5 Ways to Stay Healthy on a Cruise

Conventional wisdom has it that people gain weight on vacation, especially on a cruise vacation where the culinary options are generally outstanding and abundant. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

An extremely healthy friend of mine shared this experience with me, just after returning home from what she described as a fun-filled Carnival Cruise: “I haven’t lost this much weight in a week except when I was sick,” she said. “Forget the spa vacation. This was great!”

Cruise lines have made being at sea easier and more desirable for the health-conscious, and now my cruise weeks also serve as renewal weeks. I feel refreshed while sailing, get off feeling even better and make each trip a renewed commitment to health and pleasure.

Change Your Mindset
The vacation mindset is that this is the time to let go and enjoy yourself. While that’s true, the momentary pleasure of eating huge amounts of rich food is usually followed by guilt, body discomfort and regret rather than the fun and relaxation you’re looking for.

Instead, shift the emphasis for your vacation from unlimited indulgence to looking and feeling glamorous. Pack some clothes you really love that fit perfectly — meaning, no extra room for wolfing down unnecessary extra servings. You’ll want to strut your stuff in them, and that counters a lot of temptation.

Plan Around Activities
Choose a ship for its onboard culture — which emphatically includes its food — but instead of planning the day from meal to meal, plan your day from activity to activity.

Learn something new. Tango, swim a couple of laps, get a spa treatment you’ve never had, try a cuisine you haven’t encountered, learn to create a website or speak a few words of Italian. Meet new friends at the pool, or in a class or lecture, rather than hanging around for that extra dessert or more drinks.

Cruise ships often invite their passengers to dance with events and classes, and you don’t have to have a partner to enjoy them. Lots of unaccompanied cruisers drop into the disco or join the salsa crowd for an hour or two each night. Learn a line dance by the pool or enjoy a workout in the gym. Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises both have Zumba classes, which are fun and never about doing it “right.”

Holland America Line has “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” classes. Carnival Cruise Lines encourages dancing with everything from a jazz combo to a country band, and Cunard Line and Crystal Cruises excel in providing music for ballroom dancing. The wildest European discos (they don’t really get started until about 2 in the morning) are on Costa Cruises.

Not a dancer? Head to the gym. You have a luxurious, cutting-edge gym with no membership fee just steps from your door. Exercise relaxes you, makes you conscious of your body and gives your endorphins a nice boost. And there’s instruction provided for the boxing ring, the Kinesis Wall, black light spinning class or ice-skating. On some lines, you can also roller skate, play golf or work out with an avatar.

You can also join the group walking around the ship’s track in the cool of the morning or walk from shop to shop on shore while exercising your credit card. Shore excursions provide opportunities to explore ports on foot or by kayak, bicycle or canoe.

Indulge in Gorgeous and Good Food
The cruise lines have figured out that people who get off the ship feeling content with themselves — and their weight — will be back as repeat customers. So cruise lines now offer everything from Canyon Ranch cuisine (Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) to raw food menus (Seabourn Cruise Line). Royal Caribbean International has a Vitality option (a three-course meal with a maximum of 800 calories), and on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the line offers an entire health-focused buffet restaurant.

In 2012, Holland America introduced a 22-dish vegetarian-only menu and added 30 new vegetarian dishes to their main dining room menu. A chef will make you all the goodies you need to follow your preferred food choices for optimal health, vitality and dining pleasure — all you have to do is enjoy it.

Another tip: Whatever you eat, savor it. And don’t let your dining room waiter mother you into eating something you don’t want.

Sleep, Nap, Doze
Remember naps? Life is so hectic that the pleasure of taking a relaxed, well-exercised body and stretching it out to rest is a luxury. The beds are great, the temperature is yours to control and the “Do Not Disturb” sign guards your privacy. Enjoy some sleep!

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