As a fairly experienced cruiser, I mostly enjoy longer itineraries. Seven or more nights are most ideal for me. I really enjoyed the 14 night cruise MrsMJ and I took across the Mediterranean in fall 2012 and the two 7-night back to back cruises we did in December. In fact, I’ve been known to say that a 7 night cruise just isn’t long enough anymore.

With that in mind, I have found a short cruising sweet spot in the 3-night weekend cruises. There are a few reasons for this. First, they are typically very affordable. If you have the luxury of living near a port, you can really take advantage of last minute deals that pop up as cruise lines reach for their goal of filling every possible cabin. Even if you have to fly, a 3-night cruise can make for a relaxing long weekend getaway. Second, there are numerous ships in the short cruise market, each of which have their strengths and weaknesses….but you have choices. If you figure the cost of 3 nights in a reasonably upscale hotel, paying for meals, etc., cruising compares favorably for a weekend getaway.

I’ve come to actually prefer 3-night cruises to their 4-night alternatives. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but here’s why. A typical 4-night cruise will start on Monday as the turnaround from the 3-night weekender. You set sail, and go wherever you go. Usually by Wednesday or so, you’re in the zone. Thursday rolls around and you’re actually relaxed. Then…you have to get off the ship! On the other hand, a 3-night cruise is what it is. It’s a weekend getaway. I go into it with that mindset. I have fun, enjoy some decent meals, libation, nightlife, and exit the ship on Monday thinking I had a good time.

Tips on Maximizing Your 3-Night Cruise Get Away

If you really want to make a weekend of it, fly in the night before. Try to get to port early enough to enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant. Go to bed. Wake up, and head to the ship. MrsMJ and I have a favorite short cruise tactic. Get up early Friday morning, and take a ridiculously early flight. Carry on luggage only so we can head to the airport lounge to kill some time. Then taxi over to a favorite Miami restaurant, Truluck’s, for lunch. Head to the port, carry our bags on and having lunched off the ship, we are able to skip the buffet madness. Since we’re boarding after 1:30PM, the staterooms are usually available. Unpack. Nap. Boat drill. Then prepare to party.

If you want to do a shore excursion, go for it. That said, we’ve found relaxing on the ship to be a perfect way to unwind. On our most recent 3-night cruise we boarded the ship in Miami and did not leave the ship until we returned to Miami. In fairness, we would have visited the beach at the cruise line’s private island, but the port call was canceled due to rough seas so we proceeded directly to Nassau, a port we’ve visited many times. With no need to visit Nassau, we spent the day by the pool, enjoying the warm sun, and tranquility of a near empty ship.

If your ship includes a specialty restaurant, be sure book at least one meal there. You can usually enjoy a very high quality meal for a reasonable upcharge, and make your weekend even better. After dinner hit the ship’s club scene for dancing and live music.

Lastly, if you’re making the most of a long holiday weekend, there’s no need to rush off the ship. Enjoy breakfast in the dining room (skip the buffet madness), and be among the last off. Alternatively, with carry on luggage, you could self disembark, and be among the first off the ship. Perhaps make an early flight, and get back to work around lunch time, or almost on time if you live near the port.

In conclusion, 3-night cruises can make for an ideal weekend getaway. Affordable, good service, decent to excellent food, entertainment – the makings of a good weekend at sea. They’re also a pretty ideal intro cruise if you’ve never cruised before and want to give it a try. Enjoy your cruise!

-MJ, February 18, 2014