With the exception of a handful of destination-unto-themselves cruise ships, cruising is very much driven by where you're going; one of its greatest draws is that it enables people to visit several different places in a short time. But that doesn't mean you always have to get off the ship every time it's in port. There are numerous, obvious reasons for staying on your cruise ship during a port call. Maybe you've been to the destination numerous times -- something repeat Caribbean cruisers are quite familiar with. Or perhaps you're on a port-intensive Mediterranean sailing and you just need a day to rest and recover.
If you're weighing the pros and cons of staying onboard during a port of call, here are eight reasons why staying onboard can be a great idea.
1. You'll have the pool to yourself.
Unless you enjoy sharing the pool with loads of fellow cruisers, including boisterous kids, you might find yourself on the outside looking in most sea days. But on a port day, those pools are invitingly empty -- you might even be able to swim laps! Same holds true for the hot tubs, which tend to fill up quite fast most days. If you prefer to have a hot tub to yourself, or with just you and your honey, pick a port day when everyone else is off the ship.
2. You can ride the water slide as many times as you like.
Love the idea of swishing down the water slide and splashing down at the end, but hate the long wait of getting to the top? Or maybe you feel too embarrassed, the only adult amongst a throng of kids? Then a port day is perfect for you! While you might not have the water slide entirely to yourself, there will never be more than a handful of folks on line with you. Race up and down those steps and slide down to your heart's content.
3. You'll save on spa services.
Spas can't make money if no one's around so they purposefully offer special pricing on port days to entice people to skip time ashore. If you know ahead of time that you'll be staying on the ship in a specific port or two, you've got two choices. You can head to the spa early in the cruise to guarantee the time you want and ask for a port day discount or, if you're able to be more flexible with timing, wait until the night before and see what port day specials are being advertised for the next day. Either way, a little pampering in the spa for less money isn't a bad way to spend an hour or two.
4. You'll have no problem grabbing your favorite machine in the fitness center.
Like so many other places onboard, the fitness center is usually a ghost town on port days, giving you first crack at any piece of equipment you like. Nor will anyone be lingering next to you waiting for you to finish, so you can take your time and put in the effort you want without any worries. Plus, with a solid workout in, you can indulge later whether you want an extra glass of wine or a piece of cake.
5. You can do laundry without a wait.
While this might not be the most relaxing option out there, if you're on a longer cruise, or have kids who easily make a mess of their clothes -- a port day is the perfect time to throw a load in, without the bother of waiting for a machine to be open or knowing how long you should wait to take someone else's clothes out. With most people off the ship, the laundry room will be empty most of the day -- take advantage!
6. There are no lines for lunch.
Depending on how patient you are, lunch on a sea day can be a bit of a chore, with long lines for the most popular venues. (Think the top deck buffet on almost any mainstream ship or eateries like Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival, O'Sheehan's on Norwegian Cruise Line or Sorrento's on Royal Caribbean.) Many cruisers forgo these spots in favor of a sit-down lunch in the dining room just because they're not interested in standing in line, but doing this means missing out on some of the best food onboard many ships. Take advantage of the emptiness a port day brings and hit these spots when no one is around. There's just something about a bowl of noodles from Carnival's Mongolian Wok or slice of pizza from Princess' Alfredo Pizzeria that just tastes better when you didn't have to wait.
7. You might have a better chance at winning trivia.
Love trivia but never find yourself on a winning team? Fewer teams means a better chance of winning (at anything really!), so don't forget to check out any trivia sessions offered on a port day. Chances are you'll be one of just a handful, taking your chances of getting the highest score up a notch.
8. You can make a crew friend.
Creating rapport with crew members is one of the best parts of cruising and while chances are you'll get to know your waiter pretty quickly, becoming friendly with other crew members isn't always as easy. But with significantly fewer passengers onboard on a full port day, crew members, particularly those who interact with cruisers on a regular basis, can get bored. From buffet attendants to bartenders, life without cruise passengers can be lonely and they'll be thrilled to chat with you giving you yet another crew friend to make your sailing special.