I should probably start the post by telling you that I am by no means a cruise or nutrition expert, but after 7 cruises, I have learned a few things that can help you maintain your healthy lifestyle while afloat on your next trip. Cruises are known to be HUGE diet pitfalls filled with 24 hour food and sedentary living. Here are few tips for your next cruise, that will probably work on most relaxing getaways!
Just a side note, I found Carnival cruise lines to be vegetarian friendly (even more so on this cruise compared with the past) but very difficult for dairy free living. If you prefer a gluten free, dairy free, low sodium, or vegan diet, I would recommend notifying the cruise line in advance.
I guess I should also point out (although I’m sure you already know this) that I am not perfect when it comes to diet and exercise, and I certainly believe that vacation is a time to let loose in the name of relaxation. But, cuing into the following healthy habits allowed me to have a fun, active, and rejuvenating vacation, feeling confident in my bathing suit while enjoying some adult beverages and treats.
Get your exercise done first thing in the morning. It will be hard to fit in a run after you’ve spent your day lazing by the pool. Modify your normal routine to be more efficient. For example, if you typically run 45 minutes, run for a shorter time but do 30/30 or 30/60 sprint recovery intervals for maximum efficiency.
I chose to run based on time (usually about 30 minutes) not distance. I ran laps around the track or a larger deck when it was quieter on port days. I added in some intervals increasing my pace every few laps.
Prepare for the day ahead. There are plenty of classes (strength, yoga, pilates) and a full gym on most cruise boats. Set out your clothes the night before (just like you would at home). On each boat, there is a group of people who tend to turn up for their morning exercise sessions. For extra motivation, pretend that they are your friends meeting you to workout. You would never stand up a friend for an early AM exercise date at home, would you?!
Get creative with your exercise. There are always reasons to move on a cruise boat. One day, the small track was crowded with people playing putt-putt, so I moved my workout indoors to the stairs. There are plenty of stairs on every boat and a few trips up and down will really get your heat pumping. There are also opportunities for dancing (cupid shuffle anyone?), swimming, snorkeling, hiking, etc on the boat and at your ports. Seek out active excursions that will keep you moving throughout the day.
Bring snacks!!! This is totally allowed and super important (especially if you have dietary restrictions). There will be plenty of fresh fruit and even some vegetables available on the boat. What is missing are the daily snacks (almonds, chia, flax, protein bars) that you rely on every day. There are very few healthy snacking options on the boat, and I even brought my own Whole Foods peanut butter and almond butter this trips which was perfect for breakfast, sandwiches to take onto the islands, and late afternoon snacks. It is hard to make it until 8:15 for dinner without a healthy afternoon snack.
This is the first time that I have been on a cruise where the mini bar was open. It was so useful to have a fridge in our room to store fruit, yogurt, and drinks. Ask your steward to open up (and if he will, empty) your fridge. Just an FYI, you are allowed to bring a mini cooler on board as well.
Set a money budget, not a calorie budget. It is usually much easier to follow. Drinks are super expensive on cruise boats and often a HUGE portion of your calorie intake. I find that it is sometimes easier to stick with your financial plan than feel like you are limiting your calories. Many boats, including Carnival, allow you to bring wine on board which isn’t widely advertised. This not only saves money, but a glass of wine is a healthier option than a sugary daiquiri. You can also bring limited quantities of bottled water and soda on board.
Get over your guilt. It is always hard when traveling with friends and family to prioritize exercise over ‘quality time’ together. The good news about a boat is that you can never really get too far away. Skip breakfast in the dining room with the group by having room service deliver something to you early in the morning. Then use the time while everyone is at breakfast to get in a calorie burning morning workout. Search your favorite websites for some take along ideas on how to incorporate strength and cardio with little equipment. I love using benches and stairs for lunges, squats and planks. Don’t worry if people are looking at you funny (while trying to take a picture of yourself in downward dog). You’ll never see them again!
Eat when you are hungry, not when food is available! This is really important when cruising! Food is available 24/7 (Hello free room service), so you could possibly be eating all day long. If you follow your typical eating habits and hunger cues, saving drinks and snacks for the evening, you will feel much better than if you are grazing on high calorie foods throughout the day. Remember, your first day you will want to try a lot of different fods. But you have 5-7 days on board, so space out your snacks. I saved my favorite frozen yogurt for a quiet sea day when they were doing an ice cream sundae bar at sunset. It was well worth the wait!
Drink LOTS of water! Bring a large refillable water bottle (or two) from home to use when you are out on the pool deck, hanging in your room, or heading onto the islands. Water, juice, and iced tea are always available but the cups are tiny. Bring any low calorie drink mixes or fun flavored teas to add some excitement to your water. When you are out in the sun, it is important to stay hydrated, especially if you are enjoying a beer (or two).
Wear Sunscreen. We all know how important it is to protect our skin. The BOY and I discovered on our last cruise that two of us quickly went through two spray bottles of sunscreen in 7 days and that sunscreen is WAY OVERPRICED in the ports. Bring more than you would expect and use a higher SPF than you would at home. Don’t forget sun protection for your lips too! We stuck with 50 and 70 SPF and for the first time, neither one of us got burned.
Disconnect, relax, and have fun! Use your time on the boat to disconnect from the electronic world for a bit. Although internet access is available, the BOY and I turn off our phones and place them in the safe when we set sail and don’t turn them back on until we’re back where we started. Without video games, internet, or phones, it really allows you to connect with your friends and family AND spend time doing some of the other things you enjoy, like reading, playing putt, or card games. The opportunities for fun each day on the boat are endless. Find the activities you like (hairy chest contest, bags tournaments, wine tasting, art auctions, blackjack tournaments, a day at the spa) or make an effort to do as little as possible. Whatever makes you happy…because it is your vacation to enjoy!
How do you maintain your healthy lifestyle when you travel???