The Top 5 Short Cruises

Large white cruise ship at cruise port on a short cruise vacation
The cruise line and cruise ship you choose for your short cruise is very important. | Author: vinialux

Compared to a land-based vacation – flights plus hotels, meals, and entertainment – a short cruise is arguably the best value vacation there is. Quick getaways by cruise ship are becoming ubiquitous, especially from Florida ports served by multiple lines. That means competition generally results in cheaper cruise fares, but it takes planning to ensure those hard-earned dollars are put to work.

Of course, the price is not always the prime motivation for every cruiser. Even on a quick weekend getaway cruise it’s nice to splurge. While others will be restricted to when they can actually take a 3 day cruise vacation, such as only during school holidays, a combination of other factors also comes into play. Where do I want to go – Bahamas, Mexico, or even Cuba? What is the best cruise line and ship to get me there? There are as many possibilities as there are different cruising styles, be it family-focused, a lively party scene, or a more balanced shipboard experience suitable for diverse age ranges. 

What makes these short cruises special?

As cruises become more popular with people of all ages, incomes, and expectations, cruise lines and their cruise ships are really beginning to up the ante. From fine dining to all-inclusive vacations, premier itineraries and innovative attractions, the 3-night cruises listed below have all gone above and beyond in some way or another. In order to be ranked as a top short cruise, these cruise lines had to offer something the competition didn’t - be it thrilling onboard entertainment, family-friendly fare, or ultra-luxurious pampering. 

For our list, we looked at short cruises that excelled in the following areas:

  • Amenities: For this category, our top pick had to excel in multiple areas, from entertainment to dining to kids and teen programs. 

  • Family-friendly offers: To be a top short cruise in this area, cruises can’t just rely on children’s programs - they also have to offer relaxation for parents, fun entertainment and dining for all ages, and exceptional childcare facilities.

  • Parties: Party boats are notoriously expensive thanks to many cruises excluding cocktails, wine, and beer from their drink packages. Beyond that, the intoxicating atmosphere might also scare away families with kids - but our short cruise pick delivers parties for everyone.

  • Upscale: Move over, budget cruises - our pick for best upscale short cruise includes top-tier service, luxury amenities, and premium pleasures like fine dining and refined entertainment. The cruise length may be short, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be indulgent.

  • Multigenerational: From family reunions to weddings to conventions and more, the best multigenerational short cruises keep their focus (and activity programs) broad, ensuring there’s a little something for everyone.

Check out the list of our top 5 short cruises to see which cruise lines and cruise ships made the cut, and get inspired for your next cruise vacation! 

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Best short cruise for amenities

Mariner of the Seas: Among the largest ships in the 3 day cruise market, there is a dizzying array of fun amenities with ample big ticket attractions usually reserved for newer flagships on longer sailings. Following a March 2018 dry dock refurb, Royal Caribbean has amped up the hi-tech amenities even further. Stand-out fun activities include a virtual reality trampoline ride, laser tag, ice-skating rink, escape room experience and rock climbing wall. There are action-packed kids and teen programs, three pools to laze by and more bars and lounges than you could feasibly frequent during a short 3 night cruise.  

Itineraries: Miami and Port Canaveral to the Bahamas year-round

The Mariner of the Seas from the cruise line Royal Caribbean docking on port
If you are looking for fun and action packed activities during your short cruise, the Mariner of the Seas is perfect! | Author: skeeze

Best short cruise for families

Disney Dream: All the mainstream cruise lines cater well to young families with kids but for many, the Disney Dream has the edge simply because it is the Disney cruise line. The 2,500-passenger ship expands the theme park magic to the high seas with countless character meet-and-greets, high-tech Disney and Pixar-themed kids’ clubs and abundant play areas. Stateroom configuration is also geared more towards the family market. It takes the strain out of family mealtimes thanks to entertaining dinner shows. Despite the Disney branding and high-tech features, ship décor is rather glitzy, exuding a touch of art deco refinement. There are ample adult-only spaces for grown-ups to escape to while the kids do their thing. This includes the sanctuary of an adults-only pool, bars, late night entertainment and wine tastings.

Itineraries: Port Canaveral to the Bahamas

A father with his daughter enjoying the time at the beach during a short cruise
With great shows, kids clubs and adult-only spaces the Disney Dream is perfect for family short cruises. | Author: Pixabay

Best party short cruise

Norwegian Sky: There is nothing quite like free-flowing booze to get the party started. The Norwegian Sky is the only mainstream “all inclusive” cruise ship offering alcoholic drinks in the cruise price. The Sky is one of the oldest ships in the Norwegian fleet but its size is perfect for short weekend trips and the festive vibe heats up at night right across the ship’s numerous bars and lounges. With a free open bar, there is an animated weekend atmosphere throughout. There are two large pools (one is adults-only), a sports court, spa, fitness center, and golf driving nets for daytime distractions. Although there is a big focus on couples and groups, children are well looked after with kids club activities across all ages, from tots to teens.

Itineraries: Cruise from Miami to the Bahamas or Havana, Cuba

The Norwegian Sky docking at port during a short cruise
All-inclusive drinks and a festive atmosphere address especially groups and couples on the Norwegian Sky. | Author: lovelights

Best upscale short cruise

Celebrity Infinity: An inexpensive short weekend cruise is always appealing but sometimes it’s good to aim higher and splurge a little. If fine dining and sunset socializing with a glass of Champagne is more your thing, Celebrity Infinity makes for a more relaxing shipboard experience. Dinner times seem less rushed and the ship layout feels more intimate, despite its 2,000-plus capacity. It eschews waterslides and surf simulators for the simple pleasures of comfy lounges, a refined Martini Bar and wine pairing menus. It’s a fine option for couples looking for a more port-intensive 3 night cruise vacation.

Itineraries: Cruises to the Bahamas from Port Everglades

A Celebrity cruise ship on a short cruise sailing during night
If you are looking for a luxury short cruise then Celebrity cruises won't disappoint you! | Author: rhae

Best multigenerational short cruise

Carnival Imagination: Carnival Cruise Line’s fun-for-all programs cover all bases on Carnival Imagination, ensuring no one is left out. While it may not have the sheer depth of amenities of other ships in the 3 night cruise market, it has a well-balanced array of age-appropriate activities as well as shared family experiences. You’ll be among a diverse age range, from empty nesters looking for a quick Mexican getaway to young families and couples. Kids clubs cover three age groups as well as a couple of dedicated clubs for teens. Grown-ups also have an adults-only sundeck. Entertainment options tick all the boxes too. Talented live musical acts cover many genres; there are theatrical shows, puppet shows, comedy and DJ sets. It does lack a broad choice of accommodations with only a small proportion offering balconies, yet all are relatively spacious. Overall, the casual ambience and manageable size of the ship make it a great choice for new cruisers of any age.

Itineraries: Long beach to Ensenada, Mexico

A cruise ship from the Carnival cruise line embarking to a short cruise during sunset
With activities for all ages, the Carnival Imagination offers everything the heart desires on a short cruise. | Author: collinsdirk
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