Cruise Ship; Courtesy of NAPA/
All Ages

5 Major Cruise Lines That Offer Short Cruises for Families

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

Just because you’re limited on vacation time or budget doesn’t mean you can’t experience a cruise with your family! Or, maybe you’re not keen on the idea of cruising and want to test it out before committing to a week-long sailing. Many cruise lines offer short sailings—between two to four days in length—with a lot of the same perks you’d find on a long sailing; you just won’t see as many destinations. Want to plan a quick cruise getaway? Choose one of these cruise lines that offer short cruises for families. To keep costs down, choose a cruise port near you or try to score cheap airfare to the departure port of your choice.

Disney Cruise Line Dream at Castaway Cay; Courtesy of Courtney Elko

Best Short Cruises for Families: Disney Cruise Line

Disney offers two-, three- and four-night sailings, including short holiday-themed cruises for Halloween and Christmas.

Departure Ports: Texas, Florida, Louisiana, California, British Columbia

Destinations: Mexico, Texas, Bahamas, Disney Castaway Cay, Louisiana, Florida, Canada, California

Why Sail: While Disney Cruise Line doesn’t offer a large variety of short cruises, it’s the ship experience that steals the show. The kids’ clubs, for babies to teens, are fantastic, with themed areas and experiences inspired by Toy Story, Marvel, Star Wars and more. The nightly theater shows are of Broadway caliber, with the cast and production wowing adults just as much as kids. Disney characters are always roaming the ship, greeting families and taking photos. The adults-only areas are surprisingly serene, as well. And if you decide to sail to the Bahamas, you’ll get to experience Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. No other cruise line makes a stop at this stunning paradise, where you’ll find snorkeling opportunities, on-island kids’ and teen clubs, waterslides, bike rentals, a lunch buffet (included in cruise rates), and beautiful beaches for both families and adults.

Cost: The only downside? Rates start around $2,100 for a stateroom that sleeps two adults and two children, for a two-day cruise.

Related: Are Short Disney Cruises Worth the Price?

Seuss at Sea on Carnival Cruise Line' Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Best Short Cruises for Families: Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line offers two-, three- and four-night short cruises.

Departure Ports: Florida, California, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, New York

Destinations: Florida, Bahamas, California, Mexico, Catalina Island, Louisiana, South Carolina, Turks and Caicos, Texas, Cuba, New York, Bermuda

Why Sail: Dr. Seuss is the main man with green eggs and ham on Carnival Cruise Line! Parades, story times, character meet-and-greets, and yes, a green eggs and ham breakfast, are part of the fun for young kids. Other perks include the SkyRide and IMAX Thrill Theaters on select ships, plus waterslides and water parks, nightly entertainment, kids’ clubs and adults-only areas. Some of the staterooms can sleep up to five people, too.

Cost: On average, rates start around $137 per person for a two-night cruise.


Best Short Cruises for Families: Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean offers two-, three- and four-night cruises departing from a large variety of locations, with deals on last-minute and weekend cruises. Two-night options are limited, but include a cruise from Sydney, Australia, and a two-night cruise to the Bahamas from Miami.

Departure Ports: Australia, Florida, Italy, England, Singapore, British Columbia, Texas, China

Destinations: Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Bahamas, Florida, Haiti, France, Spain, British Columbia, Alaska, Australia, Texas, Mexico, Thailand, Cuba, China, Japan, Vietnam

Why Sail: Families can easily see a little bit of everything when taking a short cruise with Royal Caribbean, and the onboard ship experiences just keep getting better with each new ship. Think waterslides, bumper cars, ziplining, and skydiving simulators! The ships also provide fantastic entertainment and kids’ programming. In May 2019, Royal Caribbean will open its highly anticipated Perfect Day at Coco Cay, an exclusive, private-island experience, and some of the line’s short cruises will include a visit to the island!

Cost: Rates start at $358 average per person for a three-day cruise, for a stateroom with two adults and two children.

Related: 10 Over-the-Top Cruise Ship Experiences for Families

Go Karts on Norwegian Cruise Line Joy; Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Best Short Cruises for Families: Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line offers three- and four-day short cruises at affordable rates.

Departure Ports: Spain, Florida, Boston, Italy, New York

Destinations: Spain, Italy, France, Florida, Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba, Boston, Bermuda, New York

Why Sail: Babies on up to teens can enjoy the kids’ programs, where they can learn to juggle, play dodgeball or just hang out with other kids their age. On Norwegian Bliss, you’ll also find outdoor laser tag and go-karts! Family accommodations are available on many ships and include multi-room suites, mini-suites and interconnecting staterooms that can sleep families of all sizes. Bonus: Norwegian is offering a Free at Sea promotion that allows families to choose up to five complimentary offers: free unlimited open bar, free shore excursions, free specialty dining, free Wi-Fi and an opportunity for friends and family to sail free on select sailings, which include some short cruises.

Cost: On average, rates start around $250 per person for a three-day cruise.

LEGO Experience on MSC Cruises; Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Best Short Cruises for Families: MSC Cruise Line

MSC offers the shortest of short cruises with two-day, one-night options in Europe. Two-, three- and four-night short cruise options are also available with MSC. The one- and two-night cruise itineraries embark and disembark in different cities, however.

Departure Ports: France, Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Florida, Japan, Portugal

Destinations: France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Croatia, South Africa, Monaco, Mozambique, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Florida, Bahamas, Japan, China, Montenegro, Portugal

Why Sail: The majority of MSC’s short cruises are available in Europe, Asia and Africa at an inexpensive rate—so inexpensive that kids sail free on select sailings with two paying adults in the same stateroom! The port destinations and short duration cruises allow families to see parts of the world that may be easier to manage and more affordable by cruise ship. MSC Cruises also offers LEGO-themed programming for young kids.

Cost: Rates start around $35 per person for a one-night cruise in a double occupancy stateroom.

Related: 4 Cruise Lines That Are Letting Kids Sail Free in 2019

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