Passengers who want to cruise to the Caribbean but don't have a week to do it will have more options for shorter trips out of Port Everglades in the 2014 season, which starts in October.
Several cruise lines are seizing on the growing popularity of Caribbean sailings, especially during the summer, by offering travelers quick getaways as short as three days. Four- and five-day cruises also will be offered, including some that will run during the peak winter and spring months, as well.
"Our cruise-line customers recognize that the Caribbean is a popular year-round destination and that they can tap into a new market by offering a variety of shorter cruises in addition to the more traditional full-week cruises," Michael Vanderbeek, the port's director of business development, said in a statement announcing the new offerings.
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Prices start as low as $169 per person on some trips. Most others are under $400. It also makes it easier for time-strapped consumers to experience what a cruise line has to offer is a narrow time frame.
Some of the shorter trips will depart on Monday or Wednesday, but others will leave on Thursday and travel through a weekend, even in the winter.
For instance, Carnival Cruise Lines' 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom will offer a four-day cruise in the winter, departing on Dec. 5. Most of their five-day cruises — both winter and summer — are either Monday through Saturday, or Saturday through Thursday.
Princess Cruises' 3,080-guest Ruby Princess ship will sail on four-and five-day getaway cruises December through April. Start dates vary, with trips running every four days starting Saturday, Dec. 14, then Wednesday, Dec. 18 going forward.
Celebrity Constellation, a 2,170-passenger ship from Celebrity Cruises, also will operate three-, four- and five-day sailings from the port during the winter season, officials said. Their four-day cruises all winter depart on Thursdays.
From May to September, the 3,080-guest Caribbean Princess will offer 13 three-, four- and five-day Caribbean cruises in addition to its usual seven-day sailings. The ship's four-day Eastern Caribbean getaways — scheduled for May 15, Aug. 28 and Sept. 25 departures — will feature a call at Grand Turk or Princess Cays, the line's private Bahamian beach escape, Princess said.
It's the first time in four years that the cruise operator will offer summertime Caribbean cruises from Florida.
"Summertime is prime vacation season and we're happy to be back in the Caribbean next year," said Jan Swartz, Princess' executive vice president.
Royal Caribbean International's Vision of the Seas will offer four- and five-night Caribbean itineraries next summer, and most of them will start on Thursdays.
"This is good for the local economy because we will be seeing more guests midweek and in the slower summer months,'' port spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said recently.
The move to add shorter cruises from Port Everglades signals the cruise lines' confidence in the port and in the growth of the Caribbean as a destination, industry specialists say.
"Princess has a big fleet now, so they can diversify what they're offering," said Stewart Chiron, president and CEO of Miami-based website CruiseGuy.com, who noted the line typically offers sailings that run seven-to-10 days.
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