10 Quick Cruise Escapes

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Some of us were just born with seafaring souls, some love cruising for the popular ports of call, while still others are simply in it for the hassle-free vacation that a cruise trip can provide.
Some of us were just born with seafaring souls, some love cruising for the popular ports of call, while still others are simply in it for the hassle-free vacation that a cruise trip can provide.

The catch, however, is finding the time to make dreams of deck-time a reality.

With that in mind, ShermansTravel.com put together a list of their top 10 short cruise vacations. All are five nights or less and all leave from ports conveniently located within the continental United States and Canada.

Text, photos, and captions courtesy of ShermanTravel.com, adapted from "Top 10 Short Cruise Vacations."

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10 Quick Cruise Escapes (PHOTOS)

Although most adults would jump at the chance to lie out on exotic island shores for a week or two, long-haul Caribbean don’t always appeal to the entire family. That’s why a three- to five-night Disney Cruise Line sailing to the Bahamas is just the ticket for the whole gang to enjoy. These short cruise vacations are scheduled year-round from Port Canaveral, Florida, just 60 miles from Walt Disney World Resort, and incorporate stops in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, plus Castaway Cay – Disney’s own private island. The brand-new, 4,000-passenger Disney Dream offer character encounters and kids-only Oceaneer Clubs, as well as game rooms, teen and tween lounges, a nursery, sports deck, fully-loaded spa, Broadway-style shows, and a trio of pools.

From laid-back, beachfront Long Beach, California, to the exotic desert and ocean landscapes of the Baja peninsula, a four-night Carnival cruise is a great way to sample the bounties of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. The Carnival Paradise departs each Monday from Long Beach for Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast (three-night Friday departures are also available, bypassing Catalina). This tranquil isle boasts some stellar beaches, as well as the quaint town of Avalon, where the preferred mode of local transport is via golf cart. Next up on this short cruise vacation is Ensenada, Mexico, on the Baja coast; even though it’s just 70 miles from the U.S. border, Ensenada comprises a world all its own, thanks to its rich history as a fishing town. One day at sea is mixed into this trip, but there is plenty to do onboard this 10-deck “Fun Ship,” including three restaurants, a 12,000-square-foot spa, two pools, and a sports park with miniature golf, ping-pong, basketball, and more.

Between April and November, Royal Caribbean offers dozens of five-night Bermuda sailings from a duo of East Coast ports, including Baltimore and Bayonne, New Jersey. Sail Enchantment of the Seas from Baltimore for ample time spent unwinding at sea and two days docked in King’s Wharf, Bermuda (better known as the Royal Naval Dockyard). Or, hop aboard Explorer of the Seas for the same short cruise vacation itinerary via Bayonne (just a stone’s throw away from New York City). Once in port, visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of St. George, sightseeing, shopping, and snorkeling are within easy reach – as are the island’s glorious pink-sand beaches.

Winter in New York may be brisk, but it's one of the most affordable times to visit the Big Apple. Norwegian Cruise Line has one-night Weekend Getaway cruises embarking on select Saturday afternoons in January and February 2012 (there's even an option in May 2011, promising more spring-like weather) from Manhattan’s West Side,. Glide down the Hudson River, past New York’s classic “canyons of steel” cityscape, and into New York Harbor under the gaze of Lady Liberty. As the mega-ship continues to drift towards the horizon, passengers on this short cruise vacation can kick off their evenings gambling at the on-board casino, dining at one of the 12 restaurants, or dancing under the stars. Ships dock back in the city early Sunday morning, leaving a full day to cap off a perfect Gotham visit.

While sailing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Illinois and Missouri, USA River Cruises’ Peoria to St. Louis itinerary has redefined the landscape of this slice of Middle America. In the three days it takes to sail from Peoria, Illinois (which National Geographic Adventure named as one of the “50 next great American adventure towns in which to live and relax”), to storied St. Louis, passengers will take in sights like the convergence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, Illinois’s largest state park, and Saint Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch. Sail on-board the Spirit of Peoria, a 19th-century riverboat replica, and look out for wildlife, dig in on the prime rib dinner buffet, or enjoy live ragtime piano music. Note overnight accommodations for this short cruise vacation are arranged at hotels in area ports of call, and that the cruise itinerary may be combined with a Route 66 road trip, which would bring the total length of the trip to six nights; sailings embark May through September.

Visualize the red rock-gilded Grand Canyon filled with 8.5-trillion gallons of turquoise-blue water, and behold, it's Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States (located on the Arizona/ Utah border). Now imagine spending a short cruise vacation exploring this watery wonderland’s hidden coves, beaches, and otherworldly sandstone formations on a luxe houseboat with fit for 11 people. Rent a party barge year-round on a per-day basis (though boats do require a three-day minimum), complete with waterslide, TV, outdoor gas grill, and enough beds for 6 to 12 people, from Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas.

There’s no better way to sail the historic open waters of New England than on Maine Windjammer Cruises’ flagship 19th-century, 29-passenger schooner, the Grace Bailey. This National Landmark boasts hand-carved wood paneling and a piano in the lovingly restored main cabin (dating back to 1882) that makes passengers feel like they’ve set out on a voyage back in time through uncharted waters. Set off on weekend sailings between July and September from Camden, Maine, and, depending on the winds and weather, the captain will charter a tailored short cruise vacation through Penobscot Bay, passing by atolls and quaint harbors. Surely those days at sea are enough to make anyone hungry – not to fret, passengers can expect a traditional on-board feast of succulent Maine lobsters.

Celebrate America’s freedom in style with a five-night cruise along the New England coast and up to Halifax, Nova Scotia, courtesy of Cunard. The annual Fourth of July stateside sailing aboard the prestigious Queen Mary 2 (which makes transatlantic jaunts the rest of the year) departs New York City on July 1 and calls on Boston and Halifax, with two full days at sea. Hailed by her makers as “the grandest ocean liner ever built,” the $800-million QM2 is a stunner to be sure: Expect 10 restaurants, an 8,000-volume library, the largest ballroom at sea, and the industry’s only planetarium.

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is blessed by lovely foliage and fresh, mild temperatures – the perfect time of year for a short cruise vacation. Holland America offers several options of five nights or less with ports of call in California , Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia; ShermansTravel.com’s favorite is a four-night sailing aboard the ms Statendom from Vancouver to San Diego, via charming Victoria, British Columbia (sails September 25, 2011). A $525-million refurbishment for the ship in 2010 revamped the 630 staterooms and added an Italian restaurant and a new lounge (with sections dedicated to martinis, champagne, or spirits and ales). Fill two days at sea with gourmet cooking lessons in the ship’s Culinary Arts Center or pamper yourself at the Greenhouse Spa. On land, passengers can stroll one of Vancouver’s 190 parks, take high tea in Victoria, and then round it all out with some basking on San Diego’s Coronado Beach.

For a short vacation to Mexico, most cruisers set their sights on Florida departure ports. ShermansTravel.com proposes spicing things up a bit with a little Tex/Mex flavor, by setting sail from Galveston, Texas, instead. Galveston’s port is the disembarkation point for four-night year-round sailings (excluding September) aboard a pair of Carnival’s “Fun Ships,” the Carnival Ecstasy (from March through August) and the Carnival Triumph (October to February). Sail through the Gulf of Mexico to Cozumel, where shore excursions to Mayan ruins and jungle adventures await. Onboard, guests can expect diversions like waterslides, mini-golf, first-class bars and lounges, and a full sports deck to keep the excitement going 24–7.


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