With the majority of us busier than ever, it is becoming increasingly difficult to book any time off at all, let alone a full-blown holiday. And this is why people are often put off by the idea of a cruise.

However, cruise lines are now offering numerous two-, three- and four- day itineraries that cater to those who are short of time, or for first-timers who are looking to dip their toes in the water. We’ve picked five mini-cruises ideal for a long weekend away that won’t break the bank.

1. French Leave

A simple hop across the Channel with Fred Olsen to the quaint French port town of Honfleur is a great way to get acquainted with this famous cruise line and its much-loved flagship, Balmoral. Embarking this December, passengers will get the chance to visit Honfleur’s enchanting Christmas market on the picturesque old fishing port, Vieux Bassin, and pick up some festive treats.

Balmoral Deck Area. Credit: Fred Olsen

2-night ‘French Explorer’ cruise, round-trip from Southampton to Honfleur in France, departing 20 December 2019, from £249, fredolsencruises.com

2. Scandi Style

Want to get a taste of Scandinavia without committing to a fortnight’s cruise? This mini-break with Cunard is just the ticket, allowing you to visit Denmark’s delightful fishing town of Skagen before sailing back to Southampton. Discover the town’s maritime heritage at the open-air museum, take a walk down Råbjerg Mile – Denmark’s largest expanse of drifting sand dunes – and sample some of the region’s famous pickled herring.

Skagen, Denmark
Skagen, Denmark

3-night ‘Kiel to Southampton’ cruise, from Kiel to Southampton via Skagen, departing 3 September 2020, from £319 (including flights), cunard.com

3. In Bruges

Belgium’s most beautiful medieval town is the ideal cruise destination because the centre is compact and easy to explore in a day. Top attractions include the Belfry bell tower (a Unesco World Heritage Site), Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Lake of Love. As well as boasting beautiful architecture, Bruges is well-known for its great beer and delicious chocolates.

Enjoy the beauty of Bruges
Enjoy the beauty of Bruges

2-night ‘Belgium’ cruise, round-trip from Southampton to Bruges, departing 29 November 2019, from £379, pocruises.com

4. Dubliners
Everyone should experience the Emerald Isle at least once in their lifetime, and this bargain overnight stay in Dublin means you can enjoy the city at your own pace – and sample a Guinness or two as well. Must-see attractions include Dublin Castle, the Ha’penny Bridge and Christ Church Cathedral.

Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin, Ireland
Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

3-night ‘Dublin Mini Cruise’ from Bristol to Liverpool via Dublin, departing 10 October 2019, from £219, cruiseandmaritime.com

5. Dutch Delight
It’s rare that you get the chance to sample an American cruise line with an ex-UK departure. So, this fantastic round-trip deal with Princess Cruises to the Netherlands and Guernsey that comes in at under £500 is a must-try.
4-night ‘Netherlands & Channel Islands Sampler’ with Princess Cruises, round-trip from Southampton via Rotterdam and Guernsey, departing 7 October 2020, from £485, iglucruise.com