Party Cruises: 10 Weekend Getaways at Sea

The pool deck atop the Majesty of the Seas. Photo: Royal Caribbean International Photo by Royal Caribbean International
By Heidi Sarna with Ben Lyons

A cruise for under $200? It's possible if you book one of these 2- or 3-night weekend cruises, which typically depart on Thursday or Friday afternoons.

Though these party cruises are ideal for bachelor/bachelorette parties and other celebrations, many of the ships also have spas and adults-only areas if you want to escape the non-stop revelry (soaking in hot tubs, dancing on deck, and cheering on your favorites in the men's hairy chest contest are business as usual on a weekend party cruise). Formal nights typically involve a bizarre mix of little black dresses, jackets and ties, jeans, T-shirts, and askew ball caps. Don't be surprised if you overhear another passenger say that he is "going to change into his nice shorts for dinner."

Enjoy the experience for what it is, throw back a drink or two (or three or four), let your hair down, and have a ball. Just don't forget to pack your nice shorts for dinner.

Photo Caption: The pool deck atop the Majesty of the Seas. Courtesy Royal Caribbean International
Waterslides on the lido deck of Carnival Imagination. Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
What: A 3-night weekend cruise on board the 2,052-passenger Carnival Imagination (www.carnival.com) from round-trip from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. Ship highlights include a 24-hour pizzeria, a sushi bar, a waterslide, a mini-golf course, and an adults-only sunbathing area in the stern.

While the 1997-built ship lacks a large number of balconies and cabins are slightly smaller than what you'd find on Carnival's newer ships, a standard outside cabin is roomy enough for three nights with its large window and ample closet space.

The short cruise leaves you just enough time to indulge in some cruise-ship pampering, followed by an afternoon of sailing and snorkeling in the Bahamas.

Price: 3-night sailings from $179 per person, with Friday departures year-round. Weekend sailings in the summer and holidays cost more, starting at about $300 per person.

Photo Caption: Waterslides on the Lido deck of Carnival Imagination. Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Guests aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Sensation enjoy the pools, whirlpools and deck lounges on Lido Deck. Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
What: The glitzy 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation (www.carnival.com) heads for the Bahamas round-trip from Port Canaveral, with a theme park-style waterslide and an adults-only sunbathing area. Other highlights include a neon-clad towering atrium anchored by a bar, a miniature golf course, a coffee shop, and plenty of entertainment spots.

Price: From $199 per person with Thursday departures year-round

Photo Caption: Guests aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Sensation enjoy the pools, whirlpools and deck lounges on the Lido deck. Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Passengers climbing the rock wall on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. Photo: Royal Caribbean International Photo by Royal Caribbean International
What: The 2,744-passenger Monarch of the Seas (www.rccl.com) heads for Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau on 3-night jaunts round-trip from Port Canaveral. Test out the rock-climbing wall on route, nosh on sushi, or scoop up some Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Price: From $169 per person with Friday departures year-round

Photo Caption: Passengers climbing the rock wall on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. Courtesy Royal Caribbean International
The Norwegian Sky. Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
What: A 3-night sailing from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau, the Bahamas aboard the 2,002-passenger Norwegian Sky (www.ncl.com). Take your pick of 10 dining venues, 11 bars, and great entertainment, including the Second City comedy troupe.

Price: From $169 per person with Friday departures year-round

Photo Caption: The Norwegian Sky. Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line
Pool bar on the Bahamas Celebration. Photo by Jemingway
What: A 2-night mini cruise round-trip from Florida's Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island aboard Celebration Cruise Line's 892-passenger Bahamas Celebration (www.bahamascelebration.com) -- formerly the 1981-built Prinsesse Ragnhild. This cozy but rockin' ship's casino is open until 3am, and there's also a karaoke lounge, a sports bar, a pub and a show lounge where you can check out live music, acrobats, magicians, and other acts.

Price: From $119 per person with cruises departing every other day of the week at 5:30pm; guests can board at noon to start enjoying fun in the sun up on deck.

Photo Caption: Pool bar on the Bahamas Celebration. Photo by Jemingway/Flickr.com
Carnival Paradise. Photo by Jesus & Kristle
What: The 2,052-passenger Carnival Paradise (www.carnival.com) has 3-night getaways round-trip from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico, where you can surf, hit the beach, or go wine tasting. On board, enjoy a miniature golf course, a water slide, an adults-only sunbathing deck, a sushi bar, and lots of Vegas-y bars and lounges.

Price: From $279 per person with Friday departures year-round

Photo Caption: Carnival Paradise. Photo by Jesus & Kristle/Flickr.com
Viking Crown Lounge aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. Photo by Royal Caribbean International
What: A 3-night weekend cruise from Miami to CocoCay and Nassau, the Bahamas aboard the 2,767-passenger Majesty of the Seas (www.rccl.com). Ship highlights include the Viking Crown lounge perched 150 feet above sea level and the old-school Johnny Rockets diner for burgers, fries, and shakes.

Price: From $169 per person with Friday departures year-round

Photo Caption: Viking Crown Lounge aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. Courtesy Royal Caribbean International
Sunbathers on the lido deck aboard Carnival Miracle. Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
What: Take a 2-night joy ride to nowhere from the Big Apple aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle (www.carnival.com). The ship goes out to sea and then back again. Check out the water slide, the upscale steakhouse, and entertainment venues, including a comedy club, a casino, a sports bar, and show lounge.

Price: From $279 per person with an Oct. 13, 2011 departure

Photo Caption: Sunbathers on the Lido deck aboard Carnival Miracle. Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Passengers enjoy the spa on Carnival Glory. Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
What: A 2-night sailing aboard the 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory (www.carnival.com) from Norfolk, Va., out to sea and then back. Highlights include a water slide, a sushi bar, a coffee shop, a miniature golf course, a fancy steakhouse, and many entertainment venues.

Price: From $329 per person with an Oct. 22, 2011 departure

Photo Caption: Passengers enjoy the spa on Carnival Glory. Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Spirit. Photo by drooooo
What: Cruising round-trip from San Diego, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit (www.carnival.com) offers three full days at sea (no ports!) for non-stop onboard fun. Ship highlights include a multi-story gym and a spa, an upscale steakhouse, and a whimsical show lounge with an Egypt theme.

Price: From $199 per person, departing Saturday, April 28, 2012

Photo Caption: Carnival Spirit. Photo by drooooo/Flickr.com
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