"Research isn't the only reason we're out here."
- - Jonathan Archer, on the virtue of shore leave in 2151
Shore leave was time spent at liberty from a military vessel. In many ways a synonym for the civilian terms vacation and holiday, it referred to a period of time that officers and crewmen could spend off-ship at a given port-of-call. During such time, participants were relieved from their normal duties, but could be recalled at any time by emergency or the will of their commanding officers.
Like Earth Starfleet before it, the Federation Starfleet took an enlightened view of shore leave, as it offered as much opportunity for its crews to explore new cultures as "official" contact made in the line of duty. However, as Federation vessels evolved, they were designed with an increasing number of civilian comforts and holodecks, mitigating the medical necessity of frequent shore leave. Nevertheless, shore leave could be compelled upon an officer, at the judgment of the Chief Medical Officer or the commanding officer. (ENT: "Home"; TOS: "Shore Leave"; TNG: "Captain's Holiday"; DS9: "Defiant")
Though most recorded instances of shore leave have involved the military institutions of Earth and the Federation, other cultures' militaries also employed shore leaves.
The benefits of shore leave were discussed by the command hierarchy of the first Earth starship within its initial year of service. The earliest recorded mention of a shore leave in the history of either Starfleet came within weeks of the launch of the Enterprise NX-01. Archer suggested that an away mission to an apparently idyllic world could be "a little bit of both" shore leave and work. (ENT: "Strange New World")
However, the first genuine shore leave in the history of Earth's NX Program was suggested by a Vulcan. Noting a 3% drop in efficiency among the mostly Human crew of the NX-01, first officer T'Pol suggested a remedy. She advanced the theory that a period of shore leave, during which the crew might find sexual release, would be an appropriate solution to Starfleet regulations forbidding fraternization amongst officers in the same chain of command. Archer and Tucker agreed with the assessment and made several attempts to visit the leisure planet Risa. Eventually, the NX-01 became the first Earth vessel to reach the resort world. (ENT: "Fallen Hero", "Desert Crossing", "Two Days and Two Nights")
A few years later, an extended shore leave was granted to the crew after their return from the Delphic Expanse in 2154. (ENT: "Home") As with other shore leaves throughout history, this one was as much a necessity as a reward. Heavy repairs to Enterprise forced the evacuation of the vessel.
In late 2154, some of the crew of Enterprise was granted shore leave while the ship was in Earth orbit for the launch of Columbia NX-02. However, all crewmen were recalled so the ship could pursue a Rigelian freighter carrying a kidnapped doctor Phlox. (ENT: "Affliction")
The crew of the USS Enterprise took a shore leave on a planet in the Omicron Delta region in 2267. During their leave, they encountered various representations of their thoughts and desires, manufactured by the ancient machinery of the planet. The crew returned to this "shore leave planet" two years later. (TOS: "Shore Leave"; TAS: "Once Upon a Planet")
In the same year, the Enterprise was en route to Starbase 6 for shore leave, which was postponed when the crew was ordered to the Gamma 7A system to investigate the disappearance of the USS Intrepid. (TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome")
Captain Jean-Luc Picard was notorious, at least to the medical staff that oversaw his well-being, for not taking shore leave. He was practically, but not quite, ordered by Beverly Crusher to take shore leave in his third year of commanding the USS Enterprise-D. He was only convinced to take leave on Risa by the concerted efforts of his senior staff, and the warning that Lwaxana Troi was due for a visit to the Enterprise-D. (TNG: "Captain's Holiday")
In the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359, Picard – along with most of the crew of his ship – were given shore leave. As with the earthbound leave Archer enjoyed in 2154, this shore leave was consequent to major repairs on the Enterprise. Picard used the opportunity to visit La Barre, France, his hometown. (TNG: "Family")
After conducting a survey of the Amargosa Diaspora and experimentation by solanogen-based lifeforms, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D was in need of some shore leave, according to Geordi La Forge. (TNG: "Schisms")
After his Klingon task force arrived at Deep Space 9 in early 2372, General Martok asked Benjamin Sisko if his troops could take shore leave on the station, to which Sisko agreed. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
Romulan Star Empire
Senator Kimara Cretak had the crews of the Romulan warbirds Dividices and Genorex put their shore leave on Deep Space 9 on hold until several Klingon starships had left the station. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")
Episodes involving shore leave