8 Reasons To Stay On Your Cruise Ship When In Port

Cruises offer a great opportunity to see the world and explore a wide range of ports. You can step off into fascinating cities, or enjoy beautiful beach resorts at your leisure.

But what if you don’t want to?

Cruise ships tend to spend around 8-9 hours in most ports, and that’s time you could put to excellent use on the ship instead if you’d prefer it. 

A bustling cruise port terminal at night, beautifully illuminated against the evening sky. The scene is in Barcelona, known for its iconic Port Vell. Several cruise ships are docked at the terminal, with their lights reflecting on the calm waters of the harbor. The image includes the famous Columbus Monument and the distinctive cable car tower, adding a cultural and historic dimension to the modern, lively maritime setting. The city's skyline in the background, lit under the night sky, adds a vibrant backdrop to this active port, capturing the essence of a major European cruise hub.

You can ALWAYS stay on a cruise ship while in port

You are never obligated to get off a cruise ship in port and go explore. You can always stay on the ship if you’d rather do that – it can be a great way to relax, save money and take advantage of the ship’s facilities.

Let’s look at the best reasons to stay on a cruise ship.

1. Peace and quiet!

One of the best reasons for staying on the ship is also one of the simplest – the feeling of peace and quiet when most of the guests have gone ashore.

Don’t get me wrong – cruise ships are generally relaxing places to be and there are usually spots you can find if you want to escape the crowds.

But they are busy places too, and during the evenings or on sea days the atmosphere can get quite lively. So it’s nice to experience a ship at a quieter time, and just soak up a more soothing atmosphere when you have the chance.

This image showcases the Suite Sun Deck on the Wonder of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, providing an exclusive retreat for suite guests. The deck features a modern, curved infinity pool that seems to merge with the ocean horizon. Sleek, white sun loungers are neatly arranged, offering passengers a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the panoramic sea views under large white umbrellas. The overall atmosphere is one of tranquility and luxury, set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and open sea, emphasizing the premium experience aboard the ship.

2. No queues for the best attractions or other features

Another reason to stay on the ship is the chance to try some of the facilities without having to wait in long lines.

Modern cruise ships have all kind of fun features – ziplines, go-karting tracks, rock climbing walls, surfing simulators… And when the ship is full, these popular attractions can often have long wait times.

Passengers in go-karts race on the NCL Racing track atop the NCL Bliss cruise ship, with a stunning mountainous backdrop and lush greenery surrounding them, offering an exhilarating and scenic on-board activity.

Port days are quieter, although make sure you check the daily planner for opening times for attractions as some may close on port days, or have exclusive sessions designed for suite guests or people on special packages.

It’s not just the attractions either – if you need to speak to the guest services team about an issue, do it on a port day and you’ll find no queue to wait in, meaning you can get the boring admin stuff out of the way faster.

The modern and welcoming Guest Services desk on a Carnival Cruise ship, featuring a curved counter with several computer terminals, informational screens, and elegant lighting, ready to assist passengers with their inquiries.

3. Port day offers

Often you’ll find that cruise ships have special offers when the ship’s in port, meaning you can get a great deal on something that would normally cost more.

This is most common in the spa. Beauty treatments and massages are extremely popular when guests are onboard during sea days or in the build-up to formal nights, but they’re often quiet on port days when most guests are ashore.

A tranquil spa experience onboard an MSC cruise ship, where a guest enjoys a relaxing massage from a professional therapist in a serene room with an ocean view, emphasizing wellness and relaxation at sea.

So there could be discounted offers on treatments that you can take advantage of. These will be advertised in advance because they know they need to convince people to stay onboard to try them, so keep an eye out and see if you can grab a deal. 

4. Empty (ish) swimming pool and hot tubs

Cruise ship swimming pools are hardly massive, and so when everyone’s onboard, you aren’t so much swimming as standing in water. Which is still relaxing, but it’s really nice to take a dip on a port day when you can at least float around a bit, even if the pool still isn’t big enough for a few laps.

This image captures a clear and inviting view of the pool area on the deck of the Star Legend cruise ship, featuring both a large rectangular swimming pool and a smaller circular hot tub. The deck is laid out with textured tiles that enhance the safety and aesthetics of the space. Sun loungers and open deck areas provide ample space for relaxation and sunbathing under a vast blue sky. The setting is designed for optimal leisure, with the ship's structure and the endless ocean horizon providing a dramatic and tranquil backdrop.

Hot tubs can be even worse – there are never enough on a sea day, and some people love to stay in them for hours.

If you want to relax in a hot tub but hate sharing with loads of other people, or having to jump in quickly when there’s space, try using them on a port day and you should find it a lot easier.

This image shows a luxurious hot tub on the deck of the Norwegian Cruise Line's Encore ship, offering passengers a relaxing soak with an expansive view of the ocean. The hot tub is elegantly designed, positioned on a raised platform and surrounded by a mosaic tile pattern. Passengers can enjoy a leisurely time in the tub or lounge on the numerous sunbeds lined along the deck. The clear skies and vast sea in the background create a serene and inviting atmosphere, perfect for relaxation while cruising.

5. Save money on excursions

Cruise excursions can be expensive, even if you try to save money by booking them through a third party. With that in mind, you might prefer to save some money by staying on the ship and enjoying the facilities.

Some ports are walkable and can be enjoyed without excursions but if the main attractions are paid-for then think about whether you really need to book onto something, or if you’d be just as happy on the ship.

You’ll also save money on lunch, and on drinks if you have a drinks package onboard, since you can get everything from the ship instead of paying for something shoreside.

This image portrays a tranquil breakfast scene on the balcony of an Oceania Cruises stateroom. A woman in a comfortable robe is seated, gazing out at the ocean, with a well-presented breakfast spread before her. The table holds a variety of breakfast items including a plate of fresh, sliced fruits, a croissant, and a hot dish with an omelet, grilled tomato, and sausages, accompanied by coffee and juice. This setting captures the essence of luxurious cruising, offering a private and serene dining experience with a breathtaking ocean view.

6. You’ve done the port already

One of the main reasons people like to skip a port is if they’ve done it already.

Some ports are absolutely worth a repeat visit – either to see things you didn’t manage to catch on your last trip, or just to enjoy the same sights and atmosphere that you loved the first time round.

But others can feel a bit samey once you’ve done them once before, and so those are the ones you might decide can be skipped.

7. You don’t want a long journey

Not all cruise ports are slap-bang in the centre of a city. Some of them, like Le Havre for Paris or Civitavecchia for Rome, are a considerable distance from the main sights that you’re looking to visit.

This image features the Port of Civitavecchia, the cruise and ferry port located near Rome, Italy. The photo offers a beautiful view of the harbor at dusk, with soft, warm light bathing the scene. Small boats and yachts are docked in the calm waters, while the background is lined with a mixture of modern and traditional architecture, including colorful buildings. A small, ancient fortification sits near the waterfront, adding historical context to this busy port that serves as a gateway to Rome for many travelers. The tranquil waters and pastel-colored sky create a serene and picturesque setting.

You just might not fancy stepping off the ship to then go and sit on a coach or train for a couple of hours, to have a few hours exploring before getting back on your transport for the return journey.

That’s especially true when the weather’s nice – you can either sunbathe by the pool, or sit in a small seat on a sweaty, stuffy coach for a little while that might have air-con but it won’t be amazing.

The journey may be worth it if you really want to see the city – but it might not.

8. Port-intensive cruises

A lot of cruises can be pretty intensive on port visits. There are several cruise itineraries that don’t have sea days, especially if you fly into the Mediterranean to start your cruise, or you’re in the Caribbean bouncing between islands.

This vibrant aerial image showcases Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island destination in the Bahamas. The photo captures the island's extensive waterpark, featuring colorful waterslides, including a massive red spiral slide, a wave pool, and an expansive swimming area. A large cruise ship is docked at the island's pier, adding to the scene's dynamic and festive atmosphere. The island is surrounded by lush greenery and crystal-clear turquoise waters, creating a perfect tropical escape for visitors. The bright colors and fun-filled water activities highlight the island as a family-friendly vacation hotspot.

That’s fun, but it can be pretty tiring, especially if you’re doing a lot of walking tours. You might get to your third or fourth port day and just decide that you want a break, to rest your feet and take a load off.

For these types of itineraries, it’s best to plan in advance. You don’t want to exhaust yourself on your first three days if day four is the destination you’re looking forward to the most.

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Final word

Your cruise is yours to enjoy as you like, so don’t feel like you’re making a mistake if you decide to stay onboard for a day. You might feel like you’re missing out on a port, but you can always cruise again if you want to!

A good compromise, if you’re torn, is to head ashore for an hour or two just to see what the area’s like, and then return to the ship for the rest of the day when it’s still quiet.

My best advice is to research each port in advance, because then you’ll know which are the ones worth exploring and which ones you might prefer to skip.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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