be delivered to you in bed if you prefer!

We sailed down the Derwent River in the late afternoon, taking a dip in the heated plunge pool and admiring the spectacular scenery as we cruised past the heads and out to open sea. Then we sat down to a four-course dinner in the ship’s swanky dining room at sunset, before retiring to our suite, which was bigger than our hotel room in Hobart.

It included a dressing room, separate toilet, shower and sink room and a sofa, alongside a king-sized bed. It also had a balcony, which didn’t get a huge amount of use as the weather only reached a top of around 11-12°C each day during the voyage.

While I packed a stack of books, I spent the voyage doing not very much at all. I mostly gazed at the sea, drank Champagne and dozed.

A day in the life is the life

We would rise in time for a 9am meditation or stretch class, have breakfast in the dining room, laze around drinking coffee, head to the grill for lunch and a few glasses of French wine, have an afternoon nap, visit one of the bars for a pre-dinner cocktail, head to the dining room or grill for dinner, then visit another bar for a post-dinner cocktail.

It was very exciting to sight land for the first time on day four. 

Solander Island is described by the Museum of New Zealand as “a rugged, inhospitable lump of an island lying in the western approaches to Foveaux Strait.”

But we thought the inhospitable lump looked wonderful after spending so long at sea and took endless photos.

Our last day of the ocean voyage was the most magical. We relaxed in our cabin until it was time for lunch, where I ordered my third steak with bernaise sauce for the voyage, teamed with frites, salad and Champagne as we watched the gorgeous New Zealand South Island’s coastline glide past.

The sky was gloriously blue and the sea was blissfully calm. A fellow passenger waved us over to the side of the ship to watch seals frolic beside the ship.

Later the Captain announced that a pod of minke whales was accompanying the ship and we raced onto deck to gaze in awe as they undulated through the glassy sea.

But the dazzling highlight of the day came after dinner as hundreds of tiny Hector dolphins surrounded the ship, leaping through the waves. It was so beautiful that I found myself crying with happiness, which sounds soppy, but it was truly special.

Would I do another repositioning cruise?

We really enjoyed the opportunity to switch off and be pampered. The food and wine was generally excellent. We are not prone to seasickness, so the open seas didn’t bother us much, although other passengers struggled a little.

Entertainment was minimal and the duo that regularly serenaded passengers weren’t our speed. Fortunately my expectations had been low in that regard – I was there to relax and get some peace, not to party.

So, yes, I would recommend trying a repositioning cruise as a good way to decide if a luxury ship is your speed before blowing the kids’ inheritance.

Find out how to spend less on a cruise than you would at home.

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