One of the myths of cruising is that there's nothing much to do on board. But oh, baby, are they wrong about that!
I'm here to tell you that cruise ships are full of opportunities to learn, enrich, entertain, educate, play or relax. Large mega-ships are jam-packed with activities to keep passengers busy from dawn till after midnight.
What is there to do on a cruise ship? Let's break down some of the options.
Daily program: Sizing up shipboard activities
A daily program is delivered to your cabin each evening. (Yes, it's on paper. Yes, Cruiseable hopes to digitize these at some point.) Take some time to review the bulletin to discover details about upcoming ports of call, restaurant schedules, entertainment programming and all the activities taking place on the ship.
Although the specific types of activities will vary by ship, below are a few ways to keep busy on the ship. Take note that a materials fee might apply and that not all activities are complimentary.
For foodies & wine lovers
Most ships will offer a variety of cooking demonstrations featuring local cuisine from the ports visited. While some ships will make use of the theater to deliver lessons, other ships have full exposition kitchens for cooking classes. Foodies will love Holland America Line's Culinary Arts Center and Oceania's Bon Appétit Culinary Center.
Crash course in bartending
Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Silversea are just a few of the cruise lines that are happy to show guests how to make popular cocktails. Sign up for the mixology classes, if you are 21 years of age and older, to learn about you how to mix adult beverages. A bartender from the ship teaches a class that usually starts with an overview of the different drinks and ends with a few sips — after all, you need quality control, right?
Wine tasting classes are a popular offering on mid-size and larger ships. In addition to their wine tasting event, Crystal Cruises' sommeliers are always on hand to provide both basic and in-depth information and insights on wines and the wine-making process. Princess Cruises also offers popular wine-tasting classes, so make sure to sign up ahead of time to reserve your space.
Worship the sun
Why not pull up a deck chair and lounge by the pool? Sounds like a good idea, but If you find yourself on a resort-style mega-ship it might be a little difficult to find a seat. Our tip is to splurge on a day pass to the adults-only, exclusive sun deck that is making a splash on the ships. Princess Cruises may have started the trend with The Sanctuary but other lines such as Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean also offer designated deck space with spa-like amenities.
Other options for relaxing by the sea to soak up some rays include booking a stateroom that has private pool access and has a limited number of guests. Norwegian Cruise Line's The Haven and the Yacht Club on MSC Cruises (including MSC Divina) have private pool enclaves for their ship-within-a-ship guests.
Passengers on luxury cruises will never have to fight for chairs by the pool. Cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea have plenty of space for everyone to kick back and enjoy the sun.
Let us entertain you
During sea days, the outdoor public spaces are abuzz with activity. Head to the pool deck to listen to live music, take a dance lesson, play games with other passengers, or watch a movie on a big outdoor screen.
Take a behind the scenes tours of the ship, which is another way to get a look at how the ship is run. Princess Cruises offers "The Ultimate Ship Tour" to a limited amount of guests for a fee.
Of course, one of the best parts of cruising is the nightly entertainment. Try to catch one or more production shows in the theater as well as comedy shows and live musical performances found around the ship.
If learning about how to make healthy choices is on your agenda, then head to the spa and fitness area to sign up for a health and wellness seminar. If that sounds like to much work, then perhaps a massage or a soak in a Thalassotherapy pool is just the ticket.
When it comes to enrichment classes on the ships, Crystal Cruises and Cunard Line get two thumbs up. The Creative Learning Institute on Crystal Cruises is full of learning opportunities offered by experts from Berlitz, Tai Chi Cultural Center and the Cleveland Clinic.
When it comes to destination immersion, Azamara Club Cruises gets a nod. Like a lot of cruise lines, Azamara offers port lectures from experts about the culture and history of the region. These informative talks help set the stage for learning about the places that the ships call on. On most ships, if you miss the port lecture it will be replayed on the television in your room.
Viking Ocean Cruises includes educational shore excursions as part of its base fare. And Silversea offers great cultural immersion to destinations ranging from historic ruins in Turkey to remote villages in eastern Russia.
Shop till you drop
Besides informative lectures about where to shop in port, you'll encounter a wide range of duty-free shops. Shop for designer watches, costume jewelry, scarves, liquor, designer makeup, camera equipment or toys. Don't miss Royal Caribbean's Coach store on Oasis and Allure of the Seas or Celebrity Cruises "Apple store" at sea.
When we think high adrenaline adventure beyond the waterslides at the pools, Royal Caribbean sets the bar: ziplines, ice skating rinks, surf simulators, skydiving simulators, basketball courts and mini-golf are just a few examples of the activities on board.
And don't forget about Norwegian Breakaway, which lets guests (safely tied to a harness) walk The Plank.
What are your favorite activities during a cruise? Please share, I'd love to hear!
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