How to Not Lose Your Waist on a Cruise

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Everyone knows that a cruise can be your waist’s worst enemy. With all the food and beverage options that are available, at no additional charge, anytime day or night, it is easy to over-indulge and come home with a few extra pounds. Some people accept that as a fact. Others do everything they can to avoid gaining a single pound. I imagine that most folks are like us and fall somewhere in the middle.

It is a vacation, after all… a time to indulge a little. It’s no fun being “good” ALL the time! A cruise doesn’t have to mean completely sabotaging your diet. Here are a few steps you can take to minimize or eliminate weight gain.

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Hit the Salad Bar

The buffet will undoubtedly have plenty of not-so-good offerings such as pizza, hamburgers, pasta and all the desserts you can imagine. It also will probably have a salad bar. On Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, the salad bar was actually right inside the door of the Windjammer. That is a plus…the first thing you see is vegetables!

The Windjammer buffet on the Adventure of the Seas
The Windjammer Cafe, a place for casual breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard the Adventure of the Seas

So, grab a plate and get started! Just be sure to make good choices here…there can still be plenty of bad options on a salad bar, including cheese, creamy dressings and pasta salads. Stick to the vegetables, fruits and lighter dressings and you’re off to a good start.

There also is generally a carving station of some sort of meat, at least at dinner. That is usually a safe choice as it is generally high in protein. Then you can search around to find some vegetables to accompany your main dish.

While I can’t say that I always make the best choices at the buffet, I generally do start with a salad. I figure that gets me some vegetables and fills me up with something at least slightly lower in calories than the other buffet options!

Look for the Healthy Menu Offerings in the Main Dining Room and Specialty Restaurants

Royal Caribbean calls these items their “Vitality Menu” and they are lower in calories than their other offerings. Granted, this menu is very limited, often with only one or two options for each course, but at least there are some good options.

There are lots of options in the main dining room
About to enjoy a meal aboard the Adventure of the Seas in the main dining room

For those die-hard healthy eaters, these are the items you will want to order. For the rest of us, maybe one or two courses can come from this menu some nights and you can splurge somewhere else.

Take the Stairs

On our most recent cruise, we never got on the elevator. Seriously, not once. We took the stairs everywhere. While I realize not everyone is physically fit enough to do this, it can be a great way to burn a few extra calories.

This past cruise, our stateroom was on the ninth floor. The pool, rock wall, buffet and gym were all on the 11th or 12th floor. The main shopping area was on the fifth floor. Our dining room was on the third floor. The gangway (ramp to get on and off the ship at each port) was on the first floor. This meant LOTS of floors to climb.

Big ships means lots of floors to explore
All Royal Caribbean boats have maps conveniently located throughout the ship, making it easy to find what you need.

After three or four floors, our legs were burning. But, it was worth it to know that we were sneaking in some exercise.

The one downside to this: On Royal Caribbean, and probably other cruise lines too, the elevators actually have a carpet insert with the day of the week on it. If you forget what day of the week it is, hop on an elevator. Or just enjoy being on vacation and not needing to know the day of the week!

Hit the Gym

I know, it’s vacation. But, if you really want to avoid gaining weight, spending some time in the gym is a great way to burn off some of those extra calories that you undoubtedly consumed. I am confident that all the major cruise lines have a gym with all the standard equipment – treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, weight machines and free weights.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the onboard gym.
The fitness center aboard the Adventure of the Seas features plenty of exercise machines.

Most will even offer groups classes, though those usually come at a cost.

Yes, it means packing yet another set of clothes for the day, but since you only have to unpack one time on a cruise, that really isn’t that big of a deal.

We spent 30-45 minutes on several days out of our week-long cruise in the gym. It was just enough time to burn a couple of hundred calories on the treadmill, but not enough time to feel like you spent your entire vacation working out.

There also is generally a walking track around one of the top decks, usually just above the pool. While this can be a good option late at night or early in the morning, during the day it is often too crowded to really be useful for exercise!

Choose Your Cruise Excursions and Daily Activities Wisely

There are unlimited options of things to do both on and off the cruise ship. Choose activities that will keep you moving!

Rather than taking a bus tour of the island, choose an excursion that goes on a hike. Or go to the beach so you can swim. Or even just walk through town rather than take a taxi. All these things will keep you active and help burn a few extra calories.

Hit the basketball court to stay active while cruising!
Even when in port, the basketball court always seemed to have players.

On the ship, if you don’t want to hit the gym, there are plenty of other options such as playing basketball, trying the simulated surfing or ice skating. Of course, these options will vary by the cruise line and even by ship, but there are sure to be something active that you can do on the ship.

If all else fails, just wander around the ship exploring. With most ships have 12 or 14 floors, there is plenty to see and do without just sitting in one place.

Don’t Get a Beverage Package

Full disclosure…we do NOT follow this tip! Yes, we purchased the alcohol package on our past two cruises. But this is a vacation and, for us, doing all the things above allows us to not feel quite as guilty when we splurge on beverages.

Bonnie enjoys one of the daily drink specials
Bonnie on the deck of the Adventure of the Seas with one of the daily signature drinks.

But, if you really want to avoid gaining weight, then avoiding the empty calories in alcohol and other drinks is one of the best steps to take. The only drinks that will be included in your general cruise pricing are water and juice. If you stick to just those drinks, not only will you save calories, but you’ll also save a good deal of money.

There are generally a few different options of drink packages. Some will cover soda; some will cover alcohol; some will include coffee and other “specialty” drinks. Any of these that you choose are going to add calories to your diet.

Enjoy Yourself

At home, we try to work out most days and eat reasonably well. We both have an Apple Watch now to help us keep track of our activity level and when we are really trying to lose a few pounds, we will track our calories.

But, vacation is a time to enjoy! We try to make good decisions and not completely over-indulge, but we also want to enjoy the local offerings and unique choices. We try to make sure that we are being active, either through our excursions or by hitting the gym or simply walking around the ship. But, we also want to enjoy food and drinks that we can’t get at home.

This is what vacation is all about!
This is the best part of getting a balcony!

Our advice: Get your workouts in where you can. Enjoy food and drink where you can. But, remember, you are on vacation! So, wherever you fall on the “gain weight or not while on vacation spectrum,” we hope you will enjoy yourself!

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. We can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.

Tips for staying healthy and not gaining weight while on a cruise.
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