How to Conquer a 3-day Cruise Like a Pro

For those of us trying to make the most out of the little vacation time we get, a 3-day cruise is a brilliant option. But if you don’t do it right, you could end up feeling a bit overwhelmed and let down by the vacation.

I experienced a few setbacks on my first 3-day cruise and found myself saying, “Wish I knew that” a few times a day.

So I’m sharing the lessons I learned to help you conquer your abbreviated sailing like a pro.


1. Set Your Expectations

Typically, 3-day cruises don’t have all of the bells and whistles that come on a 5- or 7-day cruise, so if there’s something you really want to do, check with the cruise line to make sure they’re offering it. Regal Princess boasts about their Regal Afternoon Tea Experience in the piazza and I was (oddly) excited to try it but learned they didn’t offer it during abbreviated sailings.

2. Board Early

Cruise lines typically give you a window of time where you are scheduled (but not required) to board. They do this as an effort to stagger the masses in the boarding process. Most cruise lines specifically offer early boarding at a cost to you but that’s not necessary. Get to the cruise terminal before noon and you might wait in line for a bit but you’ll be first on the ship and can maximize your short cruise.

3. Make Dining Reservations Immediately

We had big plans to dine at Sabatini’s, one of the specialty restaurants, but those plans were busted shortly after boarding. We went directly to guest services and were told to go to Sabatini’s to make the reservations. After getting to Sabatini’s they told me I needed to call. So I called and after being on hold for 15 minutes I hung up, waited an hour or so and called back. Not only was Sabatini’s booked solid, so was every other specialty restaurant. I even tried going to Sabatini’s every day at 5:30 but they wouldn’t budge.

4. Pack light and right

I’m guilty of over packing and I happily admit it. But I made a rookie mistake on my recent 3-day cruise to the private island of Princess Cays. Instead of packing my snorkel gear (there’s amazing snorkeling in the Bahamas) I over packed in the shoe department and ended up with six pairs of shoes and no gear. I could have rented some, but I refuse to use the same snorkel gear as the thousands of cruisers before me. So I ended up going old school with no flippers and free diving.

Also, don’t unpack your entire suitcase. You’ll spend minimal time in your room and there’s no need to waste an hour of your time unpacking and packing. Hang up the items that will get wrinkled and put your toiletries in the bathroom, other than that leave the rest in your bag.

5. Live It Up

You only have three days so you really have to make it count. Look at your daily calendar, get your highlighter out and highlight everything you want to do, then make it a point to do it. There’s no time for “I’ll do that tomorrow” because you really only have two days. We were teetering on the edge of a nap and playing trivia “jeopardize” in the Princess LIVE Theater. Luckily, we decided on the trivia because our team won! The prize was a magnetic Princess chip clip and, of course, bragging rights for the rest of the cruise.


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