Skip to Content

Are Short Cruises Worth it? (Tried and Tested, Pros and Cons)

If you’re considering taking a cruise you may be wondering if a short cruise is worth the price and if it’ll give you the true cruise experience.

I’ve been on over 50 cruises to date with a number of these being under 5 nights long.

I’ve had some brilliant short cruises – as well as some that I wouldn’t recommend.

In this post, we will be looking at what makes a short cruise worth it, or not.

Are Short Cruises Worth it?

There are many reasons why taking a short cruise is a good idea.

They’re cheap, easy, and can give you a taste of cruising. On the other hand, there are a few reasons why a short cruise may not be worth it for some passengers. 

There’s less choice when it comes to shorter cruises and the onboard experience can be very different from a longer cruise. 

I’ve been on short European and Caribbean itineraries and will talk about my experiences with both in this post.

I have enjoyed the majority of the short cruises that I’ve taken and there are definite benefits to short cruises – but there are a few things that you definitely need to be aware of.

Celebrity Silhouette Ship Blue Hull
I’ve taken a short and a longer cruise on Celebrity Silhouette – they were totally different.

What Counts as a ‘Short’ Cruise?

A cruise which is 5 nights or less would usually be classed as a short cruise.

3-night cruises are a very popular option – as are five-night cruises. 

2 or 1-night cruises are occasionally available but these are less common.

Only 32% of cruises taken are five days or less. The most popular length of cruise is 7 nights.

average cruise duration 7 nights

Longer cruises are also popular – but the longer the cruise gets the less common they are, for obvious reasons.

I personally think the perfect cruise length is 10-14 days, it’s long enough to really get to know the ship and to settle into life on board, but it isn’t always crazily expensive.

Cheaper Short Cruises

One of the main reasons why people look to book short cruises is because they are cheaper than longer cruises.

While this is true it often isn’t as good a a deal as you would think. Although a ‘3-night’ cruise sounds like a lot once you take into account that the first and last day are just getting on and getting off the ship that really only leaves you with one cruising day.

This is, of course, the same for every cruise but it’s often overlooked when booking shorter cruises.

Price Per Night

The price per night on a shorter cruise is not normally as good value as on long cruises.

For a cruise line, the most difficult part of a cruise is turnaround day, where they have to get guests on board and also other guests off.

It’s much easier for the cruise line and crew to keep the same guests on board for longer.

For this reason, the price of a 14-night cruise is usually a little cheaper than two 7-night cruises. The same can be said for shorter cruises.

Shorter cruises may look like a great bargain but per night they can be more expensive. That said, if you have a limited budget a short cruise is a really good option.

emma cruises in front of p&o ventura

Party Atmosphere Onboard/Theme Cruises

It’s often the case that a short cruise has a party atmosphere and you’ll generally find a younger crowd onboard.

I’ve taken three cruises like this, the first was a three-night cruise with Celebrity and the second and third were three-night 90s theme cruises with Marella.

Marella Themed Cruises

I’d definitely recommend a themed cruise line for people who want to have a relaxed fun weekend. The majority of guests on board haven’t been on cruises before, but many find they love the ship and the weekend.

My last short cruise was 90’s themed, and I took five first-time cruisers with me.

Find out all about that cruise here:

Marella Cruises are all-inclusive and include alcoholic and soft drinks onboard.

To find out more about why I’d recommend a Marella cruise to families and young cruisers, check out this post: 

Top 7 Reasons to Take a Cruise With Marella Cruises

Marella 90s Cruise Electric Sunsets

Non-themed Party Cruises

It isn’t just the themed cruises that tend to turn into party cruises.

If you book a cruise which is 3 nights, particularly if it’s over the weekend there is a chance that you’ll find many birthday parties and people celebrating onboard.

I took a 3-night cruise over a weekend with Celebrity Cruises to Amsterdam from the UK.

It was SO busy with people drinking in the bars on board that it was almost impossible to get a seat or get served at certain times. That said, if you book a weekend cruise this should be expected.

I really didn’t feel as though the cruise provided the true Celebrity experience but I did have a great time. I mostly booked the cruise to try the Celebrity Cruises food – and that did not disappoint!

It’s worth bearing in mind that short cruises, regardless of location or cruise line can feel like party cruises.

Celebrity are usually quite relaxed, but the weekend I spend onboard was anything but!

Our first ever cruise as a 2 night cruise to Guernsey, we already had a 14 night one booked a few months later and it felt like we were on a booze cruise, full of Hen and Stag Do’s. We vowed we’d never do a 2 night one again, weve only done 4 nights+ since then. We’re fairly young and like a good time, but it was far too much for us

Emma Turner (Facebook group member)

I did take a second cruise on Celebrity Silhouette which was VERY different from the first.

To learn how two cruises on the same cruise line, and same ship, can be so different, check out this video:

Is a Short Cruise a Good Way to Try a New Cruise Line?

A short cruise is a good way to try a new cruise line, but it’s important to remember that the experience onboard will likely not reflect a longer cruise.

It is important to remember that a short cruise on a cruise line may not provide you with a true representation of what that cruise line is usually like.

Short cruises are a great way to explore new cruise ships and try out elements like food and entertainment however some things will be different. 

The 90s theme cruises I took were with Marella who included all-inclusive drinks as standard.

If the 90s cruise was the first Marella cruise that I had taken I may have thought that all Marella cruises were party cruises – because of the all-inclusive drinks. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I took another Marella cruise straight after the Covid pandemic. There was lots of paperwork and vaccination requirements which made the organisation stressful, but once onboard we had a wonderful time and I never saw anyone drinking to excess.

Find out all about that cruise here:

Exploring The Ship

One of the best things to use a short cruise for is to explore a new cruise ship.

If you are unsure if you’d like a larger or smaller ship a short cruise can be a great way to find out. The physical ship itself remains the same regardless of the itinerary length!

If you’re trying a cruise line that is totally different from anything that you’ve cruised with before, a short cruise can be a good option.

If you’re used to American cruise lines and are considering a British line or an Italian line a short cruise can be a great way to get a taste of the major differences.

I booked a three-night Christmas Markets cruise with the British Cruiseline Ambassador in 2022. I had never sailed with them before, and was looking forward to finding out what they had to offer.

Although we made it onboard, that cruise was cancelled before we even set sail. It was a total disaster! Find out all about that “cruise that never was” here:

Short Cruises Mean You Can Pack Light

I am always pretty good at packing light, I’ve taken a two-week cruise with nothing but a carry-on cabin bag before, without too much trouble.

That said, it’s always nice not to have to pack too much. For a 3/5 night cruise, it is very easy to cruise with just a small bag, especially since shorter cruises often don’t have formal nights.

The 3 night Marella cruise I took was on board the Marella Explorer, and we actually had 16 drawers in our inside cabin – 16!

We only had 3 days’ worth of clothes so could have realistically spread out our clothes across all 16 drawers if we wanted to...

Packing light is not only a lot easier but it can also save you a lot of money. If you are flying to the embarkation port you may not need to pay extra for hold luggage on the plane. 

Less Choice of Cruising Time

Short cruises tend to be for fixed dates and it’s not possible to choose other dates.

For the majority of cruises, the cruise will be repeated over and over so if you need to cruise a week later or a week earlier you can often do this without changing the itinerary.

A good example of this is the MSC cruise ships that cruise the Mediterranean. The ships repeat the same 7-night cruise over and over again for most of the year.

This gives you lots of flexibility to choose your cruise dates.

Emma cruises and Arvia
P&O’s Arvia

Mid Week/Weekend Itineraries

Short cruises tend to be less frequent. This can mean that if you want to do a cruise of a certain length you are extremely limited to only a few cruises per year.

Cruises that cruise over the weekend are incredibly sought after compared to mid-week cruises, so the prices of these are usually higher.

Short itineraries often happen between long itineraries – for example, if a cruise ship has been doing Eastern Caribbean cruises but changes to do a Western itinerary – there may be a smaller cruise in between which allows the ship to get into the new schedule.

It isn’t in the cruise line’s interest to have a ship empty for any period, so even if it is just a few days the ship will be filled and an itinerary sold.

On Occasion, There Will be no Drinks Packages or Other Offers

On some cruise lines, there are restrictions where drinks packages can only be purchased for cruises over a certain length.

On others who do offer drinks packages, these are usually more expensive per day than they would be on a longer cruise.

Some drinks packages for P&O Cruises are only available on cruises 5 days or longer in length

Drinks Packages are only available on cruises of 5 nights or longer, and while some of our Short Breaks are 5 nights, most are 4 nights and under. But it’s still great value to pay as you go.

P&O Cruises

Many cruise lines are really trying to remove the party reputation of short cruises. As a result, they don’t sell drink packages on short cruises – to discourage drinking to excess.

This does depend a lot on the location of the cruise, cruises in the Caribbean tend to have a more laid-back party atmosphere than those in most of Europe.

emma cruises in olive grove restaurant on P&O's Iona

Other Perks May be Unavailable

You may find on a short cruise that other extras, found on longer cruises are missing.

These may just be small things like no snacks in the bars or lounges and no welcome drinks – but if you’re used to cruising on long itineraries the difference is noticeable.

I don’t know if it’s still the same, but a while ago we found some of the little extras, like nibbles with drinks and quite a few other things were missing. False economy as many people use these cruises to see what it’s like. There were some new people on our dining table and we’d spend a lot of the time saying “it’s not usually like this “. We sailed with P&O.

Kimberly Moore.

There may also be other perks which are for cruises only over a certain length.

For example, P&O cruises offer a coach transfer with some of their fares, however, this isn’t added to cruises less than 5 nights long.

It isn’t normally a big deal but just something to be aware of and look out for.

Trying New Cabin Grades

Upgrading Your Cabin

On the 3-night Celebrity cruise I took, I actually decided to book a balcony cabin. I am often in an inside cabin or outside if I am feeling lucky.

To be able to cruise in a balcony is a real treat. Due to the fact that the cruise was so cheap, it wasn’t much more expensive to upgrade to a balcony – so I did.

If you are used to inside cabins I would suggest doing the same – but be aware that it can be quite hard to convince yourself to go back to an inside cabin once you’ve had a balcony!

I have managed it since, but there is nothing quite like having a balcony to watch a sail in or sail away.

norwegian fjord cruise view from balcony emma cruises in geiranger
Beautiful views from the Balcony cabin, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, Norway

Downgrading Your Cabin

On the other hand, a short cruise does provide you the opportunity to cruise in a cheaper cabin than one that you would normally book.

I’ve shared an inside cabin with my brother and parents on a short cruise. I wouldn’t like to share a cabin with 3 other people for too long – but for 3/5 nights I think it’s a great option.

Many cruise lines will have discounted prices for the third or fourth passengers in a cabin, so if you share the savings equally you can all have a discounted cruise fare.

Shorter Cruises Give You More Chances to Cruise

Without taking short cruises I wouldn’t be able to cruise as much as I do.

Short cruises allow you to really make the most out of your annual leave and you can take advantage of things like public holidays.

When you use public holidays as an opportunity to cruise, it isn’t possible to cruise to exotic faraway destinations in a few days – but it’s a great break from everyday life.

The more forward planning you do the better the chance that you’ll be able to plan your cruises well and require the minimum amount of time off work.

On disembarkation day you can realistically expect to be off the ship by 9 am so in some circumstances you can actually take a half-day or head back to work!

This might not feel that great at the time but if it means you can cruise more in the future by saving your annual leave it can be a great option.

Disembarkation day is usually pretty sad anyway.

A Short Cruise Doesn’t Have to Mean Limited Ports

You may think that by taking a short cruise you will be missing out on ports that you may have otherwise visited.

It’s important to remember that longer cruises may have more sea days than shorter cruises and it is actually possible to pick a cruise that includes more than one port per day.

I took a short cruise with Celestyal Cruises. The cruise was 4 nights long and we visited a whopping 7 ports! 7 ports in 4 nights is almost unheard of within the cruise industry – but this is what Celestyal specialises in.

Celestyal are a Greek cruise line and if you are cruising to Greece I’d strongly recommend them. It’s the best way to be surrounded by Greek people, culture and food.

To learn more about a Celestyal cruise, check out my review here: 

Celestyal Cruises Review and Daily Photo Diary.

Celestyal Cruises

One Night Cruises are Occasionally Possible

Believe it or not, it is possible to take a one-night cruise although whether this really counts as a cruise or not is up to you.

The majority of large American cruise lines don’t do one-night cruises but some small British cruise lines like Fred Olsen or Ambassador.

A one-night Fred Olsen cruise will only set you back around $150 which is a bargain when you consider that the cruise includes your accommodation and meals.

Fred Olsen does have small, old traditional ships so they may not provide the cruising experience that many are used to. These one-night cruises are also only from the UK.

I took a longer cruise with Fred Olsen “In search of the Northern Lights.” Find out all about sailing with a traditional cruise line like Fred Olsen here:

Where do You Find Short Cruises?

When on almost any cruise line or travel agent website you will be able to filter your cruise search for cruises of a short duration.

Flexibility is Key

The key to finding a good short cruise is to either be flexible with dates or be flexible with the location of your cruise.

Sometimes cruises may start in one port and finish in another, which can cause logistical problems.

On the website, you can search by number of nights and also by cruise line. If you did want to cruise at a specific time with a specific line you would have to be flexible about the itinerary.

Similarly, if you wanted to cruise to a specific place on a short cruise you would probably have to be flexible when it comes to the cruise line.

My parents took a short, five-night out-of-season cruise on MSC Seaview. This was sailing from, and returning to Marseilles in France. It cost £226 – including gratuities! They also got a free upgrade to a balcony cabin for that price.

They were in France anyway visiting friends, so it was easy to just add this quick cruise into their schedule.

The great about short cruises is they give you the opportunity to try something new!

Would I Recommend Short Cruises?

A short cruise can be a brilliant way to try out a new cruise ship or cruise line. Short cruises are often very affordable and are able to fit around the rest of your life because they are so short.

That said, any short cruise shouldn’t be taken as a representation of a longer cruise with that cruise line.

Before You Go

Find out how you can get the best cabin for your budget in the article below:

Get The Best Cabin for Your Budget! Hints, Tips and Examples of How to Save Money Without Downgrading Your Cabin Type

Is it best to book with the cruise line or use an agent to get the best cruise deals? Find out here:

Is It Best To Use a Travel Agent or Book Directly With The Cruise Line? (Money-Saving Hints and Tips For Booking, and Much More…)

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources

Get Captain Hudson
Book a Cruise
Get Travel Insurance
Emma Cruises Shop
My Favourite Bags – Mia Tui

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide