First Timers' Guide to Cruise Activities

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If you're worried that you'll be bored on a cruise, banish that idea right away. Cruise ships schedule so many activities that a day at sea can be almost as much fun (and as exhausting) as a full day of sightseeing. From cooking classes to rock-climbing, trivia contests to line-dancing, wine-tasting to Wii-playing, there's truly something for everyone.

Want to lie in the sun or take a dip in the pool? No problem. Want to spend time shopping for souvenirs, indulging in a massage or gambling in the casino? You can do it. Want to boogie board, drive a racecar, ice skate or learn trapeze? Aha -- even these exotic activities can be done onboard. And with the 2009 launch of Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, cruisers now have access to the first at-sea carousel and onboard zip-line.

Regardless of your activity levels and preferences, you can't help but find a way to keep yourself entertained on a cruise ship. Here's our Cruise Critic guide to the types of programs and amenities you're likely to find to keep you busy and happy during your time onboard.

The Daily Bulletin

How do you find out what's going on each day? A daily newsletter is delivered to your cabin each evening. One will also be waiting for you when you arrive. In it, you'll find the schedule for the next day's activities and entertainment offerings, as well as opening hours for the spa, restaurants, onboard shops and bars. You'll even find listings for movies on your in-cabin TV, information on scheduled ports of call, debarkation and embarkation information, and sunrise and sunset times. Children registered with the onboard kids' club (see below) will often receive their own daily schedules of age-appropriate activities, as well.

Daytime Offerings

Cruise ships try to appeal to all types of passengers, and dozens of organized programs will offer a wide range of activities, covering an array of interests -- especially on sea days. If you want to get active, you can participate in pool games, compete in basketball and volleyball tournaments, improve your golf swing, or take dance classes. Indoors, you might prefer a history lecture, playing cards (bridge is especially popular) or bingo, learning napkin-folding or flower-arranging, bidding on items at an art auction, watching a cooking demonstration or sipping wine at a wine-tasting, usually for an extra fee. Entertainment during the day can range from musical performances by the pool to afternoon shows (such as comedy improv on NCL, small acts in Princess' Piazza or an ice skating show on Royal Caribbean) and movies in an indoor cinema or poolside.

You are, of course, free to skip all organized activities and lounge at the pool with an icy cocktail. Also open throughout the day are the ships' Internet centers, boutiques, casinos and libraries -- not to mention the many venues for eating and drinking, round-the-clock. NCL even has Wii video games hooked up to giant screens in its ships' atriums for guest use. Outdoors, you'll find ping-pong, shuffleboard, basketball courts and -- on several new ships -- mini-golf, rock-climbing walls, roller-blading rinks, and even onboard surfing and circus games (think tight-rope and trapeze). And, you can always retreat to your cabin to enjoy the view from the balcony, or indulge in a mid-day nap.

For more on onboard activities, read Cruise Critic's feature on Best Ships for Sea Days.

The Gym and Spa

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