The Best Weekend Cruises from Miamiby Donna Heiderstadt | October 31, 2016
If you really need a getaway that involves lots of fun in the sun, but are short on vacation days or dough, a weekend cruise from Miami can be just the ticket. These itineraries are typically three or four nights in length and attract a slightly younger, more budget-conscious crowd than week-long sailings — with the majority of passengers intent on having a good time. Here are the best weekend cruises from Miami to consider, from party ships to more family-friendly options.
This 2,056-passenger ship gives you two options for budget-friendly weekend trips, both departing on Thursday and returning Monday morning. The ship's Western Caribbean cruises visit Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico, while the Eastern Caribbean version includes a stop at Grand Turk. Whichever itinerary you choose, the place to be during sea days is the central pool on the Lido Deck, where contests, games, and a DJ add to the all-around party vibe.
Empress of the Seas
Price-wise it’s hard to beat the four-night Bahamas cruise on the 1,602-passenger Empress of the Seas. Just don't expect to find the latest innovations from Royal Caribbean on board. This is the oldest ship in the fleet, and even though it was refurbished in 2016, it doesn't have the bumper cars, surfing simulators, and sky diving of the line's newer (and more expensive) ships. There is still a lot of fun on board, though, with poolside buckets of beer and frozen margaritas the order of the day. The ship departs on Thursday and returns on Monday morning after calling on Nassau, Bahamas, and Key West.
Norwegian often runs promotions that let you pick perks to be included in your fare — including open bar. You can put it to good use at Norwegian Sky's 12 bars and lounges, where you can order cocktails, beer, and wine without an extra bill. The 2,004-passenger ship does three-night Bahamas cruises year-round, departing on Friday and returning Monday morning. Along the way you'll have time in Nassau as well as Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.
With its contemporary décor, gourmet French dining at Murano, relaxing Lawn Club, and adults-only Solarium Pool, this 2,850-passenger ship is a more sophisticated option for couples who have left their 20s (and 30s and even 40s) behind. If that sounds more like a vacation than a party-centric sailing, Celebrity Equinox will begin four-night Western Caribbean sailings that depart Miami on Saturday and return on Wednesday morning beginning in January 2017.
Take the whole gang away from the weekend with a three-night Bahamas cruises on Disney Magic. As you would expect from Disney, the 2,700-passengers ship offers nonstop fun for little ones, including extensive kids clubs, character meet-ups, and live shows. Parents can retreat to the adults-only Quiet Cove Pool and take advantage of the grown-up nightlife — and the babysitting. The ship departs on Thursday and returns Sunday morning with a call on Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay.
Looking for a more affordable family cruise? Kids under 11 sail for free when sharing a cabin with two adults on the 4,335-passenger MSC Divina. The ship is based in Miami year-round and does three-night Bahamas cruises during the summer, departing on Saturday and returning Tuesday after visiting Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas. On board you'll find an Aqua Park, a Formula One race car simulator, and 4D movies to keep the kids entertained, as well as a partnership with Lego that includes everything from building competitions to parades.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.