One of the biggest gripes for many cruisers? Having to pull out of port before sundown, when the destination's dining, nightlife and performing arts scene is just revving up. Happily, savvy cruise lines have been increasing overnight, late-night or even multiple-night stays at select ports of call.
This move gives cruisers the opportunity to more fully immerse themselves in the port's offerings, which can, after sunset, be quite different from daytime activities. For cruisers craving destination immersion, late and extended calls are a welcome addition, as there just never seems to be enough time in port.
Sign up for a sailing with one of these 10 best cruise lines for overnight and extended port calls, and all you landlubbing night owls can ditch the 9-to-5 port schedule and indulge instead in after-hours delights ashore with no curfew in sight.
For more on maximizing your evenings ashore, see Making the Most of Your Overnight Port of Call.
Azamara is known for its signature -- and expanding – "Destination Immersion" program of overnight-inclusive, destination-immersive voyages, with more than half of the ports visited on any one of its scheduled itineraries boasting late departures (after 8 p.m.) or proper overnight stays. The line offers overnight stays in an estimated 90 ports worldwide, with the majority falling within Europe -- look out for especially popular stops in big cities like St. Petersburg, Venice and Barcelona, as well as in smaller ports like Dubrovnik, Edinburgh and Ibiza.
The line hosts a full roster of nighttime excursions, including its "Nights and Cool Places" program, which features after-dinner small-group tours that might include an after-hours museum visit or a guided evening walk. You'll also find one complimentary AzAmazing Evening per sailing, such as a symphony performance in St. Petersburg or a demonstration of indigenous Huichol ceremonial dances in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Occasionally, the line syncs up its overnight calls with big annual events like Rio's Carnival or the Monaco Grand Prix.
Look, too, for Azamara's Overnight Experience shore program, which raises the bar on overnighting in port by granting passengers the chance to disembark mid-voyage for two- to three-day adventures on land, before rejoining the ship in the next port. Arrangements -- inclusive of transportation, hotels, meals and a guide -- allow for in-depth, on-the-ground exploration in destinations like Venice/Florence, Jerusalem and a full game reserve overnight experience for passengers calling on Richards Bay, South Africa.
Overnight calls are a signature of the Celebrity brand, with nearly half of the line's itineraries inclusive of overnight stays. If it's island nightlife that you're after, for instance, Celebrity offers more overnights in the Caribbean than any other cruise line, part of its enhanced overnight programming. Such itineraries are featured on 30 to 40 Caribbean-region sailings per year. Some of the overnight port highlights include Cartagena, Colombia; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Cozumel, Mexico; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and Bridgetown, Barbados.
While in port come evening, passengers can sign up for any one of Celebrity's special "Evenings Around the World" excursions, like night swims in the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik or a dinner and wildlife tour in Aruba. The line overnights in other destinations, with extended stays in ports across North America, Europe, Asia and beyond, while a collection of ports even feature double overnights, like in St. Petersburg, Russia or in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
In addition, Celebrity's two- to three-day Multi-Day Adventures are a program of mid-voyage, land-based excursions, whereby passengers disembark the ship in one port and rejoin it in the next. In between, the package bundles guided excursions, ground transport, meals and hotels for the ultimate in destination discovery.
Luxe Crystal Cruises is another top choice for overnight port visits, with about 80 percent of sailings on its oceangoing vessels incorporating overnight stays, especially in their ports of embarkation. Guests will find overnights scheduled in approximately 65 different destinations worldwide, with the average 10-night sailing featuring one to three overnights during the course of the cruise. (Note that many of the line's shorter seven-night sailings don't include overnights, however.)
Sign up for a slate of interesting evening excursions, like a fireworks-accompanied dinner sailing on a catamaran in Waikiki, a private whiskey tasting while on a whirl in the London Eye by night. The late-night stays also extend to Crystal's river cruises, which often stay in port overnight in cities like Cologne, Amsterdam, Vienna and Budapest.
Late-night port calls throughout the Caribbean and Mediterranean regions are one of the pillars of posh SeaDream's yachting-minded brand. On any one of its typical seven- or 10-night sailings, passengers can expect late evening departures for half of the port calls, and a full overnight another one or two times, particularly in places like St. Barts and Bequia.
When the line does offer a proper overnight, passengers can expect to have access to that port for two consecutive days -- which might happen in small, exclusive locales that larger ships just can't get to like Hvar, Croatia; Sifnos Island, Greece; and Bonifacio, Corsica.
Upscale Silversea offers a robust schedule of overnight-inclusive itineraries around the globe, with increased offerings cropping up each year. Currently, about a third of the line's scheduled sailings, fleetwide, incorporate overnights in nearly 40 ports around the globe -- spanning Asia, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, South America and the Caribbean. Don't miss some of the line's most popular overnight calls, like Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Monte Carlo, London, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
Silversea offers multiple-night stays in select ports, like Tianjin, to allow for further explorations after seeing main attractions like Beijing and the Great Wall of China. Silversea also offers a slate of late-night departures (usually around 11 p.m.) in nightlife-friendly cities like St. Tropez, Amsterdam, Ibiza, Monte Carlo and St. Barts.
Look out for related late-night excursions like an exclusive classical music concert at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
Princess Cruises' More Ashore program, features expanded overnights and late-night (9 p.m. or later) port departures for a selection of itineraries in Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. Featured ports include Juneau and Icy Strait Point in Alaska; Barcelona; Reykjavik, Iceland; Quebec City; Cabo San Lucas; Hakodate, Japan; and others.
While not fully overnight, other late-night departures are additionally scheduled on select itineraries in ports like Cozumel, Honolulu and San Diego. Tip: You're more likely to find a full overnight included in the mix on the line's longer 11-night-plus voyages.
If staring at starry South Pacific nights from moonlit beaches is just the kind of fantasy you have in mind, look no farther than Paul Gauguin Cruises. Nearly all of the plush line's sailings aboard the namesake Paul Gauguin (the line's sole ship) feature overnights in Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti, while select itineraries incorporate overnight calls in Fiji and Indonesia.
For something really special, sign up for the line's Romantic Escapade overnight excursions, which include an overnight stay in an overwater bungalow at a posh resort in Bora Bora or Moorea complete with a bottle of Champagne, candlelit dinner and canoe-delivered breakfast.
About half of Oceania Cruises' fleetwide voyages (especially those that are 10 nights or longer in duration) incorporate overnight stays, in more than 50 worldwide locales spanning Europe, South America, Asia and the South Pacific. In some ports, like Haifa, Israel, or St. Petersburg, Russia, the line ups the ante by offering multiple overnights so passengers can really maximize their time on the ground.
Look for some more unique overnight offerings, too, in places like Bordeaux, France; Kyoto, Japan; or Reykjavik, Iceland. The line usually schedules some interesting evening excursions to coincide with the stays, like a cellar tour and gourmet dinner at an 18th-century chateau in Bordeaux.
Sister company to Oceania, luxury brand Regent Seven Seas likewise offers overnight-inclusive sailings on about half of its itineraries fleetwide, with most found on cruises that are 10 nights are longer. Overnights take place in over 50 destinations across Asia, the South Pacific, South America, Africa and Europe, with some more unusual overnight offerings like those scheduled in Walvis Bay, Namibia; Mumbai, India; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and Cairns, Australia.
As with Oceania, some ports (St. Petersburg; Yangon, Myanmar (Burma); and Haifa, Israel) even feature multiple overnights. As a bonus, Regent offers free unlimited shore excursions to passengers, including special evening outings like a relaxing gondola ride in Venice or a visit to a bustling samba nightclub in Rio.
Windstar Cruises' fleet of yachts (some equipped with tall sails) is another solid bet for spending longer in port. More than 45 percent of its sailings feature at least one overnight or late-night (meaning, a departure later than 10 p.m.) port call.
Choose from some 20 locales where the line calls overnight, with a special emphasis on the Caribbean, Europe and the South Pacific. In fact, every one of the line's French Polynesia sailings from Tahiti includes an overnight in the Society Islands and in Bora Bora, where passengers can opt to disembark for a romantic night ashore in an overwater bungalow. Windstar also rolls out overnight stays on select itineraries in ports like Key West, Quebec City, St. Petersburg, Seville and Hong Kong.
The line also coordinates its overnight calls with location-specific "Destination Discovery Events," like the Monaco Grand Prix, where the ship actually docks for two back-to-back nights. Other times, Windstar features complimentary evening shore events -- to a ballet performance in St. Petersburg or for an evening dinner under the shadows of the dramatic Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey.