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Weekend & Sampler Cruises

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Best cruises for a weekend getaway

Maybe you don’t have a full week’s vacation coming. Or you want to combine a visit with the relatives with a short cruise. Or you’re a first-time cruiser afraid to commit to a full week at sea. Whatever the reason, cruise lines get that some people can’t (or don’t want to) do a seven-night cruise. As a result, the lines are offering an increasing number of shorter cruise options.

The three, four or five-night sailings are often affordably priced, especially this time of year. Do a four-night cruise on the Norwegian Sky or Carnival Imagination from Miami on Nov. 11, for instance, from $149 per person (Click through the carousel above for a glimpse of the ships and others mentioned in this story).

The Norwegian Sky
The Norwegian Sky

The cruises tend to be on older ships, but that may be changing. Princess Cruises, for instance, has its second-newest ship, the Ruby Princess, cruising on four- and five-night cruises out of Fort Lauderdale this season.

While short cruises have had a past reputation for attracting a more party-hearty crowd than longer cruises, a number of ships these days are targeting families. Disney Cruise Line, for instance, is showing off major refurbishment on the Disney Magic with short cruises from Miami, through December (after that Disney Wonder takes over the route through April). Fares are from $396 per person, for a four-night cruise.

Here are some fall and winter short cruise highlights:

From Miami:Carnival Imagination, Carnival Victory, Carnival Ecstasy, Norwegian Sky, Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder all are doing cruises of five nights or less. Itineraries include the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean.

From Fort Lauderdale:Princess Cruises is debuting new four and five-night itineraries on the Ruby Princess. The four-night Christmas cruise, embarking December 22, is bargain-priced, from $229 per person.
Also on four and five-night itineraries are the Celebrity Constellation and the Liberty of the Seas. Most of the cruises are Western Caribbean (including to Falmouth, Jamaica or Cozumel), though some of the Princess itineraries head to Grand Turk.

Royal-Caribbean-Majesty-of-the-sea
Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Sea

From Port Canaveral (near Orlando): Cruise on the Disney Dream or Disney Magic (beginning in January), Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas or Carnival Sensation, on three or four-night cruises, easily combined with a land visit to Orlando attractions. The cruises are to the Bahamas (including cruise line-owned private islands such as Disney’s popular Castaway Cay).

From Long Beach or Los Angeles: West Coasters can hop on a three or four-night cruise on the Carnival Inspiration or Carnival Imagination (from Long Beach) or Golden Princess (from the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro). The cruises call at ports in California and Mexico (Ensenada).

Not Sure? Try a Sampler cruise

Less common than three and four-night cruises, sample voyages let you hop onboard a ship for a night or two to test the product — at an affordable price.  Sampler cruises are typically offered when a ship is repositioning, is new in a port, or when a cruise line otherwise finds a gap in the schedule. The cruise lines have motivation to get you onboard: they know that if you like what you experience, you’re likely to book a longer sailing.

Check out one of these sampler sailings 

(all dates are for 2014, unless otherwise notated).

Escape from New York Cruise
Escape from New York Cruise

From Seattle/Vancouver:Holland America Line is hoping to titillate potential cruisers in the Pacific Northwest/Alaska market with a number of overnight sailings, including on the Oosterdam, May 10 and September 28 — fares from $79. Princess Cruises also has overnight sampler sailings on the Golden Princess on May 2 and 17 and September 20 and 21, with fares from $79.

From New York:Norwegian Cruise Line is serving up a number of 1 and 2-night Escape from New York cruises on the Norwegian Gem including on November 15 and December 13, 2013, with several dates also on the calendar for next year. Fares for overnight cruises from $149.

From Tampa: The Norwegian Dawn sets sail on a 2-night cruise to nowhere, November 15, 2013, with fares from $149.

From Long Beach: Cruise from this California port to Ensenada, Mexico and back on a 2-night sailing of the Carnival Inspiration, January 30, October 30 or December 18, fares from $179.

From New Orleans: Sample a 2-night cruise from the Big Easy on the Norwegian Dawn, November 21, 2013, fares from $249.

From Port Canaveral, Fla.: Carnival recently spent $155 million to revamp the Carnival Sunshine (formerly the Destiny). Check out the ship on a 2-night cruise visiting Freeport, Bahamas on April 17, fares from $299.

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