Updated August 21, 2018
What is a sea day on a cruise ship?
A sea day is a day spent in transit on your cruise while the ship is sailing to its next destination. Without a port stop, these days are typically marked with extra programming and dining to accommodate all passengers onboard.
How is programming different on a sea day?
Activities and entertainment tend to ramp up on days at sea because everyone is onboard the ship. You might notice more trivia, contests in the casino, afternoon shows in the theater, musical entertainment, poolside activities and even special classes not offered on other days of your cruise. The cruise director and activity coordinators work hard to make sure no one is bored, even in the middle of the ocean.
How is cruise dining different on a sea day?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are always served at the buffet and one (or more) of the main dining rooms every day. On sea days, some specialty venues may open for breakfast or lunch, as well. Also, watch your daily cruise planner closely for special sea day brunches, afternoon teas and even menu items (hint: lobster roll at Ocean Blue on the Waterfront onboard select Norwegian Cruise Line ships) that are available only on sea days. Be aware that your standard dining room or meal time might shift during these days.
What are the benefits of a sea day?
A full day onboard your cruise ship gives you time to explore everything on offer. If you spent the previous day in port exploring, a sea day allows you to sit back and soak in ship life, whether it's a leisurely brunch, a full spa day or napping in the sun by the pool. If you love wine tastings, Ping-Pong or special lectures, these are typically the best days to take advantage of additional offerings or even friendly competitions. Sailings with a wealth of sea days are typically more discounted than cruises with one port right after another.
Are there any drawbacks to sea days?
If you prefer not to be "stuck" onboard, a couple of sea days in a row (or even just one) can be difficult to overcome with no land in sight. While more activities are featured on sea days, if those events are not to your liking, the day(s) can feel pretty long. Plus, because everyone is onboard, certain public areas like the pool, the lido deck and buffet area might be crowded and deck chairs in high demand. Quiet areas are possible to find, however, so contemplate curling up with a book in the top lounge or the theater during the afternoon. Consider booking anything involving a reservation (some restaurants and shows, depending on your cruise ship) ahead of time; don't wait until the night of to get a table at the Brazilian steakhouse on a sea day. With high demand for spa services on sea days, there are rarely discounts offered at the spa and fitness center.
How many sea days can I expect on my cruise?
Depending on your itinerary and the length of your cruise, you may have just one sea day in transit or multiple (as is the case with ocean crossings). Study your itinerary before you sail so you know what activities will be available to you while onboard for, say, five days in a row. Even if your ship is a big and busy one, consider bringing your own things to do as backup -- music to listen to while you relax, books and tablet games to keep you busy, etc.
How can I find out more about sea days on a cruise ship?
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The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.