Staying Slim at Sea:

Healthy Tips for Your Cruise Vacation

By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog

On a recent cruise, I met a lady who told me that she had discovered the secret to staying slim at sea. She orders a glass of low fat milk and drinks the entire glass before every meal. Using this diet secret, she said that she only gained seven pounds on her last cruise. Well I do NOT recommend that you follow her advice, but I do recommend that you follow some simple tips I’ve assembled for staying fit on your cruise. By using the following tips, I came back from a recent cruise weighing the same weight as when I started so these tips are tested and work. Did you know that the average weight gain on a week long cruise is eight pounds? Cruise vacations are famous and notorious for providing unlimited food. Cruise ships are often thought of as floating buffets and many cruisers feel like they have to eat everything they see and that is offered to them on a vacation. Just because you paid for it, you don’t have to eat it. In our daily non-vacation world, we don’t have fabulous food available to eat 24 hours a day so the trick to staying slim at sea is to stick to your usual eating routine as much as possible. But that does not mean you can’t enjoy the culinary delights a cruise has to offer, you just need to follow some sensible tips.

1. Exercise in the ship’s fitness center every day.
When the weather is great or I’m in a great port of call, I love walking around the top deck of the ship in the morning, but sometimes the weather isn’t cooperating – it can be too windy or too hot or too crowded. That’s why I like the fitness center as it always has well maintained treadmills, elliptical trainers and lots of state of the art fitness equipment. Exercising just 30 minutes a day while you’re on a cruise can make a huge difference to staying slim at sea. Also, you may want to take the stairs instead of the elevators whenever possible. Walking up stairs is definitely better for you than walking down.

I have many fond memories of my morning exercise routine on cruises (especially listening to my mp3 player audio books which I get at On my last cruise, I listened to The Unemployed Millionaire written by my friend, Matt Morris. I loved that Matt also recorded the book for and his advise from his book inspired me to pursue my dream of building this travel website based on my travel advice as a TV Travel Show Producer. actually has a limited time offer where you get your first three months at Audible for only $7.49/month! I love listening to audio books as I exercise and it helps me keep those cruise pounds off.

Audio Books at

2. Limit portion sizes at meals.
Just because cruise ships serve unlimited food and five course meals, does not mean you have to eat and/or sample every single item that comes out of the ship’s kitchen. I have seen some cruise passengers indulge themselves in extreme gluttony while on a cruise and I find it really sad. Don’t be tempted to over eat just because delicious food is everywhere.

When it comes to dinner, plan your meals carefully and consider ordering the "Light and Healthy" or "Lean and Mean" menu choices that every ship offers these days. If you must have one of the more decadent dinner entrees, then follow this well-known Weight Watcher’s tip and only eat a half portion. Finally, do not even think about having a second entree even though they are available and if you think that tasting three different desserts is safe to do, then just “taste” them and only do this if you have the self-discipline to pull it off – I know that I don’t have that sort of discipline.

3. Consider skipping desserts or order fruit instead.
I’m usually not tempted by desserts except chocolate and anything made out of ice cream – like ice cream (or gelato), so I really have to discipline myself on a cruise vacation. I don’t cut out desserts completely but I do only order the ice cream every other day and have fruit like strawberries for dessert on the days I’m skipping ice cream. When I was on a 10-day cruise recently, that meant that I got to enjoy ice cream five times on my trip. Focus on the treats you get, not on the desserts you give up. Remember, you probably wouldn’t be eating ice cream every day if you were at home, would you?

4. Drink plenty of water.
Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day is as important to weight maintenance as it is to weight loss. By drinking more water your kidneys will be stimulated, helping to reduce water retention and your body will burn more calories in the process. Always drink water in place of "diet" beverages as there is no caffeine in water -and it is calorie free! The water on cruise ships is completely potable and probably safer than the water that comes out of your spout at home so make sure you drink plenty of it while you’re on your cruise. You can bring your own empty water bottles with you on your cruise and have plenty of bottled water for your shore excursions, too.

5. Limit alcohol.
Liquor has lots of calories and those tropical drinks adorned with cute little umbrellas pack a serious calorie punch - whether they have liquor in them or not. The average serving of one ounce of 80-proof alcohol contains about 90 calories and a pina colada has more calories than a Big Mac. Though drinking one pina colada a day while I’m on vacation is not a grievous sin, I do limit myself to just ONE a day and sometimes ONE every other day.

Marianne’s Stay Slim at Sea Bonus Tips

Carry zip-lock bags with you. While visiting the casual restaurant for breakfast, I like to pick up some healthy foods like fruits, nuts and vegetables to take back to my cabin. It is considered rather un-cool to load the baggies at the buffet so place the produce on your plate and fill the plastic bags discretely at your table. If you're spending the day ashore, gather healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and yogurt from breakfast and pack it into the little insulated lunch pack you take with you. I usually pack a cheese sandwich as it keeps well in most temperatures. Do not pack any food that could give you food poisoning if it sits out in the hot sun.

Choose the first dinner seating. You shouldn’t go to bed on a full stomach. Second seatings are a guaranteed way to pack on pounds on a cruise when you don’t finish eating dinner until 10pm or later.

Avoid salty foods (bar snacks) at all costs. Eating salty foods will make your body retain water and salt will also make you want to over eat.

Get Bikini Ready BEFORE you go. Nothing motivates me more to lose weight than knowing that I have to get into summer clothes. So before you go on your cruise, you may be motivated to lose those extra pounds too. One of my favorite ways to get back on the healthy track is the Six-Week Body Makeover (if you're pressed for time), the new Valerie Bertinelli 20-30 Minute Workout DVD (I picked it up at Target for $13).

If you struggle with weight the way I do, you want to check out Lose It for Life , a uniquely balanced program that not only deals with the physical issues of overeating, but also deals with the head game of overeating. The book also focuses on the emotional, mental, and the often-missed spiritual factors related to weight loss to help readers achieve permanent results. This book is co-authored by Dr. Linda Mintle, and gives hope to those who have tried "diet" fads with only temporary results. Lose it For Life will give you the information and motivation you need to live healthy and to finally--lose it for life! This book is a perfect companion to a book my doctor, Travis Deuson, M.D., recommended to me, The Perfect 10 Diet: 10 Key Hormones That Hold the Secret to Losing Weight and Feeling Great-Fast!, previously only available in hardcover, but just published in paperback.

I know this advise has probably been hard to swallow, but I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to eat high on the hog for seven-to-ten days straight when it means that you can’t fit into your clothes at the end of a vacation. You can still enjoy a lot of treats without complete deprivation and you’ll come back from your trip feeling so much better because you made healthy choices while on your cruise.

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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more