When you're short on time or coin, but incapacitated by cruise fever, don't despair. You still have options. Behold short cruises: those two-, three-, four- and five-night itineraries that require only a will to sail and (possibly) no more than a carry-on. Not all are bargain-basement-priced -- that depends on the age and desirability of the ship and the sail date -- but some can be had for less than $90 a night.
The following selections include a range of the most popular ships offering short cruises from regional homeports across the U.S., including Miami, New York, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Orlando, Charleston and Palm Beach.
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Updated October 10, 2019
Mariner of the Seas
If soaring on a virtual reality trampoline ride, zipping down waterslides and playing glow-in-the-dark laser tag sound like your kind of mini-getaway, then look no further than Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. The 3,114-passenger ship is fresh out of a March 2018 dry dock that welcomed a slew of innovative recreational attractions, as well as some of the restaurants and bars found on the line's newer ships.
Elsewhere on the ship, Mariner of the Seas stays true to its roots, with Royal Caribbean staples like the Studio B ice-skating rink/theater, rock-climbing wall and nine-hole mini-golf course.
- Homeport: Miami and Orlando (Port Canaveral).
- Cruises: 2-, 3- and 4-night Bahamas (year-round)
- Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade serving pub grub and craft beer.
- Voom internet is touted as the fastest at sea Polynesian-themed bar stirs up Tiki bar-inspired cocktails.
Carnival Sunshine offers the perfect balance of fun, lively activities mixed with peaceful places to recharge. Unleash your inner child on the 3,006-passenger ship's thrilling water slide and ropes course, or escape to the largest adults-only Serenity sun deck in the fleet; it spans three decks. At night, sip handcrafted cocktails at the Cuban-style Havana Bar or enjoy eclectic dishes at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen before the evening show.
- Homeports: Charleston and Orlando (Port Canaveral).
- Cruises: 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Cuba (year-round).
- One of the largest spas of any Carnival ship.
- Expanded kids' club caters to families.
- Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse rewards early bookers with a bottle of wine.
Families short on time won't have to sacrifice fun on Disney Dream. The 2,500-passenger ship keeps the magic alive with everything from character meet-and-greets and colorful fireworks shows to a restaurant that transforms into a virtual aquarium, where "Finding Nemo" characters strike up conversations with diners (via LED screens on the walls).
The fun continues on the line's private island, where white-sand beaches, water slides and excursions can make even parents feel like kids for the day. Need some alone time? Retreat to the adults-only pool while the little ones revel in supervised, Disney-themed kids' clubs.
- Homeport: Orlando (Port Canaveral).
- Cruises: 3-, 4- and 5-night Bahamas (year-round).
- Some of the best production shows at sea.
- AquaDuck water coaster adds even more fun to the pool deck.
- Inside cabins feature "magical" portholes with real-time views.
What better way to unwind for a few days than with free food and an open bar? Norwegian Sky, which sails three- and four-night itineraries, is the only mainstream cruise ship to include alcoholic beverages in its cruise fares. Passengers enjoy complimentary spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass, and bottled and draft beer up to a $15 value, as well as unlimited fountain soda and juices.
But free booze isn't all the 2,004-passenger ship has to offer. High-energy entertainment, refreshing swimming pools and a handful of specialty restaurants (in addition to what's already included) are more than enough to keep cruisers busy during a short trip.
- Homeport: Miami.
- Cruises: 3-, 4- and 5-night Bahamas, and 4- and 5-night Cuba and Bahamas (year-round).
- French-inspired Le Bistro restaurant makes for a perfect date night.
- Five hot tubs, including one just for kids.
- Driving nets allow golfers to get their swinging fix.
If fine dining, peaceful pool decks and Champagne soirees at sunset sound like your ideal weekend, you might want to consider a short cruise on Celebrity Infinity. The 2,170-passenger ship offers a chic, upscale vibe and some of the best bars and restaurants at sea. At night, the theater heats up with edgy entertainment, while dance parties and themed performances take over various lounges throughout the ship.
- Homeports: Fort Lauderdale.
- Cruises: 2- and 4-night Bahamas, and 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean (seasonal).
Corn flake-crusted French toast and water slides aren't just for kids on Carnival Inspiration. The 2,056-passenger ship is packed with fun features and treats that will make any adult feel young at heart. Come with your sweetie, or bring the whole family for a short week under the west coast sun -- just make sure you leave room after your sugary brunch for all the scrumptious, complimentary dining options this ship has to offer.
- Homeport: Los Angeles (Long Beach), California.
- Cruises: 3- and 4-night Mexico (year-round).
- Alchemy Bar lets you experiment with inventive handcrafted cocktails.
- Top-deck mini-golf course is surrounded by picnic tables for family fun.
- Buffet offers excellent variety of food stations.
Enchantment of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas was built for fun. The 2,252-passenger ship keeps adrenaline flowing with features like the Jump Zone, four trampolines that launch thrill-seekers high into the air; the line's much-loved Latin-themed dance lounge, Boleros; and an expanded pool deck, which juts out over the ocean and draws eyes with its suspension bridges and floor windows. When it's time to unwind, head to the adults-only pool, one of the ship's six hot tubs or the outdoor movie screen for a late-night flick.
- Homeport: Orlando (Port Canaveral) and Galveston.
- Cruises: 3-night and 4-night Bahamas, and 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean (year-round).
- Rock climbing wall and scenic jogging track cater to active types.
- Dedicated family cabins come in inside, ocean-view and suite categories.
- Complimentary Park Cafe serves up grab-and-go gourmet fare.
A short cruise on Royal Princess offers the best of both worlds: time to recharge and a chance to let loose. During the day, passengers can catch some rays at one of the ship's pools or the adults-only Sanctuary sun deck. At night, the Piazza (atrium) comes alive with music, dancing and drinks all around, while the theater fills for a lineup of innovative entertainment. When hunger strikes, indulge in steak, seafood or Italian fare at specialty restaurants, or satisfy your sweet tooth with Norman Love's "Chocolate Journeys" wine tasting.
- Homeport: Los Angeles.
- Cruises: 3- and 4-night Pacific Coast, and 5-night Mexico.
- Main dining room menu features select Curtis Stone dishes and Norman Love desserts.
- Kids and adults enjoy onboard activities in partnership with Discovery.
- Movies Under the Stars takes the cake for outdoor theaters at sea.
Everyone has his or her own idea of relaxation. For cruisers on 2,984-passenger Carnival Valor, it means silly pool games, spontaneous conga lines and a continuous flow of frozen, fruity cocktails. You can indulge in some of the finest complimentary dining in mainstream cruising or grab a beer bucket and head to the adults-only Serenity Deck. To top it off, passengers who choose to cruise out of New Orleans can kick off the party before they even get onboard.
- Homeport: New Orleans and Galveston.
- Cruises: 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean (seasonal).
- Twister water slide is the perfect place to cool off.
- BlueIguana Cantina serves delicious (and free) tacos and burritos, even at breakfast.
- Skybox Sports Bar streams NFL games and other sporting events.
Anthem of the Seas
Sail past the Statue of Liberty, then kick back on Bermuda's tranquil pink-sand beaches. On the pricier end of our short cruise roundup, Royal Caribbean's 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas offers a chance to sail on a newer cruise ship without having to take off too many days during the week.
Cruises depart on Saturdays and spend two days docked in King's Wharf, which offers easy access to downtown, some of Bermuda's best beaches and other major attractions. While the ship's at sea, be sure to take advantage of its myriad activities, such as indoor skydiving, bumper cars and roller skating.
- Homeport: New York (Cape Liberty, NJ).
- Cruises: 5-night Bermuda (seasonal).
- London Eye-style glass pod that rises over the pool deck.
- Tablets and apps make it easy to book specialty restaurants and other extras.
- Dining scene offers variety and caters to dietary restrictions.
Grand Celebration or Grand Classica
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's duo of Palm Beach-based ships -- Grand Celebration and Grand Classica -- offers arguably the most affordable Bahamas cruises around, with a departure taking place every night. Even solo travelers save, as there's no single supplement (a hefty fee many cruise lines charge to cover the cost of the "missing" passenger in a double occupancy cabin).
The ship is nothing fancy; it's lovingly worn and lacks all the bells and whistles you'd find on other ships -- but the drinks are flowing and the pool is refreshing. Booked cruisers also have the option to tack-on special packages, such as "Ladies Night," which includes drink coupons, half off a massage, a tote bag and other perks.
- Cruises: 2-night Bahamas (year-round).
- Free buffet-style barbecue served on deck at lunch.
- Adults-only pool tucked away at the back of both ships.
- Daytime activities run the gamut from cornhole (beanbag toss) to martini tastings.