I know healthy is not the first word you would use to describe a cruise vacation. Actually, quite the opposite, I'm sure, what with all the fatty foods and desserts available -- and the constant crush of people at the buffets filling up their plates. Let's not forget the soft-serve ice cream machines always tempting us or the endless opportunities to indulge with a cocktail, wine or beer.
But I'm here to tell you that there are several ways to take a healthy approach to your cruise, too. Trust me, you can have a good time, indulge quite a bit and still think about your fitness while on a cruise.
Cruising often gets a bad rap for all the gluttony. But we love to find the perfect balance of treating ourselves and staying on track with our fitness. Here is how we do it.
You can walk anywhere from five to 10 miles a day when on a cruise. Colleen wears a Fitbit and hits five miles a day without ever really trying when cruising. And many of these steps happen on the ship, not to mention the extra miles that will pile up when you go ashore for an excursion, whether it's a walking tour or a more active outing like a hike. To really amp up your health benefits on a cruise, make sure you use the stairs and avoid the elevators as much as possible. You won't believe what a good workout this amounts to by the end of a day. Most ships are at least 10 decks high and many of the newer ones climb to 18 decks or more. This really adds up to a fantastic stairclimbing workout by the end of a day onboard.
Cruise ships on the ocean have jogging/walking tracks that you can use. These tracks, typically on an upper deck, are a great way to work up a sweat and take in the views during your voyage.
We love to start our days onboard with at least a 30-minute workout in the fitness centers on cruise ships. This gets our blood flowing and lets us keep up with our fitness program. If you are a workout fanatic and never have considered a cruise, you might be surprised to know that the fitness centers on cruise ships are well equipped so that you won't miss a beat from your land-based regimen. In fact, some gyms onboard are so nice, they rival health clubs on land. I sometimes consider cruise vacations as a fitness retreat -- because I have more time to dedicate to a program with a clear head and away from the daily grind of work.
Pick active excursions in port, and you'll get the physical challenges that you crave. Cruises are fabulous ways to get to exotic places known for snorkeling, diving, hiking and bike riding. We've hiked a volcano in Guatemala, snorkeled gorgeous reefs in Mexico, Curacao, Barbados and Bonaire, biked in Spain and hiked in Costa Rican rainforests, to name a few adventures. We took a 5K running tour in St. Thomas that gave us a great workout and a look at historic spots few visitors get to see.
New cruise ships go all out to bring fun activities onboard, and many of the newest options include fitness-related amenities. Thinks about simulated skydiving with Ripcord by iFly on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, as well as simulated surfing, rock climbing, roller skating, trapeze school and more. Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ships Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Escape feature fun and challenging ropes courses, complete with ziplines and a plank to walk.
Although the temptations exist at every turn on a cruise ship, you can smartly design and order healthy meals. Sure it takes a little (a lot of) willpower to say no to the bread and cookies and cakes and ice cream (maybe just one scoop a day?). You also can forgo the pizza and fried foods and pasta if you're on a special diet like Paleo, for example. Menus always have well-marked healthier choices, and you can even ask your servers to adjust a recipe or make a special preparation of a simple dish that you might prefer that is lower calorie. The buffet, while loaded with all sorts of high-calorie and deep-fried options, also will include plenty of lean proteins and fruits and vegetables to choose from. You also can travel with a compact blender (like a Nutribullet) to concoct your own nutritious smoothies and protein shakes (pack your protein powder) to supplement your main meals with tasty and refreshing snacks.
If you're thinking you might want to go on a river cruise but are worried the pace might be a bit too deliberate, consider one of the cruise lines that offers bikes on their river boats. When the boat pulls into port, you are free to sign out a bike and go for a pedal-powered tour throughout a village, city or countryside. Many of these river cruise ports also are conveniently set up along well-maintained paths that follow the river, giving a great option for a bike ride or jog. We have had fun runs during our river cruises. This allows you to explore on your own. Just grab your camera and go!
One of the most healthy things about a day on a cruise ship is the ability to relax with sound sleep each night and even a few naps. I am a big proponent of a daily nap (if it's well-earned from an active day of adventure and not the result of a food coma) to recharge and fresh the body.
I might have a contrarian view of these types of vacations, but I'll always stick up for a cruise as a healthy vacation option. You just have to be committed to doing it the right way.
Thanks for reading.
Travel fit! Travel happy! Travel often!