. Weekend Cruises for Quick Getaways by Ben Lyons : ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine

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Quick Escapes - 3, 4 and 5-Night Cruises

Weekend Cruises offer Quick,
Budget-Friendly Escapes

By Benjamin S. B. Lyons

Who says you can't get away from it all in a weekend? Arriving at the pier on a Friday afternoon, it's only hours before your ship sets sail for some tropical island and the passing sea starts soaking up all your worries and stress. After two full days and three nights onboard, you're back at work just a few hours late on Monday.

RC Monarch of the Seas
Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas cruises Mexico for 3 to 4 days.

For first time cruisers looking to get their feet wet or seasoned travelers who just feel the need for a quick escape, three, four and five night cruises are an increasingly popular and inexpensive way to get away from it all. Gone are the days when three and four day cruises left almost exclusively from Miami.

Today, you can sail from every coast on a variety of short cruises to match your style -- and your budget -- with ships ranging from the whimsical "Fun Ships" of Carnival Cruise Line to the classic liner Regal Empress. Even some luxury lines offer an occasional short cruise, giving everyone the opportunity to sample the ship before booking a longer trip.

Because the cruiselines want to lure people onboard and get them hooked on cruising, there are often incredible bargains. All the major companies offer pretty comparable fares starting around $250 for an inside cabin and $350 or less for a four-night cruise-and prices well below those are often available. Don't be put off by the exorbitant brochure prices-any good travel agent can get you prices up to 50% off. Generally, the newer the ship the more you'll pay, and the best bargains to be found are on a classic liner.

It is better to book a cheap cabin on a nice ship rather than vice versa, and that is especially true on a short cruise when you are rarely in your cabin. With the money you've saved, indulge in the spa or take a shore excursion instead. I'm always amazed how people spend literally thousands on a four-night cruise, which is well above the cost for a seven-night trip in an average cabin.

RC Sovereign of the Seas
The centrum of Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas.

A big advantage for today's cruiser is that the building surge of ships has forced companies to look for new cities from which to deploy their ships. From Port Manatee, Fla., to New Orleans, weekend cruises are appearing in areas they were never seen before. This influx of new ships also means that while three and four-night cruises used to be operated on a cruiseline's 'already put to pasture' fleet, today you may sail on a ship only a few years old with the same amenities of the newest ships.

Expect soaring atriums, alternate restaurants open all night and big show rooms that will make you wonder, "Am I really on a ship?"

A short cruise will have a higher energy level than you'll find on a longer cruise, and the bar will most likely be the most popular spot onboard. Still, there are always places to slip away from the forced fun and enjoy the ultimate shipboard pleasure -- simply being out at sea and looking at the passing ocean.

Disney Cruise Line
Disney sailing the Caribbean.

Today, Carnival and Royal Caribbean offer the most short cruises, but there are a variety of other companies offering similar escapes. However, several cruise companies are offering weekend cruises included luxury cruise providers such as Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas. Also, for a unique cruising expercience, try lines such as Norwegian or Disney. For those of you who aren't near an ocean and cannot get to one easily try cruising on the Mississippi with Majestic American Line.

No matter which cruise you choose you'll discover your ship has transported you somewhere much farther away than any car could. If you go out on deck and step away from the pulsing lights in the disco, you'll be overcome by a calm only found at sea. With the ocean swishing by and the stars above set against the ship's powerful funnel, work seems much more than a weekend away.

IF YOU GO...

Carnival
Phone:1-888-CARNIVAL
Email

Royal Caribbean
Crown & Anchor Society,
P.O. Box 026053
Miami, FL 33102-6053
Phone: 1-866-562-7625
E-mail: crownandanchor@rccl.com

Norwegian
7665 Corporate Center Dr.
Miami, FL 33126
Phone: 1-866-625-1166

Seaborn
6100 Blue Lagoon Dr. Suite 400
Miami, FL 33126
Phone: 1-800-929-9391

Regent Seven Seas
1000 Corporate Dr. Suite 500
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334
Phone: 1-877-505-5370
information@regentexperience.com

Disney
Guest Communication
P.O. Box 10238
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Phone: 1-800-951-3532

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