Enjoying a Cruise Vacation without Sacrificing your Healthy Lifestyle


Cruising has been one of my favorite ways to vacation since my first dazzling experience with it in 3rd grade. It’s the best combination of visiting ports, sailing the high seas, top notch entertainment, and not to forget…food. I’ve cruised many times without regard for what I ate or my level of activity. This past winter was my first cruise since I started actively trying to be healthier. I’ve been on several vacations and trips but food is a much bigger part of cruising than my typical non-cruise vacation. I was worried about how I would handle the quantity and richness of food that would undoubtedly surround me for 7 days. I managed to have a fantastic time, not derail all of my efforts, and I didn’t feel deprived. Here are my tips for cruising without sacrificing enjoyment or your hard work:

  • Take your own food. Part of the allure of a cruise is that everything is included so it sounds silly to take food when you’ve already paid for all of your meals. I took items that I knew I could put together with the provided food. Some of the items I took were:

  • Bottle of salad dressing. I knew there would be plenty of salad available and I didn’t want to be stuck with dressings that didn’t align with my goals.

  • Sugar free flavored coffee syrup. I use sugar free flavored coffee syrup everyday at home. I don’t like black coffee and the sugar free syrup gets some flavor without using sugar or creamer.

  • Peanut butter squeeze packs. The squeeze packs can be eaten alone (because let’s be honest, sometimes you don’t even need a vehicle for your peanut butter) or they can be eaten on something. I knew there would be apples, toast, and other opportunities for peanut butter. By taking my own PB, I knew it didn’t have sugar or any of the extra ‘junk’ that’s often in PB.

  • Share. We took a pass at the dessert area of the buffet everyday at lunch and we ate dessert everyday but we took one plate and got a piece of 2-3 items. The desserts at the buffet are usually cut small enough to reduce waste. This way, Dan and I were both able to take a bite or two of a couple different things without ending up with tons of dessert. In several instances, we took a bite and said ‘that looked like it was going to taste a lot better’ and we didn’t finish it.

  • Let your waiter get to know you. I like the seated dinners on a cruise. I like that the waiter already knows your name the first night, asks you about your day, and gets to know what you like. Our waiter figured out right away that I was going to start with salad with no croutons and no dressing every night and order the tropical fruit plate for dessert. In fact, I planned all week that I would order the ‘warm chocolate melting cake’ (a Carnival classic) on the last night of the cruise and the waiter had to clarify twice because he had become accustomed to my normal order. We were seated with another couple so we were not able to request no bread on our table but next time we cruise, if we are seated alone, which we prefer, we will ask at the beginning of the cruise that they not put a basket of bread on our table. A few times, we ate bread more out of boredom waiting for our food than out of actual hunger or wanting it. Ask for what you want. Meals are put together on the menu but if you want a different combination, ask for it.

  • Order fruit for dessert. Of all of the things I did to make the cruise a smidge healthier, ordering the tropical fruit plate was probably the best. I never felt deprived and I left the dining room feeling good and ready for the evening of comedy shows, production shows, and listening to live bands compared to previous cruises where I’ve left feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.

  • Stay hydrated. No matter what, the food on a cruise is saltier than you’re probably used to. It’s so easy to get dehydrated on a cruise. Water is always available and I make a habit of grabbing a cup (or two) every time we walk past the drink area.

  • Take the steps. Our room was on deck 2 and most of the ‘action’ was on deck 7+. I decided day one that I would only take the steps. In most cases it was faster than waiting for the elevator and with as much as we moved around the ship, certainly burned a nice extra chunk of calories every day.

  • Use the gym. Our normal routine at ports is to walk during the morning and experience the town. Then we go back to the ship, eat lunch, change, and get a taxi to a beach we can snorkel at. Both the walking and the snorkeling are a good workout but we also ate a lot and it was richer food than I would have eaten at home. We always choose the late dinner seating which was 8:15 and we were back on the ship by 5 each day. I went to the gym during that time every day because I knew I wasn’t missing much. There are often things we want to do or see on a cruise from 7am to midnight so waking up early to workout didn’t seem like a good plan. By hitting the gym while the early seating was at dinner, it wasn’t super crowded and I was able to get in a good hour without missing too much of the action.

A cruise vacation can be a wonderful, refreshing, adventure filled break from the everyday even without derailing all of your efforts to be fit.

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