Cruise lines set itineraries to maximize customer satisfaction (and revenues) but must take into consideration the seasonality of the demand. These fundamental market characteristics imply that three main types of itineraries are used:
- Perennial. Concern markets that are serviced year round because of stable demand and relatively constant weather conditions (tropical and sub-tropical). The two most significant perennial markets are the Caribbean (with Miami as the main turn port) and the Mediterranean (with Barcelona as one of the main turn ports). Perennial markets can have a seasonality implying that although they are serviced throughout the year, there have periods of lower demand.
- Seasonal. Ideally, cruise lines would prefer to only service perennial markets since this would represent a close to optimal use of their ship assets. However, like the tourism industry in general, seasonality is an important component of the demand implying that some markets are going to be serviced for a few months, mostly during the summer. The most important seasonal markets cover Baltic, Norwegian and Alaskan cruises that are serviced during summer.
- Repositioning. This mostly takes place between seasons when ship assets need to be repositioned from seasonal to perennial itineraries (or vice-versa). For instance, during the summer, several cruise ships are repositioned from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, while in the Fall the same ships will be repositioned back to the Caribbean. Repositioning cruises are usually point-to-point between turn ports.