When planning a cruise there are basically two kinds of itineraries, round trip and repositioning. A round trip cruise starts and ends in the same port, whereas a repositioning cruise starts in one port and ends in another.
Some repositioning cruises are just cruises that go from point A to point B and then the next week sail the other way from point B to point A again. For example, a New England/Canada cruise that sails out of New York City northward and ends in Quebec City one week, and then sails southward from Quebec City back to New York City the next week. Many ships do this, sailing back and forth between two ports over the course of their cruising season. Of course you can turn these types of cruises into a round trip if you have the time and money. Just book a return trip for the following week to get you back to point A. The disadvantage of this is that you usually visit the same ports, but occasionally the return trip stops at one or more different ports. There are often several different shore excursion options in the same port that may be of interest to you, so that may not be a problem for you.
Some repositioning cruises are only offered once or twice per year because they are special cruise itineraries between two sailing seasons for a ship to get to a new port to start a new season of cruising. For example, some ships sail in the Caribbean during the winter months then have a special transatlantic cruise to move (reposition) the ship across the ocean to start the summer season of cruising around Europe. Then at the end of the summer, they have another repositioning transatlantic cruise to bring the ship back over to the Caribbean again.
One advantage of repositioning cruises is that the itineraries are sometimes more interesting than round trip cruises because you’re covering more distance, and sometimes more countries, because you’re traveling in one direction. This is a matter of preference really since the length of the cruise is the same; it’s just the choice of ports you’re stopping at. You may be getting more “sea days” where you don’t stop at a port on one or the other type of itinerary, or you may get an overnighter in one or more ports on the round trip cruise.
The pictures above show the difference you can get in a 7-day cruise itinerary. Both of these cruises sail on the Pacific coast. Would you rather take a 7-day cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles stopping at Victoria, Seattle, Astoria, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara, or a 7-day cruise from Los Angeles that stops at San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Ensenada? The repositioning cruise has 7 ports of call while the round-trip cruise has only 5 ports of call.
Some itineraries are only offered as repositioning. There aren’t many round-trip transatlantic cruises, and in order to have a round trip from Fort Lauderdale to Santiago Chile you’d have to have a rather long sailing.
One disadvantage of repositioning cruises is that airfare to/from your cruise is sometimes more expensive than it would be for a round-trip cruise because you have to fly to one city to pick up your cruise and fly out of another city when the trip is over. Sometimes, but not always, these kinds of flights are more expensive than flying to/from the same city.
Another disadvantage, at least for the special cruises used to relocate the ship to start a new season, is that they are only offered once or twice per year so they fill up fast and you don’t have the flexibility in sailing dates.
The type of cruise itinerary you choose, repositioning or round trip, is a matter of preference. We have been on several of each type over the years and both repositioning and round trip cruises make for an enjoyable vacation. Choosing a few of each type makes your cruising experiences more interesting.