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33 Fun Things to Do on Cruise Sea Days

33 Fun Things to Do on Cruise Sea Days

Are you nervous that you’ll be bored out of your skull on sea days on a cruise? Not to worry. Cruise lines have so many fun sea day activities that you’ll never find yourself stuck with nothing to do.

You’ll probably even find that there isn’t enough time to do all the activities you want to try!

What is a sea day on a cruise ship

In case you’re unfamiliar with the cruise lingo, a sea day is when your ship doesn’t stop at a port of call. Most cruise itineraries feature at least a sea day or two, and they’re a nice break from port day shore excursions!

New cruisers often worry that sea days will leave them feeling trapped on a boat with nothing to do. However, today’s cruise ships are like massive floating resorts with endless activities.

The best part? You can choose to do as much or as little as you like. The choice is yours! Whether you want to pack your day with activities or just find a cozy place to unwind for a few hours, your cruise ship has it all.

Here are 33 super-fun ideas for sea days on your next cruise!

1. Sleep in

Many cruisers pack so many activities into port days, so sleeping in on a sea day can really feel like the ultimate in relaxation. Start your day off right by catching up on some much-needed rest!

Turn off your alarm and put that do not disturb sign on your door. There’s nowhere you need to be in the morning—you’re on vacation!

2. Do some duty-free shopping

Cruise ship duty-free shops are usually open all day on sea days, as long as your ship is in international waters.

Browse the jewelry and luxury goods shops—it’s all tax-free! Or pick up a bottle or two to stock the bar back home.

Cruise pro tip: Come prepared with a list of the duty-free items you’d consider buying, along with the price (including tax) you’d pay back home to get the best deals. You’ll often find the best prices on jewelry and watches, luxury beauty products, alcohol, and tobacco.

3. Relax by the pool deck

The pool deck is the place to be on a sea day. Whether you soak in the hot tubs, enjoy a swim, or just relax on a lounge chair, you’ll really feel like you’re on vacation here.

The Lido Deck usually hosts entertainment on sea days—live bands and fun contests add to the party atmosphere.

4. Attend an art auction

Whether you’re looking to pick up a framed piece of art for your home or you’d just like to watch the excitement of bidding, a sea day art auction can be a great time.

Plus, participants are usually treated to a free glass of sparkling wine along with a complimentary art print. Gotta love free stuff!

5. Enjoy a specialty lunch

The buffet and main dining room are open for lunch on sea days, but why not try something a bit more special?

Often, at least one of the specialty restaurants will offer a fun sea day lunch at a reduced rate, or even for free!

6. Have afternoon tea

Several cruise lines offer afternoon tea service on sea day afternoons, ranging from basic tea and cookies on mainstream lines to white-gloved waiters and fine china on premium and luxury cruises.

Indulge in an afternoon treat reminiscent of the days of the great ocean liners, when afternoon tea was a must-do each day.

Read more: Tea Time on Carnival Cruises: Carnival’s Free Afternoon Tea

7. Watch a movie under the stars

Princess Cruises started offering Movies Under the Stars back in 2004, showing popular films in the evening on the pool deck. Today, many modern cruise ships also play movies by the pool at night.

Cozy up with a blanket and some popcorn to watch a film after dinner, or catch a concert performance or family-friendly film during the day.

8. Participate in a game show

Have you always wanted to be on a game show? Many cruise ships have their own versions! From Deal or No Deal on Carnival to Royal Caribbean’s Millionaire-style trivia game, a few lucky guests will compete for a chance to win prizes.

Even if you’re not picked as a contestant, cruise ship game shows are always a fun time for audience members. You might even spot yourself on your stateroom TV later in the cruise!

9. Take a dance class

Even if you have two left feet, trying a group dance class on a cruise is the perfect activity for a sea day. Your ship will probably offer at least a few classes in ballroom styles, salsa, or even line dancing.

You might even have the chance to get a bit of one-on-one instruction during your free class from some of the ship’s production show members! On a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, Mr. SBC and I tried a tango class with pro dancers from Argentina (we had a ball, but we’re not ready for Strictly Come Dancing just yet).

10. Dress up for formal night

If your cruise line has formal nights, they’ll usually take place on sea days. Why not take the opportunity to play dress-up?

Cruise lines often offer their fanciest menus in the main dining room on formal nights (think lobster tails and prime cuts of steak), so don’t miss it!

Read more: What to Wear on Formal Night on a Cruise

11. Try a cooking class

Cruise ships are famous for their decadent, multi-course meals. The food is one of my favorite reasons for cruising! But what if you could take some of those recipes (and the expertise needed to create them) back home with you?

Enter cruise ship cooking classes. Whether you choose a simple sushi-rolling tutorial or an hours-long gourmet meal class, you’ll come away with some pro cooking skills and new dishes to impress your friends. The best part? You get to eat the fruits of your labors at the end of class.

12. Indulge at the spa

Most cruise ships offer a full-service spa and salon, with a range of treatments from a basic pedicure to luxurious facials and massages (for a fee, of course).

Sea days are usually pretty busy at the cruise ship spa, so book your spot as early as you can to enjoy your well-deserved pampering session.

13. Read a book

Never have time to read at home? Pack a couple of those novels you’ve been meaning to get through. You have plenty of time and zero responsibilities on a sea day!

Enjoy your book by the pool, or find a quiet spot away from the action. Even the busiest cruise ships have plenty of cozy, peaceful areas perfect for reading.

14. Play a board or card game

Love playing games? Pack your favorite game or borrow one from your ship’s game room or library. We love playing on the pool deck, but you’ll also find lots of tables in your ship’s lounges to play a game with family and friends.

If you just want to play cards, you can often get a deck at Guest Services. They’ll usually have casino-used cards that they give to guests at no charge.

Read more: Best Cruise Ship Games to Pack for Adults and Kids

15. Hit the gym

Fitness buffs will love the ocean-view fitness center on a cruise ship! Most cruise lines offer modern equipment on their ships—treadmills and ellipticals, weight machines, and free weights.

Or maybe you’re looking to start a new fitness routine? A sea day is the perfect time to give it a try. Many ships also offer personal training in their fitness centers.

Read more: How to Avoid Gaining Weight on a Cruise

16. Try your luck in the casino

Sea days are usually the only time the ship’s casino is open all day. Most ships offer a variety of slots, video poker, and table games.

If you’ve never played at a casino table, most cruise lines offer free beginners’ courses to get you up to speed on the rules and etiquette.

Cruise pro tip: Join a slot pull on a sea day! Fellow passengers will pool some money (usually about $20 each), and each member of the group shares in the winnings.

17. Take some photos

Whether you’re a shutterbug or you’d like to have some professional portraits taken, a sea day is great for taking photos of your family and friends around the ship.

The ship’s professional photographers usually wander around in the evening, and having your picture taken is free (you only pay for the prints you want). Or book a photo studio session for more formal shots.

18. Enjoy a wine or whiskey tasting

You might stick to your tried-and-true favorite vino or spirits when you’re on land, but why not branch out and try some new drinks on a lazy sea day afternoon?

Many cruise lines offer wine or whiskey tastings. Some even have Champagne or martini tastings. Sample some new-to-you offerings, guided by an expert bartender, for a small fee.

Cruise pro tip: If you have a drink package on your cruise, tasting sessions aren’t covered. But nothing’s stopping you from making your own DIY tasting menu (minus the expert guidance)!

19. Unleash your inner rockstar at karaoke

Even if you don’t have perfect pitch or a charismatic stage presence, karaoke is everyone’s favorite way to live out your rockstar dreams on a cruise.

Pick your favorite song, or get up with a group of friends to sing a party favorite (Love Shack, anyone?) Some cruise lines even offer a family karaoke hour so even the littlest cruisers can belt out a tune.

20. Play shuffleboard

Before I discovered cruising, I thought that playing shuffleboard was just about the only thing that people did on cruises. Boy was I wrong. Although there’s so much more to do on a cruise, this traditional deck game is actually really fun!

And it’s not just the very old who enjoy shuffleboard. In my very non-scientific study of shuffleboard players on my last ten or so cruises, I’d say the average age of people I see playing falls somewhere in the older Gen Z to Millennial range. Give it a try!

21. Walk a mile on the Promenade Deck

If strolling in the fresh sea air with gorgeous ocean views sounds like your favorite way to burn off those amazing cruise desserts, why not aim to walk a mile on the Promenade Deck?

You can always set your smart watch or phone to track your distance on a solo walk. But some cruise lines have a “walk a mile” activity where you can get some exercise and meet new friends.

22. Have breakfast in bed

If you took my first piece of advice about things to do on a sea day (sleeping in!) you’ll love this tip. Did you know that almost every cruise line offers free room service breakfast?

Just fill out a breakfast hang tag and put it on the outside of your door the night before. (Ask your room steward if you don’t see a hangtag.) You’ll wake up to your choice of continental breakfast favorites to enjoy in bed or on your balcony.

Cruise pro tip: It’s customary to give your room service delivery person a tip, so have some small bills on hand (one dollar per guest is just fine). Learn more about tipping on a cruise ship.

23. Join an exercise class

Most cruise lines offer a range of free and/or paid exercise classes. From basic stretch and meditation to yoga, Pilates, and Zumba, you’ll find classes for all fitness levels.

I especially love Holland America’s fitness classes, with fun options like TRX Suspension Training and RYDE indoor cycling.

24. Learn all about your next port

Can’t wait until you reach your next port? Use part of your sea day to learn more about the area before you’re back on dry land.

Cruise ships usually offer a port talk on sea days. Sometimes they just focus on shopping, but some sailings will also have an expert talk focusing on the port’s history and key sites to visit. I always leave a port talk with valuable insight on my next port of call!

25. Try a scavenger hunt

Frequent cruisers are used to giggly groups of pre-teens bouncing up to them and asking what seems to be a very random question. (On our last cruise, they asked if we won any money in the casino.) They’re not just nosy, they’re doing a scavenger hunt!

This kids’ club favorite pastime is now becoming popular with adults, especially for larger family and friend groups. Some cruise lines even have grown-up scavenger hunts on the official agenda. On a recent sailing, we were challenged to find the most crew members hailing from different nations!

26. Take a behind-the-scenes tour

Most cruisers never have the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes on the ship, but it’s really fascinating! Booking a tour on a sea day can be pricey, but you’ll get to see those hidden areas where they make the magic happen.

But some behind-the-scenes tours are free! We’ve enjoyed a complimentary backstage tour of the theater on a Princess cruise, and on our UnCruise Adventures Alaska sailing we had a free galley tour (led by the head chef) as well as a tour of the bridge.

27. Join a meetup

Do you love meeting new people with similar interests? Many cruises offer meetups for people who enjoy a hobby or craft—knitting and crochet are perennially popular. Or maybe you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or a young adult or solo cruiser. There’s probably a meetup planned for you.

Don’t see a meetup scheduled for your interest group? Host your own! Just ask at Guest Services or chat with your Cruise Director to find out how to schedule and host a meetup.

28. Explore the ship

Many cruisers do a bit of ship exploring on embarkation day, but with so much to do on that busy first day, it’s a challenge to actually see the whole ship before you find yourself falling into bed.

Sea days are made for ship exploration! I enjoy taking time on the first sea day morning to head to the top deck, and wander my way to the bottom. I guarantee you’ll find lots of fun venues and spots you’ll want to revisit later in the cruise.

29. Try an acupuncture session

Bear with me on this one, because I know being stuck with needles doesn’t sound like a fun thing to do on a sea day! Acupuncture treatments have become very popular on cruises because of their pain-relieving benefits. Mr. SBC and I have recently started booking sessions on every cruise, and it makes a huge difference (we both have painful spinal arthritis).

I won’t lie and say it’s not expensive—but you can often get a free “taster” session, including a one-on-one consultation and a few needles—at your ship’s spa.

30. Watch a game in the sports bar

Do you love knocking back a couple of pints and enjoying your favorite game on TV? Cruise ships have satellite television, and your ship’s sports bar is the place to be on a sea day.

Bring the gang along, or meet some new sports-loving friends (I can’t promise they’ll root for your team, sorry).

31. Relax in the thermal suite

Does a day of pure relaxation sound like the perfect use of your sea day? Many cruise ships offer a thermal suite, featuring amenities like heated tile loungers, thalassotherapy pools, salt rooms, and infrared saunas.

You can purchase access to your ship’s thermal suite for the entire week, or by the day. Passes sell out fast, so if you want one for a sea day, it’s a good idea to pre-book as early as you can.

32. Play mini-golf

Whether you call it putt-putt, crazy golf, or miniature golf (or do you call it something else? Let me know in the comments below!) putting your way through a tiny golf course is a time-honored sea day tradition.

Even many smaller ships and older ships have a complimentary mini-golf course, and it’s a fun cruise activity for passengers of all ages.

33. Book your next cruise!

Those of us who’ve booked our next cruise onboard a sailing know that it’s one of the best ways to save money on cruises. You’ll earn free onboard credit, which (depending on the cruise line) you’ll be able to use on your next cruise or maybe even your current one!

But you don’t need to choose your sailing or pay for your cruise in full. Just put down a small deposit, and you have plenty of time to choose once you return home. You can even book through your favorite cruise travel agent using this Future Cruise Deposit.

Cruise pro tip: Even if you don’t have an internet package for your sailing, many cruise lines offer complimentary access to their own website—perfect for researching future cruises on board! Just make sure you’re in airplane mode and connected to the same free Wi-Fi you use for the smartphone app.

How to find out when and where the best sea day activities will be on your cruise

So where can you find out all about these amazing sea day activities on your cruise? Reading your daily cruise planner on the ship is the best way to discover what sea day activities are coming up on your specific sailing.

Whether you use the paper copy that arrives in your stateroom each evening, or you prefer using your cruise line’s smartphone app, this is where you’ll find all the best things to do on a sea day—along with when and where you can join in on the fun!

What are your favorite things to do on sea days on a cruise? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Carrie Ann Karstunen