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World's largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, begins its maiden voyage after christening from Lionel Messi

Updated on: January 27, 2024 / 10:51 PM EST / CBS/AP

The world's largest cruise ship is set to begin its maiden voyage Saturday as it gets underway from the Port of Miami.

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, which runs nearly 1,200 feet from bow to stern, is leaving South Florida for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics. The ship was officially christened Tuesday with help from soccer legend Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami teammates.

"Icon of the Seas is the culmination of more than 50 years of dreaming, innovating and living our mission – to deliver the world's best vacation experiences responsibly," Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty said earlier this week. "She is the ultimate multigenerational family vacation, forever changing the status quo in family travel and fulfilling vacation dreams for all ages on board."

Miami Icon of the Seas

When the Icon of the Seas was first revealed in October 2022, the ship spurred the single largest booking day and the highest volume booking week in Royal Caribbean's then 53-year history, according to the cruise line.

The Icon of the Seas is divided into eight neighborhoods across 20 decks. The ship includes six waterslides, seven swimming pools, an ice-skating rink, a theater and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges. The ship can carry up to 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity, along with 2,350 crew members.

Jay Schneider, Royal Caribbean's Chief Product Innovation Officer, says the cruise ship is more than just its amenities.

"It's really about iconic experiences," he said.

Cruising is surging in popularity. Last year, passenger volume outpaced pre-pandemic numbers , and this year is expected to hit a new high of 36 million as spending on experiences has climbed 65% since 2019.

Icon of the Seas Media Day

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This cruise ship can carry nearly 10,000 people. Here’s more of what sets Icon of the Seas apart

There is nothing subtle about the world’s largest cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean’s new, nearly 1,200-foot-long and 250,800 gross ton Icon of the Seas - which set sail from the Port of Miami on its maiden cruise just before sunset on Saturday - towers like a multilayered birthday cake.

The frosting on top is in the form of seven swimming pools, a whimsical striped carousel, groves of tropical greenery and twisting waterslides in green, pink, blue and orange.

When the $2 billion ship sailed into Miami with music blasting on January 10, after crossing the Atlantic – with a pitstop on Puerto Rico – from the shipyard in Turku, Finland, where it was built , it was greeted with a cacophony of fireboat salutes and a banner flag flyover. The commotion brought traffic to a halt along the causeway to Miami Beach that parallels the cruise ship channel.

Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi was even in on the ship’s early fanfare as the Icon of the Seas’ “godfather,” christening the 20-deck ship on January 23.

The ship is officially the biggest cruise ship in the world, with Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas , new in early 2022, trailing close behind at 1,188 feet long and 235,600 gross tons.

Passengers on its maiden voyage, a sold-out, seven-night cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, are now enjoying some next-level experiences at sea.

Icon of the Seas’ list of superlatives and firsts is long

Finding time to fit in everything onboard Icon of the Seas promises to keep passengers busy. And speaking of passengers, the ship can carry a whopping 7,600 guests at full capacity, along with 2,350  crew – so about the whole population of Sedona, Arizona.

Among the behemoth’s attractions, there’s Category 6 – the ship’s 17,000-square-foot water park, currently the largest at sea and sprawled across Decks 16 and 17, with six slides that include Frightening Bolt (the tallest drop slide at sea at 46 feet or 14 meters) and the first family raft slides at sea (Hurricane Hunter and Storm Surge).

The ship has the first cantilevered infinity pool at sea, as well as the largest swimming pool at sea (the 40,000-gallon Royal Bay) and the largest ice arena at sea (Absolute Zero, where guests can skate or watch a performance).

Some 50 musicians and comedians keep passengers entertained with ensembles that include the largest orchestra at sea (16 pieces) as well as the first at-sea performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” complete with flying monkeys. There’s even a resident golden retriever, Rover, dubbed the Chief Dog Officer, who is still a puppy and appears on her own schedule alongside a dedicated handler.

The buzz is real – and so is the blowback

Long before it arrived in Miami, social media images of Icon of the Seas generated online buzz from eager vacationers as well as heavily polarized opinions about the over-the-top ship, in particular about the potential environmental impact of such a large ship.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than required for ships designed today. The company plans to introduce a net-zero ship by 2035.

The ship is Royal Caribbean’s first to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Not everyone is impressed with that choice.

“Royal Caribbean’s decision to use LNG is their biggest climate blunder,” said Bryan Comer, marine program director at The International Council on Clean Transportation.

“LNG is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas that traps more than 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its emitted. The Icon of the Seas uses engines that release methane to the atmosphere in the form of ‘methane slip.’”

The organization says LNG can only “significantly contribute to achieving climate goals” when methane-slip and other factors are greatly reduced or eliminated, which the council says is still a major challenge.

The ship’s parabolic bow — a first for Royal Caribbean — is designed to help a ship move more easily through the water and does help reduce fuel consumption and emissions, Comer said, adding that it also helps the cruise line’s bottom line.

The ship produces more than 93% of its fresh water through reverse osmosis. And Icon of the Seas also has the brand’s first microwave-assisted pyrolysis waste-to-energy system (MAP), used to convert onboard waste to gas that the ship can use as energy.

High interest from avid cruisers

Interest in the massive ship is undeniably high among cruise devotees.

Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic , told CNN Travel that Icon of the Seas is the most researched topic on the cruising website so far in 2024.

For avid cruisers, McDaniel said, the biggest buzz around Icon of the Seas is the fact that it’s the first in an entirely new class of ship for Royal Caribbean, which last debuted a new class of ship, Quantum Class, in 2014.

“Thinking about all that’s changed in cruise – and travel – in the past 10 years, there are so many new concepts and options to be excited about onboard,” McDaniel said, calling Icon of the Seas “absolutely groundbreaking for the industry.”

Next up in Royal Caribbean’s Icon Class of ships is Star of the Seas, under construction in Finland and due to debut in August 2025 for Caribbean sailings out of Florida’s Port Canaveral, near Orlando, with similar amenities to Icon of the Seas.

“The unprecedented demand for Icon of the Seas prompted Royal Caribbean to open bookings for Star of the Seas – Icon’s sister ship – three months earlier than originally planned,” said a company spokesperson.

New ship ‘neighborhoods’

Icon of the Seas’ eight different onboard “neighborhoods” are designed to appeal to cruising’s multigenerational demographics as well as passengers with different interests, including families with young kids and adults-only travelers.

Offerings within them range from Royal Caribbean’s first swim-up bar at sea, Swim & Tonic, in the ship’s Chill Island neighborhood, to The Lemon Post in a new family-focused neighborhood called Surfside, where guests can order mommy-and-me and daddy-and-me cocktails and mocktails within steps of a kiddie splash area.

While Royal Caribbean was already known for its onboard neighborhoods, which guests can bounce between, McDaniel said Icon of the Seas has leveled up the concept on this ship.

“Without a doubt, this ship was created to compete directly with resorts on land, particularly those that cater to families,” she said.

The new ship’s most anticipated offering for families might be Surfside on Deck 7. Geared toward families with kids 6 and younger, it centers around a Seussian-looking carousel for which kids made the ultimate call on the ride-on characters (a rainbow-toothed narwhal and a pool floatie-style flamingo, among other whimsical creatures).

The carousel sits steps from several family-friendly dining options, including a buffet, snack window and new specialty restaurant, Pier 7, with all-day brunch and where kids younger than 12 eat free. And two water play areas for young kids are also nearby and right next to the Water’s Edge pool, where parents can ostensibly keep an eye on their children while also relaxing with ocean views.

For the 18 and up crowd, another new onboard neighborhood, The Hideaway, takes its inspiration from international beach club scenes, with a multilevel terrace with uninterrupted ocean views and the first suspended infinity pool at sea, cantilevered 135 feet (41 meters) above the ocean.

The ship’s features will be particularly impressive to people who have never cruised before, said Rob Clabbers, founder and president of Q Cruise + Travel , a Virtuoso agency in Chicago.

“For Icon of the Seas, the clients that are most excited are families with younger children,” said Clabbers, pointing to features such as the water park, pools and a surf simulator.

The ship is also generating interest from clients who aren’t necessarily traveling with kids, he said, especially the Suite neighborhood, an area that feels like a ship-within-a-ship reserved for suite guests only. Royal Caribbean’s largest Suite neighborhood to date, it spans four decks and has its own private sun deck, pool and hot tub as well as two exclusive restaurants.

“The entertainment, the amenities, the restaurants, the quality of shows and variety of activities – and even the design of the interior and exterior spaces – is simply mind boggling for those who are used to staying in most land-based resorts,” Clabbers said. “And that doesn’t even include the things you can do while ashore.”

More than 40 onboard restaurants, bars and lounges include 21 options new to Icon of the Seas, among them pay-extra offerings such as a walk-up sushi window at Izumi, specialty restaurant Empire Supper Club (with Wagyu ribeye and butter-poached langoustine on an eight-course menu that costs $200 per person) and a walk-up Champagne window at Bubbles in the ship’s Central Park area.

The 28 different kinds of onboard accommodations range from 157-square-foot interior plus cabins, which start at $3,600 per week for two people, to the three-story Ultimate Family Townhouse, with its own wraparound deck, cinema, outdoor hot tub and spiraling slide to ride between decks that averages $100,000 per week and can accommodate eight people.

A marvel of engineering and big aspirations

Impressive feats of engineering are on display everywhere on Icon of the Seas.

The 82-foot-tall steel and glass AquaDome crowns part of the top of the ship, housing a theater where high-divers perform, a 55-foot-tall water curtain feature, a bar and Royal Caribbean’s first food hall.

The sphere-shaped Pearl, on the ship’s World Promenade, towers three decks high and cycles through colorful vignettes, drawing selfie-takers while simultaneously providing structural support midship and opening the area to expansive ocean views.

At a recent press panel onboard the ship, Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, told media that the ship “ticks all the boxes” for what the company was hoping to create.

“It’s big, it’s bold, it’s perfect for the Caribbean, it’s perfect for our market,” Bayley said.

The ship’s offerings are in response to demands the brand heard from cruisers both new to cruising and already loyal to Royal Caribbean, said Jay Schneider, Royal Caribbean’s chief product innovation officer.

“We researched and concept tested and heard the same thing,” he said, naming the desires to make memories, try “firsts” together, bond and have options galore that include “a mashup of thrill and chill” as commonalities that resonated over and over in research sessions.

“Nowhere in our office is there a thing that says, ‘Let’s go build the world’s biggest ship,’” Schneider told CNN Travel. (The original plans were for a ship that was about 50,000 gross tons lighter).

Royal Caribbean International is clearly pitching Icon of the Seas to a market that goes beyond cruising.

“ We didn’t create Icon to compete with other cruise ships,” he said. “We designed it to compete with any other family vacation you wanted to do anywhere else on the planet — from skiing to Vegas to the Grand Canyon.”

Terry Ward  is a Florida-based travel writer and freelance journalist in Tampa whose kids are constantly angling to cruise so they can disappear into the kids club for days.

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The new ship has a total of 20 decks, 18 of which are for guests. - Royal Caribbean International

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The world’s largest cruise ship has 20 decks, 7 pools and would cover almost 4 city blocks

The ship is the size of almost four city blocks and runs nearly 1,200 feet (365 meters) from bow to stern. AP Video by Daniel Kozin.

FILE - The Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, sits docked after arriving to its home port in Miami, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is leaving South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 27, for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

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FILE - Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, sits at dock as it prepares for its inaugural public voyage later this month, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at PortMiami in Miami. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is leaving South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 27, for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

FILE - Waterslides are seen atop a deck overlooking floors of rooms aboard Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, during a media day preview as it prepares for its inaugural public voyage later this month, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Miami. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is leaving South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 27, for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

FILE - Employees and visitors walk in the Royal Promenade area of Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, during a media day preview as it prepares for its inaugural public voyage later this month, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at PortMiami in Miami. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is leaving South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 27, for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Inter Miami soccer player Lionel Messi, center, bumps fists with a member of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers bagpipe band, left, during a naming ceremony for Royal Caribbean International’s new cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Miami. Inter Miami CF has formed a partnership with the cruise line Royal Caribbean International. At right is Jason Liberty, president and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI (AP) — The world’s largest cruise ship — the size of almost four city blocks — is set to begin its maiden voyage Saturday as it leaves from the Port of Miami.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas runs nearly 1,200 feet (365 meters) from bow to stern.

The ship, which is leaving South Florida for its first seven-day island-hopping voyage through the tropics, was officially christened Tuesday with help from soccer legend Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami teammates.

At a glance

The Icon of the Seas:

  • can carry up to 7,600 passengers and 2,350 crew members

The ship has:

  • six waterslides
  • seven swimming pools
  • an ice-skating rink
  • more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges

“Icon of the Seas is the culmination of more than 50 years of dreaming, innovating and living our mission – to deliver the world’s best vacation experiences responsibly,” Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty said earlier this week. “She is the ultimate multigenerational family vacation, forever changing the status quo in family travel and fulfilling vacation dreams for all ages on board.”

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi runs with the ball during the Riyadh Season Cup soccer match between Inter Miami and Al Hilal at Kingdom Arena Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (AP Photo)

The ship sets sail as Royal Caribbean’s cruises are having a moment online. Since December, the company’s 9-month “Ultimate World Cruise” has captivated — and confused — a following of avid watchers on social media.

Millions are following the journey through the eyes of the passengers, as they live and post their lives aboard a vessel they’ll be on for nearly a year. If it sounds like a reality show, that’s exactly what some watchers have turned it into.

When the Icon of the Seas was first revealed in October 2022, the ship spurred the single largest booking day and the highest volume booking week in Royal Caribbean’s then 53-year history, according to the cruise line.

A dancer performs in front of Inter Miami soccer player Lionel Messi, second from left, seated, during an event on the world's largest cruise ship Icon of the Seas, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Miami. The MLS soccer team Inter Miami CF has formed a partnership with the cruise line Royal Caribbean International. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A dancer performs in front of Inter Miami soccer player Lionel Messi, second from left, seated, during an event on the world’s largest cruise ship Icon of the Seas, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Miami. The MLS soccer team Inter Miami CF has formed a partnership with the cruise line Royal Caribbean International. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Icon of the Seas is divided into eight neighborhoods across 20 decks. The ship includes six waterslides, seven swimming pools, an ice skating rink, a theater and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges. The ship can carry up to 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity, along with 2,350 crew members.

It is powered by six dual-fuel engines, which can be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a fuel alternative that the Cruise Lines International Association says reduces sulfur and greenhouse gas emissions. However, some environmentalists worry LNG-powered ships increase methane emissions . Other say that vacationers generate eight times more carbon on a cruise than they do on land.

Royal Caribbean says every kilowatt used on the Icon of the Seas “is scrutinized for energy efficiencies and emission reductions.”

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27 Awesome Things To Do on a Cruise on Sea Days

Best Things to Do on a Cruise on Sea Days

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What to Do on a Cruise on Sea Days

If you’re a new cruiser, you might be wondering what to do on a cruise, and if you’ll be bored on cruise sea days. In my experience, many people who are cruising for the first time are wary of “too many” sea days, and usually more interested in the cruise ports .

Of course, this is completely understandable. Cruising is a great way to visit and see a variety of destinations , all in one trip.

However, sea days are one the best parts of cruising! Since most modern cruise ships have resort-like amenities and some pretty cool activities , there is zero chance that you’ll be bored.

Things to Do on a Cruise Sea Day

Cruise sea days are amazing for relaxing and fun activities

What to Expect on Cruise Sea Days

Cruises have a combination of days in ports of call and days at sea. On sea days, you can do as much or as little as you want. Typically, there are more activities available on the ship than on port days, so these are great days to keep busy if you like.

Many casual restaurants will be open for lunch. This includes the main dining room, which will have a casual sit down lunch menu available. Many cruisers who enjoy a more leisurely pace on sea days enjoy this.

Cruise ship boutiques are open on days at sea, as is the cruise ship casino.

Planning Your Days at Sea

Top Things to Do on a Cruise on a Sea Day - Adult Pool

You can plan what to do on sea days by looking at your cruise planner, often available in paper form or on a cruise line app. You’ll see the various cruise activities, as well as opening and closing hours.

Research your Cruise Ship

It’s also a good idea to do your research your ships before you book your cruise, to see what cruise ship activities are offered.

Some cruise ships have water slides, zip lines, skating rinks, and even race cars. These are great for people who want a more active type of cruise experience.

However, other cruise lines have a quieter environment, and will have fun activities that favor relaxing and rejuvenating.

Cruise Tip: Consider talking with a travel agent for help to decide which cruise ship and cruise line is best for you.

Things To Do on a Cruise During the Day

1. relax by the pool.

Best things to do on a cruise day - pool

If you’re going on a Caribbean cruise or other hot weather destination, you’ll probably spend some time by the pool. What’s great about this is that most cruise ships have at least 2-4 swimming pools, and several hot tubs.

Each pool area will have a different atmosphere and vibe. If you enjoy music, you can find one where a reggae band or DJ plays. If you want a quiet space to read and relax, the adult pool areas are perfect.

Choose the pool vibe you like best, and enjoy!

Cruise tip: On busy ships, get to the pool deck early to find a chair in the best locations.

27 Awesome things to do on a sea day

2. Ziplines, Ropes Courses and Surfing Pools

Oasis of the Seas Zipline

Some of today’s cruise ships offer amazing, theme park like activities. If you cruise with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines or MSC Cruises, you’ll find some of the most exciting things to do on a cruise!

The newest ships from these family friendly cruise lines cater to those who want an active vacation. If you are concerned about being bored on a cruise, no need to worry!

What exciting things can you do on a cruise?

  • Surfing pool
  • Ifly by RipCord Diving Simulator
  • Ice Skating Rink
  • Water slides
  • Ropes course

Read next:   15 Coolest Things to do on a Cruise Ship

27 Awesome Things to do a Cruise Sea Day

3. Pool Games

things to do on a cruise pool games

If you enjoy some fun and games, join or watch the pool volleyball games and other antics.

Belly flop, sexy legs contest and more, is what you can find by the main pool on some cruise ships. Other games may be hosted by the cruise activities staff by the pool, and if you love some fun in the sun, you’ll want to check that out.

4. Fitness Classes

things to do on a cruise - fitness class

Join a fitness class or work out at the gym . I really use my cruise planner for this.

The fitness center will often have some awesome fitness classes, which require you to sign up in advance. So, I head to the gym and put my name down for the classes I really want to attend.

I actually like to pick one activity that I may not have tried before, as it’s a great chance to try out something new, without the commitment. Some examples are Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing, Stretching, yoga, spinning and more.

Please note that some activities are included on your cruise , and others have a small fee.

5. Walk a Mile

regal princess jogging track

One of my favorite things to do on a cruise is to walk or jog on the jogging track. There’s something about going for a morning walk and seeing ocean all around you. You get to breathe the fresh sea air, which I love first thing in the morning.

If you’ve been indulging in the wonderful cruise food and drinks, a little movement goes a long way as well to help avoid weight gain on a cruise .

6. Learn Something New

Things to do on a Cruise - cruise daily planner

They say we learn something new every day, and this really can be true on a cruise. If you’ve been wanting to learn origami, napkin folding, or water color painting, classes like this, and more, will be offered.

This is great if you don’t want to spend your days outside in the sun or even if it rains on a cruise . There really are a lot of activities going on inside of the cruise ship as well!

One of the things we like to do is check out some of the speakers. There may be special guests on board, like authors or well known personalities, that will be giving a very interesting lecture.

There was even an astronaut on our last Celebrity Cruise. It was pretty cool!

Things to do on a cruise Sea Day

7. Cruise Port Talk

If you’re visiting a destination for the first time, consider going to the cruise port lecture, which is often held in the ship theater or a lounge. You’ll get some tips about the best places to see as well as information about the cruise port.

We found this especially helpful on our Mediterranean cruise , as it helped us to get orientated and know what to expect, as well as choose shore excursions .

8. Art Auction

Things to do on a cruise - art auction

The art auction is something that people either love or hate on a cruise . However, if you haven’t attended one yet, don’t knock it until you try it.

This is one of my favorite things to do when it rains on a cruise , which is actually how we first discovered it.

However, you don’t need to wait for rain. Since we found this activity a few cruises ago, we go on sunny days too and use it as an excuse to get out of the heat for a bit.

Some people are avid collectors and really enjoy it. Other people go for the free champagne at the Champagne Art Auction (only on some days). Even if you don’t plan to buy, it’s still a great way to learn about the artists that are featured and their style.

Cruise Tip: Attend the champagne art auction and enjoy some free sparkling wine with your art talk.

27 Sea Day Activities that aren't boring

9. A Bridge or Galley Tour

If you’re interested in cruise ship facts and the work that goes on behind the scenes, you’ll love the behind-the-scenes tours available on a cruise. There are usually free galley tours , where you can see how the food is prepared for thousands of cruise passengers at a time.

Other tours include a backstage tour where you can meet the singers and dancers, and even a cruise ship bridge tour. The bridge tour is very popular, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible if you’d like to participate. This has an additional fee on most cruise lines.

Read more:   What to Do on a Cruise Immediately After Boarding

10. Get a Massage

Why not book a massage or other treatment at the spa on a sea day during your cruise? Consider a couples massage or a week long pass at the thermal spa. Whether you’re in need of some self-care or looking for a romantic activity on a couples cruise , cruise ship spas are know to be amazing!

Cruise Tip: Your cruise ship will often have promotions if you sign up on embarkation day . It’s a smart and easy way to save money on your cruise .

Recommended:   10 Romantic Things for Couples to Do on a Cruise Vacation

11. Kid’s Camp

Cruise kid's club activities

Cruises are amazing family vacations, and most cruise lines have kid’s clubs where your children can do activities and hang out with new friends.

If you’re cruising with kids , make sure to choose a cruise line that has activities that your children will enjoy. This way, you have a perfect vacation for both the adults and kids.

Are you cruising with kids ? Encourage them to attend the kids club where they will make friends and participate in fun activities.

A cruise is a perfect place to have a balanced family vacation, where there can be kid time, adult time, and family time all within the same holiday.

Cruise tip: Register and visit the kid’s camp during open house on the  first day of your cruise . They’ll be more comfortable and more likely to want to attend activities later in the cruise.

12. Traditional Cruise Games (shuffleboard, table tennis & mini-golf)

cruise ship table tennis

Cruises offer some simple and fun things to do as well. Play a game of miniature golf, table tennis or shuffle board. These traditional fun activities are fun for cruisers of every age!

Bingo remains one of the most popular and well-attended cruise activities! I’m not a Bingo player, but wow, there are enthusiastic BINGO players on-board.

There are great prizes, including winning a free cruise. So, if you’re a BINGO lover, make sure to attend.

14. Karaoke, Flash Mobs & Choirs

If you have a singing or dancing talent, keep an eye on your cruise planner for the ship’s choir, flash dance mobs and kareoke competitions. Princess Cruises even has The Voice of the Ocean game show, where cruise passengers participate in a high production singing competition.

Top Things to Do on a Day on a Cruise

15. Game Shows & Trivia

Cruise ships will have interesting trivia activities as well as fun game show style audience participation games. From XBox challenges to the Dating Game, there will be something fun to do on your cruise vacation.

Get The Ultimate Cruise Planner

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cruise ship out at sea

16. Cruise Food

Is eating cruise food really a cruise activity? I think so!

On sea days, you’re not in rush to get off the cruise ship, so treat yourself to one of the alternative dining options. You can have a lunch in the Main Dining Room, go to a specialty restaurant or even head over to one of the included restaurants like Princess Cruises Alfredo’s .

Don’t forget the soft ice cream, afternoon tea, poolside grill, taco bar and more!

Related post:   How NOT to Gain Weight on a Cruise (and still eat and drink)

17. Duty Free Shopping

What to do during the day on a cruise - cruise shopping sales

While on a cruise, there are many opportunities to shop and get a great deal. Cruise ship shopping is duty-free , so while you should still check pricing back home, we’ve found truly amazing deals on watches, jewelry  and perfumes.

In addition to the on board shops, you’ll often see pop-up sales of 10$ items, beachwear, costume jewelry and more.

Cruise tip: Take a chance and fill out a raffle ticket and you just may win something at the cruise shops. My mother won a pair of stunning Crown of Light diamond earrings when we did a large family cruise for their 50th anniversary .

Related post: 50 Most Recommended Amazon Cruise Essentials

18. Have a Cocktail

cruise frozen drinks

There’s something about sitting back on a lounge chair with a frozen cocktail in hand that just says “I’m on a cruise”. If you’ve got a drink package, you might want to do some bar hopping and find out which are the best drinks on the cruise ship!

Cruises will often have a Drink of the Day, which is also a great way to try out some new cocktails or mocktails.

Related posts:

Princess Plus: What’s Included and Is it Worth it?

Celebrity Cruises Always Included (what is included)

Norwegian Cruise Line Beverage Package – Is it Worth it?

19. Go Dancing

Whether it’s the Harlem Shuffle or the Cha Cha Slide, line dancing by the pool is just one of the fun things to do on a cruise. I love it, but if you don’t, you may enjoy some people watching instead.

Other opportunities to dance include participating in dance lessons in one of the clubs or atrium. Whether it’s ballroom, salsa or hip hop, your cruise ship will likely have something fun to learn and try.

27 Awesome Things to Do on a Sea Day (both active and quiet activities)

20. Take Photos & Memories

Cruise ships are great places to take photos. You can get a photo with the cruise ship’s wake in the background or take a family photo on the elegant staircase in the ship’s atrium.

You can also take single photos or book a session with the ship’s photographer. This is especially nice for family cruises . Photos really are a keepsake that helps to keep precious memories alive in years to come.

This inspirational cruise travel quote by Katie Thurmes says it best “We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone” .

21. DIY Cruise Ship Art Tour

cruise ship art tour activity

Check out the cruise ship’s artwork and themed venues. Cruise ships have really interesting paintings, photography and sculptures displayed around the ship, including on passenger decks, in stairways and in different bars and lounges.

On a sea day, why not get some steps in and walk around the ship and admire all the incredible works of art on board.

22. Book Your Next Cruise

If this is your first cruise , you may be surprised to hear that booking your next cruise on board is a great hack to save money . Just head over to the Future Cruise Consultant desk and have a chat about your next cruise possibilities.

You can put down a deposit on a future cruise, or even work with your travel agent when you get back home to finalize details.

27 things to do on a sea day

23. Wine Tasting

During your cruise, you may want to enjoy a wine-tasting event. For a small charge, you can have a mini-course in wine-tasting while you sip and savor. For those that prefer scotch, rum or other types of alcohol, you may find those tasting workshops as well.

We’ve done a couple of wine-tasting events on past cruises, and enjoyed what we learned.

cruise casino

The casino is pretty popular on sea days, with those that would rather stay out of the sun, having some fun in there. Whether you’re a serious player, or like to have fun at the slots, the casino is THE PLACE TO BE.

25. See a Show

Cruise ships have the best shows! Truly, the entertainment is incredible and well worth it.

If you’re a mega cruise ship, they’ll usually have several show times to accommodate all their guests. You can check your cruise planner, or in some cases you can even book your shows online before your cruise.

Related post:   What To Wear on a Cruise Vacation

26. Catch a Movie

movies under the stars cruise

Cruise ships will show movies in the theater, lounges and even on a big screen outdoors. There’s nothing like seeing a movie under the stars, with some popcorn, while at sea!

On a cruise over the Christmas holidays , there were several classic Holiday movies playing all week – such fun!

27. Relax & Enjoy

hang out and watch the ocean on a cruise

While this post was about all the best things to do on a cruise, especially on sea days, it’s sometimes great to do nothing at all. The simple things might just be the times you really enjoy.

What else can you do on a cruise?

I could probably list 27 more cruise ship activities, but here are just a few simple and fun things to add:

  • Read a book
  • play a board game with friends
  • have a cocktail
  • make new friends
  • take a nap in the sun
  • hang out in the hot tub.

No matter what you choose to do, remember that you’re on a cruise to explore, relax, have fun, recharge and reconnect with those you love. Enjoy every minute!

Video: What to Do on Cruise Sea Days

Take a look at our YoTube video all about what to do on a cruise during sea days. You’ll see actual videos from a cruise ship with tons of great cruise activities to enjoy!

Related and Popular Posts:

30 Cruise Cabin Hacks Every Cruiser Needs to Know

50 Best Gifts for Cruise Lovers

50 Must-have Items for Your Cruise Vacation

63 Things NOT to Do on a Cruise Ship

What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

23 Essentials to Pack in Your Cruise Carry-On Bag

Recap: 27 Fun Things to do a Cruise Sea Day

Sea days can be some of the best days, and with so much to do on a cruise! Whether you like to be active, or find something quieter to do, there are tons of awesome cruise activities to keep your entertained.

What are your top things to do on a cruise? If you’re cruising for the first time, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!

If you’ve found this helpful, don’t keep it to yourself ;-)! Please share it on Facebook or save it for later on Pinterest (share buttons at the top of the post). Thank you!

Let’s connect:

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10 Comments

' src=

Miniature golf!

' src=

Great one! That’s such a classic and always fun!! Thanks for sharing this.

' src=

I like on board driving range. Wack 100 or so golf balls in an hour. Work on your game.

Great idea Russell!

Thanks for the great idea!

' src=

Wow- sounds like a cross between a planet fitness and a retirement community. Gonna be a long 5 days.

Lol, I literally laughed out loud. Every cruise ship has different things to do, or you can also relax. I hope that the cruise ship you’ll be taking has the activities or amenities that you’ll enjoy (and it will be better than you think).

Thanks for your comment!

' src=

Just had my Alaska cruise canceled. Found out I have prostate cancer. (Found early) Make sure you have your husband Frank has his checked. Go Dr. May 11 to see all test results and get an action plan. Maybe book on in November. Just wanted to reread your post. My favorite thing to do is afternoon time with my wife. Thanks for what you do. Even though we have never meet, I consider you my friend. Take care of yourself and those who you love.

Hi Russell,

Firstly, so glad for you that this was found early. Right now, your health is where your focus needs to be, but you have cruises to look forward to soon after. I’ll also let Frank know and appreciate you sharing.

Take care and keep in touch and let me know how you are doing!! Ilana

' src=

Thank you for ^This^. I am hoping to talk my other half into dancing lessons, though he and I are both hoping for cooking demonstrations.

That’s a lot of fun! Almost everyone who joins is a “beginner” or at least not an expert, so this is a great way to learn and enjoy. The cooking ones I’m sure will be awesome.

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This 3-year cruise around the world is called off, leaving passengers in the lurch

Bill Chappell

cruise ship out at sea

When the Life at Sea cruise line failed to purchase the German cruise ship AIDAaura, seen here in 2020, its plans for a worldwide cruise embarking in November began to unravel. Marit Hommedal/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

When the Life at Sea cruise line failed to purchase the German cruise ship AIDAaura, seen here in 2020, its plans for a worldwide cruise embarking in November began to unravel.

They were promised the world. But cruise company Life at Sea recently told customers who bought passage on a three-year voyage that rather than visiting 140 countries, their trip was called off.

Those customers are now scrambling to make new plans for where they will live for the next three years — and to extract refunds from the cruise line. The intense fallout is drawing comparisons to infamous debacles such as the Fyre Festival — the "luxury" music festival that was more like a "disaster relief area."

Here's what to know about the cruise around the world that was called off

What was promised? The world.

The original itinerary mapped 1,095 days of travel, heading from Istanbul to Europe and then to South America and the Caribbean. Passengers would then pass through the Panama Canal before seeing the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska and then head west across the Pacific.

"We are going to be following summer the entire time that we go around the world," then-Life at Sea CEO Kendra Holmes told prospective passengers in a Zoom webinar in September.

$73,499-Per-Guest World Cruise Sells Out In Less Than 3 Hours

$73,499-Per-Guest World Cruise Sells Out In Less Than 3 Hours

Voyagers were to see seven continents, visiting 140 countries. They would spend roughly 300 days at sea, 795 days at port and have 413 overnight port stays, Chief Operating Officer Ethem Bayramoglu of Miray Cruises, the Turkish parent company of Life at Sea, said in that online session.

Along the way, they would explore wonders of the world, visit UNESCO World Heritage sites and have plentiful chances to go diving and snorkeling, the company said.

The three-year voyage was to begin on Nov. 1, departing from Istanbul. Some passengers reportedly only learned of the cancellation after arriving in Turkey.

What are customers saying?

"Some people read the headlines and think, 'Oh, that was a scam,' but I really did my homework before I put a deposit down," Keri Witman of Cincinnati told NPR. She had attorneys check the company's background, for instance.

Witman, who owns a marketing agency named Clever Lucy, was planning to work remotely aboard the ship, using its Starlink internet service. And as a single woman, she had been looking forward to exploring the world with a group.

"Having a like-minded community of people that all were interested in travel at the ready was really appealing to me," she said.

When the cruise missed its planned departure date, the company promised to resolve lingering issues. But after further delays, the trip was canceled.

Witman says the company has begun the refund process, accepting her requests for other expenses to be paid, from airfare to the costs of foreign visas. But some of her fellow customers seem more frustrated.

20 years ago, the supersonic passenger jet Concorde flew for the last time

20 years ago, the supersonic passenger jet Concorde flew for the last time

"Still waiting for my refund. And now you've gone belly up?" a woman who identified herself as a Life at Sea customer said recently on the company's Instagram account . The woman, a retired educator, did not respond to NPR's message seeking further comment.

Former flight attendant Meredith Shay was looking forward to the trip as a centerpiece of her retirement.

"How did I feel about it?" Shay said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America . "Devastated, disappointed, sad. I packed up my belongings, put them in storage, sent four boxes to Miray Cruises."

Witman says she also shipped boxes to have on the cruise, back in early October.

"I'm following them along on my AirTags today," she said. "They're on their way back."

How much did the Life at Sea cruise cost?

The cheapest packages started at $196,000 for a single traveler, and $231,000 for couples, according to the company's website . Costs ranged much higher for guests staying in premium rooms.

In exchange, passengers — or residents, as the company called them — were promised a long list of amenities, including an onboard hospital and doctor. Some cabins could host cats; travelers were also promised high-speed internet, free dining, alcohol and laundry service, and "enrichment seminars."

Terms of the deal help illuminate the would-be passengers' financial and logistical plight. Life at Sea set initial deposits at 30% of the overall cost. Under its 12-month payment plan, the first draw came due one month ahead of the sail date.

And rather than portioning the cruise for sale in smaller stages, the company required customers to commit to the full three years.

"Our residents are changing their lives for this opportunity, and we are honored to be a part of their personal journeys," Holmes said in June .

A wide range of passengers had booked cabins.

"The age group is split pretty much between 35 and 85" years old, and the passengers included a large number of Americans, Holmes said.

Paradise Lost: Luxury Music Festival Turns Out To Be Half-Built Scene Of Chaos

The Two-Way

Paradise lost: luxury music festival turns out to be half-built scene of chaos, did the cruise line actually have a ship.

"In two days' time, we own this vessel," Life at Sea itinerary planner Robert Dixon said in late September , speaking in a promotional video from the bridge of a ship he called the "MV Lara."

But the company wasn't able to close that deal, and the ship in question — the 20-year-old AIDAaura — was instead sold in November to Celestyal, which specializes in Mediterranean cruises.

Miray's attempts to purchase the ship dragged on for weeks, and it eventually stalled after investors balked, according to a company message obtained by CNN and other outlets.

In Warmer Climate, A Luxury Cruise Sets Sail Through Northwest Passage

Environment

In warmer climate, a luxury cruise sets sail through northwest passage.

"If you're focused on the ship, this is not the journey for you," Holmes said in the September webinar. But two months later, she would leave her leadership post at Life at Sea and Miray, as plans for the ambitious cruise unraveled.

Holmes was trying to allay concerns about the quality of the vessel. But it seems that it was the company's focus, not the public's, that was the problem.

Warning flags went up earlier this year, when the company changed course from its initial plan to refit one of its ships, the MV Gemini. For the lengthy worldwide voyage, it planned to deploy the larger "MV Lara" — a ship that never materialized.

What does the cruise company say now?

It's complicated. On Sunday, Miray Cruises issued a statement in Turkish , denying that the cruise is canceled. Instead, the company said the voyage is postponed — and it blamed a lack of enough passenger bookings, rather than problems finding an appropriate ship.

But responding to a social media comment about that same statement, the company sought to clarify that its other operations are unaffected — and in doing so, it stated , "The cancellation in question is related to our 3-year world tour project."

The company said that anyone requesting a refund will get one, and that it will reimburse travel expenses related to the cruise. Miray also says it plans to mount a similar trip next year.

Witman, for one, says she's still interested in a worldwide cruise.

"There are two other companies that have been working on a similar concept" that have also run into delays, she said.

19-Hour London To Sydney 'Test Flight' Shows How To Make Long Hauls Tolerable

19-Hour London To Sydney 'Test Flight' Shows How To Make Long Hauls Tolerable

"I think one of them will make it happen in 2024," Witman said. "And I'm hopeful that it will, because I'd like to be on it. I still believe in the concept. I think it's a really perfect opportunity for me."

Despite the setback, Witman says she's been able to form connections with other would-be passengers, who have been keeping in touch via apps and group texts. Some of them are even making plans to travel together this winter.

"I don't regret at all going down this path," Witman said. "It moved me forward in a way that I wouldn't have done without this instigation. And I'm really thankful for it. I'm disappointed, but I'm ready to go for whatever opportunity comes up next."

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There are so many reasons to get excited about a Royal Caribbean® cruise. Choose from itineraries that take you to top-rated vacation destinations, from sun-soaked Caribbean isles to ancient temples in Asia and everywhere in between. Make the most out of every moment at sea while traveling onboard the world’s best cruise ships, loaded from bow to stern with game-changing thrills, dazzling entertainment, as well as next-level dining and unmatched activities for all kinds of adventure-seekers. No matter which ship you choose to sail on, this is a fleet filled with incredible feats.

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Meet the world's biggest, boldest ships

These engineering wonders take home awards every year for their cutting-edge design, first-of-their-kind attractions, world class dining and accommodations, and unforgettable experiences. From the tallest slide at sea, to culinary concepts that take guests from Japan to Italy to Wonderland, the world’s largest cruise ships are full of adventures guaranteed to wow every kind of explorer.

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If you’re ready to learn more about the incredible adventures you can have on Royal Caribbean, check out our 2024-2026 sailings — they’re all open to book right now. Dive into our deck plans and become an expert on the fleet. Or discover why our Oasis Class and Amplified ships are rated among the best cruise ships in the world.

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Bonus vacation or choppy nightmare? Here's what it's like on a cruise ship stuck at sea during a hurricane

Tarah Chieffi

There's always a possibility of bad weather and rough seas when you go on a cruise, but cruise lines are well prepared to change course if an approaching storm could be too dangerous to navigate. There are also contingencies if they are unable to return to port as scheduled. Right now, all those playbooks have been dusted off and are in use.

On Monday, Sept. 26, as Hurricane Ian was closing in on Florida, Disney Wish left Port Canaveral for a four-night Bahamas cruise with planned stops at Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island, before a planned return to Port Canaveral on Friday, Sept. 30.

But with Hurricane Ian a dangerous Category 4 storm making landfall in Central Florida, Port Canaveral closed and has ceased all operations until further notice.

Without the option to return to Florida as originally scheduled, Disney Wish — along with other cruise ships — is (temporarily) "stuck" at sea.

While staying at sea and away from the storm is the safest decision, travelers still have a lot of questions, concerns and general curiosity about the change of course. The Points Guy spoke with passengers currently on board Disney Wish to learn what it's like being out at sea for a few extra days during a hurricane.

You'll get frequent updates from the captain

When Disney Wish set sail on Sept. 26, the captain made an announcement that the ship might return to Port Canaveral later in the day than originally planned based on the projected forecast at that time. Matt Roseboom, editor and publisher at Attractions Magazine , is on board the sailing and captured video footage of the initial announcement.

The captain notified guests with flights leaving before 3 p.m. on Sept. 30 to contact their airline to depart later in the day, if possible. He also advised that they were watching Hurricane Ian carefully and would continue to keep passengers updated on the weather throughout the voyage.

Lizzie Meeks, a Disney travel advisor in Nashville, is also on the sailing and explained to TPG that the captain told guests "the port authority will need to assess any damage before giving the ship the green light to move into port and the cruise terminal."

Your itinerary might be adjusted

A cruise ship's schedule of port visits and sea days can be adjusted midcruise for a number of reasons. The weather is certainly one of those reasons — even absent a full-fledged hurricane. But when a hurricane is churning, it is very possible that the ship's itinerary will change.

Related: When will cruise ports in Florida reopen?

For Disney Wish, a port change announcement came on the morning of Sept. 28 when the ship was scheduled to dock at Castaway Cay for the day. Rather than head toward Disney's private island, and toward the storm, the ship turned toward the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean where seas would be calmer.

Meeks shared that the winds near Castaway Cay were too strong, with little hope for improvement, so the captain made the decision to sail away from the area.

cruise ship out at sea

A day at port became a day at sea, but Disney conjured a bit of its famous "Disney magic" and added more activities throughout the day, according to Roseboom. "They made an announcement and told us to close out of the Disney Cruise app and reopen it to see the new schedule of activities," he said. Mickey and his friends still wore their island outfits to greet guests, even if everyone had to stay on board.

"They've really made an effort to make it a special day," Meeks said. "There have been a ton of new character meet and greets throughout the day, including Marvel, 'Star Wars' and Halloween characters that are typically reserved for special event cruises. New group games and trivia themes have been added, as well as additional times for drink tastings like Champagne, bourbon, gin and more," she added.

Related: What happens when a hurricane hits Disney World

Your cruise might be extended

If a hurricane strikes while you are at sea, it's also possible that you may end up with an extended sailing and extra days on the ship.

That's currently the situation for Carnival Paradise, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Getaway, MSC Cruise's MSC Divina and Disney Wish. With several Florida ports closed due to the storm, the ships cannot return to disembark passengers on schedule.

cruise ship out at sea

In such cases, cruise lines have two options: head to a different port up or down the coast to disembark passengers or remain at sea until the ship's home port reopens. Docking at a different port creates a whole new set of issues for passengers who need to return to cars, homes or airports near the originally scheduled port — so that option is rarely used.

Related: At least 5 cruise ships stuck at sea as Hurricane Ian closes Florida ports

In the case of Disney Wish, the first announcement came on the evening of Sept. 27 as the storm moved closer to shore. Based on updated forecasts, the captain announced the ship would not return to port until Saturday or Sunday, after the storm had passed and they could better assess the situation at Port Canaveral. That meant passengers would remain on board one or two days longer than expected.

Before he could even complete the announcement, cheers erupted through the ship, as seen in the below video.

In a subsequent announcement on the afternoon of Sept. 28, the captain updated guests that Disney Wish would return to Port Canaveral on Sunday instead of Friday and that the ship should be able to dock at Castaway Cay on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Even before the extension of this sailing was formally announced, Disney Cruise Line canceled the upcoming Disney Wish sailing that was set to depart Port Canaveral on Friday, Sept. 30, as a safety precaution.

Extra days are generally a good thing

As that announcement was made, audible cheers confirmed that most guests were thrilled that their vacation was just extended indefinitely. "The general sentiment is that people are content and happy about the extra day(s)," Roseboom said.

Cruise ships can easily avoid storms by sailing away from them and chasing better weather. For Disney Wish, at least, the weather has been fairly calm. "The current weather is sunshine with some humidity. We had choppier waves this morning [when the ship was closer to the storm], but from where we are now, you wouldn't even know there was a hurricane in the distance," Meeks said.

cruise ship out at sea

Plus, the crew is prepared to innovate to accommodate the extra days. The entertainment staff will schedule more sea-day activities, just as they did when Castaway Cay got canceled.

Guests don't need to worry about running out of food, as cruise ships carry more than just one sailing's worth of food on board. In a pinch, the cruise ship can find a way of picking up provisions in the islands. With two extra days at sea, the ship might run out of specific perishables, like berries, but passengers will still have plenty of choices at every meal.

Because Disney Wish employs a rotational dining schedule, in which passengers are assigned nights at each of the ship's main restaurants, guests must now wait to be told which restaurants they should dine in on the additional nights of the sailing. "Since Disney Cruise Line uses rotational dining, they simply assigned us two more nights of a restaurant. It's really operating like normal in many ways," Meeks said.

You'll have to rearrange travel plans

Roseboom, who resides in Central Florida, is enjoying the extra day or two of vacation, but is equally worried about his house and friends and family back home in the wake of Hurricane Ian. "For cruisers who live outside of Florida, they seem to be mostly happy, but they do have to figure out how to change their flights," he shared.

For Meeks, reality set in as the cheers subsided.

"Some people, including myself, found the news concerning because of travel logistics — changing transfers and flights, booking a hotel room just in case our flights are canceled and communicating with family back home are all stressful and you could feel the tension late last night," she said.

Not only is Port Canaveral closed until Hurricane Ian passes and the wind calms, but Orlando International Airport (MCO) has also shuttered during the storm .

Even once the airport reopens after the storm has passed, it will take some time for planes and crews to get back into position, and longer still to accommodate all of the passengers who have been temporarily stranded in the Central Florida area.

This is one of the reasons why when cruising during hurricane season, it's very important to seriously consider travel insurance, or at least book your trip using a credit card that conveys some built-in trip protections to help minimize the financial impact.

Bottom line

"There are certainly worse places to be 'stuck,'" Meeks told us. "A lot of people have the perspective that we are safe and have much to be thankful for," she added. Crew and passenger safety is the reason cruise lines make the decision to stay at sea past the end of their scheduled itinerary. Yes, it can be inconvenient, but cruise lines do go out of their way to make the most of the experience for their guests, and safety is always the top priority.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
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Emma Cruises

How Long Can a Cruise Ship Stay Out At Sea For?

If you’ve ever considered taking a cruise you may be wondering how long a cruise ship could stay at sea for without needing to refuel.

It isn’t uncommon for cruise ships to spend a week at sea but a longer period of time is possible.

I’ve been on numerous cruises but haven’t ever been continually at sea for more than four days.

Emma and RCI ship

How Long Can a Cruise Ship Stay at Sea For?

Generally speaking, cruise ships can only stay at sea for around twelve days before they need to refuel .

Most cruise ships will refuel every few days as they stop at different ports.

Just because a cruise ship could in theory stay at sea for 12 days, this doesn’t mean that they do!

Cruise ships can sail for days across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.

When they do this they must make sure that the journey is carefully monitored so that the ship does not run out of fuel. 

Repositioning cruises which start and end in different places – such as a Transatlantic or Transpacific cruise – are some of the best value-for-money cruises on the market.

To find out why, and how to find the cheapest cruises, check out this post: 

7 Benefits of Repositioning Cruises (Tried & Tested)

In this post, we look at what would happen when a ship runs out of fuel while at sea and how the type of ship affects how long it can be at sea for.

Queen Mary 2

What Affects a Cruise Ships Fuel Usage?

Several different factors can change the length of time a cruise ship can last at sea before needing to refuel:

  • S hip size – The size of cruise ships varies dramatically with some holding as little as 100 passengers and others carrying upwards of 6000.

Rather unsurprisingly, bigger cruise ships need to use more fuel! Larger cruise ships do however have the capacity to hold more fuel so this doesn’t mean that bigger ships can’t stay at sea for as long as smaller ships. 

  • Age of the ship – Generally speaking newer cruise ships are more fuel efficient than older ships.

There are cruise ships from the 80’s and 90’s which are still in operation. They use dramatically more fuel than newer ships.

Even within the same cruise line, there can be big differences. The Norwegian Spirit is one of the oldest ships for Norwegian Cruise Line and she is far less fuel efficient than the newer Norwegian cruise ships like Prima and Viva.

  • The average speed of the sailing – Cruise ships can burn through over one thousand gallons of fuel every hour when sailing.

Generally speaking, the faster a cruise ship sails the more fuel it has to use to do that. If a cruise ship is travelling fast to avoid a storm or to reach a destination in a short period of time it’ll use more fuel than if travelling slowly.

To learn more about how, and why, a cruise ship would sail at an increased speed to avoid bad weather, check out this article:

5 Ways Cruise Ships Avoid Bad Weather .

Cruise lines spend on average 8% of your cruise fare on fuel.

Fuel is one of the biggest costs that a cruise line has, so they are always keen to reduce this.

Check out the video below to learn what the other 92% of your cruise fare is spent on.

Cruise Ship Innovation

Many cruise lines are working hard to find new and innovative ways to preserve energy and fuel.

This will allow the cruise lines to go longer between refuelling and simply allow the cruise ship to carry and use less fuel. 

Cruise lines are now building ships that run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), producing 25 per cent less carbon dioxide, zero sulphur emissions and up to 95 per cent less nitrogen oxide than conventional fuel.

It has been reported that more than half the new ships on order now will use LNG as their main fuel.  But LNG is still only a stepping stone to the next generation of even greener fuels. Cruise lines are investing millions into the development of synthetic LNG, Biofuels and Hydrogen Fuel Cells.

azamara onward ship port

Carbon Neutral Cruise Lines

All cruise lines are conscious of their carbon footprint and are seeking to reduce their impact as much as they can.

MSC are the first major cruise line to offset all of their carbon emissions making their cruises carbon neutral.

As time goes on there are expected to be more and more restrictions placed on cruise ships so it’s important that lines invest in new technology in order to future-proof their cruise ships.

MSC Euribia

MSC Euribia utilises LNG to try and cut its CO₂ emissions by up to 20%, alongside the amount of nitrogen oxide it produces by up to 85%. 

Does Cruise Ship Type Affect How Long It Can Stay at Sea?

Different types of cruise ships will be able to sail for different periods of time:

Type Of Ship

  • If you are considering a cruise on any of the major cruise lines it’s likely that you’ll be cruising on a mainstream cruise ship.
  • These cruise ships often have diesel engines that use “heavy fuel oil.” When cruise ships reach a certain size they are often referred to as ‘Mega Ships’ which, rather unsurprisingly, require more fuel.

“ Harmony of the Seas” is a Mega Ship and she has two engines which at full power burn about 66,000 gallons a day.

I recently sailed onboard Harmony’s sister ship, Symphony of the Seas. Find out all about that huge Mega Ship here:

  • Ocean liners are designed to transport guests from point A to point B, whereas cruise ships are designed as more of a leisure activity.
  • Ocean lines are designed to travel longer distances and generally can go faster than cruise ships.
  • That said, there is only one ocean liner still in operation, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

To learn more about Ocean Liners, check out this post: 

Cruise Ships vs Ocean Liners: 5 Fundamental Differences

I took a short sailing on Queen Mary 2 to Hamburg. Find out how I got on and what I thought of her here:

  • On the majority of river cruises, you won’t have any ‘river days’ in the same way as you’d have a sea day on an ocean cruise.
  • If a river cruise ship was in danger of running out of fuel at any point it would be able to sail towards the shore without too much trouble. 

Find out what I thought about my budget River Cruise on Tui Skyla , and whether it offered good value for money here:

It’s very important for a cruise ship to make sure that it has enough fuel to complete its journey, that said, no cruise ship wants to sail with extra fuel onboard. 

What Happens If a Cruise Ship Runs Out of Fuel?

Cruise ships are not designed to be able to refuel while they are out at sea and it is incredibly unlikely that a cruise ship would run out of fuel and be unable to find somewhere to dock to refuel.

If this did happen the passengers and crew would have to be evacuated either using lifeboats or by air. 

Without fuel, the cruise ship wouldn’t be able to work the toilets, raise the anchor, or do almost anything onboard. It would be very unpleasant and dangerous.

To learn more about how cruise ship toilets work, including what you can’t EVER put down a cruise ship toilet, check out the post below:

Cruise Ship Toilets: What Happens When You Flush? Step by Step Guide

Cruise ships are equipped with lifeboats to ensure the safety of all passengers.

Emergency plans of action are directly set into place if there is an emergency. Crew members and all administrators on board are well versed as to how they need to behave and what needs to be done during situations of crisis.

On every cruise, it is a legal requirement that all guests attend a Muster Drill or carry out a “Virtual Muster” and report to their Muster Station in order to familiarise themselves with the safety procedures onboard.

muster drill on cruise ship girl in life jacket on celestyal cruise

To learn more about muster drills, including what happens if you don’t attend. Check out this post:

What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise? Everything You Need to Know (REVIEW of Traditional and Virtual Muster Drills)

Twelve Days At Sea Is About The Maximum

A cruise ship is capable of remaining at sea without refuelling for around twelve days.

Most ships will never be at sea for this length of time though, with the majority completing journeys of 7-10 days or less.

average cruise duration 7 nights

If a cruise ship did completely run out of fuel at sea the guests would have to be evacuated as soon as possible as this could be very dangerous for all involved. 

Before You Go

Find out whether it is best to book your cruise with the cruise line, or use a Travel Agent here:

Is It Best To Use a Travel Agent or Book Directly With The Cruise Line? (Money-Saving Hints and Tips For Booking, and Much More…)

Find out when is the most popular time of year to cruise below:

Cruise Destinations and Timings (Peak Seasons, Popular Itineraries and Weather)

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources Book a Cruise Get Travel Insurance Emma Cruises Shop My Favourite Bags – Mia Tui

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Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

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  5. June 9-16, 2023

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  6. The best Caribbean cruise for every type of traveler

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