Why More Cruises Are Staying in Ports Overnight

A growing number of cruise passengers want to experience destinations at all hours.
A view of Ibizas Dalt Vila or Old Town at dusk   The buildings of Ibiza Town shine behind the boats in the port of Ibiza...
Chris Sorensen/Gallery Stock

Night owls, take note. Big changes are happening in the cruising industry that will help you explore a port of call more easily once the sun goes down. Historically, various factors—tight sailing schedules, old-fashioned itineraries that favor daytime activities, and a desire to maximize the time passengers spend in onboard restaurants and bars—have meant that gangplanks are usually up by cocktail hour. But with guests seeking ways to explore destinations more slowly and deliberately, cruise lines have been introducing more late-night and early-morning departures.

“We saw an uptick in passengers requesting port overnights, specifically in ports such as Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro, where there is a lively nightlife,” says Barbara Muckerman, CEO of Silversea Cruises. The company started offering the option in both cities last year and plans to do the same in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City on voyages starting this October. Regent Seven Seas Cruises will allow guests to stay through dawn at select ports like Hong Kong on its Seven Seas Explorer, while passengers aboard Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady will be able to hit the clubs till the wee hours in party spots like Ibiza while their vessel docks for extended stretches.

The new practice benefits destinations too—more time on dry land means more money goes into the pockets of local businesses. According to travel specialist Tom Baker of CruiseCenter, one result of this shift has been that travelers have become more inclined to book extensive sightseeing tours and even stays at onshore hotels. Early birds get something out of it also: experiencing a city as it wakes up. Imagine sipping your first coffee of the day at a café in Palma's historic center, remembering the Iberian suckling pig you had for dinner at a nearby restaurant the night before.

This article appeared in the April 2023 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.