ABOARD SEA GODDESS II — In the company of 50 other budget-minded people we are sailing through calm blue seas and sunny skies, enjoying a bottomless supply of champagne and caviar, superb restaurant-style cuisine from master chef Uli Franzmann, and perfect service, with everything from bar drinks and dinner wine to tips and port taxes included in the fare.
The price for our 14-day sailing is $4,500 per person, double occupancy, a terrific bargain when you consider that Sea Goddess II's twin sister, Sea Goddess I, costs $5,100 for seven days of the good life in the Caribbean.
What's the secret? Simple. It's a repositioning cruise, which means that Cunard has to move the Sea Goddess II between its summer location in the Mediterranean and its winter port of Singapore, with or without passengers. So the price is calculated to appeal to value-conscious cruisers.
Repositioning cruises make ideal holidays for passengers who love lots of days at sea and unusual ports of call. They are not for nitpickers who expect an ironclad guarantee on port calls, arrival and departure times, nor for people who want a port of call every day.
Smooth as a Lake
Although our sailing was as smooth as a lake, you can't always count on perfect weather and smooth seas when the ships are moved in the fringe season.
Because they only occur a couple of times of year and are not ideal for all passengers, repositionings are not heavily advertised or promoted.
If you have a favorite ship that cruises seasonally in two or more areas of the world, chances are that you can find a bargain sailing with some interesting ports or a Panama or Suez Canal transit.
Check, too, for extra bonuses or discounts that repeat passengers sometimes receive on repositioning cruises.
Our autumn Sea Goddess cruise, an idyllic getaway for anyone wanting to kick back and relax, is scheduled to be repeated in the opposite direction on April 13 for the same $322 a day per person, double occupancy.
It departs Bombay, India, and calls en route include Salalah, Oman; Djibouti; Aqaba, Jordan; Hurghada, Egypt, and transits the Suez Canal to Port Said, arriving in Haifa, Israel, on April 27. Half the days are spent at sea.
You can breakfast in bed, on the sunny deck or in the dining room. You can lunch outdoors or in and have dinner in the a la carte dining room between 8 and 10 p.m., sitting where you please.
One night after a long, dusty day exploring the rose-red rock city of Petra we slipped into something comfortable and ordered dinner in our cabin from the evening menu. Our Scandinavian cabin stewardess set the table, filled the wine glasses and served soup to dessert, one course at a time while we watched a film on the VCR.
Here are some other bargains to watch for this season in repositioning cruises:
Europe-bound travelers will find a good buy for spring with the Blue Riband transatlantic crossing on Royal Cruise Line's beautiful Crown Odyssey, departing San Juan on May 8 and arriving in Lisbon on May 16, with a bonus three-night hotel package included. If you book by Nov. 30 you'll pay half-price on the listed 14-day fares of $2,698 to $6,778 per person, double occupancy, or from $92 to $242 a day.
For port collectors the cruise includes a call at Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Add-on air fares are based on departure city; some connecting flights to San Juan leave the U.S. mainland May 7.
On April 15 the Bermuda Star of Bermuda Star Line leaves San Diego and sails through the Panama Canal to Tampa, Fla., on a 17-day itinerary that includes calls in Mexico, Costa Rica, the San Blas Islands and Colombia. While the ship is nowhere near as elegant as the Sea Goddess or Crown Odyssey, for $105 to $193 a day per person, double occupancy, including air fare, it represents a good value for someone anxious to cruise the canal.
Visiting Historic Cities
You can pick up an all-American repositioning bargain from Clipper Cruise Line aboard the new 138-passenger Yorktown Clipper. The 29-day Great American Odyssey departs Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on May 13 and arrives in Boston on June 10, calling en route at many historic cities along the Eastern seaboard. Fares begin at about $215 a day per person, double occupancy, for an outside double with two lower beds.
Although not a repositioning, a 15-day Los Angeles-to-Ecuador sailing on Sun Line's Stella Solaris beginning Jan. 21 offers a 50% discount to the second of two passengers traveling together. The first passenger pays $3,490 to $7,135, the second $1,745 to $3,568, including air fare. An optional Galapagos post-cruise package also is available.
And a new around-the-world freighter service sailing every three months from Long Beach definitely qualifies as a long-cruise bargain; it costs from $65 to $88 per person a day. The first departure is scheduled for late December, going through the Panama Canal, along the East Coast of the United States, then to Europe, the Suez, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and back to California.
These containerized ships, London Senator and Tokyo Senator of Egon Oldendorff Line, spend from 8 to 24 hours in port and carry 5 or 6 passengers (age limit 79) in three outside cabins. There is self-service laundry, a dining room and a lounge with TV and VCR. No doctor is aboard, and no segments or one-way journeys are available.
Full price for the cruises of about 84 days each are $5,485 to $7,315 per person, plus $135 for port taxes and insurance. For dates and details, contact Freighter World Cruises, 180 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena 91101, phone (818) 449-3106.