12 Things to Do on a Cruise (That Don’t Involve Food or Drink)7 min read
They say the average person gains roughly five to 10 pounds on a cruise, with the all-you-can-eat buffets, indulging in cocktails and overall lounging around. But you don’t have to be the average person.
True, you’ll want to get your money’s worth for the price you paid for your ticket, but trust me, you can still get bang for your buck by checking out the many other activities on board instead of hitting the buffet.
I went on an Alaskan cruise with my family last summer, and at first, I was worried that one week at sea might leave me with cabin fever. However, I found there are several family-friendly activities and events for everyone to enjoy. Here are twelve things to do on a cruise that don’t involve eating or drinking, and instead, are likely to keep you on your toes.
1. Get active
Start by making the most of the cruise facilities—the gym, running track and basketball courts. This is a great way to burn calories while also interacting with other travelers. During our cruise, I made it a point to hit the gym every day because, in my mind, I was getting FREE access to a fully-equipped gym, whereas back home I was paying each month to work out. I felt like I was making the most of the cruise experience. Some cruise ships may even have their gyms facing the sea, so you may also be treated to stunning ocean views too; a perk, especially if your stateroom is an inner cabin and does not come with a view.
Beyond the gym, your cruise may have other sports facilities like a basketball court, tennis court or ping pong tables, so take some time to meet fellow travelers and engage your competitive spirit on the court!
2. Karaoke and live music
What happens on the cruise stays on the cruise, right? So show off those pipes and belt out your favorite tunes at karaoke without shame! Or, if you’re less adventurous, simply sit back, relax and let someone else handle the performance. You can unwind at one of the lounges by listening to live music.
Since I love singing, I participated in karaoke on our cruise, singing Michael Bublé’s version of “Feeling Good.” But on another night, we listened to the live band play Latin music and funk. There are so many performances of different musical styles that you are bound to find something you like.
Most cruise ships have some type of shopping mall where you can purchase gifts, luxury items or even bargain items at certain times of the day. When we traveled, one of the shops hosted a tanzanite seminar, during which attendees could learn about the tanzanite gemstone and then shop the cruise ship’s jewelry stores, armed with our new-found knowledge on what to look for in gems. To attract more people to the event, the host even offered the first few attendees a free 1-carat sapphire to take home. Not too shabby of a party favor!
If you’re on a tighter budget and not in the market for high-end jewels, there are other pop-up shopping events as well that feature gift items you can purchase as souvenirs or items you may find useful for your land excursions.
Since we were on an Alaskan cruise, I was tempted to purchase an additional cashmere sweater, but because my suitcase had already been packed to the brim when we boarded the ship, I figured additional items were not necessary, and I’d save any remaining room for souvenirs purchased during our land visits.
4. Bingo and games
At certain times of the day on specific days, travelers could participate in bingo and trivia. Here, you could either try your luck or test your general knowledge for a chance to win cash or other prizes. So if you’ve emptied your wallet shopping, perhaps try to win back some of it here. The bingo games did require buy-in, but trivia was free to participate.
5. Learn to dance (and other lessons)
I have always been in love with salsa and other forms of Latin dance, so when I saw that Latin ballroom classes were being offered one day, I dragged my husband to it. It was a brief class but taught by professional dancers who were part of the cruise ship’s entertainment show cast. They broke down a routine into steps and had us follow along, so by the end of the session, we had learned a fully choreographed dance.
Additionally, on the second day of the cruise, the cruise director rallied everyone to the open-air deck to warm up on a windy Alaskan morning with some Zumba. It was the most fun we had on board the cruise as three generations of my family were on their feet and moving!
If dancing is not your thing, there are other workshops and classes to learn from as well. For instance, on our cruise, there was an art lesson in the gallery, for which the presenter shared slides of different impressionists, and explained the history of the artist and the unique features of their work.
Finally, depending on your cruise line and destination, there may be experts who present information about the place you are visiting. On board our ship, two naturalists presented on the geography and wildlife of Alaska, so when we passed certain mountain ranges or kept an eye out for whales, we knew what to look for. It was educational and made us enjoy cruising the Inside Passage much more.
If you know your way around the blackjack table, poker or roulette, head to the cruise ship’s casino. Some cruise operators may even give you a voucher in a small amount just to get you started, so place your bets!
This one may sound pretty obvious or basic, but actually, it’s important. You’ve paid a hefty price to travel and experience a cruise, and part of that is actually taking in the sights around you—enjoying your destination and the journey there.
On our Alaskan cruise, part of the fun was simply cruising through southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, keeping an eye out for whales, porpoises and other marine life, and marveling at the mountains of Glacier Bay National Park. For whale watching from the cruise, you have to keep your eye on the water steadily, looking for breaks in the waves and mist spraying from a whale’s blowhole. This quest for whales was exhilarating and addicting, and I found myself passing hours just staring at the sea.
8. Watch a movie
Check the show times to find out what movies are playing on the big screen. You might find an action-thriller, romantic comedy, or family-friendly animated film.
Our movie theater was located outdoors at the back of the ship, so you could snuggle up under a blanket in one of the chairs for a cozy cinematic experience.
9. Water activities
Your cruise ship will likely have at least one swimming pool, and probably several other water activities such as water slides, Jacuzzis or even a water park. If you’re cruising to a tropical destination, use this time to cool off, or if you’re traveling with younger children, spend time with the family here.
10. Relax at the Spa
Pamper yourself at the ship’s spa with a rejuvenating treatment to relax and revitalize, or freshen up your look for one of the formal dinners by treating yourself to a new ‘do, mani or pedi. I was tempted to get my hair done one night just to indulge, but I was having so much fun with the other activities on board that I didn’t want to waste 1-2 hours sitting in a chair getting my hair done when I could be using that time elsewhere.
Since the bars and lounges play live music and feature DJs, there’s ample opportunity to trip the light fantastic. On the night we listened to live Latin music, my family and I couldn’t keep still in our seats. We finally had to make it to the dance floor, which was also a good way to work off the cocktails we had just ordered!
12. Go to a show
The live shows on a cruise feature some of the best talent I’ve seen. This includes musical performances, theatrical dances, and spectacles similar to (but smaller in scale than) a Cirque du Soleil show or the Lido in Paris.
During our first night cruising, we watched a vocal impressionist impersonate several famous singers in both styles of music and mannerisms. I was most impressed with her renditions of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. The show was not only delightful to listen to, but was also entertaining to watch since she used wigs and humor as part of her act.
On other nights, we were treated to a Beatles tribute show and a Cirque-du-Soleil-esque extravaganza, complete with coordinated dance routines, gymnastic feats, contortions, elaborate light displays and backdrops. It was our last evening on the cruise, and this exuberant spectacle was a perfect way to end our trip together.
With fitness, dance, music, shopping and a little R&R, there’s certainly more to do on a cruise than eat and drink. It’s up to you to make the most of what a cruise has to offer, so use the time connect with yourself and your fellow travelers by engaging in the ample activities on board.