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By PAUL MOTTER
Fall and Spring are the seasons of repositioning cruises. Experienced cruisers love these cruises for their value, as the typical "repo cruise" will sell for about 60% of the per diem cost of a regular cruise. Their unusual itineraries include several days at sea while you cross over some of the world's major bodies of water, rendering you about as isolated from land as you can possibly get.
For those who do not know, a repositioning cruise is a one-time itinerary for a ship that needs to get from one seasonal cruising region to another. For example, during the summer months there are dozens of ships in Europe that eventually need to move to a different region for the winter cruising season. All but a few of these ships will be leaving Europe in the next one to three months for warmer climates.
The repositioning deployments begin in the Baltic Sea in September as the ships in Northern Europe start to make their way south, offering unusual cruise itineraries along the way. Many of them will cruise the Atlantic coast, visiting Amsterdam, France, Britain, Spain and Portugal. They might circumnavigate the British Isles, or head past Gibraltar to the Spanish resort islands of Ibiza and Majorca.
In October and November, as cooler weather sets in, the ships in the Mediterranean will set their headings to the west in preparation for the trans-Atlantic crossing repositioning cruises. Coming from Europe to the Western Hemisphere, the ships mostly begin their journeys in England, Spain or Portugal, but the route each ship takes can vary considerably. They may choose a northerly route, heading to New York City, or they may go more southerly, touching on the Azores and Bermuda and ending Florida.
Most repositioning cruises offer a succession of ports at either the beginning or the end of the itinerary, offering something like a normal cruise in addition to the crossing. But not all of them. Some itineraries, such as six-night crossings on the Queen Mary 2, are at sea almost every day.
Celebrity Constellation leaves September 15 from Dover, England to Le Havre, Dublin and Cork Ireland, three days at sea, then arrives at Saint John, Canada, Halifax and and finally Bayonne, New Jersey (NY/NJ Port Authority). A 12-night crossing with just five days at sea.
Norwegian Dream starts in Barcelona to Mallorca and three more days in Spain before sailing to Madeira (a remote Portuguese island), six days at sea, St. Thomas in the U.S.V.I. and then up to Miami. This 15-night cruise is showing a price of just $799.
The beautiful, new Emerald Princess is going from Venice, Italy through the Med to Naples, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona, Cadiz and Lisbon, to the Azores, five days at sea and finally Ft Lauderdale. This 17-night cruise starts at just $1299.
Leaving December 1st, Legend of the Seas departs Barcelona to the Canary Islands, five days at sea to Barbados, cruises the Southern Caribbean and lands in the Dominican Republic. This cruise starts at just $699 per person for a 15-night cruise.
Some of them go almost directly south from The Iberian Peninsula, touching the Canary Islands before heading to the very remote Cape Verde Islands and finally ending up in Barbados or even South America. Silversea has one ship going down the west coast of Africa to Dakar before it cuts directly across the Atlantic and lands in Brazil.
A "repo cruise" is typically any length from 7 to 21 days, depending on how much distance the ship needs to cover. The cruise usually includes up to five days in a row at sea crossing major bodies of water, with one or two day in port at some very remote islands before another one to three days at sea.
The beauty of these cruises is that you can see places you would probably never see any other way, the Azores for example, which for millennia were considered to be on the edge of the known world. Or Madeira or the Canary Islands, the tropical getaways for Portugal and Spain not far from the coast of Africa.
In case you didn't notice, the oddest thing about Hurricane Felix was that he (weren't hurricanes always considered to be female at one time?) came so close (within 50 miles) of the only Caribbean islands that claim to be hurricane-free; the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Luckily, none of these islands have reported any serious damage, but it is peculiar to see a hurricane take such a southerly route.
Curacao put its disaster plan into effect, and the island did receive heavy seas, rain and 40 mph winds. The pontoon bridge was moved upriver to a safer place, and residents were advised to shore up their homes. Trees were knocked down and heavy rains caused some flooding, but the warning was lifted yesterday.
Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean were forced to change cruise itineraries to avoid Felix, replacing Jamaica and Grand Cayman with more northerly ports like Nassau and Key West.
Another odd thing about both Felix and Dean last month was that both storms reached Category 5 status, considered to be the highest grade a hurricane can reach. These were both very strong storms, with winds in the range of 150 to 175 mph. Forecasters said Felix was one of the fastest-strengthening storms they had ever seen, most likely because of the very warm sea temperature in the waters of the deep Southern Caribbean.