How to Avoid Cruise Weight Gain on Ships

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By Meghan Anderson-Russell

Let’s face the cold hard factsstaying fit on a cruise ship is nearly impossible.

Morning workout aboard Celebrity Reflection.
Morning workout aboard Celebrity Reflection.

With unlimited amounts of tantalizing food surrounding you at every turn, a twenty-four hour bar service promising fruity tropical drinks and the ‘I’m on Vacation’ mentality; it’s no wonder the average cruise goer gains a full 5 pounds on a typical 7 day cruise.

Now, let me start off by saying I am in no way a cruising newbie. I’ve practically been on every seven day cruise option the Caribbean has to offer as well as a couple on the west coast as well. I’ve done my fair share of indulging, relaxing and cruise ship gaining. However, the three day cruise I recently took over fourth of July weekend was my first under a whole new healthier mind set.

After successfully losing and maintaining a twenty-five pound weight loss, I’ll admit the idea of a cruise was a bit of a scary one to take. I was determined to break the statistics and enjoy my cruise in the same healthy and happy manner I live by without gaining an ounce.

The trick to staying healthy on any vacation is staying active. Luckily cruises offer many amenities and activities to help cover that. Here are some tips to avoid cruise weight gain.

Onboard Gym

photo credit: Carnival
photo credit: Carnival

My husband and I woke up early each morning to take full advantage of the on board gym.

Our ship’s gym was fully equipped with treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, free weights, mats and various weight machines. They offered complimentary fitness classes and had a couple personal trainers monitoring the area; offering assistance when needed.

I was surprised when our first day on the ship –at 7:00am– I had a slight wait for the treadmill. In fact the gym itself was pretty full with other health minded vacationers pounding out last night’s five course meal. This made me very happy, until the next day when I returned to a nearly empty work out center. I guess that first day is the only one that really counts anyways, right?

Overall, I gave the gym onboard an A+ and encourage every one on their next cruise to check out the gym on their gym. With everything else on your cruise being offered at a world class level of service, why wouldn’t the gym follow suit?

An amazing burger at Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Freedom.
An amazing burger at Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival Freedom.

Water Excursions

Now if you are not a fan of the gym, like me, I promise there are still plenty of ways to stay active on vacation and still have fun. Swimming and snorkeling for one are great ways to burn calories without realizing you’re doing so.

I encourage everyone to take a break from soaking the sun up on the beach every once in a while and hop in the waves and splash around.

Special Amenities – Rock Climbing

photo: Royal Caribbean
photo: Royal Caribbean

Our cruise ship also happened to offer a free rock wall.

This is another great way to get a killer work out in while having fun. Just up and down the wall a couple of times will leave your body filling challenged and renewed.

Here are some tips I found for eating healthy on the ship:

1. Eat Your Meals in the Dining Room When Possible

The biggest pitfall people run into on cruises are the unlimited buffets. The best bet is to avoid them when ever possible to keep yourself from piling it on your plate. Though the dining room options offer three or four courses, they also offer portion control.

2. Eat Dessert


Yes, I said eat dessert! And enjoy it! Just make sure its only one dessert and not the entire dessert menu. If you deny yourself dessert it is more than likely you are going to regret it and eat twice as much dessert after you’re done feeling sorry for yourself for not having it in the first place. This is the part when I say you’re on vacation and to live a little.

3. Stay Away from Frozen Drinks


On cruise ships I allow myself one fun tropical frozen drink, but that’s it. Otherwise it’s wine or beer for this girl. Where most cruise goers go wrong is the 1000 calorie+ tropical drinks at every turn. I suggest enjoying one, but stopping there. Instead go for a favorite low calorie drink such as a Soda Water, Vodka, Sour Mix with touch of Cranberry. Or there is nothing better than a light beer poolside.

4. Pay Attention to the Spa Menu

Each cruise line offers their own brand of ‘spa menu’ which usually coincides with their regular dining menu. The spa menu typically offers lighter or sugar free options that tend to be more figure friendly then the other menu options. I tend to study the spa menu first then check out the other menu options to see if there is anything I really am craving. I don’t always order from the spa menu, but it’s good to have the option in front of me.

Remember cruises are time to enjoy yourself. With a little practice of strong will and moderation eating well on a cruise should be no problem.

Meghann Anderson is a runner, health blogger, and eater found at


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