Choosing The Right Ship For A Short Cruise

Choosing The Right Ship For A Short Cruise
Many vacationers are taking multiple short vacations this year. Luckily, the cruise industry’s array of quick getaways is well suited to fit their needs. These 3- to 5-night sailings depart from a wide variety of U.S. ports, making them easily accessible.

If you’re craving a cheap vacation getaway, a short cruise may be a good choice for you. Exciting ports and onshore adventures combined with high-octane onboard entertainment make short cruises a great vacation choice for type-A travelers. Short cruises are an excellent value and also provide first-time cruisers with an opportunity to test the waters before taking a longer voyage.

When planning a short cruise, it’s important to pick the ship and itinerary that is best suited to your needs. Here are some factors to consider in choosing the right ship:

Homeport convenience. Short cruises depart from a number of drive-to-port cities in the U.S. and Europe, cutting out travel hassles and eliminating high airfare costs. This year, families can find short cruises sailing from homeports in states such as Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California and Washington.

Itinerary. If you have cruised often, you may wish to choose an itinerary that includes some exciting new destinations or spends several days in favorite ports of call. Relaxing days at private islands are popular. The number of in-port and sea days varies, so choose the itinerary that best fits your preferences.

Shipboard amenities. Amenities and entertainment are important in choosing the right ship for a short cruise. Newer or recently refurbished ships tend to have some of the coolest pools, spas, nightspots, and other features. Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, for example, sails 4- and 5-night Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ship features a boxing rink, rock-climbing wall, the popular FlowRider surfing simulator, a golf simulator, a miniature golf course, and the fun-filled H2O Zone Waterpark.

Dining venues. When choosing a ship, consider your family’s flexibility needs and dining preferences. If you detest fixed dining times and your kids are unlikely to sit through a two-hour dinner, check for casual dining spots and look for cruise lines that offer freestyle dining, such as Norwegian Cruise Line(NCL). Norwegian’s ships are packed with a wide variety of come-when-you-wish restaurants, informal eateries and 24-hour dining options. Carnival Cruise Lines offers "My Time Dining" as well.

Kids and teens programs. It’s important to consider each cruise line’s programs in light of your family’s needs and children’s ages. Each cruise line has a differing array of kids, teens and family programs, and some ships offer more dedicated kids and family spaces than others. Dedicated kids and teens spaces often make a major difference in program participation, so check into the available amenities before choosing your ship. For example, if your family includes infants and/or toddlers, Disney Cruise Line offers on-board nurseries for children 12 weeks of age and older at an hourly rate. Carnival Cruise Lines' free children's programs include children ages two and older. In addition, short cruises on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian and Disney Cruise Line also offer teens programs and a variety of family activities.

Entertainment. Some vacationers flock to cruises because of the wide variety of entertainment options available offered onboard ships. Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships are known for their heavy emphasis on entertainment and fun-oriented activities. Royal Caribbean ships tend to have good production shows and guest entertainers throughout their fleet. For families, Disney ships are a superb choice for entertainment as well.

Staterooms. Newer cruise ships tend to have more balcony cabins and staterooms specially designed for families. Look for a short cruise on a ship that will allow you to enjoy some of these options. A series of family cabins are available on Royal Caribbean ships, including a Royal Family Suite that offers a Jacuzzi tub, an enormous balcony, and room for eight. Disney Cruise Line offers some of the largest standard staterooms on the high seas and their family staterooms easily accommodate families of five with a sleep sofa and wall-mounted Murphy bed. Newer Carnival and Norwegian ships also feature large family suites as well.

Short cruise prices are often quite low, making them an excellent choice for a budget-oriented trip or a last minute getaway. Rates can vary substantially based on time of year, destination and time of booking. Base rates for four-night cruises to the Bahamas can be as low as $109 per person plus taxes and fees.

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