Go on a luxury cruise without gaining weight

Apr 9, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Taking a cruise can be one of the most adventurous or relaxing vacations you plan, depending on your get-away desires. Lavish food, sunning on the deck, exotic locales and round-the-clock fun are all reasons to go a luxury voyage. However, vacation cruises are also associated with overeating, overdrinking and gaining weight. If you are longing for a vacation cruise on the high seas but don't want to end up feeling like a beached whale, there are ways to enjoy your dream voyage and stay healthy and fit.

Cruise Ship


To cater to the health-conscious, active vacationers, vacation cruise lines are offering more physically active amenities and adventures as well as healthy cuisine and in-between meal snack choices. That is not to say if you take a vacation from fitness you aren't at risk for gaining weight, but with the built-in opportunities to exercise and eat healthier, you do have the ability to ride the high seas in luxury and still be able to come home trim, tanned and relaxed.

Lise Galipeau of CaribCruises is a former travel agent and current vacation cruise extraordinaire who has cruised around the world on a number of vacation cruise lines. Galipeau and her partner Anita Hynes-Giguere, a globe-trotting travel consultant, connect cruise vacationers to the best-choice cruises. Galipeau took time from her high-seas travel to answer SheKnows.com questions on vacation cruises for the health-conscious female traveler.

SheKnows.com (SK): Can a woman go on a cruise without ruining her diet or fitness goals?

Lise Galipeau (LG): Cruises have always been associated with mountains of food available 24/7 and gaining upwards of 10 pounds in a mere week. It used to be true that no woman in her right mind should go on a cruise if she is seriously dieting. However, I am here – as a health-conscious woman and frequent cruise vacationer – to tell you otherwise. Cruise lines have adapted to the wide-spread health trends and adjusted the "lifestyle" of a vacation cruise to appeal to the health conscious would-be cruisers.

SK: What cruise lines offer the most health and fitness opportunities?

LG: All the most popular cruise lines, like Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, offer fitness activities and healthy menu choices, including vegetarian meals.

In regards to fitness activities, there is a fitness center on most ships. The size of the ship typically dictates the size of the fitness center. If the ship is big, the gym will be huge and most of the time, located on the top deck, facing the front of the ship surrounded by big windows. Your workout time on the treadmill is excitingly different than your typical treadmill time at your local fitness center. I have seen impressive cruise line fitness centers bigger than some fitness centers I have seen on land! In addition, the various sea ports have an adventurous array of physical activities for the travelers that won't settle for simple sight-seeing.

Regarding cuisine, I have had great meals – both healthy and decadently gourmet – on Carnival, which is at the lower end of the price range, and I have had equally great meals on Princess or Holland, which are at the top of the price range. Food – both healthy and gourmet – is always available on vacation cruises and it is truly up to vacationers to choose their diet. You can eat healthy or not.

SK: Does it cost more to go on cruises that are more health-oriented?

LG: No, it does not cost more. Women can design their own cruise experiences as they wish. They can either eat tons of food, never take the stairs, never even near the gym or they can opt to make healthy choices during meals, run the cruise ships jogging course every morning, always take the stairs and utilize the equipment and classes offer at the gym.

The cost of a cruise will depend on the time of the year. Remember that Christmas, New Year and school break are the most expensive times to plan a vacation cruise. School breaks are different all over the country, so the travel industry has decided that February 15 to March 15 is the school break period and therefore "high season." Taking a seven day cruise during these periods will cost you on average between $1,000 to $1500 per person, cruise only, no flight included, depending on the cruise line you choose. However, during the other, "off-season" months of the year, you can find a seven day cruise for a very reasonable price between $500 to $1000, again depending on the cruise line. Regardless, the costs usually cover all the meals and most of the amenities.

SK: What are the types of foods or cuisines are offered on vacation cruises?

LG: You will find international cuisine served on vacation cruises. TheyCouple on a Cruise Ship cover all the usual, Italian, French, American, Mexican, Thai, all served exquisitely. Many vacation cruises even have sushi every day. In addition to sit-down meals, the breakfast and lunch buffets offer a variety of foods for every taste at every meal. There are always fresh fruit and vegetable offerings that differ from day to day. There is a tasty abundance of fruits, salads and seafood (of course!). In the dining room, the dinner menu always includes vegetarian, low-fat and other healthy choices. And if you need gluten-free foods, or have other dietary needs, you can contact the cruise line through its website – many have a link especially for dietary concerns. When you board, you will meet with the Maitre D or a chef and they will design a menu just for you.

SK: On the many cruises you have been on, has your weight fluctuated?

LG: Oh yeah! The first cruise my family and I ever went on, many years ago, we put on a pound a day and it was a 10-day cruise! But with the many cruises following, I only gained two to three pounds – and that is really good because I just have to look at food to gain weight. And one year I went on a cruise while I was on Weight Watchers and I did not gain a single pound!

Since I like to cruise but still want to keep a healthy weight, I have adjusted my vacation cruise eating habits. I don't waste my calories on ordinary foods, like rice, potatoes or bread and I don't waste calories on anything that I usually eat at home. I do eat a lot of vegetables and fish. I skip the fries, hot dogs and hamburgers – why waste my calories on such blah food when Internationally-renowned chefs are spending the whole day cooking for me. And instead of cakes and pies (which I love), I frequently just opt for fruit, such as juicy ripe strawberries.

SK: What advice do you have for diet- or weight-conscious people who want to go on a vacation cruise?

LG: Be active and be choosy with your meals. The biggest pitfalls for the diet- or weight-conscious lady is choosing the wrong foods and piling plate after plate with high-calorie, high-fat or high-carbohydrate foods. Then compound the excess food with excess drink and spending most of the cruise expending as little energy as possible. But these are choices and you can choose to be more active and eat healthier.

Activity-wise, make it a point to use the stairs. Go to the gym or, at the very least, take a walk around the promenade deck which goes around the whole ship. Usually three times around is one mile but since the ships are getting bigger and bigger, you may cover even more distance. Take the fitness classes offered – they are conveniently located and spread throughout the day.

Food-wise, on the first day, eat anything and everything you want. Then have a plan of action. When you are at the buffet, go around and look at everything that is available. Pick and choose judiciously. I am not saying eat salads only. But you don't have to try everything...or if you do, indulge in a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

SK: Some people are more likely to stick to a health-conscious routine if they have someone helping them along, do vacation cruises have personal trainers or other health professionals on board?

LG: Every ship has a fitness center where the usual machines and training equipment are available. They also offer all kinds of classes, some are free and some require a nominal fee. Check with your cruise line but many do have, in addition to fitness class instructors, personal trainers to help you with strength-training, stretching, yoga, Pilates and aerobics or other cardiovascular exercise. Short health and fitness seminars are also scheduled.

Best yet, you may find that you work out even harder than when you are at home (call it a vacation phenomena) and you can then treat yourself to a spa experience. Every ship has a spa offering all kinds of massages, facials, mud baths and other luxury treatments. You will have to make an appointment and pay extra but it is worth it to pamper yourself on a vacation cruise, especially if you make it a point to stay healthy and fit.


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