Overnight Cruise Port Stays – Making the Most of the Extra Time

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer in Helsinki Finland
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer in Helsinki Finland - Our First Overnight Port Stay was onboard

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USA Today recently posted a brief article on overnight cruise port stays – ‘Come and go as you please’: Here’s how overnight cruise stops workNathan Diller, the author, wrote about his experience on an overnight stay in San Francisco aboard the Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess ship, noting that the overnight stay and his excursion departing at 5pm was a “rarity because we’d normally be sailing away by that time.”

While an overnight stay in port is a relative rarity for Princess Cruises or many of their contemporary and upscale contemporary cruise line competitors, these “overnights” are typical features on many premium and luxury cruise lines, particularly on voyages ten nights and longer.

We have been fortunate to experience several overnights and late evening departures on voyages and we have made the most of each opportunity.  Our most recent overnight was on our Oceania Cruises Vista sailing where we stayed over in Istanbul, Türkiye.  We took advantage of the overnight and went out for dinner at a rooftop restaurant where we enjoyed amazing local cuisine as the sun set over the Topkapi Palace.  We were back on board by 11 pm, but the ability to enjoy the leisurely evening and eat in a restaurant where we were the only Americans was a memory we’ll cherish for years to come.

Overnight Stay Istanbul
Neolokal Istanbul 2023

On our first cruise as a married couple, we were fortunate to have a full three days and two nights in St. Petersburg, Russia where we made the best use of both nights by taking a day trip into Moscow one day (arriving back at the ship after midnight) and on the other night attending the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s performance of Swan Lake.  The other benefit of being in port overnight is that you’re there as early as you would like to be the next morning.  In St. Petersburg this allowed us to visit the Hermitage Museum one hour before general admission opened allowing us to get ahead of the wave of visitors.  Below you can see the difference in the sheer number of people in the museum.

Overnight Stay St Petersburg
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg beginning and end of “Pre-Open Tour”

One final memory was of an excellent dinner spent in Copenhagen during the “white nights” summer season when we had dinner and were back on the ship by 11pm for the late night sail-out during the extended “daylight.”  This experience was made possible by a late sail-out and not an overnight which in our book is almost preferable.

Overnight Copenhagen
Marchal Copenhagen, Denmark

For some cruise lines like Azamara Cruises, overnight and late-night departures are core to their brand.  in 2023 Azamara celebrated ten years of AzAmazing Celebrations.  The AzAmazing Celebrations program provides included evening experiences for every passenger in a local location typically including dining and a cultural experience of some sort.  Featured events in 2023 included a visit to the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra at City Hall, a Choir Performance at Tito Square in Koper, Slovenia, and a Taman Budaya Art Center Evening Extravaganza in Bali, Indonesia.  This year alone, Azamara Cruises ADDED 35 new events to an already impressive list.

Overnight AzAmazing Celebrations 10 Years
Image Credit: Azamara Cruises

Another line that prides itself on overnight stays is Celebrity Cruises, with their More Time to Explore program that they describe as follows:

“There’s a reason we have over 250 overnight stays available. It’s an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in some of the world’s most exciting and vibrant destinations. On an overnight stay you become more like a local as you take your time exploring everything you wish to see. And the best bit is you’re free to come and go from the ship as you please, day and night. Whether you would like to wander around historic Florence after dark, take in the sights, smells and sounds of a buzzing market in Mumbai or see the stunning limestone mountains in Halong Bay, we have some truly unforgettable experiences waiting for you.”

Celebrity Cruises Overnight Stays
Image Credit: Celebrity Cruises

And of course I have to mention that Oceania Cruises, our preferred cruise line features lots of overnight stays as well as what they call “extended port stays” like the one we experienced in Copenhagen a few years back.

Oceania Cruises 2024 Collection Highlights
Oceania Cruises 2024 Collection Highlights

We are asking ourselves about our loyalty to Oceania Cruises after hearing about – When Your Dream $20,000 Cruise Becomes a Nightmare – Oceania Dramatic Changes to Itinerary Due to Global Conflicts.

Do overnight port stays appeal to you?  Do you have a favorite overnight experience from a past cruise? – Michael

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