10 Easy Ways to Not Gain Weight on a Cruise Ship

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Cruises are relaxing, fun, care-free vacations. Unfortunately, cruises also mean unlimited buffets, alcohol, and dessert after dinner. In a week, the average cruise-goer gains 5-10 pounds. That’s a lot! A cruise can wreck your diet and weight-loss goals.

My mom and I cruise 2-3 times a year, so I’ve figured out how to avoid gaining weight on a cruise. Follow these ten steps to not gain weight on a cruise.

10 steps to avoid gaining weight on a cruise

1. Write down your weight-related goals ahead of time

You are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down with pen and paper. So, write your weight and fitness goals before you board a cruise ship.

Is your goal to maintain your current weight? Lose a pound? Gain less than 3 pounds? Write it down, and then adjust your eating and workout habits accordingly.

2. Take care of yourself and your health

Airport travel and crowded cruise ships can lead to a lowered immune system. Make sure you stay healthy on a cruise. It’s hard to exercise and lose weight if you are sick in bed! Pack an Airborne, and have it during your flight and during your first day of the cruise. This will keep you from getting sick.

Stay healthy on cruise ships by following these steps 

  • Take your vitamins. See my article titled, “The Best Daily Vitamins for Women” for the key vitamins I pack to stay healthy.
  • Apply sunblock daily.
  • Wash your hands. Often!

3. Proactively plan how to get exercise to lose weight on a cruise

Determine ahead of time how you will sneak exercise into your vacation.

Here's what I do to get more exercise and not gain weight on a cruise

  • Take the stairs. Avoid the elevator at all costs.
  • Take a 30 minute walk in the morning while drinking coffee, and again after dinner.
  • Lift weights for arms and/or do legs and abs for 20 minutes each day before dinner.

Does your idea of a vacation include no exercise? No worries! Walking around the ports can be a great workout. An evening stroll counts as exercise too.

4. Drink plenty of water on cruise ships

drink lots of water to not gain weight on a cruise
My cruise go-to water bottle

It’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst. To ensure you get plenty of water, pack a water bottle and fill it up – often! I bring my Rubbermaid water bottle and fill it up once during the morning, once at lunch, and again after dinner.

Most cruises have water pitchers in the buffet area, and the staff will kindly fill it up for you.

Note: Do NOT fill up your water bottle at the water/ice station. This is a public health hazard. Ask a staff member to fill up your water bottle from a pitcher. Or, fill up glasses with water, and then pour the water into your water bottle.

5. Go dancing at night to burn those extra calories

go dancing at night to burn calories and not gain weight on a Carnival cruise

Dancing is a major calorie burner and a fun way to get exercise. My mom and I dance to the BB King band every night on the Holland America cruise ships. Go dancing! Dancing burns anywhere from 200-400 calories an hour.

6. Limit alcohol and desserts if you are serious about not gaining weight

The alcoholic drinks on cruise ships are sugary and high in calories. A Mai Tai sounds fun (and is!), but it can also pack up to 600 calories. That’s more calories than two cups of ice cream! If you like to drink, stick to club soda with alcohol, or have a glass of wine or a beer.

The desserts on cruise ships can be dangerous too. Stick to one dessert a day, and no more.

Or do what my mom and I do. We order a bowl of mixed berries for dessert each night, or split one dessert between the two of us at dinner.

7. Stick to healthy snacks at night on Carnival, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean

I’ve always craved a midnight snack, and cruises usually have a grand buffet at 10pm or 11pm. Unfortunately, the buffet is often fried foods, cheeses, and greasy sandwiches at night. These foods will make it hard to not gain weight on a cruise.

To have a healthy midnight snack, I pack Tupperware in my luggage, and fill it up with healthy snacks from breakfast. I usually grab eggs and salmon each morning, and keep that it the cabin fridge for my snack. I also keep apples, oranges, and nuts handy.

If you forgot to pack Tupperware, no problem. You can likely find a paper cup and lid to put your snacks in, or simply use one of the coffee mugs as a container.

8. Ask for low butter/oil in the cruise ship dining room

Inform your dining room server the first night if you have dietary restrictions, and they will happily abide your wishes. Ask for less butter or oil in your meal, and they can put in a special order for you. The staff members on cruises are usually very accommodating. Cruises are used to fulfilling people’s dietary and allergy restrictions.

Personally, I ask for broiled salmon with steamed veggies on the first night of the cruise, and inform the dining attendant that I’ll likely have that each night. On Holland America cruises, the server provides me the dinner menu a day ahead of time, and then puts in my order ahead of time. (Special orders require more time, so the server needs to know what you’d like ahead of time.) I ask for “salmon with no butter and no oil added” and “steamed vegetables – no butter and no oil,” and have that each night.

9. Take advantage of the healthy food to maintain your weight

health Carnival cruise ship menu options include salmon

Believe it or not, cruises usually have quite a lot of healthy options. Here are a few healthy eating options for your cruise. Have these each day, and you can avoid gaining the dreadful 10-pounds during your cruise.

Breakfast: Lox, boiled eggs, fresh berries, grapefruit, plain oatmeal with almonds and low-fat milk, and low-fat cottage cheese.

Lunch: Salad from the salad bar. Make sure to avoid the pre-made salads that are loaded with dressing. Options for a healthy salad include: ahi tuna, chicken, olives, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncini, almonds, and artichoke hearts. Instead of adding dressing, opt for oil and balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: Salmon with steamed vegetables, or any of the meat entrees with vegetables or a side salad instead of the rice. Be aware of the pastas on cruise ships. The pastas are often loaded with butter and oil.

10. Relax and wish your stresses away!

Stress causes cortisol levels to increase, which is attributed to weight gain. Take advantage of your vacation and relax! Lower stress can help you melt the pounds away.

Enjoy your cruise! Don’t worry. You can avoid gaining weight.

In conclusion, you don’t have to gain weight on a cruise. By following a few simple steps, you can maintain your weight or even lose weight on a cruise.

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