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16 mistakes cruisers make on cruise ship sea days

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If you’re new to cruising and notice sea days on your itinerary, you might wonder what you could possibly do on a day when your ship does not stop in a port of call but instead stays out in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight.

Rest assured, sea days are anything but boring. In fact, experienced cruisers often seek itineraries that have several sea days. On these special days you can participate in  myriad activities on your ship or do nothing at all, or perhaps a mix of both.

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On sea days, you have nowhere you have to be, and that’s part of the fun. Sleep late, do brunch, spend the day in the spa, learn a new skill, read a book, compete in contests or whiz down a waterslide. It’s your choice.

Just don’t make these mistakes.

cruise ship lido deck - pool deck
The lido deck, also known as the pool deck. VINTAGEPIX/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Not taking advantage of activities

When in port, cruise lines keep planned daylight activities to a minimum because most people will be exploring on shore, but on sea days, they spend a lot of time creating exciting options to appeal to every taste. As many as 50 activities may be listed on the roster. Included will be poolside games, trivia contests, special entertainment, sports tournaments, maybe special shows in the theater, movie showings and more.

Related: Cruise activities you don’t want to miss on sea days

You may decide your perfect sea day is sitting on deck reading a book, and you’re welcome to do that. But you don’t want to hear later that you missed some great activity that has the whole ship talking, which leads to our next point.…

Not reading the cruise planner

Whether you peruse the printed sheet delivered to your cabin each night (highlighting the next day’s activities) or check the ship’s app for the schedule, it pays to see what is on and what appeals to you.

Take out a pen and circle activities of interest, or highlight activities on the app on your smartphone. You may be able to set up an alert when it’s time for an activity of interest.

Forgetting to book activities reservations in advance

Some popular activities may be teased before the sea day and require advance reservations, such as wine tastings and beer crawls. You will also want to make reservations if you plan to enjoy the ship’s go-kart racetrack, roller coaster, escape room, laser tag, simulated surf machines or other activities that require timed slots to participate because a lot of other people will also reserve these activities for a sea day.

Related: Which cruise ship activities should you book ahead of time?

Missing the jogging/walking track

A sea day is perfect for burning calories while surrounded by ocean views and sea breezes. If you’re an early riser, you may have the track all to yourself; many other passengers, knowing they don’t have to get up early on a sea day, will have partied heartily the night before and will be sleeping in. Breathe deep and enjoy the solitude.

Not signing up for classes

Sometimes you don’t know you want to learn a skill until you try it. Look for sea day classes to get your toes wet in new activities such as napkin folding, towel animal creating, watercolor painting, jewelry making, cooking and more.

Missing the lectures

See who is lecturing, especially if you are on a small or luxury ship. You may learn about the politics of the region you are cruising through from a former ambassador, hear about marine life from a naturalist or marine biologist or gather tips on local cuisine from a culinary expert. If there’s a famous author, actor or other celebrity onboard, they’ll likely make an appearance during a sea day.

Forgetting to book fitness classes

You may imagine spending some of your sea day doing a spinning, cardio kickboxing, TRX training or other specialty for-a-fee class in the fitness center. But you could be left out in the cold if you don’t book these sea-day classes early in your cruise (booking as soon as you get on board your ship is recommended).

Related: Do cruise ships have gyms? Here’s how to stay fit on a cruise

Not booking spa appointments

Woman relaxing during a cruise ship spa treatment
Cruise ship spas are popular on sea days. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Sea days are the most popular days for the spa, beauty shop and thermal suite (outfitted with sauna, steam and other soothing treatments). Many people will be looking to get a massage, manicure or facial since they have time on a sea day to do it. Make reservations for treatments when you first get on the ship.

Pro tip: If you want to save money, book your spa treatment on a quieter port day when prices may be discounted.

Missing shopping opportunities

On a sea day, you have time to browse. Knowing this, the ship’s shops offer sales to lure in customers. An all-time favorite is the $10 pop-up sale, which includes watches and costume jewelry. You may also find pop-up sales with t-shirts and other goods near the pool.

Missing the culinary treats

When you’re on board for the entire day, you have time to linger over meals. Consider partaking in the served breakfast and lunch in the main dining room rather than quickly grabbing food at the buffet.

Fee-based specialty restaurants may also be open for breakfast and lunch, offering an opportunity to sample elevated cuisine — such as Asian, French, Italian or steakhouse — at a lower price than is charged at dinner. Your ship may also offer special sea day culinary events, such as a brunch buffet or an outdoor barbecue. The chefs like to show off their talents at these not-to-miss occasions.

Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

Forgetting about afternoon tea

If your ship does it, formal afternoon tea on sea days with live music, scones, tiny sandwiches and pastries is another not-to-miss event. Order an accompanying glass of bubbly to elevate your elegant experience even further.

Not getting to the pool early

Royal Caribbean cruise ship pool deck with colored lounge chairs and a swimming pool.
Lounge chairs fill up fast on sea days. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Many people are on your cruise for fun in the sun, making the pool deck and other sunning areas the popular places to be on sea days. Unless you’ve reserved a private cabana for the day, get ready early to assure your choice of lounge chair — whether you want to sit near the main pool with its live music, movie showings and fun games led by the cruise staff, or are looking for a secluded spot away from the hubbub.

Note: Trying to save lounge chairs by piling them with your towels and other stuff is considered bad etiquette on cruise ships. If you break for lunch or another activity, you should give up your chair for others.

Related: The 1 thing you should never do on a cruise ship pool deck

Not planning family time

On the first day of your cruise, you should register the kids at the age-appropriate children’s and teen clubs, where they will be wowed by activities and well-entertained by the youth staff — leaving you time to lounge by the pool and do adult activities. On a sea day, consider a little family competition. Challenge the kids to a game of shuffleboard, minigolf or Ping-Pong; see who can slide faster down the racing waterslides; or otherwise indulge in some family bonding time.

Missing the casino and bingo

Cruise ship casino with gaming tables.
Big ships such as MSC Grandiosa typically have significant casino areas. MSC CRUISES

Your ship’s casino will be closed on days when the ship is in port but it will become action-central when you are at sea. Look for special sea-day tournaments; poker and Texas hold ‘em are popular. Bingo is another popular sea-day activity; get there early to assure a seat.

Forgetting to take your seasickness meds

For your sea day, the captain will seek to spend at least a few hours in a sunny and calm spot in the ocean, but the reality is your ship is also making its way to your next destination. Avoiding some rough patches might not be possible. If you suffer from seasickness, it’s best to take your meds.

Related: How to avoid seasickness on your next cruise

Missing out on marine life sightings

On a sea day, have your binoculars ready because you may spot whales and other marine life, given that you’re in their territory. This is especially true off the coast of destinations such as Alaska, Iceland, Hawaii, New England and California. Listen to announcements from the bridge that will clue you in to sightings.

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