Short cruises from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide are ideal for times when you're short on time or cash. Mini cruises and weekend cruises, from two to five nights, require only a will to sail and (possibly) no more than a carry-on. You don't need a passport if there are no international ports, but do bring a government-issued photo identification such as a drivers licence.
P&O, Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean are among the lines with 'taster' cruises departing from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth on a variety of ships, from big to small. Not all sampler cruises are bargain-priced -- that depends on the desirability of the ship and the sail date.
- Departure Port:Sydney. This 3-night sampler cruise spends all days at sea, and then returns to Sydney.
- Where:At sea
- When:23 March, 2018
- From:$581 per person
More ship highlights
- Robot bartenders in the Bionic Bar are hypnotic -- but they won't listen to your woes. Skydiving in a special tube called the iFly, soaring at the top of the ship.
- The Seaplex is the largest indoor space at sea and a lifesaver in bad weather: dodgems, roller skating, dance parties, sports and trapeze lessons, just another way to fly through the air on this ship.
- Two70 shows are spectacular and state-of-the-art.
- Scannable wristband door keys make for seamless movements around the ship.
- Departure Port:Melbourne
- Where:A 5-night Tasmania cruise roundtrip from Melbourne visits Hobart, Port Arthur and Burnie.
- When:20 November, 2017
- From:$524 per person
- The new all-ages Laser Tag on the top deck is perfect for families wanting to have some fun.
- If alone time is more your thing, the adults-only Oasis space is two decks of pure peace.
- Celebrity chef Luke Mangan's Salt Grill is still hugely popular.
- The Segway obstacle course in P&O Edge (the onboard adventure park) is a fun fresh alternative to a simple walk.
- The onboard Comedy Club provides a point of difference from other lines.
- The four P&O themed parties are alive and well on the Jewel, from Gatsby to all-white themes, and dress-ups are taken very seriously -- pack accordingly.
- Departure Port:Brisbane
- Where:Visit heritage-listed Fraser Island to explore freshwater lakes, rainforests and ancient, giant ferns growing in the sand.
- When:10 November, 2017
- From:$649 per person
- The fully renovated and plush Chef's Table experience is now one of the best in the fleet.
- That top-deck pool area is stylishly furnished and the retractable roof makes it a day-to-night, all-weather space.
- Accommodations aboard are some of the most spacious in any P&O ship.
- The velvet-and-chrome Blue Room keeps the jazz beat going all day and night, New Orleans-style.
- The super-cool furnishings and cocktail-friendly cabanas in the Oasis succeed in making it a hot hangout.
- Departure Port:Sydney. The 4-night Moreton Bay cruise is roundtrip from Sydney with a sea day between the two ports in each direction.
- Where:Moreton Bay, Queensland
- When:2 August 2018
- From:$619 per person
- The Green Thunder never loses its thrill as it curves over the side of the ship.
- Over-the-top theming of public spaces, from the Egyptian-themed show lounge to the retro-Shanghai piano bar, lend a little Vegas to your trip.
- The Chocolate Extravaganza buffet is reason enough alone to book on the Spirit.
- As on every Carnival ship, the mini golf course is surprisingly fun.
- A 24-hour pizza and ice-cream service demonstrates this ship has some great priorities.
- Departure Port:Melbourne. The shorter 4-night cruise departs on a Saturday and stops at Hobart for a day before returning to Melbourne
- When:17 February, 2018
- From:$599 per person
- We said slightly less gaudy -- the eponymous legends around the ship include nods to Medusa, Merlin and Grecian urns throughout the vessel.
- Hasbro, the Game Show is still a hoot -- giant Connect 4 basketball, and Yahtzee bowling included.
- The Green Eggs and Ham breakfast, as on all Carnival ships, is well worth the small surcharge. Stripy pancakes!
- The Art Deco piano bar is a genuinely pleasant spot to relax, with its stainless-steel bar and retro-styled microphones.
- Departure Port:Sydney
- Where:Melbourne. The 6-night Melbourne Cup cruise departs Sydney directly for Melbourne then returns to Sydney. It includes general admission to the Emirates Melbourne Cup Day and transfers to the racecourse.
- When:4 November 2017
- From:$1,099 per person
- The poolside Lobster & Burger Bar will serve on-trend lobster rolls and pulled-pork burgers.
- The cruise line have hinted at a 'stunning hidden bar'.
- The Chef's Table is set for seven-course degustations hosted by the Executive Chef.
- Thoughtful and up-to-the-minute design throughout the restaurants and public spaces makes Explorer feel extra-elegant -- Instagrammers will go wild.
- Departure Port:Melbourne
- Where:One-way to Adelaide with a stop at Port Lincoln, SA.
- When:4 January 2019
- From:$269 per person
- The Piazza offers roaming entertainment, food, wine, art, and just a spot to sit and enjoy ship life. One of the best shipboard 'hubs' in the business.
- The unusual feature hanging across the stern is actually a space-themed nightclub, worth it simply to enjoy the view crossing the bridge to get there.
- The 'wine flights' at Vines Wine Bar offer a sophisticated way to pass an evening.
- The Voice of the Ocean karaoke competition gets pretty serious -- anyone can enter the heats and perhaps go through to perform in front of an audience.
- Book early for a behind-the-scenes ship tour to see the engine room and bridge.
- Departure Port:Brisbane
- Where:Roundtrip with a visit to Airlie Beach.
- When:8 March 2018
- From:$199 per person
- If you do have a balcony with your cabin, the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, including cocktails, flowers, Champagne and a private four-course meal is worth the extra cost.
- The adults-only Sanctuary includes cabanas for massages and stewards on call to furnish you with signature cocktails.
- Princess's Movies Under the Stars screen operates day and night.
- Departure Port:Sydney
- Where:Tasmania. The 5-night Tasmania cruise departs Sydney and visits Burnie (overnight) and Hobart before returning to Sydney.
- When:12 November, 2017
- From:$1,050 per person
- The kids aren't the only ones with great places to play -- Bar Central keeps all the bars together for a 'night out' feel. There are 15 bars and lounges on board too.
- If you're considering splashing out, the Jewel boasts some of the largest suites at sea.
- Passengers also have a 24-hour pizza delivery service on call.
- Try on the 'signature million-dollar diamond ring' at onboard shop Colombian Emeralds International.
- Departure Port:Adelaide
- Where:Fremantle via Albany, with two full days at sea. Albany is home to the Gap and Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park, and a world's only museum in a former whaling station. .
- When:7 March, 2018
- From:$1,079 per person
- The traditional walk around the promenade deck is lovely on this stylish ship.
- The Wellness Centre, including hair salon and indoor pool, are surprisingly well appointed for this size ship.
- Arts and crafts classes allow you to relax and channel your inner child.
- The giant chess set on deck gives a different option to the usual sports or pool time.
- The gallery arcade gives you a chance to buy duty free, even on a short cruise.
- The Astor Lounge holds both full-tilt shows and cool late-night cabaret.