Savvy cruisers who yearn for days at sea, as well as great deals, look forward to spring and autumn more than any other time of year. This is when repositioning cruises feature as an unsung element of cruise lines' rosters.
Though some ships spend the entire year sailing the same itineraries, many relocate to follow the sun. Few ships stay in Europe when the weather turns, so between September and November there is a veritable armada of ships crossing from Britain to the U.S. and Caribbean, calling at Iceland and the Canadian Maritimes en route. Likewise, in spring many ships, having spent winter in the Caribbean and South America, head back to Britain via the Azores, Canary Islands and Iberian Peninsula.
These one-way voyages are often sold at discount prices as they are not part of regular sailing schedules. To attract passengers, cruise lines may theme them with topics ranging from food and wine, to theatre, and big band music. Enhanced enrichment programmes also make these voyages appealing.
Read on for details of repositioning cruises to and from UK ports coming this autumn 2020 and spring 2021.
The Trip: Transatlantic 12-night repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: April 12 2020
Itinerary: New York, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Cobh (Ireland), Le Havre, Southampton.
The Highlights: Anthem of the Seas will sail to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and Canary Islands from Southampton, offering exhilarating Quantum class facilities including skydiving in the Ripcord iFLY chamber, full-size bumper cars and a roller-skating rink in its massive Seaplex games area, Flowrider surfing and the still innovative North Star viewing pod 300ft above the sea. This is a fantastic ship for anybody who wants non-stop activities but there are also some beautiful hideouts for grown-ups in search of peace. The adults-only Solarium has three small cascading swimming pools, whirlpools and recliners under a glass roof surrounded by palm trees and banana trees, while the Vitality Spa has an infrared sauna and steam room. Keep-fit folks will love the huge gym, climbing wall and jogging track and dining ranges from Italian to Japanese, seafood, steaks and good old-fashioned burgers. Excellent free children's clubs and a range of evening entertainment mark this 4,180-passenger ship out as perfect for families.
The Trip: Spain & Portugal Transatlantic 14-night reposition fly/cruise.
Departs: April 17 2020
Itinerary: Fort Lauderdale, Lisbon, Bilbao, Le Havre, Southampton.
The Highlights: Celebrity Silhouette will benefit from the line's ongoing "Revolution" refurb programme, in January 2020. The programme takes aspects of the line's new ship, Celebrity Edge, and adds them to the line's older vessels. These include Kelly Hoppen-designed cabins and suites, a new Retreat Sundeck for suite passengers, as well as an updated Retreat Lounge. But at the heart of this ship is its dining experience. The attention to food and drink on offer is unbeatable in this price range and the quality of complimentary eating options is as good as you'll get on any ship. One popular feature of Solstice-class ships that has not changes is the real lawn on the sun deck -- the perfect spot for an early evening drink as the sun begins to dip, gazing out at the endless Atlantic.
The Trip: 14 Caribbean repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: March 27 2020
Itinerary: Barbados (overnight), St Lucia, St Kitts, Antigua, Ponto Delgada (Azores), Southampton.
The Highlights: The biggest ship built for the British cruise market when launched in 2015, 3,647-passenger Britannia exudes just the right balance of luxury and style. There’s no hint of bling in its boutique hotel blue and cream interiors and no attempt to pack the ship with gimmicks or gadgets. Its innovative spaces include the Cookery Club, state-of-the-art kitchen stations for cookery classes sometimes led by P&O's Food Heroes such as Mary Berry and Marco Pierre White. Superb dining options include Sindhu, for outstanding Indian cuisine; Epicurean, for fine dining with a twist and The Glasshouse, for tapas and a tipple. The Limelight Club is an intimate supper club with entertainment from reasonably well-known singers during the meal for a £25pp supplement.
The Trip: Caribbean 13-night repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: March 21 2020
Itinerary: Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts, Antigua, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Southampton.
The Highlights: Azura is P&O Cruises' most family-friendly ship with a range of free children's clubs, a kids-only pool, onboard sports facilities and family entertainment in the theatres at night. But the ship caters equally well for couples and groups of friends with an exceptionally stylish spa and special dining experiences such as The Beach House for American steaks and ribs, and Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard, the master patissier and royal wedding cake-maker. Like other P&O Cruises ships, 3,100-passenger Azura caters mainly for passengers with British tastes and has all the favourite speciality restaurants including Sindhu for upmarket curries and Glass House for wine and sharing platters. There's the added attraction of direct flights from Barbados to London (Gatwick), Birmingham and Manchester.
The Trip: Western Europe Passage 15-day repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: April 19 2020
Itinerary: Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Lisbon, Bilbao, Zeebrugge, Portland, Southampton.
The Highlights: The arrival of Regal Princess and her big sister Royal Princess heralded a more relaxed and youthful approach from hugely popular Princess Cruises. It manages to combine traditional cruise decor with a more playful vibe. The heart of the ship is its three-deck Atrium, where you might join a dance or exercise class on Deck 5's Piazza during the day and watch bands start a party after dinner. It's also the best place for a coffee or ice cream and for drinks in the bars on Deck 6 and 7, such as American-style Crooners and prosecco bar Bellini's. With the main pool fairly lively the complimentary adults-only Retreat Pool on Deck 17 is a welcome oasis of calm but on the whole the atmosphere is good-natured fun and with claims of the best wifi at sea thanks to its OceanMedallion technology even teenagers should be happy as they stream their favourite shows and music while staying connected to their friends. Regal will mostly be sailing round-Britain cruises in summer 2020.
The Trip: Transatlantic from New York 14-day repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: April 19 2020
Itinerary: New York, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, Cobh, Portland, Le Havre, Southampton.
The Highlights: A major refurbishment in 2018, as part of the Norwegian Edge programme, has left Norwegian Cruise Line's 2001 mid-size ship a good fit for the British cruise market. The refit includes an outdoors Sky High Bar to replace the Bier Garten, Bliss Ultra Lounge instead of the Spinnaker Lounge for late-night entertainment and an adults-only Spice H2O, which has a pool, hot tubs, bar and sea views. At night it becomes an open-air lounge with live music, DJs and themed parties. All cabins and suites have also been upgraded with new carpet, furniture and a leap into the technological age with new USB ports. All NCL ships are big on entertainment and the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star has the full programme with Cirque du Soleil-style shows and West End-type musicals in Stardust Theater. It's also great for families. The whole aft of deck 13 has been transformed into Planet Kids, with their own cinema and gym, while deck 12 has a teens-only space. Norwegian Star will spend summer 2020 sailing around Britain and northern Europe..
The Trip: Transatlantic 12-night repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: November 7 2020
Itinerary: Southampton, Ponta Delgada (Azores), King’s Wharf (Bermuda), New York.
The Highlights: After a summer sailing from Southampton, Anthem of the Seas returns to the United States for winter Caribbean cruises departing from Cape Liberty in New Jersey. This Quantum class ship has an exhilarating array of facilities, from skydiving to a Ripcord iFLY chamber, but conveniently for a November repositioning cruise across the Atlantic, many of its star attractions are under cover. There are full-size bumper cars and a roller-skating rink in its massive Seaplex games area, where football and basketball are also on offer. Then there are peaceful hideaways such as the adults-only Solarium, where three small cascading swimming pools, whirlpools and recliners are under a glass roof surrounded by palms and banana trees. The Vitality Spa has an infrared sauna and steam room and there’s a huge gym, not to mention kids’ clubs, some of the best musicals at sea and an excellent range of restaurants and bars. The 4,180-passenger ship manages to be both family-friendly and perfect for couples or groups.
The Trip: Spain, Portugal & Azores Transatlantic 14-night reposition fly/cruise.
Departs: October 22 2020
Itinerary: Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Seville, Lisbon, Tenerife, Fort Lauderdale.
The Highlights: With sophisticated Kelly Hoppen-designed interiors and a “beautiful people” vibe, Celebrity Apex is the sister ship to 2019’s Celebrity Edge, which sparked a half-billion-dollar “Revolution” refit for the rest of Celebrity Cruises’ fleet. Apex is sailing a mini season from Southampton then from the Mediterranean this summer after a spring launch but heads over to Florida for Caribbean sunshine this winter. Onboard experiences include American Ballet Theatre performances but also ballet lessons for passengers. During pre-dinner drinks in the double-decker Eden bar you’ll be entertained by aerial dancers and performance artists – or you can just gaze out at sea through the massive wraparound windows. Children are very welcome onboard but Celebrity Cruises ships are generally best for foodies and sophisticates with an urban edge that attracts a younger and more diverse clientele than other cruise lines.
The Trip: 14 Caribbean repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: November 6 2020
Itinerary: Southampton, Madeira, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Barbados .
The Highlights: After a multi-million-pound refit in October 2019 Britannia emerged a livelier ship with music and entertainment in the atrium and an improved Oasis Spa, which now features an Arctic cold room and aroma steam room. But it remains more like a plush London hotel with an understated elegance that is tailored to British tastes. There is specially commissioned British art on the walls, British satellite channels on stateroom TVs and British-orientated entertainment in the theatre, lounges and bars. In November Britannia makes its now-traditional repositioning cruise to Barbados for winter in the Caribbean, where it will sail seven-night cruises to Saint Lucia and 14-night return cruises from Barbados. On the way over, passengers can tuck into a full English breakfast at the Peninsular main dining room, indulge in a seriously splendid afternoon tea in the Market Café and enjoy a curry in the contemporary Indian restaurant Sindhu, with a menu by Michel star chef Atul Kochhar.
The Trip: Spanish Passage 14-day repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: November 5 2020
Itinerary: Barcelona, Malaga, Casablanca, Tenerife, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Fort Lauderdale.
The Highlights: Enchanted Princess is the fifth Royal class ship for Princess Cruises and claims not only the largest balcony at sea (in its five-passenger Sky Suite -- also a feature of 2019’s Sky Princess) but also two deep-tank pools linked by sunken communal seating on the top-deck bar. An infinity-style Wakeview pool at the back of the ship, which launches in June, brings it in line with 2019’s Sky Princess, and both ships also have jazz theatres, Take Five, which is new for Princess. Also new is Princess Live, a comedy café that hosts games shows that the audience to join in, and it has OceanMedallion, an app that lets you book into restaurants, entertainment and excursions. Enchanted also has much-loved Princess dining options such as Chocolate Journeys and Bistro Sur La Mer by Emmanuel Renaut. The Voice of The Ocean transfers TV’s popular singing competition to the sea and children have Discovery at SEA activities and shows including Finding Bigfoot.
The Trip: Picturesque Panama Canal, Costa Rica and Cartagena from New York 13-day repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: November 29 2020
Itinerary: New York, Puerto Plata, Willemstad, Oranjestad, Santa Marta, Cartegena, Panama Canal/Gatun Lake, Colon, Puerto Limon, Miami.
The Highlights: After summer and autumn sailing short return cruises from New York to Bermuda, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Encore, will spend winter 2020 cruising around the Caribbean from Miami. The last of the Breakaway class ships, it’s designed for warm water sailing and has deck-top waterslides and a children’s aqua park, open-air laser tag and an electric racing car track next to it. Although the pools and slides are free you pay for laser tag, racing cars and Galaxy Pavilion’s numerous virtual reality games. You can also buy a pass to the adults-only Vibe Beach Club and Mandarin Spa thermal suite. Evening entertainment is free, though, and superb: from the musical Kinky Boots to all-male singing group Choir of Man and the Beatles tribute band in The Cavern Club. And the choice of dining venues is immense, with much excitement about the specialty option Onda by Scarpetta, an Italian restaurant found in smart locations in London and top US cities.
The Trip: Spanish Transatlantic 13-night repositioning fly/cruise.
Departs: April 17 2021
Itinerary: Fort Lauderdale, Malaga, Valencia, Rome (Civitavecchia).
The Highlights: Royal Caribbean’s newest ship launches in November and after a winter in the Caribbean sailing from Florida’s Fort Lauderdale it will cross the Atlantic to become the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to sail the Mediterranean. It’s got the next generation SeaPlex with indoor bumper cars and Trapeze School but also the venue’s first Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade. The pool deck has two resort-style pools, shady casitas and hammock and the two-storey Lime and Coconut Bar to give it an island vibe. There’s also glow-in-the-dark Clash For The Crystal City laser tag, a FlowRider surf simulator, Sky Pad bungee trampoline and the North Star viewing pod that lifts you 100 metres from the sea. At night the innovative Two70 transforms from a living room with panoramic views to a multimedia theatre and there’s a new Music Hall for live bands. The Adventure Ocean kids’ clubs have also been updated and the teen lounge has gaming consoles, music and movies.