Shoulder season, n.
1. A brief period when weather conditions and travel costs fall between the highs of high season and the lows of low season.
2. In other words: nice weather, fewer crowds, great prices.
3. Start packing.
There is no off-season in the cruise world, at least there's not supposed to be. That's why twice a year, in early spring and late fall, cruise lines move their fleets—from Alaska to the Caribbean, say, or from the Mediterranean to the Middle East—to ensure that it's always sunny (or at least warm) on deck. Ten years ago, these "deadhead" sailings rushed from one high-season destination to another, often without passengers. Now slowed down and known as repositioning cruises, they have become a leisurely genre for folks in search of unusual itineraries.
You'll spend fewer days in port than on a traditional cruise—speed is still paramount, after all—but the trips are hardly bare bones. Lines often add special guest lectures and performers to keep passengers from going stir-crazy—Carol Channing sang on a Royal Caribbean repositioning cruise in 2009. And the reduced rates will give you a warm feeling, even if it is a tad chilly outside.
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