My husband Tim and I discovered repositioning cruises when we "un-nested" in 2011. We sold our California house, flew the coop, and we have been living abroad ever since, staying in different countries for at least a month at a time, sometimes longer. We rent apartments and houses and love being temporary locals. See Home Free Adventures to read about our experiences.
Our home-free lifestyle presents two major budget challenges. First, we have no permanent home, so we must pay to sleep somewhere 365 nights a year, and second, we want to return to the U.S. to see our children often, so airfare adds up fast. The solution? Repositioning cruises.
Most cruise companies relocate their equipment twice a year, moving them from one warm, inviting climate to another, and they cost between thirty and seventy percent less than in-season cruises. Trips to Europe take from one week to a month, depending on their departure and arrival points and the number of stops they make.
Repositioning cruises offer the same level of service, entertainment and relaxation as regular high season voyages. But when we arrive in Europe, instead of being exhausted, sore and jet-lagged from hours on a crowded airplane and combatting nerve-jangling airport mayhem, we're relaxed, rested and caught up with the time change. Aboard ship, the clocks are adjusted one hour a day as time zones are crossed. It's easy to adapt slowly, so we don't lose a day or two being confused and tired when we arrive.
We retirees reap some extra benefits by traveling in the off-season; most of the passengers are mature, which offers us a chance to meet plenty of new friends in our own age group, and we can enjoy the equivalent of a long resort vacation aboard a luxury ship and pay no more than we would for airfare plus room and board for the same period of time. We think it's a wonderful travel option for seniors.
Of course, everything has its downsides! The weather in the fall and spring can be unpredictable, so sun worshippers might be disappointed.The seas can be a little more active, so we choose a cabin closer to the center of the ship, which can be a bit more stable. Also, the ports of call might not present their best faces off-season, but we've certainly found some nice bargains while shopping in Tenerife and Barcelona in February!
Many people have asked us if 12 or14 days aboard ship is boring or claustrophobic. We have found that we're busy and happy most of the time because there's always something to do. Lectures, games, shows, a casino, bars and specialty restaurant are usually on offer, and a good gym and spa are always available. There is a library on most ships, and the beauty of the ocean itself is a daily treat. If group activities don't appeal, it's easy to skip the socializing and enjoy down-time. A deck chair and a good book can make for a satisfying afternoon.
Tim, who is our chief travel agent, consults repositioningcruise.com or cruise.com and also checks individual cruise lines when he's making our reservations. It's usually a good idea to begin looking early to ensure having a wider choice of cabins.
We are spending three months in Paris. Berlin will be our home in August. An apartment outside London is reserved for September, and when we step aboard our repositioning cruise in Copenhagen October 1, we will have been in Europe since February. I think we'll be ready for 12 days of luxury living by then, and we look forward to arriving in Miami, to reunions and to spending the holidays with our family and friends. But I know that after re-nesting temporarily in a rented California cottage, we'll fly the coop again aboard another floating hotel, destination to be announced.