or How NOT to Gain Weight on a Cruise

We’ve all heard the standard cruise joke: ” People go on a cruise as passengers but disembark as cargo”.

Cruise lines promote their cuisine, and so they should as it is designed by world famous chefs. We see it in promotional advertising, receive ship’s recipes by email, are greeted by champagne on embarking, have access to food 24 hours a day, and bar waiters are at our beck and call in just about every public area on ship (though I have never seen one in the gym or library…hmmm, good hiding spots). Special buffets are held at midnight with offerings so sumptuous that half your time is spent taking photos and the other half eating. Many cruisers, when asked, say they cruise for the food.

Late night "sweet" buffet on AmaWaterways cruise ( Not shown: chocolate fountain!)

Late night “sweet” buffet on AmaWaterways cruise ( Not shown: chocolate fountain!)

It is tempting to overindulge a) when you don’t have to cook it yourself; b) the food is prepared with the finest, freshest ingredients and displayed temptingly; c) is included for the most part in your fare; and d) is everywhere all the time. What’s a person to do?

Cheese, cold cuts and fruit, part of morning buffet on AmaWaterways

Cheese, cold cuts and fruit, part of morning buffet on AmaWaterways

As someone who has faced this challenge on ocean and river cruises, here’s my suggestions that seem to work for me (after I have dieted relentlessly pre-cruise to fit into that bathing suit). Perhaps you will find some inspiration too.

  • The main cafeteria and the buffets usually have the foods grouped, eg the breads and pastries in one spot, the salads in another, the desserts in another area, and so on. Keep your blinkers on – don’t even be tempted to look – and head for the salad section, get your protein at the carvery, and choose fresh fruit for starters or your “sweet”.
  • Many ships offer lighter  “healthy”fare in a cafeteria near or in the area of the spa or gym.
  • We all know the menu in the main dining room has many tasty entrées but often the “healthy” selection is highlighted. Eat that entrée and then you can indulge in a dessert if you like.
  • If you have great willpower, order the starter, the entrée and the dessert but only eat a portion of each. ( Your mother is probably not there to tell you to “eat up”).
  • Don’t order room service after your evening meal. It’s usually always starch and sugar ( pizza, pop, sandwich, etc).
  • Limit your alcoholic drinks to one location/time on ship eg. Poolside or at dinner.
  • Lap the ship on an ocean cruise two to three times on sea days (every day if you can).
  • Take the stairs, not the elevator. It’s quicker sometimes anyway.
  • Check out the gym. There are great exercise machines you may not have ready access to at home, and there are also lots of different classes you can take.
  • Choose active excursions on shore days, or walk and explore the port of call if possible.
  • Reward yourself every day with a special treat or drink.
  • Unless you are travelling with like-minded souls, don’t tell anyone what measures you are employing to avoid a ten pound gain (which is entirely possible). Either your companions won’t understand or some may actively try to undermine your determination.
  • Choose one piece of clothing that you love and that fits snug at your waistline in the beginning of the cruise. Try it on every day, you’ll soon know if you are succeeding or not.
Pastry table at breakfast

Avoid the pastry table at breakfast

If you find these suggestions too restrictive to your holiday life style, practice them either every second day on a long cruise, or for just the first half of a week-long one (and go as crazy as you want the last half).

Healthy choice? From a Celebrity cruise buffet

Healthy choice? From a Celebrity cruise buffet

Having tried just a few of these precautions every cruise has helped me to return home the same weight as I left, and still have a great time on my vacation.



Article written by D.MacIntyre of Compass Media Photos of the delicious food courtesy of the author.