For those not yet ready to enter the world of ocean cruising, mini cruises offer a small foray into cruising with all the epic proportions of traditional cruise facilities, without having to commit to the time or cost. As a result, they typically are between two to six nights' long and offer a more relaxed atmosphere than their longer counterparts; expect the warm welcomes from the cruise lines and sumptuous dining, but bars are often open for longer and there's more of a fun-filled, informal feel.
How long you opt for and which port you travel from affords a range of short-shop destinations in the UK or Europe, whether it be setting sail to Newcastle or further afield to Amsterdam, Ghent and Bilbao. Typical mini cruise packages include accommodation in your choice of cabin, full board arrangements, first-class on-board entertainment and calls at ports, with the same high levels of comfort and high class vessels that are standard to ocean cruising. Think open-air jacuzzis, plenty of deck space, pools, beauty salons and comfortable cabins with private facilities.
The MS Marco Polo and MV Discovery are popular vessels for mini cruises and include the following facilities:
MS Marco Polo
Described as the 'epitome of sea-going elegance', the beautiful 22,000-tonne Marco Polo offers a classic, traditional cruising environment. Priding itself on its warm welcome and sumptuous dining, this child-free ship boasts eight passenger decks which between them ensure ample deck space on which to sunbathe, play deck games, take a promenade or even jog for those who are so inclined. This high-class vessel also has a pool and Pool Bar, desk-top jacuzzis, gym, hair and beauty salon as well as sauna and massage facilities. To wind down after a port of call or a night of dancing till dark, all cabins offer private facilities with bath/shower, TV with satellite and in-house channels, hairdryer and personal safe.
View the Marco Polo deck plan
Below are some popular stops for mini cruises around Europe, this is just an idea of where you may stop and what you can do. Please note that itineraries and timings will vary by date and company.
A great potential stop is in Amsterdam, this allows you to experience this fascinating cosmopolitan city before returning back to your cabin. Why not visit Anne Frank’s House or one of the many museums? Explore the 165 canals which surround Amsterdam and stop for a beverage in a traditional coffee house whilst watching the world go by.
Located between Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp, Ghent is a medieval canal city in the heart of Belgium. Known to be a great stop, Ghent has a wealth of attractions to explore from the Castle of the Counts, St Michael’s Bridge to St Bavos Cathedral. Then after exploring the city you can retire back to the ship to relax.
A popular stop is Bilbao is a thriving city located in North Spain. Frequently visited tourist attractions include the Guggenheim Museum, the Dona Casilda Park and Plaza Nueva. If your cruise stops here you can spend the day exploring popular Old Town and then see the contrasting newer architecture like the Guggenheim Museum building.
Perhaps you could explore Edinburgh when your ship docks for the day. Visit Edinburgh Castle in all its glory towering over the city or spend a few hours browsing stores on Princes Street.