What is a Mini Cruise?

The term “minicruise” or “mini cruise” can be quite confusing, when most of us think of a cruise, we see images of super large cruise liners, like the QE2 that cater for people who can afford the most luxurious of holidays on-board a ship where they will not doubt be treated to an experience of a lifetime.

Whilst an experience like this is out with most peoples budgets, it doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy a sample of what a cruise holiday is like. Now it’s companies like Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises that offer this type of luxury cruise experience and they also offer some short cruises on these large cruise liners, however this is not what the term minicruise is usually referring to.

It’s ferry companies like P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways that have taken over the term “mini cruise” – these companies operate overnight passenger ferries from the UK to mainland Europe, but rather than just simple car and passenger transportation the offer special mini cruises to their destinations and beyond. The standard mini cruise offering is a 2 day cruise, where you spend a night on-board the cruise ferry and arrive in your destination port, arranged buses then take you on your destination, you spend the day in your destination, then it’s back on the bus to enjoy another night on board your ferry as you sail back to the UK.

These two day mini cruises are an ideal weekend cruise break, departing either Friday afternoon and getting you home on Sunday morning or departing Saturday afternoon and getting you home Monday morning.

Now the cruise ferries are not as large as the cruise liners operated by the big cruise companies but they do offer you a sample of what you might get on a larger cruise ship including a choice of restaurants, evening entertainment, cinemas, casino and activities for the children.

One of the most popular mini cruise breaks that is offered is the mini cruise to Amsterdam from either Newcastle with DFDS seaways or Hull with P&O ferries, both these 2 day minicruises generally work out a lot cheaper than a typical city break package to Amsterdam (return flights + 2 night hotel stay). Now these are different type of holidays on the typical city break, you’ll spend longer in Amsterdam, whereas on the 2 day minicruise you generally only get a few hours in the city and the rest of the time you spend relaxing on the ship.

You can compare these two types of short breaks on our short break comparison section.

Now the great thing about the minicruise, if you wish extra time in your destination, then you can easily add a hotel stay to your booking, extending your 2 day cruise to a 3 or 4 day – the ferry company often offer a hotel package or you can simply book your own hotel.

With regular cruises you will probably visit many destinations, though most will only offer you a few hours in the port before they must depart for the next, with the mini cruise alternative there are often special mini cruise offers to destinations that are further inland from the port, like the special Christmas markets cruise offered by DFDS that gives 4 days sampling some of the wonderful Christmas markets in Hamelin, Germany. As well as special seasonal offerings there is regular 3 & 4 day mini cruises to destination further inland.