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How to Say Fit on a Cruise: Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight at Sea

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You probably won't lose weight on a cruise vacation. But you need not gain several unwanted pounds, either. Major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean offer all sorts of options for health-conscious cruisers. Want to know how to stay fit on a cruise? Follow these 15 easy tips to avoid gaining weight at sea!

Stay bathing suit ready with these cruise fitness tips!
Stay bathing suit ready with these cruise fitness tips! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Limit trips to the buffet.

Royal Caribbean's tantalizing buffet restaurant, Windjammer, features an array of cuisines from all around the world. There are stations for everything from appetizers and pasta, to carving stations, desserts galore, and much more.

Tempting as all this is, you're more likely to overindulge when options are plentiful. You may only be trying small bites of this and that, but it adds up fast. So, limit yourself to just one serving rather than returning for seconds and thirds.

Or, opt for a cruise ship restaurant meal or eat in in the Main Dining Room. A fantastic option for lunch on some Royal Caribbean ships is the Park Café. This small venue features a limited selection of lighter choices like salads, soups, and sandwiches.

Burger station at Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe
Burger station at Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Make use of the ship's fitness center.

Keep up your fitness routine during your vacation. Set yourself up for success by packing your workout clothes and athletic shoes. You'll feel less guilty when you order crème brûlée for dessert if you worked up a good sweat earlier in the day.

The ship's fitness center provides a great opportunity to burn calories and build muscles. I was pleasantly surprised by how many cruisers made use of the fitness center on my Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise. Still, it was easy to find available fitness machines, stationary bikes, stair steppers, free weights, and treadmills.

You'll be pumped to know some fitness classes are included with your Royal Caribbean cruise. Sign up for Pilates, yoga, spin classes, sculpting sessions, and more via your online Cruise Planner or once onboard.

You'll find a running track on all Royal Caribbean ships so you can walk or jog off those cruise calories, too.

Spin class on Anthem of the Seas
Spin class on Anthem of the Seas (Photo credit: Royal Caribbean)

3. Exercise outdoors while at sea.

If cruise ship gyms aren't for you, then there are options for cruisers who prefer exercising outdoors.

Take in the ocean view while circling the walking track on the top deck by the pools. If you don't mind short pool lengths, you could get in the water to swim laps, too. Pools will be too crowded later in the day so first thing in the early morning is the ideal time to squeeze this in.

Alternatively, head to the onboard sports court for games like basketball, volleyball, and tennis. There are often tournaments during sea days to add to the fun.

Basketball courts on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
Basketball courts on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Load up at the salad bar.

When you give in to the lure and convenience of the cruise buffet, start at the salad bar. Fill up on lettuce and other vegetables, fresh fruit, lean meats, and seafood. Beware of fatty or carb-laden salad bar foods, though, like bacon and potato salad.

Salad dressings are often packed with fat, so use them sparingly. Or choose a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar or squeeze of lemon instead.

After you've filled your belly with healthy options, you'll be less likely to indulge in temptations like deep-fried foods, red meat, and sweets.

A cruise ship salad bar
A salad bar on Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Take the stairs.

Climbing up and down the stairs is a great way to burn calories onboard a cruise ship. There are often lines for the elevators anyway. Vow to march the stairs throughout your cruise vacation unless you're toting luggage (or wearing very high heels). When considering how to stay fit on a cruise, this is one of the easiest methods.

Steps in cruise port, Old San Juan in Puerto Rico
Take the steps onboard your ship and in ports, like Old San Juan in Puerto Rico (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Invest in a step tracker.

Before setting sail, purchase a step tracker. This will help motivate you to increase how much you walk during your cruise. I personally love my FitBit Versa. Additionally, Apple Watches include step tracking. Or, get an affordable Amazfit Band.

Versa 2 Fitbit step tracker
My Versa 2 Fitbit step tracker (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Split dessert.

You can get pretty much whatever you want while cruising with Royal Caribbean. This is a dangerous proposition for us cruisers who want to look good in a swimsuit on the ship's pool deck. Keep yourself in check by splitting decadent desserts and other treats with your travel companions. Your waistband will thank you!

Splurge-worthy cherry pie from Mason Jar Restaurant on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
Splurge-worthy cherry pie from Mason Jar Restaurant on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Choose low-calorie drinks.

It's super fun to sip fruity drinks on the beach or poolside while cruising. But did you know those tasty tropical drinks are packed with calories? A frozen drink like a pina colada can contain up to 650 calories. Meanwhile, a margarita can serve up to 850 empty calories!

Avoid these excessive liquid calories. Instead, stick to low-cal beverages. Royal Caribbean offers refreshing alcoholic drinks like 100-calorie Truly Hard Seltzers in flavors like pineapple, lemonade, and black cherry. Beer lovers could order a 64-calorie Bud Light. For teetotalers, Coca-Cola Zero and Diet Coke offer fizzy flavor with zero calories.

It's important to stay hydrated while cruising, too. Alcoholic drinks and caffeine can lead to dehydration. Quench your thirst by ordering naturally zero-calorie bottled sparkling or flat water with a lemon or lime. Keep a water bottle at hand throughout your cruise.

Low-cal Truly Hard Seltzer on  Perfect Day at CocoCay
Low-cal Truly Hard Seltzer at Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Don't take the tram.

Your Royal Caribbean cruise may include a visit to their private island destinations, Labadee in Haiti or Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas. Instead of boarding the complimentary trams, hoof it. In addition to burning calories, you'll discover more island charm and come across more gorgeous photo ops.

Labadee, Haiti cruise port
Skip the tram in ports like Labadee (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. Fill up on fiber.

Sure, pastries are plentiful on cruises. But so are healthy food options like fruits and vegetables. Fiber-rich foods help diners fill up and stay full longer. Plus, a high-fiber diet will help your digestive system avoid the dreaded traveler's constipation.

Fiber-Rich Foods to Eat on Your Cruise

  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Whole grains like whole-wheat bread and oatmeal
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Oranges
  • Dried fruits
Fresh fruits at Perfect Day on CocoCay
Plentiful fresh fruits at Perfect Day on CocoCay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

11. Swap out high carbs.

The easiest way for many of us to avoid gaining weight is to ditch the carbs. Swap out refined carbohydrates like mashed potatoes, pasta, and white rice in favor of extra veggies or a side salad. Skip the bread basket, too.

Low-carb cruise salad
Low-carb Insalata di Rucala at Royal Caribbean's Giovanni's Table (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Pick active shore excursions.

When on dry land in ports, steer clear of passive driving tours. Instead, sign up for a walking or bicycling tour when possible. There are lots of active excursions like guided nature hikes, stand-up paddleboarding, horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, zip-lining, and more. 

Active kayaking cruise shore excursion
Kayaking shore excursion in the Mediterranean (Photo credit: Royal Caribbean)

13. Pack your own protein-filled snacks.

Enticing mid-meal and late-night snacks like pizza and ice cream abound on cruises. Keep yourself on track by packing your own protein-filled snacks. Save your splurges for meals instead.

Like fiber, protein keeps bellies full and cravings at bay. Think protein bars, trail mix, cheese crisps, and dried meat snacks. Below are some of my favorites.

Healthy Snacks to Pack

LaraBars healthy travel snacks
LaraBars are made of only fruits, nuts, and spices (Photo from Amazon.com)

14. Fill sea days with active fun.

Rather than spending all your time on sea days in the ship's casino or hot tubs, seek out active entertainment. Challenge yourself to conquer the rock climbing wall, available on all Royal Caribbean ships. Or give surfing and boogie boarding on the FlowRider a go. Many Royal Caribbean ships also offer mini golf courses and table tennis. Some modern cruise ships even offer ice skating rinks with open skate times!

Mini golf course on cruise ship
Mini golf course on Wonder of the Seas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Options vary from ship to ship, but all Royal Caribbean Cruises offer nightclubs where you can hit the dance floor to boogie into shape. Want a little help with your steps? Look for group classes in salsa, hip-hop, swing, or ballroom on the Cruise Compass daily schedule.

Dance lesson at Boleros Latin Club on Wonder of the Seas
Dance lesson at Royal Caribbean's Boleros Latin Club (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. All things in moderation, including moderation.

Did you know that 61% of travelers gain weight during their vacations? The good news is weight gain is not inevitable while cruising.

Small choices go a long way. You're better off hitting the gym and then treating yourself to a daiquiri poolside than throwing all good habits away while sailing.

You deserve to let loose and enjoy, too. As the famous Oscar Wilde quote goes, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” So, make better choices most of the time, and then decide how you want to splurge. As with most things, balance is key to optimum enjoyment!

The Travel Mama on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
That's me sipping a glass of wine after a day of stair climbing and *fairly* healthy eating onboard Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Book Your Royal Caribbean Cruise

Ready to set sail with Royal Caribbean? Book your cruise now directly with Royal Caribbean or read ship reviews and look for Royal Caribbean cruise deals via Cruise Critic!

Upper decks Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
Upper deck on Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More Cruise Hacks

Traveling with your sweetheart? Check out the most romantic things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Indulge in delicious drinks with this list of the best cruise mocktails.

If traveling with children, then be sure to read our tips for cruising with kids.

For those curious about river cruises, discover what it's like to sail the Rhine River with Viking River Cruises.

How to Stay Fit While Cruising & Avoid Gaining Weight at Sea

Save These Healthy Cruising Tips

For future reference, save this list of the best ways to avoid extra calories, make healthier choices, and avoid gaining weight during your cruise. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any questions or tips on how to stay fit while on a cruise? Let us know in the comments below!

I am not a medical professional, but I have linked to trusted health sources throughout this blog post. Check with your doctor before making any significant diet or exercise changes.

My husband and I were hosted aboard the Wonder of the Seas during its inaugural sailing. I will not receive any monetary compensation from Royal Caribbean related to this story. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Great tips, still I am not sure I would be able to stick to them. It’s a good think I don’t have a cruise vacation booked anytime soon, huh!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Nish – Ha! I feel you! That’s why I like to live by the adage, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” It’s nice to splurge sometimes, too!

  2. Fransic verso says

    Great tips, definitely we need to avoid eating too much hahah. These are great tips to stay fit during the cruise. Thank you for sharing!

  3. These are awesome tips! When we travel, we usually end up eating lots and overindulging. It is helpful to have some ways to stay fit!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Marysa – I think the key really is to monitor ourselves so we don’t go TOO FAR overboard when cruising! 🙂

  4. I guess it makes sense that you can gain a lot of weight on a cruise cause it’s a tendency to binge-eat when we’re on any type of vacay. Yes to all of these tips!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      May – Cheers to that! It’s easy to over-indulge while traveling, especially with so much delicious food available. But it can be done!

  5. I think I won’t be able to do that! Calories don’t count during holiday hihihi..Thank you for sharing!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ha! It is fun to let loose while traveling, for sure! Instead of counting calories, count your steps!

  6. Ivan Carlo Jose says

    It’s easy to gain weight on a cruise because of all the delicious treats. It’s good that there are enjoyable ways to keep weight off.

  7. Ntensibe Edgar says

    Nnniiicceeee…I love all these ideas…most especially, splitting that dessert, making use of the fitness centre and taking on those dancing lessons.

  8. I’ve gained so much on the cruises I’ve been on. Eating fiber is a great tip as I’m not sure I can stop going to the buffet

  9. I wish I had seen this years ago when I went on a cruise with my best friend. It felt like all we did was eat and eat and eat.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Heather – It’s all about balance! Over-indulge one day, and then reign it in the next! 😁

  10. MELANIE EDJOURIAN says

    I’ve never been on a cruise. They do seem pretty amazing with all the activities available. It is good that they have buffets although I agree, you need to limit trips so you don’t over eat.

  11. When I was younger, I didn’t worry about this when I traveled, but now that my metabolism has slowed, I definitely have to be careful.

  12. These are great tips! I actually always make sure that there’s a gym where we go so that I can utilize it and if it doesn’t, I make sure to move by walking or eating less. Though a triple patty burger like the one on the photo of your post make it hard to resist!!!

    Maureen

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Maureen – I always feel so proud of myself when I make use of the gym when traveling! It makes that burger taste all the better!

  13. Stephanie says

    I usually take the stairs when we’ve been on cruises. Unfortunately, we won’t be going again until all restrictions are lifted, including vaccination requirements. But when we do, my boys and I will be following a lot of these tips. Especially exercising outdoors while at sea. I mean, how could you not with those views?!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Enjoy those beautiful ocean views when you get back to cruising, Stephanie!

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