Always fancied going on a mini-cruise? Here’s my guide of pros and cons to trying your first.
It’s a great way to get a taste of cruising
A lot of people are hesitant to book a cruise but a mini-cruise is an ideal way to dip your toe and see if you’ll like it. Or perhaps, you just want to try out a new cruise line or ship?
However, they aren’t necessarily like a classic cruise
As they’re so short, I find that there can be less time to relax than on a normal cruise so you’ll find people rushing about a lot more. Depending on time of year and where you’re sailing from you can also get cruises with more of a party atmosphere, which in turn doesn’t necessarily give you an authentic cruise experience.
They are however perfect if you’re staying somewhere and want to add on a cheeky few nights extra to your holiday. Why not go to Florida to experience all the attractions in Orlando and finish off your holiday with a 3- or 4-night cruise to the Bahamas. Perfect!
Easier than other breaks
Some people love city breaks, and others less so. I sit in the second category, so for me a mini-cruise is the perfect compromise. It’s great being able to visit somewhere for a day (or even better, overnight) before moving on.
So, for that reason they’re great for a weekend away. In fact, many take place just over the weekend, so you needn’t worry about it eating into your annual leave. It’s a great way to just get away from it all.
Because they are so short, you can sometimes be a little limited on destinations you can go to depending on where you sail from. Sailing from the UK (particularly Southampton), typical ports can include Le Havre in France, Bruges in Blegium, Hamburg in Germany and Guernsey.
Christmas wrapped up
A Christmas Markets’ cruise is a great way to kick-start the festive season. Ships will be decked-out for Christmas and you’ll be able to visit some of the most iconic Christmas markets in Northern Europe. Last year I did just that on-board P&O’s Ventura when we went to Bruges – take a look here.
Can be expensive for what they are
Per-night a mini-cruise can be much more expensive than typical cruises. If you have the time, it’s usually much better value for money to look at something longer. But if you are set on a mini-cruise, there’s ways to get better value. One such way is the cabin you book. Why not book a guarantee inside cabin? chances are you won’t be spending that much time inside anyway and you still have a chance to be upgraded (depending on the line you choose).
A social experience
I always find cruises to be social, but mini-cruises tend to take this even further. You tend to find a lot more groups than normal, whether that be groups of friends, multi-generation families or celebrations (such as birthdays, stag and hen parties). This tends to give the cruise a party atmosphere, which I appreciate may not be for everyone, but can be a lot of fun. My advice is to go with the flow!
Maximise your time on board
With so little time, for me at least, the key is to maximise the break as much as possible. So, aim to arrive as early as possible on embarkation day. Could you book a nearby hotel to try and get to the port quicker?
Same thing goes for disembarking the ship. Try and leave as late as you can, or perhaps enjoy the port city for a few hours after you get off? Some lines, such as Celebrity, offer a late departure package on some sailings, where (for a fee) you can opt to stay on board until mid-afternoon. I’d choose it every time.
With so little time on board make sure you plan ahead what you want to get out of the trip? Are there any restaurants you want to try on board? Are there any activities you want to try? Or perhaps somewhere you want to visit in port? Try get this organised beforehand so you don’t have to stress, plus you can get straight into the fun when on board.
There are actually less mini-cruises than their used to be from the UK. Some brands have reduced the numbers of these, but there are still lots to choose from, particularly from P&O Cruises, Cunard, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Royal Caribbean. However, it’s a great excuse to get away from it all and experience something new. So why not take the plunge?