The 7 Biggest Wastes of Time on a Cruise

frustrated couple waste of time cruise
Don't waste your precious time on the ship for these seven things! - Photo by depositphotos/Iryna_Rasko

Not every onboard activity is worth your time. Some are boring, others are pointless, and a few are downright wastes of money. Unless you’re a first-time cruiser or die-hard shopper with cash to burn, we suggest avoiding these events:

1. MediSpa Presentations

cruise ship medispa spa presentation waste of time
Photo by Royal Caribbean

When you go to a presentation put on by the ship’s spa, it’s guaranteed to be little more than just a sales pitch. If you want to be sold on things you wouldn’t have ordinarily purchased, or are interested in botox, teeth whitening, body scrubs, or similar services, by all means go ahead and attend. Otherwise, avoid these types of events. They may describe it as something more appealing to get you in the door, but at the end of the day it’ll just be a high-pressure sales pitch and a money grab. Trust us.


2. Embarkation Day Ship Tours

royal caribbean atrium ship tour waste of time
Photo by Royal Caribbean

Rest assured, we’re not talking about the behind-the-scenes galley, engine room, or bridge tours here, because it’s quite fun to see the inner workings of a cruise ship. This point refers to the first-day basic tours that are offered around the ship. A guide takes cruisers to all of the key public areas of the ship, pretty much the same things you’ll find on the deck plans or in a ship tour video on YouTube. On embarkation day, you want to sit back with your first cruise cocktail or explore the ship at your own pace! Don’t waste time attending an official tour — do your research ahead of time and then spend the first day of your vacation on your own terms.


3. Jewelry Store Events

jewelry store shop cruise msc waste of time
Photo by MSC Cruises

Much like spa presentations, jewelry store events only exist to generate interest in the jewelry and encourage cruisers to spend their hard-earned cash. It’s not a scam when they promise you a free bracelet or earrings, but they only do that to get people in the jewelry shop and looking around, hoping something else sparkly, alluring, and expensive will catch your eye. If you enjoy being packed into a small space with strangers who are all there just to see if they can win something instead of enjoying the ocean breeze out on deck, so be it. But if you can do that sort of thing at home, why bother wasting precious cruise time doing it onboard?



4. Bingo

cruise bingo game waste of time
Photo by depositphotos/iofoto

This one might be a little controversial, because we know some cruisers are die-hard bingo fans. A lot of passengers get sucked in out of sheer curiosity, though, and it’s not exactly cheap for the simple game that it is. Instead of spending an afternoon at sea in an interior area of the ship listening to balls rolling around, go sit by the pool on the lido deck, join in on a dance lesson, or take a mixology class. Even on smaller ships that might not have many big-thrill amenities, there’s always something to do that’s a better option than bingo. 


5. Disembarkation Talk (If you’ve sailed before)

disembarkation miami florida norwegian getaway waste of time
Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

If it’s your first cruise, it actually may be beneficial to attend the disembarkation talk, where staff will tell you how the luggage tags work and what you need to do to be ready on the morning the cruise ends. But if you have any cruise experience, there’s really no need to go. Even those who haven’t sailed before will be a-okay if they do adequate research ahead of time and pay attention to the papers left in the cabin explaining the process. Most people don’t ever attend a disembarkation talk, and it’s probably not worth sacrificing precious time that you could be using to enjoy the last few days of your vacation.


6. Art Auctions

park west art gallery auction norwegian cruise waste of time
Photo by Park West Gallery/Norwegian Cruise Line

At the risk of sounding like a broken record at this point, art auctions are another onboard event designed to get you in and buy things. They’ll tempt you with free champagne and perhaps the promise of a free painting for attending, or that they’re going to raffle off a piece of art as soon as the event starts. Unless you’re an art collector or have your eye on a piece that you’re actually considering buying, don’t bother going. Aren’t you on a cruise to enjoy the unique things that a ship has to offer? But, if you’re really interested in that free champagne, show up just as the event starts, grab a flute and sit near the exit so you can duck out as soon as the auctioneer turns their back. 


7. Port Shopping Presentations

royal caribbean nassau bahamas port shopping
Photo by Royal Caribbean

Instead of sitting in on a boring port shopping talk, spend your time on the ship doing, well, cruise things! Even if you do end up browsing the shops in port, you probably don’t need to attend a presentation to figure out where the best places are to go. In fact, the cruise lines are in partnership with the stores they recommend, so you might find hidden gems (and better deals)  by doing your own research ahead of time or just wandering around once you dock!

Join the discussion

Have you ever found yourself attending one of these activities, and wondering why you did?


Posted by CruiselineMich

Definitely #1 The neverending Spa presentation made me so tense I needed a massage!

Posted by Itrvlfar

I've always wondered who goes to the disembarkation talk...pretty simple, pack your stuff and get off the ship. Do you really need instructions for this? As for # 4 Bingo...I'm guilty of having played a few games on board but only during bad weather or on a trans-Atlantic when we've done everything else and need to give our liver a break from our drinks package.

Posted by Right

You might want to do any of these things if you are a first-time cruiser, but after that, you could not be more correct. All are a huge waste of time.

Posted by pensnr1fan

#6 is seriously a waste of time. We attended one on our first cruise and never ever again.

Posted by Cruisin1983

These are SPOT ON!!!!

Posted by Unsocial

We went on our first cruise and not only avoided everything on your list, but we booked 3 of our 4 excursions with companies that were not affiliated with Princess. The excursions had less people and were more flexible. You can't stop a giant bus when someone sees a bear, but you sure can when you are in a van. We avoided dining with others by having anytime dining and just generally avoided the other people. There are plenty of places to be alone on a giant ship. I had asked people who had been on Alaska cruises previously if they saw any whales from the ship. No, I don't think you can. Bull, you just have to look! They are all over the place. It was great, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Signed, the Introverts

Posted by jaffa67

You won't believe that this actually happened, but my husband and I were cruising with another couple (first timers) to Alaska on RC, and we were bored so we went to a jewelry presentation, where we were given raffle tickets for a piece of jewelry giveaway the next night. Ok, next night came, we went at the appointed time and waited outside the store for it to re-open after leaving port, and nothing happened! They finally opened up and we went in and asked when are they doing the raffle, and guess what?? They'd "forgotten" all about it!! So, once we reminded them, they started drawing numbers, and would you believe we were the only 2 people who showed up for it? They had to keep drawing numbers until one of us won! (not me) I still can't believe no one else showed up for it! So, it could pay to go to those things, you just never know!

Posted by EuropeDenmark

We enjoy the Bingo, but hate thats its only 1 expencive game - however entering Venice passing Marcus Square at 12.00 who put on a Bingo at that time? One game one price a 10.000 DKK cruise we where 3 couples that attended. Organizer tried to pospone but me "I insist that we close the doors and get started - everybody (the other 5 person agreed :-) At the end of the day it costed me 40.000 DKK to winn. Wife invited son and daughter in law on a Miami/Fort Lauderdale vacation as pre Cruise, Fly from Europe, Hotels, expencis etc etc.... However is there any better way of spending your hard earned money?

Posted by CruisinRichard

Avoid the shopping talk- they are paid by the stores and get a commission for sales they produce- that us why stores ask for your ship- so they know who pay off. Can buy same items on Ebay for less. Never use credit card- extra fees for purchases outside the U,S.

Posted by onecat

Though we are experienced cruisers (20+), I wished I'd seen this warning earlier. On our last TA, I attended a jewelry auction (very high-end items) and left empty-handed. So proud of myself! This false confidence got me back into that store just to look around. And ... you guessed it! My multi-thousand dollar purchase will be a forever reminder to stay away from jewelry stores on a ship.

Posted by msbowie58

Correct on all points made! I am a seasoned cruiser and all are waste of time and energy! AND.......DO book your shore excursions off the ship! They are much cheaper and are always available and work with ships schedules to get you back to the boat on time. 😊

Posted by kel400

i have done all of these things LOL. i would agree with most of the list. i do like going to the art auctions. on a rainy day or if i've had too much sun and there is nothing much else going on why not go? and the jewelry stuff is fun. i have won stuff and its always fun to go shopping. a cruise is your time to do what you want!

Posted by DrewgieHowser

I am not sure what's making me scratch my head more, the list or your comments. I agree half of those things ARE huge wastes of time; however, for some, they are things you can only do on a cruise or are what's interesting to them. For example, I am by no means an art expert, but I do enjoy going to the auction and buying certain pieces from the artists I do like or I learn about artists I didn't even know existed. It isn't for everyone, but it is something different, and for those of us who need a break from the sun every once in a while, it's great. I will admit they do push certain artists, but good deals do exist amongst the weeds. For those who enjoy booking excursions off the boat because they are cheaper, go for it... I've been tempted as well. Know this, they may work with the ship's schedule, but if something happens (e.g. a flat tire) that boat WILL leave without you. SEE YA! And you will be responsible for getting yourself to the next port on your dime. So in the end the cost maybe higher, but security and knowing that boat isn't leaving me behind... I'll take the cost.

Posted by susiesailor

First of all, check with your credit card company.many (like mine) don't charge you anything extra for purchases in another country. Second,I think booking from independent excursions is dangerous. If you want to scrimp,do it on something else.

Posted by CruiselineMich

I use Ship Mate to book all my excursions

Posted by 2cruisersfromND

I agree with many of these, but do want to warn people about booking excursions that are not with your cruise line. We did a Panama Canal transit on a small boat thru the locks as a side trip through Princess, while on a 10 day cruise. The locks were backed up and it took us much longer to complete this than expected. There were 35 of us booked from Princess and the ship waited several hours for us. When we finally boarded from the tour bus, the ship literally took off so fast it felt like the nose was in the air like a motor boat. BUT they waited and all was good. We have done some "other" excursions before, but this was a lesson to us to stick with the ship.

Posted by Andyrusty

i go to the art auctions, jewerly & port presenations whenever they are on and there isnt much to do as they normally have free drinks.

Posted by AlwaysRescue

I have to say that I love going to the store raffles and port shopping talks with raffles. I guess it’s the gambler in me...Plus you could learn something... On my recent Independence of Seas cruise I took time away from family to go to the talk and Regalia raffle. Of course the high end jewelry stores are always the most exciting. Suffice to say I won! What excitement. That was until I saw the prize...A very familiar looking Effy necklace and earring set. I thought it could not be like one of the many blue “glass stones” that Effy gives away for free, for mine was reddish/brown. Come back to Regalia the next day to inquire about where is sterling silver mark? For surely they would not raffle off a junk giveaway in the fine jewelry store. To my amazement, I was told that yes, they even sold the set for $10 in Regalia. I expressed my shock to a salesman and then to the manager at Regalia. She showed no concern and even told me the last raffle was diamond earrings. So, one raffle was a nice prize and the other was cheap junk. Taking time to go to shop, wait around only to win junk? Raffle prizes were better in t-shirt shop! I always thought raffles were supposed to be fun, not a waste of time.

Posted by Lazyboy

Actually, the port presentations can be interesting and informative, but beware of the shops they tout. As far as the art auctions, I have learned things at them that were interesting about the artists and the various artworks, and I do not drink the champaign but I do take the free "artwork" (some are actually very nice). As far as booking excursions, some I do on the ship and some I do from off the ship. All depends on timing (don't want to miss the boat) and offerings. I have found that often the off ship offerings are less of an expensive cattle call and offer more.

Posted by Wannatravel

Great article, learned my lesson on most of these! So much more to do and see cruising!

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