If differentiating your player locations is important to your game, perhaps you need consider alternative perspectives on the world.
The games you reference, and most common for the genre, are out-of-starship third-person perspectives. One alternative would be to take a first-person perspective at the trade depot, allowing the biology, culture (architecture, language, etc.) and surrounding environment (atmosphere, star light, etc.) take a more dominate role in your game.
In other words, if it is the space between is the boring/repetition parts, eliminate that and associated travel time from the player's experience.
If you're not willing to jump that far out of genre, some games have had success with color (star light and nebulous backdrops) and sound (radio noise from local culture, with possible interference from local celestial bodies).
Since you already mentioned "a dock to repair/refuel, a shop to trade, a bar", let me elaborate with some questions
- How does star type and planet orbit relate to the habitable zone?
- How does this affect the planet's biosphere?
- How did the local species evolve in this environment?
- Did the traders evolve here? If not what in the environment brings them to this world?
- How does the biology affect the culture?
- How large are the inhabitants, and how does that change the player's perspective.
- What would they eat and drink? (Or more aptly, how would the player observe locals being served, since eating is probably not in the player's scope of interaction?)
- How segregate or ingrained is the surround biology into the urban/trading post environment?
- How is the biology adapted to the environment and the climate or weather?
- What is the architecture like?
- What is the scale of the architecture? Caves or hobbit holes? Skyscrapers? Castles? Arcologies? Ring worlds?
- What colors and shapes define cultural artifacts and architectural details?
- What materials and technologies are available for buildings? Carved in rock? Built from glass or gold? Grown out of trees or crystal nanites?
- What environmental protection/exposure is the architecture supposed to provide? Extreme weather? Radiation? Meteorites? Ocean-going access?
- What is the dominant economy, and how does this reflect in the values of the culture?
- Mining? Agriculture? Trade? Science & Technology?
- Are there different classes/castes/genders in the culture, and if so, who would the player be interacting with?
- How would local culture or customs influence communication, trade, contracts, and the surround social environment?
- How do they feeling about outsiders, like the player?
- How close is the player allowed to everyday citizens, and what obstacles are presented along the way? Security outposts? Quarantine isolation? Guarded at gun point? Or just invited to the local bar for drinks? Possibly showered with gifts to smooth business relations?
- Is the culture more formal or informal? Does the player trade with an accountant like book-keeper, or to they haggle with a dock-hand at the space dock?
- How is trade conducted? Free trade between private parties? Government run customs checkpoint?
- Are the NPCs prone to gossip? Do they expect bribes? Are they supportive of the local authority, or prone to rebellion?
- In any of the above questions, is there any variety exposed to the player?
- Are there multiple locations on a planet or in a system open to foreign trade? Are they located in different climates? Do they represent different nations? Do they share a world or social outlook?
These are just a handful of questions you can consider to differentiate the player experiences. Obviously it would be a huge undertaking to address all of them in a single procedural system, but a textual prototype might help you navigate them for what is important for your vision of the player's experience.
The beauty about using culture and biology to differentiate locations, is that you can also use it to ties different places together. A starfaring civilization will bring it heritage with it, which will allow a player to recognize the similarities, as well as the differences.