Transatlantic Treks

As cruise lines reposition ahead of summer, there is solitude on the high seas

by Will O'Bryan
Published on March 14, 2013, 3:15am | Comments

Imagine yourself at sea on a lovely cruise ship. Not bad, right? Now imagine the next port is five days away. To some, a blissful opportunity to disconnect. For others – who should stop reading now – a seafaring circle of hell. If you are in that former camp, though, there is plenty on offer this season. Think of all those big boats plying the Caribbean during the chilly season. Well, it's about time they set their sights on Europe's summer of cruising. Hop aboard the repositioning migration that sees these many liners heading north for the summer and returning in the fall. Certainly, the companies that own these boats would just as soon make a little money at the same time. But with few ports of call and no guarantee of perfect weather – England in April being a far cry from the Virgin Islands – room and board can be a relative bargain.

One adventurous couple, Betsy and Warren Talbot, who married in the D.C. area in 2004 but now travel the world – as recounted on their blog ''Married with Luggage'' – found a repositioning cruise in October cheaper than flying. After six months of overland travel from Thailand to Europe, the two needed to get back to the U.S. Luckily, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun was headed in that direction, a two-week trip from Copenhagen to Miami.

''We paid $700 each, including tax and tip,'' Betsy Talbot reports from the couple's current encampment of Guanajuato, Mexico. That was for an inside cabin, which Warren Talbot says was just fine.

''It was probably the nicest accommodation we'd had in two-and-a-half years,'' he says, explaining that he and Betsy had spent that time bouncing around the globe on a budget. ''If we did it again, we'd still do an interior cabin.''

But, would they do it again? They hate to fly, granted. That doesn't seem enough to offset the couple's need for a more adventurous form of travel. Consider the only other sort of cruise they'd taken prior was with a group of about 120 passengers to Antarctica.

Still, their days on Norwegian Sky don't sound so bad.

''We'd get up early, have breakfast,'' Warren Talbot says of a typical day. ''In the afternoon we'd go to a movie or to the library. We never missed a happy hour. We'd relax for a few hours, then dinner. There were at least 10 to 15 activities at any time. Every day was very full. You were never bored.''

The two were actually less aware of the isolation than of the trip than of their shipmates – largely American, largely older, largely large.

''I know it sounds horrible, but we were amazed by the amount of food people ate at every meal,'' Warren Talbot says of the inclusive, endless offerings.

If not their cup of tea, exactly, is there anyone for whom they might recommend such a cruise?

While Warren says it would be just the ticket for his mom, who enjoys chatting up strangers, Betsy offers, ''I'd say somebody like a writer, somebody who wants that time alone to create something. Or somebody coming down from something – either really good, or really bad, like a breakup.''

And if you're looking for a little ''family,'' Pied Piper Travel is organizing a gay group to join the Celebrity Eclipse, departing Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 20, arriving 13 days later in Southampton, England, with stops along the way in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Saint Martin – before eight straight days of nothing but open ocean.

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