I’ve just returned from an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise and I’m thrilled to say that despite the insatiable amount of baked goods on offer 24/7, I didn’t put on any weight whilst sailing the high seas.
Cruising is synonymous with culinary delights, and as I learnt during my time aboard Princess Cruises’ vessel Regal Princess, it can be incredibly difficult to limit your consumption of the delicious treats that are whipped up in the galley kitchens each day.
I don’t know about you but I find it incredibly difficult to refuse something once I get a taste for it, especially if it comes in the form of dessert! Therefore, in order to maintain a healthy routine on board Regal Princess I set out a few ground rules before I even stepped out of my front door.
You may be thinking this sounds a little regimented, but in all honesty following a healthy lifestyle requires that you follow a set of guidelines; these were mine:
When on board:
40 minute gym session or 3 mile run (top deck running track) on waking up each morning
Sign up for yoga/pilates class on sea days
Avoid the lift and always take the stairs
No alcohol before 5pm or after 10pm
Dessert every other night
Breads and pastries should be eaten with breakfast only
At least one glass of water with every meal
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR LIFE AT SEA
Regardless of whether you get seasick, pack some motion sickness tablets along with a basic medical kit of painkillers, bug spray, plasters, and antiseptic ointment. Just in case.
If you can, try and acclimate yourself to the local time zone of the region in which you’re cruising, this will help your body clock to adapt to the itinerary of the first day aboard.
Sleep is an integral part of achieving optimum health, and while everyone finds that they need different amounts of sleep to function, making sure that you catch enough zzzzzzzs whilst cruising will benefit you in more ways than one.
If you’re well rested you’ll find you have a more enjoyable time exploring each new destination in which the ship makes port. You’ll also find you maximise your time sightseeing on land, are more inclined to stay active during the day, and sleep better each night as a result.
There’s so much to take in on a cruise so consider planning your itinerary each day to allow you to return to your stateroom at around 10pm. This will give you time to unwind, digest your evening meal, and prepare yourself for the day ahead.
The entire ship is temperature controlled which means that you’ll dehydrate at a much quicker rate than usual (air con causes a low water content in the atmosphere, leading to increased water loss from the lungs and through the skin). As such it’s important to counteract this affect and drink more water than usual.
In parallel, staying hydrated is actually a great way to boost general health. Drinking enough water maintains the body’s fluid balance which helps transport nutrients through your system, regulate your temperature, and aids digestion.
I found that there were always bottles of water available in my room (for a fee), and I tried to make sure I drank one in the morning and one before bed to ensure I was always topped up.
READ MORE OF MY BALTIC CRUISE TRAVEL GUIDES
DITCH THE ELEVATORS AND TAKE THE STAIRS
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Choose to hike the stairs between decks and get some extra steps in without noticing. Light aerobic activity such as this is great for your circulation, cardiovascular fitness, and digestion!
I have to admit, when you’re walking up more than three or four flights it can take it out of you! Therefore, be mindful of your personal fitness levels and don’t try and take on all 19 floors at once when you first arrive!
TAKE YOUR YOGA MAT AND STRETCH OUT AT THE END OF THE DAY
Yoga offers a whole host of health benefits and although you might not have the opportunity to take a class every day whilst on board a Princess Cruise, there are a number of ways you can integrate yogi habits into your on board wellbeing routine.
Take 10 minutes before you turn out the light and allow your muscles to stretch out. This can help improve your circulation and in turn give you maximum benefit from a restorative period of sleep. You don’t need to be a full-time yogi to let yoga boost your general health.
Follow @catmeffan if you’re looking for some yog-spiration 🙂 she posts daily and has some great yoga flow videos on her YouTube channel.
CHOOSE ACTIVE EXCURSIONS IN PORT
Another simple way to up your step count without too much effort is to ensure that you book active shore excursions.
When Regal princess docked in Copenhagen I opted to take a cycling tour of the city (I picked the bike up from right next to the ship) and cycled for almost five hours! Something I’d never think to do in the gym!!
I also found that most sightseeing tours incorporated a lot of walking and especially enjoyed taking the opportunity to make the most of the time to explore the back streets and alleyways of the places we visited.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE JUICE BAR
Quite possibly my most favourite of all the offerings aboard Regal Princess; their early morning smoothie and juice menu is divine.
After a session in the gym or a run on the top deck I’d head to the Outrigger Bar on the Horizon Terrace at the back of the ship and indulge in some veggie goodness instead of heading to the all you can eat buffet.
Incorporating fresh fruit and veggies into your daily routine provides the body with much needed nutrients in an easily digestible form. Research which of the bar’s menu combinations will best boost your health and resolve to have one before considering another breakfast option.
For example, beetroot is good for high blood pressure and turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and can aid in the absorption of antioxidants, whereas I don’t think there are any known benefits of pancakes with syrup!
When I say ‘hidden calories’ what I mean is high calories foods that fly under the radar and are often overlooked by those watching their waistline.
For me, the biggest killer here is alcohol. We all know that desserts are bad for us, and those pastries are probably going to contain loads of calories, but did you know there can be up to 650 in your average pina colada? Not only that but consuming a large amount of sugar (90% of cocktails contain sugar syrup) can contribute to a hangover.
For the same buzz without the guilt stick to low calories drinks like vodka with soda and fresh lime, champagne, or bloody Marys.
Hidden calories can also be found in creamy, cheesy or sweet sauces served up in the dining room so consider the menu options and don’t be afraid to ask your server exactly what each dish is made of.
EAT A LA CARTE
In much the same way that cocktails harbour hidden calories, buffet dining should be approached with caution.
With so many dishes to choose from and an endless supply of clean plates to fill, it can be tempting to try ‘just a little of a lot of different things’ when perusing the aisles.
My advice, unless you’re able to exercise a lot of self-control (which is really hard because the food is so delicious) just eat in the a la carte restaurants where the portion control is managed for you.
Although Regal Princess offers the latest in satellite WiFi, known as Medallion Net, taking the time to disconnect from the news, your social media, and work emails can do your mind the world of good.
Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to disconnect for long myself because I was collecting content to share with you guys, however a cruise would be the ideal time to practise a little mindful meditation and reflect on life back home.
It’s not often we find ourselves with free time, there’s always something that demands our attention, so make the most of the free time you have on the ship.
INDULGE IN A LITTLE R&R
With that in mind, when you’re looking for distractions to keep you away from the buffet and margarita bar consider heading to the Lotus Spa.
Offering a menu of treatments to satisfy almost every ailment, and an enclave retreat that contains a hydro pool, sauna, cooling water beds, and hammam (Turkish bath), reward your healthy meal choices with some truly luxurious pampering and you really will go home feeling brand new.
While cruising isn’t too dissimilar to staying in an all-inclusive resort, being in close confines with up to 5,000 other people means that there are additional health consideration you’re probably not used to factoring into your trip planning.
In all public bathrooms aboard Regal Princess I saw signs stipulating that extra attention should be given to personal hygiene, and reviews I read advised to carry alcohol wipes and wipe anything that other people have touched like serving tongs, salt and pepper shakers.
I’d suggest that the latter is perhaps a good idea if you’re someone who is susceptible to infections, but for most a diligent approach to hand washing sould suffice.
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If you’ve made it to the end of this post you should be pretty well equipped to bypass the weight gain and lethargy that can easily appear during resort-style getaways. Just remember, everything in moderation. There’s no need to practise total deprivation, just be considered in your choices of both meal and activity!
Have you any top tips to help travellers stay fit and healthy on a cruise? Comment below!