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A 'cruise to nowhere' -- with no ports of call -- used to be a big party cruise. The ship departed Sydney on Friday afternoon and returned to shore 72 hours later after a wild weekend of dancing, drinking and eating.
These no-stopping cruises do not exist in the United States anymore, but they are going strong in Australia, with cruise lines now calling them 'sampler' cruises or 'short breaks'. Several of the offerings are themed around topics such as food and wine or comedy.
Typically, they depart from and return to the same port and spend three days cruising up and down the coastline, far enough out to sea to legally operate the casino and duty-free shops. Other short cruises depart from one Australian port and cruise for one to two nights to another port for disembarkation, with no calls in between.
While a record number of Australians are cruising, there are still many Aussies who have never taken a cruise, and it's those people the cruise lines are targeting. Sampler cruises are a way to test the waters and allay the fears of non-cruisers who are turned off by the thought of seasickness or being trapped on a ship with thousands of people.
Most sample cruise itineraries operate on weekends with Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at sea. However, there's also a sprinkling of three-night Thursday-to-Sunday cruises, while Royal Caribbean has occasional two- and three-night cruises that run over weekdays.