As I sailed away from Miami on Disney Magic last weekend — the first cruise since the ship had been refurbished with new features like the monster AquaDunk slide (a more thrilling version of the AquaDuck found on Dream and Fantasy) and kids’ clubs — I hit the ground running. Even though my voyage was only a two-night “cruise to nowhere,” I was determined to get the most out of it.
Short cruises don’t always have the best rep; some veteran cruisers deride them as “booze cruises” or a “waste of money.” But short cruises are starting to distance themselves from these assumptions, as more cruise lines expand their options for new cruisers who might want to test the waters (pun intended) at affordable rates.
Among them is Magic, which is scheduled to sail a number of three-, four- and five-night cruises throughout the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mediterranean in 2014. The line intends the mini-getaways to appeal to busy families or Disney lovers who simply want to get away for the weekend.
After my whirlwind time on board, I came up with five ways to make the most out of a short cruise. Who knows, maybe these will inspire you to head out to sea for your next long weekend.
Book a balcony cabin.
While you may be booking a short cruise to save money, you can still snag a balcony if you play your cards right. Deals abound for short cruises, and can be particularly attractive if you live within driving distance. Also keep in mind that everyone may have the same money woes as you; if too many people go for the cheapest option, you could be in line for a cabin upgrade.
(If a balcony still isn’t in your budget, space won’t be an issue on Disney Magic. As part of the refurb, all cabins now offer elevated beds, perfect for hiding your luggage under so it’s out of the way.)
Explore the ship, even if you’re familiar with the layout.
Even if you think you know the ship like the back of your hand, you may be surprised: Sometimes the best experiences onboard come when you stumble into a nook or cranny that you never saw before. Walking around also allows you to get a feel for the ship’s overall vibe, including other passengers and crewmembers.
Plan out your day.
As a naturally spontaneous person, I’m not too keen on following lists. However, I did my research and thoroughly enjoyed checking off every hour of my two days on the ship. It might look like you’re trying to cram too much in, on paper… but at the end of the night, you will feel more accomplished.
Don’t sleep in.
Allow me to “play mom” here for a second. With only a few days onboard, rolling out of bed at lunchtime is unacceptable (unless you’ve specifically booked your cruise to catch up on your sleep). So, spend each hour wisely. I set my alarm even earlier than usual to catch the sunrise. Sure, avoiding the first snooze button cost me some REM sleep, but that million-dollar view over the ocean? Priceless.
Do something you wouldn’t normally do.
No, this doesn’t mean streaking on the Lido Deck. It could be something as simple as trying raw tuna for the first time, or something as daring as putting your shower-singing skills to the test on karaoke night. The goal is to create a memorable experience.
For me, taking in a show at Magic’s theater proved to be a highlight. I assumed the performance of Disney Dreams — the line’s award-winning live musical — would be packed with screaming kids (I love ‘em, don’t get me wrong — just not when I’m trying to listen). But the show swept me off my feet with its Broadway caliber and nostalgic sequence of events. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
• Compare our 9 top-rated shore cruises.
• Check out our members’ thoughts on short cruises from a recent poll.
• Want to learn more about Disney Magic, which offers a number of short cruises throughout The Bahamas, Caribbean and Mediterranean for 2014? Stay tuned for our revamped review.