The short but sweet way of experiencing life at sea

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Gilly Pickup on why short cruises of just a few nights are perfect for new-to-cruise customers and also an ideal weekend break for more seasoned travellers


Cruising doesn’t have to mean spending endless days on the ocean waves. Mini-cruises, usually between two and five nights long, are ideal for those who prefer a shorter break, have something special to celebrate or, indeed, for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on a sea-going holiday. They also offer a dip-your-toe-in sample of cruising, so new-to-cruise clients can decide if this type of holiday would suit them. If, on the other hand, your customers are old hands at cruising but happen to be pushed for time, short cruises are a great way to keep those sea legs.

It’s also worth pointing out to potential clients that they get more for their money than with a land-based holiday as they could, for example, visit two or three countries on a three or four-night cruise and are sure to find an itinerary to suit. Besides that, on shorter cruises, those who intend to spend most of their days sightseeing may be happy to book a cheaper cabin rather than splash their cash on a balcony. However, taster cruises are generally popular, so it makes sense to book early.

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Several cruise lines including P&O, CMV, Cunard and Royal Caribbean offer ex-UK mini-cruises. Ships leaving from a British port on a two-night cruise could visit, for instance, Guernsey’s capital, the picturesque St Peter Port, or Belgian ports Antwerp, Bruges-Zeebrugge, Ghent or Ostend. P&O offer a two-night round trip from Southampton on Britannia, currently the company’s biggest ship, calling at Zeebrugge, gateway to Brussels and Ghent, one of Europe’s best-preserved cities. Departing in September, prices start from £229 per person. P&O have another two-night round trip with no flying involved departing Southampton on August 19 on Azura, visiting the Channel Islands.

Three-night cruises could visit Le Havre, St Malo, Honfleur and Marseille in France, Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Dublin. Factor in an extra night and you can travel that little bit further. Bilbao in Spain, Bergen in Norway or Lerwick in the Shetland Islands are all accessible in that time.

With a choice of 11 UK departure ports, Cruise & Maritime Voyages specialise in no-fly holidays and offer one-night ‘taster’ cruises on Columbus and Magellan where guests can have dinner, see a show and stay overnight. Welcome cocktails and half a bottle of wine per person with the meal are also included in the price of £99pp. For those who want to stay on board longer than one night, the company offers a three-night ‘Festive Getaway’ cruise on Columbus. This Yuletide round-trip from Tilbury departing December 18 calls at Amsterdam and Zeebrugge with fares from £409.

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Royal Caribbean offer ex-Southampton three-night taster cruises on Independence of the Seas visiting Rotterdam or Le Havre and Bruges from £379, while those who don’t mind flying to reach the ship can enjoy the sunny delights of Naples and Barcelona on Symphony of the Seas. For passengers who can stretch to five nights, Independence of the Seas offers a ‘French and Dutch Adventure’ sailing from Southampton on October 24, calling at Rotterdam, Bruges, Cherbourg and Le Havre, returning to Southampton. Prices from £479. For new-to-cruisers, these resort-style ships offer an easy introduction to holidays on the ocean waves, with enough onboard activities to guarantee sea days are as exciting as the ports visited.

New for 2017 is the opportunity to enjoy four nights on MSC Meraviglia, one of two Meraviglia-generation mega cruise ships. The second, MSC Bellissima, will launch in Spring 2019. Luca Pronzati, chief strategic development and sales services officer at MSC Cruises commented: “MSC Meraviglia and the new next-generation ships including Seaside and Bellissima are designed with first-time cruisers in mind. It can be a little daunting as a first time cruiser to fully understand all of the activities, entertainment, facilities and excursions offered. With new technology and the MSC Cruises app, guests will receive push notifications while sailing, tailored to their tastes and preferences. We are developing unique tracking devices enabling guests to find their way around the ship and locate their children, a good feature for first time cruise families.”

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Meraviglia sails from Naples to Messina and Valetta on October 23, 30 and November 13, cruise only prices from £199. On November 17, Meraviglia’s two-night taster cruise departs Barcelona, calls at Marseille and disembarks in Genoa, with cruise only prices from £129. Also in November, MSC Magnifica has a two-night cruise sailing out of Genoa calling at Villefranche and Marseille with cruise only prices from £89.

For those who don’t want to fly before starting their holiday, Magnifica will be homeported in Southampton between April and October 2018 with 22 sailing dates to choose from. These cruises all include free wi-fi and an all-inclusive drinks package. 

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