How to Avoid Gaining a Boatload of Weight on a Cruise

Published on Dec 31, 2017
Updated on Nov 14, 2018

Did you know that the average person will gain 5-10 pounds on a 7 day cruise – that’s about a pound a day! Ouch!

That’s not surprising when you consider the incredible quantity and the tastiness of food offered aboard a typical cruise ship. In fact, some people go on cruises specifically for the nearly non-stop, all you can eat buffets!

The good news is that you can enjoy a wonderful cruise dining experience without tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Follow these tips and you’ll be nautical miles ahead of the typical cruiser!

Take the stairs. Every. Single. Time.

Make it a challenge to see if you can go the entire cruise without using an elevator even once! Not only will you burn tons of calories this way,  you’ll also avoid waiting in line. Plus, you’ll avoid being cooped up in an elevator with germs and funky smells. I’d call that a win any day!

Limit your intake of soda or sugary specialty drinks.

Cruise lines are famous for pushing their prepaid unlimited soda packages on guests – but don’t sign up! By forking out a lump sum of money up front, you’ll likely feel obligated to drink as much soda as possible to get your money’s worth. Soda is LOADED with sugar and empty calories. If weight gain had a lead villain, soda would be rockin’ the cloak of doom.

Fill up on fruit and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are typically low in calories while being high in nutrients and fiber, which will help you feel satisfied and just might reduce the likelihood that you’ll go overboard when the bread basket comes by.  I was super impressed by just how plentiful the fruits and vegetables were on our cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.

Fruits like cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges, grapefruit, apples, strawberries, and bananas were available for breakfast at the buffet each day. I was also thrilled to see that there were even fruit smoothies and wheatgrass shots available some mornings!

As far as the lunch and dinner buffet went, salads as well as steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and sweet potatoes were consistently available throughout the cruise.

Only consume dessert after dinner.

Skip dessert after breakfast, lunch, or in between meals. With free (or more accurately, pre-paid) cookies, cakes, brownies, and ice cream available around each corner, it can be tempting to indulge almost every waking hour. Avoid this temptation! By saving dessert for after dinner, it will feel more like the special treat that it is.

Consider ordering fruit for dessert.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy classic favorites like cheesecake or brownies while on the cruise (I know that I sure did), but if you really want to keep the pounds at bay, opting to have fruit for dessert now and then can be a great way to stay on the straight and narrow. I ordered fruit for dessert several nights of our cruise and was very pleased with how well it tamed my sweet tooth.

Walk around the track on top of the ship after dinner each night.

This was one of my absolute favorite new traditions that we instituted during our last cruise! Virtually every cruise ship out there has a jogging track on the very top of the ship and hardly anyone is out there using it once the sun has gone down for the night. Looking up at the brilliant stars and feeling the warm sea breeze pass you by as you complete several laps around the ship is a wonderful experience. In fact, you might even forget that you are exercising and lose count of your laps. I’m serious!

Visit the gym and squeeze in a work out during sea days.

Hitting up the gym on board the ship is a great way to burn the calories off nearly as fast as they are coming in. Most ships have treadmills (which overlook the ocean), ellipticals, dumbbells, and weight machines – pretty much anything that you’d find in a typical gym on land. Staying active during sea days (days when the ship is sailing and not stopping at a port) is also a great way to keep from going stir crazy.

Participate in cruise ship activities that get you moving.

Cruise lines generally do a pretty good job of ensuring that there are always a number of activities going on during normal hours to keep guests entertained. Some activities involve a surprising amount of low-key exercise, such as the ship Scavenger Hunt – where you and your team run around the ship in a timed competition to see which team can find various objects first.

Plan active excursions or do some exploring on foot at each port that you visit.

If you’re porting at a warm destination, the odds are very good that there will be numerous excursions available which will get your heart rate up. Walking tours, bike tours, and hikes are just a few examples. We went on a guided hike in beautiful Roatan, Honduras during our last cruise and had a fantastic time.

Do some laps around the pool.

Swimming is a great low-impact exercise (meaning it doesn’t put a lot of stress on your joints) which practically anyone can do. Besides, how often do you get to swim in a pool while floating atop the ocean?

Climb the rock wall, shoot some hoops, or even play a couple of rounds of mini-golf.

Most cruise ships feature some kind of rock wall along with some sport courts on top of the ship, and these can be a great place to burn off some energy and have fun while doing it. If you’re really lucky, you may even find a mini-golf course! Now, mini-golf may not be the most physically grueling sport out there, but any movement at all is going to count for something.

Hit the dance floor.

Most cruises will have dancing available just about every night – usually in a dedicated dance hall. If you enjoy shaking a leg, you’ll be amazed at just how many calories you can melt away while having a blast at the same time – nearly 500 calories per hour if you’re counting!

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Going on a cruise is a great way to reward yourself after all the hard work you’ve put in at the office or around the house. If you want to avoid gaining a boat load of weight on a cruise, keep the tips in this blog post in mind – but don’t beat yourself up if you fail to check off each and every box. Enjoy your vacation – you’ve earned it!

About the author:

Steve Feld is the man behind the scenes at – He’s passionate about healthy, holistic living. When not working at the computer, you can likely find him sipping homemade vegetable juice while camping in the woods. He’s not a hippy, honest!

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