Mini cruises: the best short cruises between 2 and 4 nights

Enjoy a taster of life on the ocean or river with these tempting mini cruises, handpicked by our cruising expert

A ship offering mini cruises sails round an island in Croatia
(Image credit: Getty/Canva)

Mini cruises are bite-sized voyages that are just the ticket, whether you need a little convincing that cruising is for you or are simply short on holiday time.

The best cruises don’t have to be long-haul jaunts for weeks on end. There are plenty of short cruises around the world that take up as little as two nights and can be river cruises or ocean cruises.

So, whether you fancy a lazy river cruise, an all-inclusive break, or the chance to socialise and meet new people, there’s a shorter sailing to suit. 

BEST MINI CRUISES TO TAKE IN 2022

3 night mini cruises

These are the best mini cruises to book if you’re short on time but want lots of culture.

All prices were correct at the time of writing.

1. WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN

cruise ship on the ocean

(Image credit: Royal Caribbean)

Duration: 3 nights

Wonder of the Seas, set to be the world’s largest cruise ship, launches in Europe this year. 

The highly anticipated ship offers guests of all ages ocean adventures including a new 'Suite Neighborhood', a cantilevered pool bar named The Vue, and 'Wonder Playscape' – an interactive, open-air kids’ play area with awe-inspiring views.

On this mini cruise around the western Mediterranean, you can try some of Italy’s finest cuisine in Naples, soak up Barcelona’s architectural treasures and experience Rome’s vibrant cityscape.

Top tip: To see more of Naples in a short space of time, take a short bus ride to the base of Mount Vesuvius – a 20- to 30-minute hike will take you to the summit and there’s time to visit the ruins of Pompeii afterwards.

Departing Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy on 27 October 2022, prices start at £372pp/$568pp.

To find out more and to book visit royalcaribbean.com (opens in new tab).

2. GERMAN GEMS

river cruise ship sailing

(Image credit: TUI)

Duration: 3 nights

This three-night itinerary on river ship TUI Isla shows off the best bits of some of Germany’s renowned cities including Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and Dusseldorf. 

Start by taking a cable car up to the Niederwald Monument, which provides picture- perfect views over the Rhine Valley. 

In Cologne, you have the opportunity to experience the ancient Roman walls and Medieval churches before enjoying the world-famous beer halls. You will then spend your last day getting to know Dusseldorf, one of the most modern cities on the Rhine.

Top tip: Book the Relaxation package – at £55 per cabin, you will receive a fruit plate and two bottles of mineral water on arrival, slippers and robes, speciality tea selection, pillow scent, and priority booking once onboard for sauna, whirlpool and wellness activities.

The cruise departs on 2 October 2022 from Frankfurt, Germany and costs from £650/$887pp, based on two adults sharing a standard cabin on a full board plus basis, and includes return flights, transfers, £50 excursion credit, tips and service charges.

To find out more and to book visit tui.co.uk (opens in new tab) or call 0203 451 2688.

3. ICONIC GREECE

cruise ship sailing on the ocean

(Image credit: Celestyal Cruises)

Duration: 3 nights

A great way to experience island hopping on a budget, see five very different, sun-soaked destinations in just four days on this mini cruise.

Calling in at some of best Greek islands, this three-night ‘Iconic Aegean’ round trip from Athens calls at Kusadasi, Patmos and the picturesque island of Santorini. There is also a late night stop in Mykonos which allows passengers to advantage of the lively bars and restaurants before getting back on-board the ship. 

Top tip: Add a two-night pre-cruise stay in Athens in order to see the Acropolis and all the amazing sights that this exciting city has to offer.

Departing on 29 April 2022, cruise-only prices cost from £329pp/ $449pp for the three night cruise, with all meals and drinks, two excursions, port taxes and gratuities included. 

To find out more and to book visit celestyal.com (opens in new tab) or call 0800 411 8038.

4. THREE DAYS, FOUR PORTS

ocean cruise ship on the water

(Image credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Duration: 3 nights

For those in need of a change of scenery, a three-day Mediterranean cruise on Norwegian Epic from Barcelona to Rome is the best way to do it – you’ll also call at Ajaccio, Corsica and Naples, Italy.

Travel through time and art in the famous historic sites and old homes designed by the one and only Antoni Gaudí. Continue making memories as you cruise to the shores of Corsica where you can tour the Maison Bonaparte where Napoleon was born. Then, in the beautiful region of Livorno, visit a winery, medieval castle and traditional pasta factory all in one day.

Top tip: If you add the 'All Free at Sea' upgrade package to your booking you can enjoy ship-wide open bars, global speciality restaurants, shore excursion credit, and enjoy a Wi-Fi package all included.

Departing on 17 April 2022, prices start from £447pp/$610pp for an Inside Stateroom inclusive of NCL’s January 2022 35% discount.

To find out more and to book visit ncl.com (opens in new tab).

5. LONG WEEKENDER

cruise ship on the ocean

(Image credit: Virgin Voyages)

Duration: 3 nights

Sail from the UK for a limited time getaway to Belgium, as Virgin Voyages’ brand new ship Valiant Lady makes her debut out of Portsmouth. 

This three-night Long Weekender in Zeebrugge gives you time to explore the historic seaside town of Portsmouth in the UK, enjoy a scenic sail through Ghent, and take a day trip to the city of Ypres, with its picturesque market square and fascinating World War I history. 

Top tip: Currently, you can book any voyage on any Virgin Voyages ship and get 20 per cent off plus $100 on your Bar Tab. You will get an extra 10 per cent off if you book with Virgin Voyages Pay in Full Discount program.

Departing various dates in April 2022, prices start at £599/ $812 per sailor (itinerary currently on offer at £489/ $663 starting price per sailor). Includes WiFi, all food, basic beverages, group workouts and tips. 

To find out more and to book visit virginvoyages.com (opens in new tab).

4 night mini cruises

6. BUDAPEST, BRATISLAVA & VIENNA

View of river cruise destination Budapest

(Image credit: Scenic)

Duration: 4 nights

This four-night 'Tastes of Imperial Europe' cruise on the 85-cabin Scenic Crystal covers three great cities and is one of the best river cruises in Europe at the moment. Visit elegant Budapest (overnight), also known as Queen of the Danube; see Slovakia’s compact and historical capital, Bratislava, and the end your trip in the enchanting Baroque city of Vienna (overnight). 

With the weather on your side, September is the best time to visit and most the popular time of year for river cruising, especially on the popular Danube. You’ll be sailing on one of the most luxurious and spacious river ships in Europe, and the price includes a selection of shore excursions, free premium beverages, free private door-to-door chauffeur transfers, free butler service in all suites and more.

Top tip:  January is the best time to book to get the best holiday deals. To make the most of the views, consider upgrading to a deluxe balcony suite which features floor to ceiling windows.

Departing on 26 September 2022, the cost of a standard suite is now £1,720pp/$2,349pp, which is a saving of £1,400/$1,912 per couple. 

To find out more and to book visit panachecruises.com (opens in new tab).

7. ROMANTIC GERMANY

river cruise ship in Europe

(Image credit: CroisiEurope)

Duration: 4 nights

This brand new 'Romantic German Sites & The Charming Neckar Valley' cruise from Strasbourg to Stuttgart calls in at Heidelberg, Eberbach, Heilbronn and Ludwigsburg.

Sailing on MS Mona Lisa, this is a culture-packed cruise with several highlights including Heidelberg, the most romantic city in Germany; the medieval Maulbronn Monastery complex; the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, one of the largest Baroque buildings in Europe, and the art and cultural hub of Stuttgart.

Top tip: Make sure you book your shore excursions in advance to save money.

Departing on 22 September and 4, 21 and 25 October, cruise-only prices cost from £765pp/$1,537pp with all meals and drinks onboard, port taxes and repatriation insurance included. The US price also includes shore excursions.

To find out more and to book visit croisieurope.co.uk (opens in new tab) or call 020 8328 1281.

8. RHINE CHRISTMAS MARKETS

river cruise destination Mainz

(Image credit: AROSA )

Duration: 4 nights

Why visit just one city to get into the festive spirit? This trip packs in three different Christmas markets in Europe in one trip – two in Germany and one in France. 

Embarking A-ROSA AQUA in Cologne, highlights of this mini cruise include Mannheim where you can enjoy the Christmas market’s 200 stalls during the evening when the lights twinkle brighter. You will also visit Strasbourg for a full day in the home of France’s oldest Christmas market which dates back over 400 years and Mainz market, which is set against the imposing backdrop of Cathedral of St. Martin, which is over 1000 years old. A bonus of this mini cruise is that a walking tour of the cathedral is also included.

Top Tip: Book a treatment in the ship's spa after a day exploring the markets. Guests receive a 15 per cent discount on treatments, but there is also a gym, sauna, relaxation room and outdoor whirlpool which are complimentary to use.

The four-night Rhine Christmas Market mini cruise departs 6 and 14 December 2022 and costs from £909pp/$1,241pp including return flights from Stansted, cruise on a premium all-inclusive basis, transfers and a walking tour of Mainz. Price based on 14 December 2022 departure. 

To find out more and to book visit newmarketholidays.co.uk (opens in new tab) or call 0330 160 7700.

9. WEST COAST GETAWAY

Rodeo Drive Beverly Hills

(Image credit: Princess Cruises)

Duration: 4 nights

Mini cruises down West Coast USA usually take in the likes of Los Angeles and San Diego, and this voyage also stops at Ensenada.

Soak in the sun's rays during the day on the sun deck or enjoy the live entertainment at night with West End-style production shows on-board.

While the sights are definitely a highlight, one of the best things about this mini cruise is the opportunity to sail on the new 3,660 guest Discovery Princess, which launches in March 2022. The ship boasts 270-degree sweeping views from the largest balconies at sea in the Sky Suites and world-class dining venues. 

Top tip: Add on Princess Plus for £30pp/$40pp, which includes the Premier drinks package, unlimited Wi-Fi and crew appreciation. 

The four-night West Coast Getaway cruise departs 17 Dec 2022, and costs from £339pp/$462pp. 

To find out more and to book visit princess.com (opens in new tab)

10. MAIDEN VOYAGE TO HAMBURG

cruise ship sailing on the ocean

(Image credit: Ambassador Cruise Line)

Duration: 4 nights

Thinking about cruising for the first time? Why not take those first steps on an all-new cruise ship? 

Ambience will be making its maiden voyage in spring 2022 when it sails to Hamburg, and you can be part of history as the first to board the ship as it makes its debut. 

The four-night cruise departs from the UK and features a range of dining options, varied entertainment and an outdoor screening area offering a unique opportunity for you to create the first ever memories onboard.

Top tip: If travelling on a budget, the standard twin room offers plenty of space, as well as en suite facilities, a flat screen TV and fridge amenities without having to upgrade.

Departing from London Tilbury on 6 April 2022, prices start at £389pp/ $526pp (New Year Saver Fare) for a Standard Twin room (saving 5%). Ambassador Fares start from £568pp/ $768pp for a Standard Twin room.

To find out more and to book visit ambassadorcruiseline.com (opens in new tab).

In this new age of travel, each cruise line has its own Covid requirements, including proof that you are fully vaccinated or can provide a negative Covid test result. For some cruises, you may also be required to undertake an antigen test before embarkation. Double check what your ship's Covid safety protocols are before you book.

Rebecca Barnes
Rebecca Barnes

Award-winning journalist and editor Rebecca Barnes has written travel-related content for countless consumer titles and websites including The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Wanderlust, Tatler and Cruise Critic. 


A former editor of World of Cruising magazine, Rebecca is also co-founder of the premium blogazine, Cruise Blondes – as a cruise specialist, Rebecca spends much of her time sailing the world's oceans and waterways and checking out the latest ships - all in the name of research, of course.