Sea days are a staple on nearly all cruise itineraries, whether you love the thought of it (or don't). From morning until night, there's nowhere to go except for onboard venues. Some folks are thrilled with a day at sea on their cruise, planning a blissful day of zoning out in the sun or a jam-packed itinerary running from the gym to trivia to a wine tasting to a dance class and then a show. Others fear boredom and claustrophobia with no land in sight.
No matter your approach to sea days, here are 10 things you should not do when spending an entire day at sea on a cruise ship.
The daily newsletter left on the bed in your room each evening is your sea day bible on any cruise. It contains everything you need to know about onboard activities, dining times, special events and any one-day sales or discounts. Lose it, toss it or ignore it, and you might be missing out on the action during a day at sea.
In fear of being bored on a cruise sea day, you might prepare an over-ambitious schedule for the day, with every waking hour devoted to a different activity. Port days are generally frenetic, so be sure to save some time on your day off from touring for more leisurely activities, like a long lunch, a soak in the hot tub or reading time on your balcony.
Cruise lines often schedule noteworthy events for long days at sea. Perhaps it's a special sea day brunch or a behind-the-scenes tour or even a matinee show. If you're having trouble deciding how to plan your day, prioritize any events you won't have a chance to attend due to shore excursions or conflicting event times on other days on your cruise. It also makes sense to prioritize these one-off special events over attractions that are available every day -- like the water slides or pool time -- on a sea day.
Related: How Not to Go Crazy If Your Cruise Has Lots of Sea Days
The buffets and pool deck grills are a madhouse on sea days because people don't want to stray far from their lounge chair or change from their swimwear into main dining room attire. However, days at sea are the perfect time for a more refined breakfast or lunch in the cruise ship's restaurants. You're not rushing out to a tour, so you can linger over your morning meal, and we can assure you the line to get into the dining room lunch won't be as long as the one at the buffet. Plus, as noted earlier, some cruises offer special sea day meals you don't want to miss.
From all-inclusive resorts on land to cruises, chair hogs are some of the most disliked of guests. Do not get up at the crack of dawn, put a book, sunglasses and towel on a lounger in a prime location, then go back to sleep or to breakfast or to the gym. Likewise, don't occupy chairs next to you just as a place to park your belongings. Doing so is rude -- especially on a day when many people want to spend time in the sun. It's OK to save your chair while you take a dip or run off to grab a quick bite, but if you plan to be gone for more than 30 minutes, give up your spot to someone who will actually use it.
No one wants to miss time in port on their cruise, so most passengers plan their massages and manicures for sea days -- and schedules in a workout in a futile attempt to counteract the prior evening's indulgences. The result is that the onboard fitness center is packed on sea day mornings and often in the late afternoon. Likewise, the spa is booked solid and thermal suites are packed to their less-than-serene gills on days at sea. If you want to pump some iron on your cruise, consider going during meal times when crowds are thinner. To have the relaxing spa experience you're dreaming about, book your treatment in advance of your cruise embarkation and plan your sauna time for very early or very late in the day.
Related: What to Expect on a Cruise: Cruise Ship Spa Services
The pool bar opens early and the drinks flow well into the evening on a sea day. If you start the morning with a bloody mary, crack open your first beer at 10:30 a.m. and plan a liquid-heavy lunch, you will be over-the-top inebriated by dinner. Drunken days at sea can lead to sunburns (when you pass out on the pool deck with no sunscreen on), unpleasant dinners for your eating companions (as you rave on drunkenly) or -- worse -- sleeping right through dinner and missing the evening fun. Remember to pace yourself -- you want to remember your fun cruise experience, after all.
You booked a cruise for that salty sea breeze and the calming views of waves rushing past your ship. If you spend your sea day at the spa, shops, casino or show lounges, you'll miss the best of cruising -- being outside while sailing. If you must catch the expert lecturer right before bingo, at least pause on your way across the ship to take a couple of lungfuls of sea air before continuing into an over-air-conditioned, windowless space.
Related: Best Cruise Ship Sun Decks
Even worse than spending an entire day at sea indoors is spending your sea day passed out cold in your cabin. We get that vacation is a time for partying late, sleeping in and indulging in afternoon naps, but you didn't pay all that money just to snooze the days away. Set an alarm and make sure you experience some of the fun activities your ship has to offer.
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On sea days, cruisers are a captive audience, and the cruise line schemes to separate you from your hard-earned cash with shopping events in the onboard boutique, poker challenges in the casino and some enticing treatments at the spa. If you're bored, it's pretty easy to plunk yourself down in front of a slot machine or go window shopping -- only to come to your senses several hundred, or thousand, dollars later. Remember your vacation budget and cut yourself off when you get too close to your pre-set limits.
Updated September 28, 2022