It's the time of year when luxury cruise ships make their way from their summer routes in Alaska or the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or other winter getaway spots. These one-way trips are called repositioning cruises, and seniors who have the time can take advantage of deep discounts offered by the cruise lines.
The upside to these sometimes lengthy trips is the refreshing and relaxing time at sea; the downside is likewise. Cruise lines have noticed that revenues from their bars and casinos enjoy an upward curve.
There are, however, some relocation cruises with interesting but quick stops in exotic ports. I find that repositioning cruises are popular among people who don't object to covering a lot of ground (make that water) in a short period. The trips are samplings, to be sure, but ones that can be full of memories.
You won't find too many repositioning cruises listed in the schedules of cruise lines; most are unadvertised. There is flexibility, however. Some years back, my wife and I enjoyed such a cruise from Athens, Greece, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with stops in major Mediterranean ports including Rome, Naples (and Capri), Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Cartagena, Colombia; and Tangier, Morocco. We left the ship in Lisbon, Portugal, and flew home while others stayed aboard all the way to Florida.
The best source that I could find for repositioning cruises was Cinderella Travel (www.cinderellatravel.com/repositioning_cruises.php#9; phone: 1-877-275-8434). In addition to a huge list of cruises, the agency books air travel, sells insurance, and provides help getting passports. Don't forget to ask for a senior rate.
Some of the trips that I sought were booked, so you might consider cruises in the spring or next fall.
Here are some 2007 repositioning cruises with cabins available as of Sept. 28:
Oct. 20: Barcelona, Spain, to Miami, 15 nights, aboard the Norwegian Jewel, with visits to Nice, France; Livorno and Rome, Italy; Ajaccio, Corsica; Majorca; Gibraltar; and Madeira, from $949 for an interior cabin to $1,749 for a suite. On-board amenities include two outdoor pools and one indoor pool, six Jacuzzis, shops, fitness center, spa, beauty salon, showroom, 13 bars and lounges, casino, library, and children's program.
Nov. 28: Rome (port of Civitavecchia) to Fort Lauderdale, 16 days aboard the Royal Princess, with visits to Portofino, Italy; Monte Carlo; Barcelona; Gibraltar; Casablanca; Dakar, Senegal; Fortaleza, Brazil; Devils Island, French Guiana; Dominica; and St. Barthélemy. Cabin prices from $3,690 interior to $7,940 for a suite.
Dec. 3: Rome to Fort Lauderdale aboard the Star Princess, 17 days, with visits to Naples; Livorno; Genoa, Italy; Cannes, France; Barcelona; Gibraltar; Cadiz, Spain; and Madeira; $1,299 to $7,215.
Bayonne, N.J., is not generally thought of as a port of departure for oceangoing cruise ships, but there are several trips leaving from Cape Liberty in the next few weeks that offer noteworthy discounts for those 55 and older.
For example,the Azamara Journey, formerly known as the Celebrity Journey, will depart Oct. 27 for a 14-day cruise to Bermuda; Grand Turk; Haiti; Santa Marta and Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; and San Andres Island, before arriving in Miami.
The Azamara is a new line of "boutique ships," so-called because they carry only about 700 passengers. They boast luxury, however, with elegant restaurants, ballrooms, bars and casino and a huge computer room.
A $200 discount is available for seniors, off the basic senior rate of $1,699 plus taxes ($137), for the cheapest balcony cabin featuring two lower beds convertible to queen size; sliding glass doors; sitting area with sofa bed; private veranda; flat-screen TV; refrigerator with mini-bar; direct-dial telephone and voice mail; desk; in-room safe; and hair dryer. Call 1-800-338-4962 or go to www.VacationsToGo.com.
If you're willing to sail from Baltimore, consider a five-day, round-trip voyage to Bermuda on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, with an Oct. 28 departure. The senior rate is $999, a $300 discount, for the cheapest balcony stateroom. This is a mighty big boat, hauling 2,446 passengers. Besides the usual accoutrements, it features a video arcade, beauty salon, fitness center, jogging track, rock-climbing wall, kosher meals, 14 wheelchair-accessible cabins, glass elevators, and palm trees. Call 1-800-338-4962 or go to www.VacationsToGo.com.
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John Hilferty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.