The secret of traveling the seven seas is not as many think the location of Atlantis, but the routes and access to the best repositioning cruise! What’s a repositioning cruise..? Well may you ask! It’s a way that some clever travelers find to travel across the major oceans at a fraction of the standard price of a traditional cruise. Ships reposition from ports (like New York and Fort Lauderdale) to Europe for a season of Mediterranean or Northern European sailings. This often happens in fall and spring. Other repositioning itineraries journey to Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Here is the story of Eden and Dennis Rudin, housesitters with HouseSitMatch.com, who recently took a repositioning cruise to travel from Panama to Europe to start housesitting in Europe. The two week trip was all inclusive and cost less for food and accommodation than living as housesitters in Europe for the same period! Read on for more…
The cruise we took was a Transatlantic route from Panama to Portugal – 13 days of which 10 were at sea (8 days was the longest at sea part). The cruise line was Pullmantur (a Spanish line, so Spanish was the primary language, Portuguese was 2nd and English 3rd ) and the ship itself was the Monarch. She will travel back to Panama in September from Barcelona. We will more than likely do it again!
Repositioning cruise highlights:
1. Price –
We paid just $344 per person (including taxes/port charges) + $164 p/p for gratuities = $508 p/p.
- Our accommodation – We had an inside room and it was spacious enough for 2 adults to be comfortable, which was amazing considering the price.
- All inclusive meals and drinks – on this line and their French sister line (Croisieres de France also offer very discounted variations of the repositioning cruise but we talked to someone who has cruised on that line and said it was a bit more ‘dry’ in terms of crew/patrons) they offer all inclusive drinks – beer (Miller Geniune Draft), soda, cappuccinos, several wine options including Cava and mixed drinks galore at no extra charge
- If you are a specific brand snob you’ll need to upgrade your package but everyone we talked to was very happy with the free Gin, Vodka and Rum selections.
2. Company on-board –
We met so many interesting people – because of the unique nature of the voyage on the repositioning cruise a lot of the people were very well traveled and very interesting, vs. regular tourists sailing in the Caribbean for a vacation type of travelers.
3. Service was excellent –
We were thoroughly spoiled on the journey – even though it is a repositioning cruise the company and crew treat it as a regular journey, just like any other cruise would be. You have a cabin steward that makes up your bed 2 times a day if you want
4. Entertainment –
There was nightly entertainment on the repositioning cruise (though several shows, like the comedy show, were in Spanish only), a casino, contests, etc. There was actually plenty to do if you wanted to join in the activities. The food in the dining room was great, or you can feast at the buffet.
Top Tips – Repositioning cruise
- How to locate your cabin – If you are going to sail on an older ship you want to have your cabin lower rather than higher. There is a reason the infirmary is on the lower level…because it is more stable down there. We were on the 5th level and if we did it again I would go with level 3 or 4
- Fears about availability – Don’t worry about this line or the French one being sold out – this ship held 2700 passengers, we had less than 1800 on-board. And I heard on the return (Europe to Panama) last year they had less then 1000 passengers. If you want a suite or window room then maybe booking in advance would be wise but for a standard inside they will probably have plenty available.
- Charges for drinkable water – For this cruise line, a 1 ltr bottle of water costs you $1 – no need to stock up on bottled water and bring it onboard with you, they don’t overcharge you (yes some lady really did stop at the 99 cent store and by a couple dozen bottles of water and bring them with her, I saw it happen). Over the trip we bought 12 bottles and kept them in the room. If you wanted a glass of water at the bar/table they poured it from the bottled water so you didn’t really have to pay for any if you didn’t want to. Tap water is fine for brushing teeth and washing clothes but not for drinking regularly.
- Laundry and clothes washing –
- Washing in the cabin – using the shampoo/body wash they supply in the shower is perfect for hand washing your clothes in the sink (if its good enough to get the oils off your body and scalp it is good enough for your sweaty clothes, wringing them out, roll them in the towel and then hang drying on hangers in the room, by morning they will be dry (especially underwear). We had lovely weather with nice breezes so several times I would wash Denny’s cotton clothes and put them on wet, walk up to the upper deck and stand in the sun/wind and get them dry.
- Laundry service – wash and fold was $15 or so for a kilo (I think, didn’t pay much attention since I knew we wouldn’t be using the service, as many of Denny’s clothes are not dryer friendly).
- Breakfast – most important meal of the day, if you go to the dining room you can get an omelet/eggs made to order. But expect a long wait vs just having what is at the dining room buffet.
- Meals in general – We mostly ate in the dining room vs the buffets breakfast and lunch, it offered us almost the same food but in a quieter environment with less rushing around required, and we were always seated with new people. Dinner in the dining room was assigned seating.
- Dressing up for Dinner – Yes there were some formal nights and with the need to dress up but it was not necessary to go the whole hog if your wardrobe doesn’t the bandwidth (heck as a long term traveler I only own one pair of shoes!)
- Cabin location and selection – to make the most of the extraordinary value of the repositioning cruise, you want to try and organise yourself to find a comfortable room with little disruption. So room #’s are important because they dicate location (I believe this to be true on all cruises if my memory serves me correctly). If you choose the first couple or the last few room numbers on a deck ,for example 5501, 5598, 5401, 5498, you will be at the end of the hallway vs being in the pathway of foot traffic and other rooms. So ends are best in my experience.
- Benefit – no slamming of neighbour’s doors, especially the guy next to the guy next to you who has 4 people in the cabin and they come and go all day/night
- Drawback – you are at the end of the hall and usually have the furthest walk (but with all that eating you probably need the extra steps lol) and you could be next to a service door (but they are usually doing service stuff during the day when you aren’t in your room anyway).
- My personal preference – I like picking room #’s that are at the very end of the floor sequences!!
- Internet – just plan on bad reception, unless you go with one of the US lines who are overhauling their services. This ship was getting CAT5 cable dropped on our floor while we were there with router boosters, but overall it just sucked. We purchased 250 minutes before the cruise and got a bonus of 60 minutes. I made it last right up until the last day and mostly just hopped on and hopped off, each time that was 20 min. minimum because of the slow speed. I was able to book a hotel room in Lisbon, although that whole event took almost 60 min. of my time!
- TIP – 1) when you go to ports go sit at a bar/restaurant order some food and use their internet, always just order a drink first to test it out
- They did offer a day rate for $25/day but once you activated it you were billed from every day forward. So if you bought on day 7 you were actually buying for the 6 remaining days as well. Not just one day….except the last day when it was just 1 day left.
- Before you board the ship – Buy your toiletries, like conditioner, toothpaste and sunscreen before you board the boat. Not only are the prices inflated onboard but the selection is limited, this one had no conditioner for sale! Bring sanitary/Lysol wipes, 10 or so, and wipe down all counters, phone, tv, door knobs in/out, drawer handles, bathroom counters, etc. They are meticulous as well, because nothing worse than something viral spreading on a ship…but do your due diligence as well for your own protection.
- Check your luggage – If you have and iron or a knife with a blade longer than 4 inches in your luggage expect to get a call from security to remove it from your bag and hand if over until you disembark at your final port. You get a receipt and everything, just don’t forget to retrieve it…we saw many a knife in the bin and we were some of the last off the boat.
- Embarking and disembarking – to save yourself from long lines and hot, miserable conditions around a bunch of people standing in tight confined spaces…. don’t get there early, get there as late as possible. It seems counter intuitive but it will save a bothersome time.
- Embarking – get there the last 2 hours that you can…trust me the line you see is NOTHING like the one that was there 4 hours before.
- Disembarking (as long as you don’t have a departing flight or tour) go up to the buffet, with all your hand luggage (you are locked out of your room), have some breakfast and go make yourself comfortable at a window overlooking the port you are disembarking from. And sit, and have more coffee and sit and enjoy the view. Don’t worry the boat isn’t going to sail with you still on it…they do a last call for all passengers getting off….with 1700 people (all of whom did not get off) it took about 3 hours AFTER people were allowed to leave before we decided to get off….walked right off, no line at all, no stress either.
- Embarking port – if the one listed the cruise line offers doesn’t work with your schedule but one of the other ports on the trip works better call them and find out about getting on at that port. i.e. people on our ship had boarded in Venezuela, Aruba (it just had finished a 7 day cruise there), Cartagena (our first port of call) and even St. Martin (our 2nd port). If the ship is stopping there you can get on, it just may take a phone call or two…be persistent if you need to be.
- Payment for incidentals – They (all cruises, and not just repositioning cruises) take your credit card as security for final tips etc. If you are like us and don’t travel with a credit card you can give them cash. Just find out ahead of time how much per person is required, or you can give them your debit card # but be prepared for the whole amount to be ‘held’ on your card for up to 2 weeks after the charge has been made. Best bet deal in cash if you only have debit cards.
The main advantage of the repositioning cruise for us was the incredible discount it offered us to travel a great distance across the Atlantic and to live an all inclusive lifestyle, food, alcohol and entertainment included for less than it would cost us to live for two weeks in Europe! As long term housesitters we manage how much we spend per night and per month, and the repositioning cruise cuts those costs dramatically while helping us cross between continents. It’s a great idea for thrifty travelers!
Eden and Denny are now housesitting for HouseSitMatch near Seville in Spain for the summer. They have promised to write another blog about that experience…
If you would like to try house-sitting or pet-sitting to cut the cost of your accommodation when you travel register with HouseSitMatch and we can help you find either a housesitter to help you, or a housesit to start your journey!
To register as a House-sitter follow this link
To register as a Homeowner follow this link