A mini cruise break, or taster cruise, is the sea-based equivalent to a short city break.
There are a few differences though. Such as the lack of stress endured at an airport. And without the misery of being cooped up for hours on end in a tin can. And then there's no restriction on the size and weight of your bags. Add in comfortable accommodation, a variety of restaurant and bars, shopping, and various leisure options and you've got yourself the perfect holiday.
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If you've already been on a mini cruise holiday then you'll know just how much fun they can be and the good value for money they represent. But if you've never tried this unique style of holiday before then read on as here are 10 very good reasons why you should book a cruise today.
1. Your holiday starts the moment you step aboard
Unless you're fortunate enough to be able to afford to fly business or first class, flying anywhere can be a real dampener to the start of your holiday.
You'll quickly tire of having to be at the airport oodles of hours earlier than is seemingly necessary. Then you'll have to endure a tortuous flight cooped up in a narrow seat with barely enough legroom. The miserable looking in-flight meal will cost you an arm and a leg on short flights too. When you arrive you'll stand next to the baggage carousel praying your bag made it in one piece.
Travelling by cruise ship or ferry is different for one big reason - your journey becomes part of your holiday. As soon as you board you are free to do whatever you like. Enjoy a meal, have a drink, stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh air with a stroll around the vessel, enjoy the live entertainment, and more.
There's no denying that the journey is longer by comparison to flying. Flying is one of the fastest ways to travel to Europe but the experience leaves a lot to be desired (unless you are super rich of course).
To me, travelling by sea is a far more civilised way to see the world. I love gazing out to sea. I love the fresh air. I love the people I meet. I love the delicious food served on real crockery with normal cutlery at a normal table. I love the entertainment. And best of all I love the stress and hassle-free aspects of travelling by sea.
2. A choice of accommodation
Sail on an overnight ferry or on a cruise ship and you'll need a cabin. And there really is something for everyone.
As far as budget travel goes, Inside cabins are often available at the lowest cost. These cabins have no natural light as they lack a window. For some that is a deal breaker but I have found a very good aspect to no natural light - the best night's sleep ever! With no light creeping through curtains you'll sleep soundly.
Both ferries and cruise ships offer Ocean View cabins. These are more or less the same as the Inside cabins with the addition of a porthole or picture window. For those that want to see the sea then this is a must even if it costs a little more.
Cruise ships offer Balcony cabins which takes the concept of an ocean view to the next level. Here you'll get your own private balcony that you can use to soak up the sunshine, drink in the fresh air, and enjoy the peace and quiet away from the fun across the ship.
For luxury sea travel then book a Suite. Available on ferries and cruise ships alike, these spacious cabins often come with fantastic views and extra perks, such as complimentary in-cabin snacks or access to an exclusive lounge just for suite guests. On cruise ships the service becomes very personal with many suite guests enjoying the personalised services from a butler.
3. No baggage limits
There's usually no baggage limits.
On ferries it is normally a case that you can take as much as you can carry. If you are taking your car on a short break to Ireland or Continental Europe then you can load it up with as much luggage as you need.
Cruise ship passengers are normally asked to limit each bag to 20kg out of courtesy to the dock workers handling luggage. You can usually take as many bags as you need.
4. Fabulous food
You will be blown away by the quality of food, both on ferries and cruise ships.
From buffets to gourmet speciality restaurants there's a wide range of options on both types of vessel to cater for even the fussiest of eaters.
On ferries food is available at an additional cost. On cruise ships your main meals and snacks are included in the fare. You can also pay extra to dine in a speciality restaurant should you wish.
5. Fantastic destinations
Mainland Europe is right on our doorstep yet many of us look to the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, or Caribbean when we search for a holiday.
A mini cruise can take you to somewhere you've perhaps not considered or somewhere you've visited before but need a convenient excuse to go back to. There are some fantastic destinations easily accessible by ship, with culture, customs, architecture, and cuisine ready to explore.
Sail by ferry or cruise ship to The Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, The Channel Islands, and the smaller islands that dot the British mainland.
I don't know about you but when I start planning a holiday it gets frightfully complicated alarmingly quickly.
What time are the flights? What time do I need to be at the airport? What time do I need to leave the house? Will the pre-booked transfers account for any delays? Will the hotel let me check-in at that unsightly time? How far away is the nearest restaurant? What family-friendly activities can I book? And so on...
Step aboard a ship and it's all there for you. A comfortable cabin - check. Restaurants - check. Bars - check. Entertainment - check.
On a mini cruise most of the hard work has been taken out of the equation. All you need to worry about is what you get up to while your off exploring a new city. It's about as stress-free as you can get in the world of travel.
7. Value for money
Ferry travel is often good value, especially if you are comparing it to a short holiday to seaside resorts in Europe.
Even though most ferries charge extra for food and drinks the entertainment is often free. Most operators offer the ability to pre-book meals at a lower cost than what you would pay on-board. And on mini-cruises the coach transfers to and from the city are normally included.
Cruise holidays are slightly different. These are sold as full board meaning your meals (and some snacks) are included in the price. Most have speciality restaurants which you can pay to upgrade to but you don't have to.
Drinks are charged extra for although occasionally there are all-inclusive deals which include a drinks package in the cost of the holiday.
Live entertainment is also included but city transfers are usually charged for. Cruise lines also offer Shore Excursions at an extra cost. These are often tours that showcase the highlights of destinations and are a good way to get an overview of a city if you've never been before.
Do your homework and you'll find a mini cruise holiday is a great value way to get a taste of a new city.
8. An affordable family holiday
Taking the kids anywhere on holiday can see your wallet empty faster than the speed of light. But often it's the cost of travelling that takes a hit when you take the children abroad.
Ferries and cruise ships have cabins designed to accommodate families. Better still, pricing of the kids places is often a fraction of the adult rate.
9. Perfect for celebrations
There's no better way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. And it's not just these kind of celebrations that mini cruises are ideal for. Such is the legendary notoriety of New Year's Eve cruises some people book them as soon as they become available.
Stag and hen parties are taken to the next level with a short holiday to Europe. The good value offered by cruise and ferry travel means that a few days away from home is often competitively priced compared to a domestic stag or hen do.
Combine a holiday with a celebration to make a memorable event.
Invite friends and family to travel with you and make it a larger celebration. Or splash out on a Suite and travel in style on your own.
10. Forget the misconceptions
The saying goes - "cruises are for the newly wed, the nearly dead, and the overfed". Other incorrect assumption include "cruise ships are dated", "the entertainment is worse than a holiday camp", and "ships are floating tower blocks at sea".
You name it, I've heard it. But most of these misconceptions are propagated by people who have never even stepped aboard a cruise ship or ferry. And those that have often base their misconceptions on a trip they made as a child decades ago.
While it is true that some of the popular stereotypes were true a very long time ago, the cruise and ferry industries have radically transformed.
Modern ships cater for passengers of all ages and all backgrounds. Families are embraced with open arms. Multi-generational holidays are now the norm, where grandparents sail with parents and their children.
The food and entertainment available on mini cruise holidays is incredible, and the freedom you get from being at sea is worth every penny.
Ready to book?
If, like me, you're now desperate to head off on your next cruise adventure then I can help.
Check out the latest mini cruise deals to find the best option for you. All mini cruises can be booked online meaning you could have your next adventure booked in just a few minutes.
You can also find the ferry operators and cruise lines that sail from ports near to your home.
What are you waiting for?!