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.
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
. The 3,114-passenger ship is fresh out of a March 2018
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.
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.
Families short on time won't have to sacrifice fun on
. 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.
What better way to unwind for a few days than with free food and an open bar?
, 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.
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
. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone has his or her own idea of relaxation. For cruisers on 2,984-passenger
, 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.
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
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.
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
(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.
Updated February 06, 2023