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7 ways I avoided gaining weight on my cruise – despite the unlimited drinks package

The biggest stereotype about taking a cruise is that you will gain weight. In fact, recent polls show that most cruise goers with an unlimited drink package gain an average of 5-10 pounds per week long cruise. And it’s easy to see why: Most cruises, including Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, have access to unlimited, delicious drinks, an open buffet, and desserts as far as the eye can see.

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Toward the end of the trip Royal Caribbean gifted me through Greece, Italy, and Turkey, they started to joke that the desserts had no calories. If only that were true. But the truth is I didn’t gain a pound, despite drinking quite a bit (though I could have easily cut that), eating at every amazing restaurant on board, and sleeping a lot.

But how? Here are the things I did that helped avoid weight gain:

I did the most I could at every port

The ship I was on (Jewel of the Seas) docked six times. And every time, I was one of the first people off the ship. We walked up and down the cliffs in Santorini. We hired a private boat in Capri and swam the grottos. We swam the ocean in Mykonos and walked through the whole town. We ran the stadium at Olympia and tried belly dancing in Turkey. The point is: We were active. According to our Fitbits, we averaged 10,000 steps or more a day. If relaxation is your objective, you could just shop in the port or stay on the ship, but if you want to be active, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

I didn’t let my workouts slide

I worked out every day of our 10 day cruise. Some days that meant waking up at 5 a.m. to run on the track or do yoga in my room before the gym opened at 6 a.m. – but I did it. At home I have a regimented mileage schedule and on the boat I relaxed that a bit. On 10 mile days, I did five. On five miles days, I did three. But I still got the workout in and didn’t lose shape.

I let go of the guilt

There were more than a couple afternoons we came back from a day at a port and I jumped on the track and ran while others drank their fruity cocktails and enjoyed vacation. I felt badly sometimes, but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t going to feel guilty for not fully relaxing, because for me, running and working out is relaxing. It would be far stranger to have completely abandoned my workouts.

I was careful about my diet

There are plenty of opportunities both to indulge and to hold back on a cruise. You can opt for the white drinks — the white wine, the gin and tonics, the vodka martinis — to keep the calories on the low (ish) side. You could also skip the plentiful desserts. But you can also choose small portions. Indulge yourself, but only by half. Try the piña colada one day, but have it be your only drink. Unlimited doesn’t have to mean gluttony. You can pace yourself and still enjoy yourself.

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I tried the fun

Jewel of the Seas has a lot of opportunity to stay active even on “sea” days. There is a running track where six turns equals one mile and a rock wall that is both fun and challenging (there are three tracks of varying difficulty level). You can also enjoy a full service, impressive gym with classes (for pay) that include yoga and spin, as well as some stretching classes that don’t cost extra money. There is even a small mini golf range and a basketball court my husband used multiple times. Plus, just walking the length of the ship can be a workout.

I took the stairs

My husband and I committed from day one to never take the elevator, which meant that on the ninth floor, we had to walk up and down a lot of stairs. It won’t keep the weight off alone, but it sure didn’t hurt us.

I brought everything I needed

Royal Caribbean has yoga mats if you forget yours (I didn’t), but they don’t have sneakers, sports bras and workout clothes. Remember that gear. For me, bringing my travel yoga mat was a treat because I was able to spend a lot of time on my balcony doing my own private yoga. It was spectacular to practice as the sun rose over the Mediterranean. I will never forget it in all my days, and no amount of food or frozen cocktails could be more of a vacation for me.

In the end, I came home weighing about two pounds less than when we left. I hadn’t lost any of my shape or flexibility and I still felt like I’d seen a lot, done a lot, and had a real vacation.

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