Most cruises have at least one ‘sea day’ in a voyage (if you are cruising for 5 or more days), although cruise lines like certain MSC itineraries and all the river cruise lines are very port intensive and will stop off somewhere new every day.
What do you do on board on those days, before the evening entertainment begins, either if you are not a sun worshipper or if the weather is inclement and you have to stay inside?
Here are a few suggestions:
Treat yourself to a meal in a speciality restaurant (perhaps with a manicure or massage beforehand or visit the hair salon on a less busy non formal night).
If you can’t wait until the evening, what about afternoon tea? Traditional afternoon tea is served on most British ships including Cunard’s famed white glove service with dancing in the Queens Room, cream teas featuring heavily laden cake stands in the Observatory Lounge on Fred. Olsen Cruise Line's Balmoral or a seasonal inspired champagne afternoon tea in the Epicurean on board the P&O Britannia.
There are some superb libraries at sea as well as some not so good ones, but they all offer informative books on the destinations and ports of call on your cruise, giving you the opportunity to swot up on the places you were going to research before you left home, but didn’t!!
My favourite libraries are those on Holland America Line’s Prinsendam (it must be one of the largest at sea on a per passenger basis) as well as the 2 deck high, wood panelled library complete with full time librarians and over 6000 books on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. The libraries are often also the points of collection for the daily sudoku and crosswords, the précised news sheets and maybe even a jigsaw, which everyone is invited to help finish by putting in a piece or two as they go past.
If the plethora of running machines, free weights, spinning bikes and TRX suspension kits are not too your taste, what about a yoga class (Celebrity Cruises' ships offer up to 7 different types of yoga) or a skip round the boxing ring on Freedom of the Seas and other Royal Caribbean Freedom and Oasis class ships.
Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes – many ships offer dancing, including ‘Strictly Come Dancing Cruises’ with P&O Cruises and the American equivalent, ‘Dancing with The Star’ on Holland America Line ships. A lot of them provide gentlemen hosts for ladies travelling either alone or with an unwilling dance partner.
The covered Games Deck on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria allows you to play indoor tennis, croquet and practise your fencing moves. You can play a slightly shorter version of 10 pin bowling on one of eight lanes on Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic or come face to face with the digital age and virtual/simulated sports screens on Disney Cruise Line's Dream and Fantasy. Other fun and fitness options include ice skating or roller skating on Royal Caribbean's Voyager, Freedom, Oasis and Quantum Class ships and simulation sky diving on Quantum Class ships.
As a token gesture to energy balance you could alternatively book an Aqua Spa cabin or suite on a Celebrity ship, where you can enjoy the lighter choices offered in the exclusive Aqua Class restaurant Blu or breakfast on a smoothie and healthy muffin at the Spa cafes. Other cruise lines like Oceania and Regent Seven Seas integrate the Canyon Ranch Spa menus on board and Silversea offers cruise lite options for the calorie conscious in its restaurants.
In addition to the Aqua Class cabins offered by Celebrity Cruises which are situated right next to the spa with complimentary access to the Persian Garden steam room and relaxation room, most cruise ships offer spa facilities and treatments. Some of the newer ships have a spa area well away from the gym and other wellness areas, eg. Princess Cruises' Royal and Regal Princess and P&O’s Britannia.
The Canyon Ranch spa on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is the largest spa at sea with 20,000 sq ft. of treatment space. Smaller, but equally impressive is the 9000 sq ft Vista Spa and Salon on Disney Cruise Line's Wonder, with Romanesque inspired saunas and steam rooms and the Mandara spas on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
Check out the daily ships paper for treatments of the day and especially any offers or deals on port days. These often offer the best value for treatments.
From the Cookery Classes on board P&O’s Britannia or Holland America Line ships to learning bridge or photography workshops. Try your skills at napkin folding or flower arranging, bid or watch the bidding at an art.auction. You can even join a choir on longer voyages. Perhaps you would prefer to spend some time in The iLounge on board Celebrity Cruise ships, finally getting to grips with your Macbook or mastering the skills of digital photography in one of their workshops.
Alternatively you could listen to a guest speaker, be it one taking part in a themed cruise like gardening, crafting, jazz, wine or chocolate tasting or not. Cruise lines like Swan Hellenic, Voyages to Antiquity and Voyages of Discovery gear the majority of their entertainment round the expert lectures and talks on board, offering historical, political, cultural or geographical insights into forthcoming ports of call. Similarly, wildlife and ecological experts sail on expedition ships like Hurtigruten and Silversea presenting briefings and de briefings as well as accompanying shore excursions.
There really is a lot to do on a ship – probably more than you can fit into just the one sea day, so for your next cruise why not check out the number of sea days, consider a Transatlantic crossing or even a sector or two of a world cruise?