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19 things to do on a cruise that don't involve eating, drinking, or gambling


People often perceive cruises to be centered around eating, drinking, and gambling. This, however, is far from the truth. While eating is certainly an important aspect of any cruise, those who aren't into drinking or gambling will find more than enough activities to keep them busy while onboard. 

Cruising appeals to a diverse range of individuals, as you can choose a voyage that meets your vacation preferences. Whether you're seeking a port-intensive European adventure, relaxing tropical getaway, or scenic Alaskan journey, there's the perfect ship and itinerary for everyone.

If you aren't convinced that cruising is for you, here's a list of 19 things to do that don't involve eating, drinking, or gambling. 

Listening to live music 


Whether you're navigating through the Greek Isles aboard a small ship or embarking on one of the largest cruise ships at sea bound for the Caribbean, your journey will be filled with live music. 

During the day, you can listen to tropical tunes on the lido deck, while at night, you can enjoy a variety of genres, ranging from classical to today's hits. You might even feel inclined to dance a little! 

Your ship's daily schedule is the ultimate guide for discovering what's playing and when. It will also serve as your primary resource for all the onboard activities. 

Watching a movie under the stars 


Nothing compares to watching a movie in the theaters, but there's a unique charm in enjoying the latest flicks under the stars while at sea. 

During my recent cruise onboard Carnival Conquest, I enjoyed watching Barbie (2023) from the comfort of one of the hot tubs on the pool deck. Additionally, on my Carnival Vista cruise, I discovered that they had an IMAX theater playing recently released films (for an extra charge), including The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Killers of the Flower Moon

Movies aren't limited to the evenings, so it pays to check the daily schedule to find out what will be shown. 

Riding water slides


Today, many cruise ships are outfitted with water slides. Some even have dedicated water parks onboard! If you are someone who enjoys the rush of a freefall slide or wants to race against friends and family, you are sure to have a memorable aquatic experience on your cruise. 

However, it is important to research the ship you're interested in sailing on before booking, as some do not have as many slides as others. On Carnival Conquest, for instance, there was a single slide, whereas Carnival Celebration had an entire Waterworks aqua park with numerous different slides and water activities, including a dump bucket and sprayers. 

Similarly, Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic and Wonder don't have the infamous AquaDuck/AquaMouse water coaster that spans across the top deck. 

Read more: 15 amazing activities on a cruise ship

Reading a book by the pool


Before you leave home, make sure that you have enough reading materials to keep you occupied, especially if your cruise consists of more sea days. 

If you find the main pool area to be a little noisy, check out the adults-only area or an indoor lounge, as they tend to be much quieter during the day when everyone else is outside. Those with a balcony cabin may prefer even to relax on their personal verandah with a good book in hand.  

Exploring awesome ports of call

Princess Cruises Whittier Alaska

One of the primary allures of cruising is that the ship will transport you to multiple different destinations without requiring you to pack and unpack your suitcase time and time again. 

Some cruisers lean towards spending more days in port, whereas others see the ship as the ultimate destination Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, it's important to utilize your time ashore wisely. Research each port of call ahead of time and see what there is to do. In Alaska, for instance, you may find yourself wanting to ride a helicopter to the top of a glacier one day and enjoy a fresh seafood feast the next. 

It's also important to evaluate whether you want to book excursions through the cruise line or a local operator. The latter is usually cheaper; however, if anything goes astray, you risk the ship leaving without you

Read more: 10 tips for getting the best cruise shore excursion values

Trying out onboard activities that you won't believe are on a moving ship


Did you know that you can race on a go-kart track or ride a roller coaster in the middle of the ocean? Some ships even have ice skating rinks, mini-golf, zip lines, and bumper cards onboard! While the offerings do vary, today's newest vessels have an incredible array of onboard activities for guests to partake in. 

Note, though, that not all activities are included in the cost of your cruise fare. Crown's Edge onboard Icon of the Seas, for instance, costs around $50, while Carnival's BOLT Sea Coaster costs $15 per ride. 

Regardless, if you aren't spending money on alcoholic drinks or gambling, you'll likely be okay splurging on one or two extra-cost activities. 

Attending a theme party

Norwegian Prima

There will be several evenings on your cruise that have a specific theme, such as 80s Night, Country Night, White Out Night, etc. On these nights, many passengers opt to dress accordingly and partake in tailored events, most notably theme parties. 

Whether they're held in the ship's atrium or on the top deck, these parties often make the cruise experience far more memorable. You never know when you'll end up making a new cruise friend with shared interests, either! 

Cruise lines, however, don't send out a detailed list of the themes prior to your sailing, so you'll have to do a little research online to help you pack accordingly. Facebook groups are a good resource, as you can search previous cruises and ask fellow passengers. Reviewing past daily schedules can be useful, too. 

Playing a game of basketball on the sports court


Sports enthusiasts will love being able to play a game of basketball, soccer, or even pickleball on the dedicated court. Cruise lines often offer tournaments, too, allowing guests the opportunity for a little friendly competition. 

There are usually different challenges for all ages and skill levels, such as family-friendly basketball and teens-only dodgeball. 

If you don't want to participate, that's also fine! It's fun to watch other cruisers break a sweat from the sidelines.

Testing your knowledge during trivia 

Trivia RC

Do you have a knack for geography, or are you well-versed in all things pop culture? If so, try your luck at trivia! You might just walk away with some cool cruise line swag. 

Most cruises have daily trivia sessions that cover a range of topics including general knowledge, aviation, music, movies, travel, and more. Participating is not only a fun daytime activity, but it's also a way to keep your cognitive skills sharp during your vacation. 

Working out in the gym


You're bound to eat a little bit more than usual while on vacation. It's hard not to with the all-you-can-eat buffet and indulgent three-course meals in the Main Dining Room! That, however, doesn't mean you have to abandon your fitness goals. 

Rather than have a few mimosas during breakfast, hit the gym and get your daily workout in before the day has truly begun! Plus, many ships offer group fitness classes, too, which are a great way to help maintain your wellness routine while enjoying your cruise experience. 

Watching an original production show or Broadway-style musical 

Tangled musical

Are you a fan of live entertainment? Then you won't want to overlook your ship's theater productions! These performances range from original shows to Broadway-style musicals and are a highlight for many cruisers. 

Certain cruise lines have a better reputation for their entertainment offerings than others, including Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. While I won't lie and say that I've often found myself missing Royal Caribbean's Broadway-style musicals while cruising on Carnival, I've been blown away by the talent of the vocalists on more than one ship! 

Relaxing in the spa

Celebrity AquaClass Spa

Spa treatments are the ultimate indulgence on any cruise, primarily because of their cost! While more expensive than spas on land, there's nothing quite like receiving a massage and then lounging in the thermal room admiring the sweeping ocean views. 

It's not uncommon to see massages costing upwards of $200 or more! Even salon treatments, such as manicures and pedicures, are more costly than at home. You can, for instance, expect to pay at least $60 for a manicure. 

If you want to save a little money on your spa day, see what deals are being offered for port days. Usually, the cruise line will discount treatments to convince guests to stay onboard, rather than go explore the port. They don't make any money if you're off the ship! 

Read more: 16 Hidden Cruise Ship Extra Charges You Should Know About (2024)

Listening to guests' singing skills during karaoke

Spotlight Karaoke

Karaoke is a popular cruise activity, and it doesn't cost anything to watch and/or participate. If you find yourself wanting to sing, make sure you arrive early, as slots tend to fill up quickly. 

I've heard everything from talented singers to young children and even those hoping to make the audience laugh. You never know what you're in for, making attending karaoke something you can do nightly!  

Playing arcade games

Arcade stock photo

If you want to immerse yourself in the world of electronic fun, you will want to pay a visit to the ship's arcade.

Whether you're into racing games, fast-paced shooters, skeeball, or air hockey, you'll be able to find something among the diverse selection of games. Perhaps you'll break one of the high scores! 

Note, though, that arcade games do cost extra, with the exception of Virgin Voyages. Some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, will allow you to purchase credits in advance at a discount. Most of the time, however, you'll have to pay for each game as you play, meaning that it's important for parents to watch over their kids! 

Spending time with friends and family while playing some card games


If you are traveling with loved ones, why not spend some time onboard with them? It's easy for large groups to disperse throughout the ship since there are so many different activities going on simultaneously; however, you want to return home with at least a few shared experiences together!

Cards are easy to pack into the nooks and crannies of your suitcase, so they won't take up too much room. Whether it's on a warm sea day in the Caribbean or while sailing through Alaskan glaciers, you'll be able to play a round or two of Uno, Phase10, Go Fish, etc. 

Shopping at the onboard stores

Disney Cruise Line merchandise

All ships have branded merchandise onboard, which makes the perfect souvenir to remember your time onboard! On my second Disney cruise, I purchased an exclusive Pandora charm that I've kept up with for nearly an entire decade. Of course, there will also be t-shirts, coffee mugs, stuffed animals, and more. 

When it comes to cosmetics, you're better off buying them at your local store. While ships are duty-free, I've noticed that they often mark up the prices, so the deals aren't anything worthwhile. Nevertheless, when it comes to cruise line-specific merchandise, it's worth taking a look at what's available, so you can bring part of your adventure home with you. 

Speaking of shopping, it's important that you bring all of your essentials with you, as things like medication, shampoo, and other toiletries are quite expensive onboard. Plus, since cruise ships can only handle so much inventory, you won't have as many options to choose from, which could be frustrating if you have a preferred brand. 

Laughing out loud during a comedy show


Comedy shows are yet just another form of entertainment that cruise lines offer. Some ships have dedicated venues, whereas others offer shows a bit more sporadically throughout the voyage. Either way, they're all complimentary, no matter how frequently they're offered. 

If you're going to an adult-only show, it is important to go in with an open mind. If you're easily offended, you may prefer a family-friendly show. Usually, comedians will offer both, so there's something to appeal to everyone! 

Exploring crew-only area onboard the ship


Cruise ships are engineering marvels. Not only are they capable of providing an amazing vacation for thousands of guests, but they also serve as the home away from home for all crew onboard. There are many areas of the ship that are off-limits to passengers, unless they purchase a behind-the-scenes tour. 

These all-access tours allow guests to get a glimpse at ship operations, explore the Engine Control Room and galley (AKA the kitchen), and even peek into the Bridge! 

Since these tours are only offered to a limited number of people, they can be pretty expensive. Royal Caribbean's "All Access Tour," for instance, can cost anywhere anywhere between $155 to $200 per person. If, however, you're interested in an exclusive look at the inner workings of a cruise ship, it's worth the cost!

Getting professional pictures taken 


If you're worried about getting your Christmas card picture taken on time, there's no better opportunity than on your cruise! Since your family will (essentially) be under the same roof, plan ahead with some fun coordinating outfits and carve out a chunk of time to wait in line for professional pictures. 

Having the pictures taken doesn't cost anything extra. If, however, you decide to purchase any, you'll have to pay for them. Cruise lines do offer photo packages if you plan on having a significant number of pictures taken. However, they can be pretty expensive.

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