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How different is a 3-night vs 4-night cruise?

08 Dec 2022
Marcy Miyar

Short cruises are the perfect getaway, but how many days should you choose?

I recently did a back-to-back cruise on the Independence of the Seas. The first cruise was the four night sailing, the second was the three night voyage.

While not my first time doing a back-to-back sailing in order to extend a weekend sailing, I started thinking about the differences between these seemingly similar cruises.

I was curious if that one extra day made that much of a difference. It turns out, it was more than I expected.


Perfect Day at CocoCay seen from ship

A four night cruise will typically leave Monday afternoon and return early Friday morning, whereas a three night cruise will leave on Friday afternoon and come back Monday morning. This can be the biggest deciding factor as to which sailing to choose.

If you work Monday through Friday, it may be more beneficial to take a weekend sailing as the four day will take up almost an entire work week.

Perfect Day at CocoCay beach

Both itineraries included Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay as ports of call.

The only difference being a day at sea on the four night sailing.


Price of a cruise

You may be surprised to find out that four day cruises are less expensive than the weekend sailings a majority of the time.

While I don’t know the exact reason for this, I would speculate that it’s because it’s easier for people to sail on the weekends thus, it sells out more often. Simple supply and demand.

Day at Sea

Balcony smooth seas

The four day sailing has a day at sea built in and that really makes it feel more relaxing.

I’ve always felt very rushed on a three day cruise. Embarkation day is crazy on any ship. You have to check in, go through security at the port, do your safety briefing, get acclimated to the ship and figure out what activities you’d like to do. The next two days you’re in port and before you know it, your cruise is over.

The extra sea day is perfect to be able to enjoy the ship or just relax.

If you’re a fan of the casino, it will be open the entire day. Plus, there are offerings on that sea day that aren’t available on the weekend cruises.

Sea Day Brunch

Breakfast in mdr

On a three day sailing, the dining room is open every day for breakfast for approximately two and half hours. It serves your typical fare of eggs, pancakes, omelets etc.

However, the four day sailing has a sea day brunch that extends into the afternoon. You will find the same breakfast offerings as other days but also on the menu are lunch items including cheddar and potato soup, a charcuterie plate, the Royal burger and chicken and waffles.

Captain’s Corner

The Captain’s Corner is a question and answer session with the senior officers.

Ours featured the Captain, the Hotel Director and the Chief Engineer. The cruise director and his staff walk around the room with microphones and allow passengers to ask anything they’d like about the company, the ships or questions that are specific to the officer’s positions.

This is a favorite activity of mine that I never miss. I’m used to seeing it offered on seven day sailings. I don’t think I’ve even seen it on a shorter itinerary so this was a treat.

All Access Ship Tour

All Access tour badge

I love that the ships have started bringing back the all access tours. Each one is customized a little different however, parts of the ship you may see include the galley, the laundry facilities, crew corridors, the engine rooms and the navigation bridge.

There was a morning and afternoon tour listed on the four night sailing. It was not offered at all on the three night cruise.

You can check your cruise planner on Royal Caribbean’s website prior to your cruise to see if it’s available for your specific sailing. I would highly recommend booking it before you board.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean brought back the behind-the-scenes tour: here's what it's like


Liberty of the Seas pool deck

If you are concerned with motion sickness on a sea day, then four night sailing is perfect for you.

Since there is an extra day built into the itinerary, the ship doesn’t have to travel as fast to get to the Bahamas. There were times I swear the ship was just slowly drifting to its next destination. I didn’t feel the ship move once.


There was a completely different mood between the three and four night sailings. The three night cruises have a reputation of being a “party” vibe and that’s pretty accurate. If you’re looking for a more lively atmosphere, that’s the sailing for you.

The three night was filled with a younger crowd. There were birthday parties, bachelorette parties and even a wedding on that sailing.

In contrast, the four night sailing was more subdued. There was more of a mature crowd. In fact, I don’t think I saw more than a handful of children on board. It was definitely quieter and more relaxed.

Final Thoughts

Independence of the Seas docked in Nassau

As I mentioned earlier, we were on a back to back sailing. I was surprised to see Independence of the Seas offer the special lunch in the main dining room for repeat cruisers on turnaround day. I hadn’t experienced that since the return to service. It was at the same time as the Key guests lunch but we were in different parts of the dining room. I don’t know if the menu was the same.

So, is the three of four night sailing better? Really, any cruise is a great cruise so you can’t go wrong with your choice.

I would love to be able to do more of the four nights. That sea day really made a difference in the cruise feeling more relaxed and much longer than just one extra day.

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