If you’re a fan of the traditional seven-day cruise, will a five-day itinerary fly by at lightning speed? Not exactly, but you will definitely notice the abbreviated length when you get your disembarkation notices on your fourth night. Nevertheless, a five-day itinerary that visits only one or two ports — and allows for ample onboard relaxation at the pool or in the spa — can actually feel more leisurely than a seven-day cruise that's jam packed with port calls every day. Just remember, your bar bill may be a bit higher if you indulge during days spent onboard, although you’d have to really slam back those frozen drinks as you lounge by the pool to offset the cost of a shore excursion.
The ships currently cruising five-day itineraries run the gamut from older refurbished mid-to-large-size ships to the newest additions to a cruise line’s fleet (although outside of Asia, five-day cruises tend to be more sporadic and are typically available during repositioning season in the spring and fall).
When you're researching, it's important to remember that some sites list "five-day" when what you're really getting is four nights. (Don't worry — you'll always see ShermansCruise list a five-day cruise as a four-night cruise, so you know exactly how long you'll be on board.)
Five-day cruises can be a terrific value, especially if you’re willing to comparison shop and plan a few months out. So where do you find one of these five-day cruises? Most of the major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, and Disney) offer a variety of Caribbean and Bahamas sailings from Florida ports as well as New Orleans, Galveston, and Mobile. These itineraries typically visit one to three sunny ports along Mexico’s Riviera Maya as well as ports in the Caribbean.
In the Mediterranean, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises (and occasionally Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, and Cunard) offer a more limited selection of five-day itineraries, which make a nice add-on to a European land-based vacation if you time your dates right.
If you're a fan of leaf-peeping in the fall, Carnival, Cunard, Disney, and Princess offer five-day cruises to Canada and New England from New York City. Royal Caribbean also sails to Canada and New England from Boston, as well as Bermuda from New York.
And, if you're based on the West Coast, a cruise along Mexico’s Pacific coast could be an ideal choice. Princess offers five-day sailings from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas and Disney cruises to Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas from San Diego.
Five-day cruises are also available in Asia, with Royal Caribbean cruising from Singapore, Shanghai, and Tianjin (Beijing) on some of its newest ships (Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas). Many of these were built for the Asian market and have specific dining and entertainment features tailored to local passengers’ tastes, making them an immersive experience for visiting Americans.