Short but sweet, mini cruises work on several fronts. Firstly, they are a great opportunity for a newcomer to sample a short cruise, at a reasonable price, before perhaps booking something more ambitious later.
For the regular cruise passenger, mini cruises can be a welcome break at a time of year when getting away for a week or more simply is not practical. In either situation, a short break on a luxurious, well appointed cruise ship really can be just the recipe.
If you're heading over the channel to Amsterdam, you could take in the artistic glut of treasures in the reopened Rijksmuseum or, for a fabulous panorama of the city's old copper spires and domes, head for the outdoor terrace of the Doubletree Hilton hotel, near the railway station.
From Zeebrugge, take in the stunning medieval theme park that is old Bruges, with its canals and marvellous. Gothic architecture Or, if the weather is fine, you could make for the beach at nearby Blankenberge. If you find yourself in Le Havre, there could be time enough to head into proud, perfectly primped Paris for some sightseeing.
If you happen to be ashore in the late autumn, why not consider doing some of your Christmas shopping while you're ashore, and maybe bring back something different, totally original for the family? Many of the main ports- certainly Amsterdam, Bruges and Le Havre- offer Christmas markets that enhance the shopping experience. After all, retail therapy can be a big part of the fun of a cruise as well.
In terms of food choices, try out some tasty bitterballs in Amsterdam, washed down with an ice cold Heineken or, if your taste buds will stretch to it, try some of the renowned local pickled herring.
Should you happen to find yourself in Belgium, the local waffles are to die for, especially first thing in the morning. The ice cream, like the local chocolates, are all but mandatory. For sure, take home at least one box of the latter. You'll never regret it.
Don't try to see and do everything possible on the ship because, quite simply, it's unlikely that you will succeed. If spas are your thing, why not concentrate on that? Or if you're a foodie, why not book into two or three of the speciality restaurants on board, and give your taste buds a real workout.