3-Hour Party Cruise

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Cocktails are a frequent feature of party cruises.

The idea of a full cruise vacation may be out of reach for some eager cruisers, either because of time or money, but a 3-hour party cruise can provide the same jovial, energetic atmosphere of an at-sea lido deck party in just an evening.

Not an Ordinary Dinner Cruise

Most people assume that a short evening cruise is actually a dinner cruise, but a party cruise is a completely different event. Dinner cruises offer full meals, whereas party cruises encourage more socialization and only offer snacks and drinks. Party cruises are usually less formal than dinner cruises, and may depart at different times than meal-oriented voyages. Many party cruises, in fact, are scheduled either in the afternoon between meals or late in the evening after the traditional dinner hour.

What to Expect on a 3-Hour Party Cruise

If there isn't a full meal, what can passengers then expect on a party cruise? It is far more than simple socializing. Party cruises often include:

  • Snacks: Warm and cold appetizers or fun buffets are often featured on party cruises. Wings, chips and salsa, pizza, desserts, and other party foods are most popular.
  • Drinks: Party cruises inevitably involve alcohol, usually through open cash bars, and while there may be a minimum drink purchase, passengers are not required to imbibe.
  • Music: Live bands are popular on 3-hour party cruises, though some companies offer DJs instead. Many party boats are large enough to accommodate different types of music in different lounges, and the most frequent tunes are current popular hits rather than older songs or classical music.
  • Games: Fun activities keep the party energetic, and karaoke, limbo, and dance contests are frequent options throughout the event.
  • Sightseeing: Depending on the location, some party cruises feature sightseeing. This is particularly popular for river voyages in large cities, where views of magnificent architecture and prominent skylines are a major attraction.

Even passengers who aren't normally the partying type will enjoy the varied events and socializing of a party cruise.

Types of Party Cruises

The typical evening "nightclub" cruise is the most popular type of party-oriented voyage, but even the most avid partiers enjoy different themes and events. Most party cruise companies offer different options for voyages, including:

Holiday fireworks cruises sell quickly.
  • Music Themes: A country western cruise, hip hop cruise, and Top 40 cruise each have distinctly different tone, and other cruise aspects may be altered to fit the music. A voyage featuring country western music, for example, may offer more "western" food such as barbeque and salsa, and line-dancing lessons may be available.
  • Murder Mysteries: While interactive murder mystery themes - where a crew member or passenger is "murdered" on the voyage and the guests are questioned as suspects and pressed into service as detectives - are common for dinner cruises, some party cruise companies also offer similar sailing activities. Another variation is the "ghost cruise" where the ship is "haunted" and guests are prompted to help solve the mystery.
  • Holiday Cruises: Holiday sailings are popular for 3-hour party cruises, especially for New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July in locations where the ship will be in position to view fireworks or other celebratory events.
  • Contest Cruises: Some companies arrange contests for their party cruises, such as an entire evening of karaoke, dancing, or American Idol-type performances for guests to participate in. These voyages often include prizes for the contestants.
  • Chartered Cruises: Even if a party cruise is not regularly offered, many small cruise companies are happy to charter their ships to interested businesses or individuals who would like to celebrate on the water. This is a popular option for holiday parties, wedding receptions, and family reunions.

Many themed voyages sell out quickly; interested passengers should contact the sponsoring company well in advance to secure their passage.

Where to Find Party Cruises

Online travel websites and cruise travel agents rarely have information about party cruises. Instead, passengers need to research the companies themselves and arrange their own tickets. There are several likely places to find 3-hour party cruises, including:

  • Large hotels or bars with beach, marina, or river access.
  • Charter companies that offer regular sailing tours.
  • Cruise shore excursions in popular ports of call, particularly on islands.

Nearly any city that features a beautiful shoreline or centralized river is likely to offer party cruises. Searching online or in local telephone directories will result in a list of cruise providers. Before sailing, however, guests will want to verify age requirements (late night cruises are often restricted to passengers over 18 or 21) and other details.

Costs and Reservations

The cost of party cruises varies widely depending on the theme, size and luxury of the vessel, and what is and isn't included in the price. Fares can be found for less than $20 per person, though drinks are usually not included and snacks are only basic for such a low price. More extravagant sailings and popular voyages can run up to $100 or more per person and may include drinks.

Because space is limited on party cruise boats, reservations are usually required (though standby passengers may be accommodated if someone cancels). To guarantee service, some companies require prepaid reservations, and cancellation fees can be steep.

Dress Code

The dress code on a party cruise generally depends on the type of cruise. An afternoon of socializing may only require casual beach or resort wear, while an evening cruise may require nightclub attire. More formal parties, particularly for New Year's Eve or chartered events, may request that passengers wear formal or semi-formal garb.


A 3-hour party cruise is a fabulous way to get a taste of cruising without committing to a longer, more expensive voyage. With a wide range of themes and options available, there is a party cruise to suit every passenger's socializing preferences.

3-Hour Party Cruise