Is a “Micro” Cruise Right For You? Why Millions Love These Trips

Never heard of a “micro” cruise? Odds are you likely have, but just didn’t realize it. Put simply, we refer to a cruise that’s four days are fewer as a micro cruise. And lately these short cruises have boomed in popularity.

Ship sailing on a short micro cruiseFor decades cruises have been thought of as the classic week-long trip that sails to the Caribbean. But that’s rapidly changing with the tastes of cruise passengers — and vacationers — as a whole.

Let’s face it. As Americans we are (or at least seem to be) busier than ever. Between work, school, and family, the demands on our time are numerous. At the same time, our budgets seem to be getting stretched thinner and thinner. A report from CNBC says that only 40% of us can handle an unexpected $1,000 expense.

Cruise Lines Have Jumped on the Trend of Shorter Cruises

For these reasons, it should come as no surprise that more people are opting to take shorter vacations. A poll done recently by travel insurer Allianz found that 57% of people didn’t take a leisure trip longer than four nights in the last year.

Cruise lines have been quick to jump on this trend. Today you will find literally hundreds of short trips across major cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. More seem to be added each year. All told, the number of passengers taking short cruises has soared well into the millions each year.

If you haven’t taken one of these short cruises before, you might be wondering if they are for you — and how they differ from longer trips. Below we cover some of the reasons that a micro cruise might be perfect for your next vacation…

Micro Cruises Mean Less Time Off Work

We mentioned the poll earlier that said a staggering 57% of people didn’t take a vacation longer than four nights in the past year. That same poll also gave the top reasons for taking shorter trips. One of the most popular reasons: it’s easier to take time off of work for shorter trips.

Consider a traditional week cruise. If you sail out on Sunday and return back the next Sunday, you’ve had to take an entire week off of work for your trip. But a three-day cruise may depart Friday afternoon and get back first thing Monday morning. Depending on your proximity to the port, you could in theory not even have to take off a full workday to enjoy your trip.

Yes, some short cruises depart in the middle of the week, but taking off three or four days is still easier for people than an entire week.

In addition, taking less time off of work means there is less time spent playing “catch up” when you do get back home. Emails, errands, and other things to do are much easier to manage when they’ve only piled up for three days instead of seven.

Micro Cruises Are Less Expensive

If you want another good reason to book a short cruise, then think of your budget. As you’d expect, it’s drastically cheaper to sail on a cruise that’s only a few days instead of an entire week or more.

We looked at the cheapest 100 cruises of three and four nights aboard all the major cruise lines. We also compared those prices to the cheapest week-long cruises. There are micro cruises you can sail for just a couple of hundred dollars. Some of the cheapest are even less.

For instance, the cheapest 100 “micro” cruises from Carnival we found averaged just $194 per person for the least expensive interior cabin. The 100 cheapest 7-day cruises were $460 per person; that’s more than twice as much.

If you’re looking to have a vacation without spending a fortune, then short cruises may be for you.

You Can Binge on a Shorter Cruise

Want to really let loose? It’s much easier — and cheaper — to do that on a short cruise than for an entire week.

Consider a drink package, for example. These packages range from about $60-80 per day, depending on your cruise line. Getting your money’s worth for a few days is easy. But take a week-long cruise and you’re likely to want a break for a day or two.

Meanwhile, drink packages have to be purchased for the entire length of the cruise. So for a three-day trip you might spend a couple of hundred dollars. But a 7-day cruise sees a cost that’s easily $500 for the cheapest packages.

When you sail a trip that’s only a few days, you can splurge a little more without breaking the budget — or wearing yourself out from the fun.

The Atmosphere (and Passengers) Are Different on a Micro Cruise

There’s an old joke that cruises are for the “newlywed and nearly dead.” To us it’s not accurate as we’ve found that you’ll find all sorts of people on a cruise. You’ll find families, retirees, couples, and more.

That said, we’ve found that micro cruises definitely trend to attract younger cruisers who are looking to have more fun. In general, the atmosphere is more lively than you’d find on a 7-day cruise. You’ll often see bachelorette parties, younger couples, and others who want to have a fun time without breaking the bank.

We’re not saying that a short cruise is like the crowd at a music festival. Instead, it simply skews a bit younger and livelier, while still being welcoming to everyone.

Short Cruises Give You a Chance to Travel More Often

Keeping in line with taking fewer days off of work to sail — and sailing for much cheaper — there’s another benefit of taking a micro cruise. Put simply, short trips allow you to travel more often.

With less of a commitment of time and money, these cruises offer a lot of flexibility for passengers. No longer is a cruise something that has to be planned for months (or years) in advance. You can simply find a trip that departs soon without having to save up a lot of money or giving a lot of advance notice at work.

When it comes to the choice between more shorter trips, or fewer long trips, we’d opt for more short trips every time.

How to Find a Short Cruise

While we can’t predict the future, there’s obviously a lot of reasons why we can see the popularity of micro cruises continuing to grow. They are cheaper, easier, and offer more flexibility to allow people to cruise.

If you want to find your next micro cruise, you can search across cruise lines on and narrow trips down by length. Third-party sites like these are the easiest way we’ve found to hunt down short cruise deals as they give you all your options instead of just focusing on one line.

Frequently Asked Questions about Short “Micro” Cruises

Is the experience on a short cruise the same as a longer trip?
In general, yes. Micro cruises simply take what you might do in a longer trip and condense it down to a few days. You still visit ports of call, there is still a formal night, there are still lots of activities aboard the ship.

The main difference is that there is less “downtime” on the shorter cruises. You likely won’t have as many days at sea where you can just lounge and relax. Instead, there is more packed into a shorter time frame.

Do all cruise lines offer short cruises?
Not every cruise line has a focus on short cruises just yet, but the tide appears to be turning. The good news is that all the major lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian — offer dozens or hundreds of short cruises annually.

Other lines like Disney, Celebrity, and Princess still give most of their attention to longer cruises. Even so, these lines do have some shorter cruises you can choose from.

Notably, the new Virgin Voyages cruise line will focus exclusively on 4 and 5-night trips when it launches in 2020.

What’s a good price for a short cruise?
The cost of a cruise can depend on a lot of factors. The biggest factors are when you sail and the type of cabin you choose. Trips that sail in the summer or during the holidays will be more expensive than those that depart when school is in session. As well, expect to pay more for a balcony or suite cabin than the cheapest interior rooms.

When it comes to pricing, we find anything under $75 per person, per day for an interior cabin to be a good value. So a four-day cruise priced under $300 (before taxes and fees) is a great price. Prices between $75-120 per day are fair prices by our judgement. We consider anything above $120 per day to be an expensive micro cruise, although if it fits your schedule, it may be well worth it. Keep in mind these figures are for the cheapest interior cabins.

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