Cruise Tips12 Top Mistakes Cruisers Make on Cruise Ship Sea Days

12 Top Mistakes Cruisers Make on Cruise Ship Sea Days

Get the most out of your sea day by avoiding these common mistakes

A sea day can be one of the best parts of a cruise.   But if you want to make the most of it you should try to avoid a few of these pitfalls.

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Caribbean Princess cruise ship showing aft pool and view
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Just because your cruises ship isn’t pulling into an exotic port during a particular day of your cruise doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing time on your cruise vacation.  In fact, a sea day is one of the best times to indulge in all the ship has to offer.

I love sea days on a cruise.  Even without the excitement of a port day full of excursions and exploration, a sea day allows you to really enjoy the cruise ship itself.  Both the design of the ship and the energy of the crew help to make a sea day one of the most memorable days on a cruise.

Here are some of the most common mistakes cruisers make on a sea day.


1. Forgetting to check the daily planner

Every night you can look over the cruise ship’s daily planner and review the activities for the next day.   You can do this through the ship’s mobile app as well.

Even if only a fraction of the daily events look interesting, you should know what’s going on around the ship.

Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

I can’t tell you how many times I missed out on a corn hole tournament, trivia event, or other fun activity on board because I didn’t look at the planner until after the fact.  So yes, this is advice I need to heed myself.

And a sea day will often have a ton of options for things to do and see throughout the day.  You can’t do all of them, but highlight the ones you want to check out and make the most of your day at sea.

While you’re at it try something you’ve never done before.  A cruise is the best time to be adventurous.

Read more: Buyers remorse: 10 things cruisers most regret buying on a cruise


2. Waiting too long to grab a lounger

Remember, no one is getting off the ship on a sea day, so you will be sharing those sun decks with every other cruise passenger.  If you wait too long to find the right spot to catch some sun rays you may find there’s nothing left, or at least nothing is left in the best areas of the ship.

The best times to get an available lounger are early mornings and at the start of dinner time.  These are also the most inconvenient times for most cruisers, which is why it creates an opportunity for you.

empty loungers by a pool on Harmony of the Seas
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

This is also where the design of the ship plays a large part in your ability to even find an available lounger.

By the way, if you do happen to find a lounger by the pool don’t turn into a lounge chair hog.  The pet peeve of many cruisers is the common practice of “reserving” a lounger with bags and towels while the owner is nowhere in sight for hours at a time.  Be courteous of other passengers.

Read more: 10 ways to be the most disliked passenger at sea


3. Being stingy with the sunscreen

If you’re on a cruise to the Bahamas or Caribbean, you may not realize just how intense the sun can be compared to back home.

And if your best version of a sea day involves laying in the sun all day you will want to be thorough in your application of that sunscreen.

This might require a few applications throughout the day, especially if that supposed water-resistant sunscreen isn’t so resistant to water after a few plunges in the cruise pool.

I’ve fallen asleep in a cruise ship lounger before, only to wake up to a burning sensation that just about ruined a care-free cruise.


4. Not exploring the ship

I like to explore the ship as part of my embarkation day check list.  Even if you’ve watched dozens of Youtube videos on your cruise ship you can’t get a real feel for it until you’ve walked around for a while.

From front to back explore every public space the ship has to offer.  This way you will spend less time turning around, getting lost, and wondering how to get to that particular lounge where karaoke takes place after dinner.

Walking around the ship is also a great way to combine exercise with exploration, as you will come across a talented musician, family game show, or other fun event taking place.


5. Hitting the pool at peak times

Cruise pool on Celebrity Silhouette
“Early bird gets the pool.. all to themselves.” Main pool on Celebrity Silhouette Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

You might not mind a crowded pool, but if you want a pool that you can actually swim in you will want to avoid those peak hours of the day.  As mentioned earlier, you can hit the pool first thing in the morning or wait until around dinner time to find a more vacant pool.

Some cruise ships will close the pool at 9pm or 10pm which has always been a pet peeve of mine, since I enjoy a late- night swim.  So, you will want to check the pool hours if you plan on swimming after dark.

Making use of the adults-only pool may be an option if your cruise ship has a designated pool like this.


6. Not booking a spa treatment early

Viking Sky thermal suite
Thermal suite on Viking Sky. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

You might not even think about booking a massage or nail treatment service from the spa until the sea day actually arrives, but by then it’s usually too late as all the slots are booked.

Plan ahead and book that spa treatment well in advance of your cruise.  You already know when your sea days will take place.   Be the early bird that is rewarded by a little pampering while everyone else clamors to get a lounger during the day.

Another helpful tip is to get a tour of the spa and thermal suite on embarkation day.  The spa usually has free raffles with prizes like free massages and treatments.  This also gives you a chance to check out the facilities in person and book your sea day treatment right then and there.

Related: 11 extra-charge cruise perks worth every penny


7. Neglecting the many eateries on board

A sea day offers you the opportunity to spend more time on the ship.  This also means you can try something different to eat from as many places as possible on board.

This is where it pays to know all the places on board that are complimentary.  You will want to take advantage of these.  I’ve cruised with so many who at the end of the cruise stated they didn’t even know a particular restaurant was included in the cruise price.

You can make the sea day a sort of progressive dinner throughout the day if you’re a foodie.  You will want to book those specialty restaurants well in advance though.

There are also some ships that have other eateries available like pastry shops, chocolate cafes, and even crepe stations like on MSC’s Meraviglia-class ships.


8. Missing out on a unique activity

This goes along with reading your daily planner.  Because it’s a sea day your ship will do things that are not available on port days.   Take advantage of that.

While on a Celebrity Cruises ship I attended a cooking demonstration that not only was really insightful but I also got several free samples out of it.  In fact, I ate so many delicious samples that I wasn’t even hungry for lunch.

Some other types of activities might include a tour of areas of the ship that are usually off-limits, contests, tournaments, and dozens of other things, including a session on how to make your own towel animals at home.

This might be your only day to actually try one of these activities so dive in and have some fun.

Read more:  Cabin rules: 10 things you should never do in your cabin


9. Neglecting some of the shopping deals

A sea day will also be the perfect time to get a great deal from some of the shops around the ship.  You will often see “sidewalk sale” types of events with kiosks and tables on the lido deck or in the promenade.  While not everything is actually a “deal” perse, you can often find some good prices on sunglasses, watches, and t-shirts to proudly remind you of your awesome vacation at sea.


10. Not finding time to relax

Just because there are a myriad of activities going on around the ship doesn’t mean you have to do them all.

I made this mistake early on in my cruising journey.  I plain wore myself out by trying to keep every hour busy with some kind of trivia, ping-pong tournament, or waterpark extravaganza.  In the end, I just wanted to relax in a shaded lounger that faced the ocean and unwind.

And that’s the great thing about cruising.  There’s something for everyone.  But those 7 days on a ship can go by very quickly.  Take those little breaks between amusements so you won’t be totally worn out by the time you pull back into port back home.


11. Missing out on some enrichment

Not every cruise ship will have their own expert who provides lectures on various topics, but this is something I very much enjoy, even for a man in his 40’s.   On several Viking Ocean cruises I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the lectures that allowed me to learn so much more about the port our ship was about to visit the next day.

During a cruise around Iceland an expert on volcanoes (a Volcanologist) provided one of the most insightful lectures I’ve ever heard at sea.  Not only did he display pictures and videos of the area but there was also a time for questions, and he was available during certain times in one of the lounges on the ship.

Keep an eye peeled for lectures about the ports you will be visiting for an even more insightful experience once you get to shore.


12. Being unprepared for motion in the ocean

An average cruise ship will travel at speeds of about 20 knots (23 miles per hour).  On a sea day your ship experiences more movement than you might be used to.  And while modern day cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers you may want to have some seasickness medication on hand just in case.

Caribbean Princess cruise ship from side during sea day
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

The speed of your ship affects how rough the ride feels, and the distance to the next port of call will determine how fast the captain has to travel.

This will also affect the wind factor on board the ship.  I was in a basketball shooting tournament on a Royal Caribbean cruise once in which the wind gusts were so bad on that sea day that you had to shoot the ball 6 feet to the right for the wind to carry it back toward the goal.  Needless to say these were some rough seas as well, so be prepared for the worst and expect the best.


Bottom Line

You can expect to face a few crowds on a sea day with a fully booked cruise ship.  But there are always ways to avoid the crowds.  Plan your sea day ahead just as you would a day in port and you will be well-prepared for an amazing experience.  Reserve those spa treatments, specialty restaurants, and other activities in advance and allow for some free time so it’s also a relaxing day.

What’s your favorite way to spend time on a cruise ship during a sea day?  Let us know in the comments below.

Read more:  7 ways to avoid spending an extra penny once on board your cruise ship

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Cruise Tips12 Top Mistakes Cruisers Make on Cruise Ship Sea Days


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