How to Avoid Weight Gain While Enjoying Your Cruise
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How to Avoid Weight Gain While Enjoying Your Cruise

One of the top concerns that people have about taking a cruise:

“Will I gain weight with all that food around me?”

It’s a reasonable concern since their is no shortage of delicious food on a cruise.

Like most cruisers, I want to have a great time when onboard, and enjoy the delectable food and drinks, without coming home with a weight gain.

So, in nearly 20 years of cruising,  I’ve come up with my 12 personal “cruise rules” to avoid weight gain when sailing the high seas.

Amsterdam, Grand World VoyageI put my “cruise rules” to the test recently while sailing two weeks on Holland America Line’s Grand World Voyage on the ms Amsterdam.

This cruise is a 115-day voyage around the world, and offers guests a fabulous array of delectable foods —  lobster, top quality steaks,and local specialities like the Rijsttafel or Indonesian rice table.  The menu is different every single of the 115 days. Plus, champagne flowed frequently during my two week “visit” and there was a large selection of delectable “drinks of the day”.

Would my “cruise rules” protect me from weight gain during this dedecant cruise experience?

I’m happy to report that my “cruise rules” not only helped me avoid weight gain, I actually lost three pounds during the two weeks, and I certainly did not deprive myself from enjoying any of the “good life” at sea.


1. Take the stairs  

Avoid the elevator and take the stairs whenever possible.  Yes, it might be 10 floors of stairs from the main deck to the Lido deck where the ice cream is served, but taking the stairs will either help burn off the extra calories, remind you to choose a healthy treat, or convince you that you really don’t want  the ice cream badly enough to tackle 10 flights of stairs.   Taking the stairs also saves time because you aren’t standing around waiting for the elevator.


Eggbeaters omelet2. Choose sit-down-and-be-served meals in the dining room over the buffet

You are on vacation, why not be waited upon. Choosing meals in the dining room means that you are served normal portions, eat at a slower pace and can easily make special requests such as “double vegetables, no starch”  or “egg beaters in the omelet, please”? An extra benefit, you tend to meet more of your fellow cruisers, and one tends to eat less while having a conversation.


3. Avoid the bread basket

While seat down and order meals are preferred, chowing down on the bread basket is too be avoided.  This is a danger at the beginning of a meal, when it is typically the only food on the table prior to ordering until the first course is served.  Tricks: drink water, coffee and iced tea and let the bread and pastries pass you buy.  Focus on the menu to think of the extra course you’d rather have than pre-meal bread.

One trick I learned from my tablemates on my most recent cruise: they had a standing order for an appetizer plate of veggie sticks with blue  cheese dip.  It was always waiting on the table, and made the perfect snack with cocktails before dinner.


walking the deck4. Walk a mile, or two around the deck

Most ships have a walking track around the ship, which is a great way to enjoy the sea breeze and ocean views while getting some exercise.  Teak wood promenade decks are a signature of  Holland America Line. On my most recent cruise on the Amsterdam, 3.5 laps equaled a mile.  It was painless to walk seven laps first thing in the morning, and on days at sea fit in another three to four laps later in the day if I was planning to indulge later.


5. Skip the foo-foo drinks

If you drink alcoholic beverages, choose champagne, wine and/or dry martinis over the foo-foo drinks of the day. Yes, mudslides, wang-wangs and mango margaritas are delicious, but they have tons of extra calories on top of the alcohol in them.  Also, try to drink two glasses of water to each beverage that contains alcohol. If you can’t resist the foo-foo drink of the day, limit yourself to one.


6. Get plenty of sleep

Staying up for drinks after the late show and then having to get up at 5:30 to be ready for an early tour can wear you out.  Over-tired people tend to eat more, to compensate for a lack of sleep. If you like to stay up late, take a late afternoon nap — after you’ve walked that extra mile.  Remember, sleeping is more relaxing than the midnight buffet.


7. Utilize the fruit basket in your cabin

On Holland America ships, there is an empty fruit bowl in each stateroom.  Simply fill out the card to check the kinds of fruit you want, and the basket is refilled every day.  A fresh pear, orange or banana makes a great snack.  Where else do you have someone else to fill your fruit bowl? Even if your cruise ship doesn’t offer in-room fruit baskets, you could make your own with fruit from the buffet.


8.  Choose the active tours in port, or make your own walking tour

Most cruise lines rate their shore excursions based on the activity level, and we always choose the most active tours.  Hiking, biking, walking, zip-lining  or swimming on beaches rather than a sedentary bus tour.  If such a tour isn’t offered or isn’t appealing, create your own walking tour of the port highlights, adding in public transportation when needed.


9. Remember, you don’t have to clean your plate

Even if mom is traveling with you, your do not have to eat all of the food that is served to you on a cruise.  There are hundreds of food choices, so why eat more than a few bites of something that you aren’t enjoying? Unlike most restaurants, waiters on a cruise are willing to bring you another choice.  Want steak and lobster? Consider splitting an one entree of each with your traveling companion. Or, order more appetizers rather than a entree.  Cruises are the perfect location to try new foods.


10.  Take an exercise class

Along with trying new foods, why not take advantage of complimentary classes to try new exercise routines?  On my recent cruise, I tried morning stretch class, water aerobics and “sit and be fit”.  Now if you think that is an oxymoron, you should try this class.  It also included some “laughing yoga.”  I wanted to try Fab Abs, Total Body Conditioning and Qi Gong, but there were many more “Wellbeing” activities  to try than time to fit them all in during my two weeks.


11. Drink lots of water

Cruises often sail in warm water destinations, and that means it’s hot.  Staying hydrated in important.  I bought the large bottles of water in my room and drank water throughout the day and night, especially before eating. Water from the tap is drinkable, but by drinking the bottles I could track my consumption.  I also always carried a bottle of water with me when off the ship.


12. Enjoy yourself

You are on vacation and you don’t want to have a “diet” get in the way of your good time.  I didn’t.  If I wanted lobster and champagne, I had them.  If the raspberry white chocolate cheesecake or chocolate volcano cake looked amazing, I enjoyed every bite.  While I didn’t obsess about dieting while on the cruise, I was aware of what I was eating, and made a few extra laps around the deck when I planned to indulge.

The bottom line, I ate and drank like a queen.  And I lost 3 pounds during the two week cruise.

You don’t have to be afraid of gaining weight on a cruise.

Just create your own set of “cruise rules” to follow.  And enjoy yourself.


Do you have a different strategy for avoiding weight gain on a cruise? Please share in comments below.


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