Love 'em or hate 'em -- sea days are a staple on nearly all cruise itineraries. From morning till night, there's nowhere to go but onboard venues. Some folks are thrilled with this arrangement, anticipating a blissful day of zoning out in the sun or a jam-packed day running from the gym to trivia to a wine tasting to a dance class and then a show. Others fear boredom and claustrophobia with no land in sight.
No matter your approach to sea days, here are 10 things you should not do when spending an entire day on a cruise ship.
1. Ignore your daily newsletter.
The daily newsletter left on your bed each evening is your sea day bible. It contains everything you need to know about onboard activities, dining times, special events and any one-day sales or discounts. Lose it, toss it or ignore it, and you might be missing out.
2. Pack your schedule too full.
In fear of being bored on a sea day, you might prepare an over-ambitious schedule for the day, with every waking hour devoted to a different activity. Port days are generally frenetic, so be sure to save some time on your day off from touring for more leisurely activities, like a long lunch, a soak in the hot tub or reading time on your balcony.
3. Miss out on special events.
Some noteworthy events take place only on sea days. Perhaps it's a special sea day brunch or a behind-the-scenes tour or even a matinee show. If you're having trouble deciding how to plan your day, prioritize any events you won't have a chance to attend again. You can always go on the water slide tomorrow.
4. Eat all your meals at the buffet.
The indoor and outdoor buffets and pool deck grills are a madhouse on sea days because people don't want to stray far from their lounge chair or change from their swimwear into main dining room attire. However, sea days are the perfect time for a more refined breakfast or lunch in the ship's restaurant. You're not rushing out to a tour so you can linger over your morning repast, and we can assure you the line to get into the dining room lunch won't be as long as the one at the buffet. Plus, as noted earlier, some lines do special sea day meals you don't want to miss.
5. Reserve lounge chairs you don't plan to use for hours.
Or, in cruise speak, don't be a chair hog. Do not get up at the crack of dawn, put a book, sunglasses and towel on a lounger in a prime location, then go back to sleep or to breakfast or to the gym, and expect to swagger over to your saved chair somewhere in the vicinity of 1 p.m. It's completely rude -- especially on a day when many people want to spend time in those loungers. It's OK to save your chair while you take a dip or run off to grab a quick bite, but if you plan to be gone for more than 30 minutes, give up your spot to someone who will actually use it.
6. Go to the spa or gym at peak times.
No one wants to miss time in port, so everyone plans their massages and manicures for sea days -- and schedules in a workout in a futile attempt to counteract the prior evening's chocolate indulgence. The result is that the onboard fitness center is packed on sea day mornings and often in the late afternoon, the spa is booked solid and thermal suites packed to their less-than-serene gills. If you want to pump some iron, consider going during meal times when crowds are thinner; if you want some pampering, book your spa treatment early (or online pre-cruise) and plan your sauna time for very early or very late in the day.
7. Start drinking at 9 a.m.
The pool bar opens early and the drinks flow well into the evening on a sea day. If you start the morning with a bloody mary, crack open your first beer at 10:30 a.m. and plan a liquid-heavy lunch, you will be over-the-top inebriated by dinner. Drunken sea days lead to sunburn (when you pass out on the pool deck with no sunscreen on), unpleasant dinners for your eating companions (as you rave on drunkenly) or -- worse -- sleeping right through dinner and missing the evening fun. Remember to pace yourself; you do want to remember your fun cruise experience.
8. Spend all day indoors.
You booked a cruise for that salty sea breeze and the calming views of waves rushing past your ship. If you spend your sea day at the spa, shops, casino or show lounges, you'll miss the best of cruising -- being outside while sailing. If you must catch the expert lecturer right before bingo, at least pause on your way across the ship to take a couple of lungfuls of sea air before continuing into an over-air-conditioned, windowless space.
9. Sleep the day away.
Even worse than spending the entire day indoors is spending your sea day out cold in your cabin. We get that vacation is a time for partying late, sleeping in and indulging in afternoon naps, but you didn't pay all that money just to snooze the days away. Set an alarm -- for 10:30 if need be -- and make sure you experience some of the fun activities your ship has to offer.
10. Forget your budget.
On sea days, cruisers are a captive audience, and the cruise line schemes to separate you from your hard-earned cash with shopping events in the onboard boutique, poker challenges in the casino and some enticing treatments at the spa. If you're bored, it's pretty easy to plunk yourself down in front of a slot machine or go window shopping -- only to come to your senses several hundred, or thousand, pounds later. Remember your vacation budget and cut yourself off when you get too close to your pre-set limits.