Cruise lines offer a lot of things to do on the ship. They have way more than ever before and before it was virtually impossible to do everything they offered. There are more entertainment, dining, activity, and learning options than ever. You can see a Broadway show on one ship, dine at a five-star restaurant on another, ice skate or surf on yet another or enjoy a world-class spa treatment on just about any of them.
Going ashore though is another thing altogether.
They have shore excursions. That’s it. Nothing else. Should that keep you from going on a cruise? Oh my no. Here, check these ten things you can do other than shore excursions.
- Sing a song– Have you done that lately? Just really let go and sang along other than in the shower or someplace alone? If you never, ever would do such a thing, this is the perfect time to start. I guarantee you will remember that day forever. The best part is that, with few exceptions, you will probably never see anyone sailing with you ever again for the rest of your life. You might text or tweet them or maybe even email them. If you’re really friendly you might talk about cruising with them again. But once you get back to real life, odds are their memory will fade over time. Be the one they will remember forever.
- Shop– This is one of those things everybody says they do but few do well. Most people go ashore to buy, not to shop. There are no rules that say you must come home with a coffee cup or refrigerator magnet from every place you go. Think about this before you even get on the ship. Walk around where you live and take inventory of your stuff. Would a cool bag from a call in the Caribbean be a good replacement for your worn gym bag? You bet it would. Would a handful of necklaces, hand-made in Haiti be great gifts for friends? Of course. How about some drugs from Jamaica? Probably not. Unless you’re on Royal Caribbean and know one of the crew members/drug smugglers.
- Go off on your own– I know, it’s not safe. Well you can play it safe going along with the crowd on a tour bus filled with other playing-it-safe people and see all the same things they and thousands before them have and thousands after them will. Or you could choose to spend an afternoon sitting in a local coffee shop drinking in a culture that is probably a whole lot different than yours back home. Maybe you go crazy and do something different, something you would never have dreamed of doing back home. It’s called “traveling” and you can do it.
- Stay on the ship– If you don’t like the look of the port or you have been there before and see no reason to get off the ship, don’t. You will find that most everyone else left, leaving pretty much the whole ship to you. This is a great strategy for crowded ships where there are lines for stuff. I should mention that there is a huge difference between “staying on the ship” and “hiding on the ship”. Unless you are a criminal, running from the law, you should not be hiding on the ship. That is sick and you need help.
- Get off the ship– One of the huge advantages of a cruise ship is that it transports you to different locations. “Being in port” can be an exciting experience where you can see and do things not possible on the ship or back home. Some people like the idea of itineraries with many ports so they can have a wide variety of experiences in a short amount of time, noting their favorites then returning later, maybe by sea or maybe by air, to stay longer making what was once a short port call into a destination for a future vacation.
- Meet someone– The attractions you may see ashore, be they touristy sites or out of the way places you found by doing going off on your own, have been there for a long time and will probably be there for a long time to come. People, however, have a much shorter lifespan and will not. Find a shop that does not look too busy, a street vendor that has some time on their hands and ask some questions, get some answers, exchange some ideas. I think that’s called “having a conversation” and it’s something you won’t find listed as a shore excursion.
- Get in the picture– Unless you are a professional photographer, odds are these days that you can probably find all the photos you are apt to take online. You could probably pretend to go someplace and “borrow” plenty of photos and other documentation to show you went there. Take just a split second longer to ask someone to take your picture standing by the landmark you traveled halfway across the world to see.
- Set the camera down– I had the best of intentions when taking photos of our family vacations. I wanted to preserve every moment forever. I was the family photographer. Me and me alone had that responsibility. After about a half-dozen vacations, I realized that I had seen every one through the viewfinder. At that point I set the camera down and rarely pick it up. Off topic: same goes for recording baby moments. I have what represents thousands of dollars of memories in boxes that we have never looked at and probably never will unless one of the kids murders someone really important and they do one of those “where did this nut case come from” exposes.
- Ignore the icky people– If you have never been on a cruise before I have news for you. The ships are not full of all beautiful people who always have a smile on their faces. Like on land vacation or just on land in general, there are icky people that you will not like on a cruise too. The Love Boat was a TV show. While we would like to believe everything we see on television (especially those shows where people have “powers”) real life is not quite a happy. Same goes for the other passengers on the ship. People-watching can be a really entertaining activity at home. Imagine your
- Watch a sunset. It’s the same Sun you see at home. The same Stars in the sky. The same Rain that fell from the clouds thousands of years ago. The difference is where you are and who you are with. That you got there by cruise ship is an insignificant detail to sharing the moment with someone you like, love or just met and are not quite sure about yet.
Take the time to enjoy yourself whatever you do, however you do it and whenever you go. These 10 things to pass the time in port are not the ultimate answer but they are a good start. That might take saying out loud “I am on vacation. I may never pass this way again. I will enjoy this.” Whatever it takes, enjoy yourself. Whatever that may mean to you, all the tools are available as only a cruise vacation can provide.