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Freedom of the Seas alongside in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

What Do You Really Get From Taking a Short Cruise?

Freedom of the Seas alongside in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
Dec 8, 2023

Read time
5 min read

I am a big fan of the short cruise.

Short cruises are often overlooked. Some see them as simply being too short to be a satisfying getaway. Others see them as being potential booze cruises, which may either be good or bad, depending on the way you look at it.

I’ve been taking short cruises now for the better part of two decades. When I lived in Vancouver, Canada, they were affordable and easy to take advantage of. What’s better than a quick jaunt down the coast to sunny Los Angeles, or a leisurely weekend around the Pacific Northwest? I book about one short cruise per year as a personal vacation, too: a quick little reset, particularly during the colder winter months.

How “short” are short cruises? Typically, between one and four nights could be considered short. But some travellers – even some cruise lines – consider a short cruise to be anything less than a week in duration.

Short cruises have grown in popularity in recent years, too. Florida homeports like Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and Tampa offer them in abundance, but you’ll also find quick getaways from places like New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and even all the way across the pond in UK ports like Southampton.

If you’ve never taken a short cruise before, here’s why you might want to consider doing so:

On This Page

Short Cruises Are a Good Way to Sample A Cruise Line

Sunset on the Promenade Deck aboard Disney Wish (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

I’ve always liked short cruises because they’re a great way to get a feel for a particular cruise line – or to see if cruising is right for you. Some will argue and say short cruises aren’t a good metric for this, but I disagree: while they might not have all the bells-and-whistles a seven-night cruise offers (and may attract a more rambunctious crowd, depending on the line), the are good for showcasing a particular ship, cruise line or itinerary.

I fell in love with Royal Caribbean this way: my first-ever Royal Caribbean cruise was on Grandeur of the Seas back in 2009, on a quick four-night jaunt out of Tampa, with just a single port call in Cozumel. It was a great cruise, and I’ve been back lots of times since.

Ditto for Holland America Line, which I first discovered in 2005 on a three-night Pacific Northwest sailing between Vancouver and Seattle aboard Oosterdam.

I’ve since sailed with both lines dozens of times personally and professionally, but it all started with those quick, low-risk trips.

Some cruise lines, like Disney Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages, even make offering short cruises a standard part of their itinerary lineup.

Short Cruises Offer a Quick, Affordable Cruise Vacation

You don't need a weeklong cruise to enjoy a day at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

One of the biggest advantages a short cruise has going for it: price. Short cruises are typically priced less than a weeklong cruise (though not always – it’s good to shop around to make sure you are, in fact, getting a deal). And, if you’re flexible, a short cruise on a ship can be even cheaper than staying at home and far less expensive than a weekend stay at a hotel or resort on land.

Short cruises are also easy on the vacation time. This is particularly true of three-night cruises that leave on a Friday and come back on a Monday. If you live in the Florida area, or anywhere within driving distance of a major port, you can conceivably take a half-day Friday, hop on a cruise, and be back in time for work on Monday morning.

Some seasonal cruises from Vancouver and Seattle, at the start and end of the Alaska cruise season, are as short as one night, making for a quick getaway where sleep is a secondary consideration to enjoying the short amount of time you have onboard.

Short Cruises Can Be a Good Reason to Splurge

The Top Sail Lounge is the social heart of the MSC Yacht Club aboard MSC World Europa (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Since short cruises are, by definition, less expensive, they can also be a good time to splurge. Maybe you want to go all-out with the spa treatments and specialty reservations or live it up onboard with the drink package that suddenly looks a lot more affordable with the cost spread over three days as opposed to seven.

One of our favorite things to do on a short cruise: splurge on a suite. Sure, you can get on for a song in an inside guarantee cabin, but even the largest suites go for a fraction of the cost they otherwise would. Short cruises can also be a boon for those looking to experience the ship-within-a-ship luxury concepts that lines like MSC Cruises has with its MSC Yacht Club, or Norwegian Cruise Line with its Haven suite complex.

No matter what your definition of splurge is, you can find it on a short cruise – for a fraction of the cost of a weeklong sailing.

Short Cruises Are a Great Introduction for Friends and Family

Saxsen Norton, an actress and model, Hero Otway, a model and actress, and Geo Vanna Gonzalez, a Miami-based artist, enjoy drinks at Sunset Bar on Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)

If you’ve ever wanted to take a cruise with family and friends, short cruises are practically designed just for this purpose. Being affordable in terms of both time and money, they are a great introduction to cruising for those who might be on the fence about the entire cruise vacation experience.

Once those friends and family members set sail on a quickie cruise to the Bahamas, it’s going to be a lot easier to get them to splurge on that trip to the British Isles, or that journey to Alaska on an upscale line.

Theme cruises are also typically short-but-fun, and can involve everything from The Golden Girls to cruises that celebrate Black heritage and culture.

Short Cruises Are All About Fun

Belly Flop Contest on Adventure of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Years ago, I stood next to a couple onboard Carnival Inspiration (may it rest in peace). They were flipping the pages of their onboard account that had been stapled together after we returned to port in Long Beach, California following a four-day Baja Mexico run.

“I don’t know how we spent $3,000!” the man said incredulously.

“We went to the Casino,” said his wife. “That’s how.”

“Yeah, but that don’t make sense.”

“Plus, the drinks,” said the wife.

“Yeah.”

“And the shore excursions.”

“Yeah.”

“And the champagne.”

The husband paused. “Oh. I guess that does make sense.”

The couple didn’t look unhappy about it – more surprised, in fact. They’d started the party, like so many do, the second they stepped onboard and had concluded it in the wee hours of the morning a few days later.

That doesn’t mean that you have to swipe from the kid’s college tuition fund to have a good time, but generally speaking, passengers on cruises that are three nights or less are there to have fun. And don’t we all need a little of that every now and then?

Weeklong cruises can be serious business. Cruises over 14 days start sounding like a serious commitment. Short cruises, however, are the impulse-buy of the vacation world – and they’re great value for money.

Which one will you try?

Publish date December 08, 2023
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