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About Mini Cruises
A mini cruise can be the perfect solution if you're short on time but want a luxury break or if you've never cruised before and want a taster of what cruising is all about.
Re-Energise at sea
Busy modern lifestyles have created a growing demand for quick escape breaks - four- or five-day breathers to blow away the cobwebs, refresh and re-energise us to face the demands of everyday living. Nearly one in five cruises booked by Britons is of five days's duration or less – which is not surprising when you consider the advantages of a short cruise over a land-based mini-break.
A short cruise (a cruise of less than seven nights at sea), takes you to explore two or three destinations in a short space of time, without having to worry about luggage or timetables. A short break at sea is the perfect introduction if you’ve never cruised before. Additionally, a short cruise means you can enjoy the refreshing benefits of sea air, fine food and easily accessible entertain-ment.
Most modern cruise ships have state-of-the-art health and fitness facilities often including a gym, swimming pool and jogging track; building in time for some serious pampering with the very latest health and beauty treatments.
Hassle free escapes
Top for convenience are short cruises out of British ports. With none of the hassle of passing through airports, you can simply leave your troubles behind. Four-day cruises from the UK will take you to France and the Channel Islands, while a five-day sailing finds time to visit Spain as well. In France you'll visit ports like medieval La Rochelle and stylish, bustling Brest.
Spain's pretty seaport of La Coruna - gateway for trips to Santiago de Compostela - is worth a day in itself, with its busy market and pavement tapas cafes.
St Peter's Port, capital of Guernsey, is a perfect base for exploring this island and enjoying a high tea of fresh crab sandwiches.
Eat ashore or spend the time exploring and refuel back on board - the choice is yours. While most land-based short breaks are offered on a bed and breakfast basis, a cruise provides all meals, so it's also a good choice if you're on a budget.
The most popular short cruises are those that operate from Cyprus to Egypt, Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. These currently account for the vast majority of short-cruise bookings made by British travellers, who often book these as an add-on to a stay on one of the Mediterranean’s holiday islands.
There are also plans to introduce short cruises to Malta in the near future. And if you're strapped for time and fancy a short Mediterranean cruise without an extensive land stay, that's possible as well.
Growing demand for brief escapes has prompted some operators to offer fly - cruise packages comprising five nights on board and two ashore, exploring destinations like Istanbul, Barcelona or Rome.
You can choose whether to take your city break at the beginning or end of your cruise; for example, a five-day sailing from Piraeus to Istanbul will take you to the lovely Greek islands of Delos, Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes. A short cruise from Barcelona to Piraeus will usually take in Monte Carlo, Sorrento (for Capri and Pompeii), Malta and Crete for instance.
To discover some history whilst re-freshing your mind opt for two or three night cruises to the Holy Land or The Lebanon. Rome-based cruises will offer itineraries ranging from Civitavecchia to Livorno for Florence and Pisa, Portofino or Cannes. You would be hard pressed to fit in all these destinations and sights whilst on a land-based short break.
Ports further afield
Other options for time-strapped travellers include sailing from Southampton to New York, which takes six days and must be the most relaxing way to arrive in the Big Apple.
And if you'd prefer to fly to the States and take a short cruise as part of a wider exploration, possibilities abound. If you're visiting the theme parks of Florida, a short cruise is a great introduction to the sunshine islands of the Caribbean – and a good way to chill out after an action-packed land break.
Four-day cruises from Port Canaveral will take you to Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas; or you can sail from Tampa to Grand Cayman, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
Sail from the world's cruise capital, Miami, and there's even more on offer. Four-day cruises will take you to Key West, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, while a five-day cruise can get you to Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
If you are as far afield as Sydney, take a two-night escape cruise incorporating both sightseeing and dinning in style. The more specialist operators will offer itineraries to specific tourist spots such as the Great Barrier Reef or the islands of Fiji.
Tips for Mini Cruisers
Decide before you go what you want to get out of your short cruise; Relaxation? A health-boosting break? A whistle stop tour of a new destination? - Don't try to do too much or you'll return to work more frazzled than before you went.
Short cruises are usually offered in spring and autumn - at the beginning and end of the season - though cruises from Cyprus and some Mediterranean itineraries operate summer-long.
Dress codes tend to be more casual on short cruises, especially in America. But if you enjoy dressing for dinner, don't let that put you off.
One-off short cruises tend to book up quickly, so book early.
FRED OLSEN CRUISE LINES offers a limited number of short cruises each year on Black Watch, Braemar and Black Prince. All these cruises, from 3 to 8 nights, depart from Dover, Southampton, Leith or Greenock and visit ports in France, Spain, Belgium, Channel Islands or Norway.
P&O CRUISES offers a selection of four night short cruises. Arcadia, Aurora and Victoria have four night cruises visiting the Netherlands and the Channel Islands, the special feature being a night in port in Amsterdam.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL will offer its first ever cruises out of Southampton when Splendour of the Seas will sail a number of European itineraries. Short cruises on offer include a four-night Belgium and Netherlands cruise calling at Zeebrugge and Amsterdam, and a three-night France and Channel Islands cruise calling at Brest and St Peter Port.