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Why savvy travelers prefer staying on the cruise ship during port days

28 May 2024
Calista Kiper

You could disembark your cruise ship while in port for a tour, or stay on board and enjoy a relatively empty ship.

Ship docked in port

The destinations a cruise ship visits is a major reason why people book a cruise. Destinations are one of the top two reasons people book a cruise (along with food).

Because of this, it might not make much sense when you see cruisers choose to stay on board and not visit the port of call for the day.

However, there are great benefits to staying on board during a port day.

Not only is cruising one of the most affordable forms of travel, but the cruise ship can also become a destination in itself.

Casino bar

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are built with countless amenities, activities, and forms of entertainment: from pools to shows to casinos and food venues.

Because there's so much to see and do on board, some cruisers choose to skip certain ports and stay on the ship for the whole day.

If you're wondering why this is a smart decision, here are seven reasons to stay on board when your cruise ship stops at a port.

Take time to slow down and relax

Especially on port-intensive cruises, it becomes easy to cram your schedule full of activities. 

From morning stretches to afternoon short excursions to evening shows, there will always be something to do on board the ship or offshore at the port.

If you don't intentionally plan a time to rest, you could become burned out. Overbooking yourself could lead to a less-than-pleasant experience if you or your fellow travelers become tired and cranky.

Skipping one of the port days on your itinerary is a great way to schedule some relaxation.


You could read a book, rest by the pool, take a nap in your stateroom (or any other quiet place!), and sit at a bar and have a drink in peace. 

As long as you are intentional about making yourself relax, staying on board is a great way to take advantage of a quiet day.

Read more: How to de-stress on a Royal Caribbean cruise (without alcohol)

Skip the lines

Zipline on Harmony of the Seas

When other cruisers visit a popular cruise ship port and you remain onboard, you'll find fewer people remaining.

This is a great opportunity to avoid lines at more crowded locations, such as the Windjammer, where it can be hard to grab a seat and find a quiet place to eat.

You'll also find shorter lines if you need assistance at Guest Services, or want to try an onboard attraction.


With access to adventures like zip lines, sports centers, ice skating, laser tag, the FlowRider surf simulator, water slides, and dry slides, there are endless activities to try.

By waiting until a port day, you'll give yourself extra time and also avoid a long wait in line.

Get discounts on spa treatments

Spa on Voyager of the Seas

Getting a deep tissue massage or facial on a cruise ship sounds like an amazingly luxurious experience.

Royal Caribbean's Vitality spa offers amazing treatments like collagen facials and seaweed massages, as well as couple's services.

However, these treatments are an extra-cost add-on, and these spa package prices run quite high. 

One of the best ways to get a discount is to wait until a port day. 

Thermal spa

The Vitality spa often offers discounts on port days, as well as the first and last day of the cruise.

If crew members at the spa see that the ship is not booking enough appointments they may offer more discounts on board. 

Since port days are less busy at the spa, they're likely to offer good discounts for treatments and salon services.

You won't get bored of popular ports

Bahamas water as seem from Royal Caribbean cruise ship

If you're a frequent cruiser to a certain region (like Alaska, the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean), you've probably visited some common ports more than once.

As someone who has taken a lot of Caribbean cruises, I've frequently stopped at Nassau, Bahamas, or Perfect Day at Cococay. It's easy to get tired of visiting these ports. 

Although many of the areas have rich cultures and histories to explore, a port is only one small location.

There's only so far you can explore and travel within the eight hours a cruise ship stops there. 

If there are ports that you frequently visit, you might be better off staying on board the ship rather than repeating a tourist excursion.

Take full advantage of your drink and WiFi packages

Castaway Spritz

Royal Caribbean's drink package is a popular add-on for a cruise. By purchasing the package, you receive unlimited drinks per day for one set price. 

The deluxe drink package, which includes unlimited alcoholic and specialty drinks, costs $56 to $105 per day, per person.

If you visit the port, however, you'll pay extra for alcoholic drinks no matter where you go.

Similarly, WiFi is a common add-on that people pay extra for.

Wifi internet

Royal Caribbean's Voom Wi-Fi costs about $20 to $30 a day per device.

The only port where you can still use these packages onshore is Perfect Day at CocoCay, where you'll still have a valid drink package and access to WiFi.

At such a high cost per day, it makes sense that you'd want to stay onboard the ship to take full advantage of these packages.

Since you're already paying per day of the cruise, but can't use them onshore, staying onboard for at least one port day gives you extra time to take advantage of your packages at no extra cost.

Grab a space at the pool deck

Icon of the Seas Royal Bay Pool

A huge benefit to staying onboard while other cruisers disembark to explore is avoiding the typical cruise ship crowds.

On sea days, you'll commonly fight to find a chair at the popular pool decks. Large groups and chair hogs tend to take over and reserve the majority of the pool chairs.

If you enjoy soaking in the hot tubs, you'll also notice how quickly they can fill to capacity. It's hard to find areas with any free space!


On port days, however, you'll find a quieter atmosphere to relax in.

This is especially advantageous if you're traveling with children. They'll be able to splash and play in the water while you watch from a chair close by.

Save money by enjoying what's on the cruise ship

Aquadome Market

While port adventures can include enriching experiences, the cost tends to add up.

Once you exit the ship, you could end up paying for shore excursions, beach access and chairs, museum tickets, souvenirs, and food and drinks.

Especially in tourist-heavy areas like cruise ports, there are constant sales and marketing attempts.

If your goal is a budget-friendly cruise, staying onboard the ship can make that happen.

Aquatheater show on Icon

Your cruise fare, once paid, includes access to your stateroom, free meals, amenities, pool chairs, beach towels, entertainment, and complimentary games and activities.

Why explore somewhere else, when there's lots to do onboard for free?

Read more: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

Why savvy travelers prefer staying on the cruise ship during port days

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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