How I Lost Weight On an Ocean Cruise


Don't think of an ocean cruise as a bloat and float—you can have fun and stay fit with these simple hacks

Cruise ships are infamous for all-you-can-eat buffets and 24/7 access to snacks, dessert and pizza—not exactly the recipe for weight loss. On a recent seven-day Western Caribbean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, however, I found that you don't have to pack on the pounds in order to have a good time. In fact, I actually lost weight (well, only a pound) while on vacation. What follows are my hacks for staying healthy-ish on an ocean cruise.

Step Up Your Game

The Norwegian Escape is basically a floating city with a capacity for 5,999 passengers and crew. That means there is a lot of space to explore on foot, from a multi-level Sports Complex, arcade and a Sky Rail zipline to a three-story Ropes Course. Of course, you can always take the elevator up and down Escape's 17 floors, but I tried to avoid the elevator as much as possible. Sometimes, I actually found it faster to walk up six floors than wait for the elevator, which was often crowded. Also, my friend and I started each day with a morning walk around the track, with the goal of hitting at least a mile before getting breakfast or going into port. According to the Health app on my iPhone, I averaged about 13,750 steps per day, while the highest I climbed in a single day was 38 floors. 

Dinner is a highlight onboard, while breakfast can be easily skipped.

Dinner is a highlight onboard, while breakfast can be easily skipped.

Sea Days Are Gym Days

On a seven-day ocean cruise, expect to have a couple of sea days on the itinerary. Some people live for them. Me? Not so much. Norwegian is good about packing a schedule full of activities, enrichment opportunities and get-togethers, so you're not likely to bored while out at sea. My strategy was to fit in a workout at the gym before lunch on sea days, so I could still enjoy some of the daytime programming. Escape's Fitness Center is well-stocked with TechnoGym equipment, free weights and a yoga studio for floor exercises and stretching. While I never fit in one of the gym's complimentary fitness classes, I appreciated the convenience and cleanliness of the onboard gym.

Buffet, Away

It's easy to binge at an all-you-can-eat buffet and not fully realize just how much you've eaten. At the Garden Café buffet, the food selections seem to go on and on, and some new dish always managed to catch my eye. What I found to be an effective trick was serving myself a hearty plate and then walking with it to an outside table. That way, I wasn't constantly smelling food and I didn't have to walk by the seemingly never-ending buffet during my exit. During my first two days onboard, while walking out of the Garden Café, I certainly caught myself grabbing a cone of frozen yogurt or an extra side dish (when I wasn't even hungry), which made me test out this strategy in the first place. Also, for lunch, I made sure that I stuck to the salad bar, rather than opting for a hot meal. And, lastly, since breakfast was my least favorite meal onboard, I skipped breakfasts on sea days and ate an early, satisfying lunch instead.

A Glass Half Full

For environmental reasons, I brought my own refillable water bottle with me on this trip, and it served me well. (There are areas to fill up water bottles throughout the ship, including in the Garden Café.) Not only did I cut down on single-use plastic, I also cut down on calories by avoiding the free juices and soft drinks on offer. Alcoholic beverages were surprisingly expensive and included a service charge, so it wasn't hard to limit the booze either. While I typically have a glass of wine with dinner and mixed drinks when I'm going out, it didn't make sense to fork over some $40 per day, per person on alcohol. I'd rather spend the money on an experience or a tour in port and make up for lost time when returning home (there's always an ice-cold bottle of Tito's vodka waiting for me in the freezer 😉).

Choose active adventures in port.

Choose active adventures in port.

Adventure Time

When the ship is docked, get your a$$ off the boat! This should be a given, but I certainly met a few older couples who chose to stay onboard for the duration of the cruise. If that's your thing though, more power to you. If you are an explorer like me, you'll want to book your tender the day prior, so you can maximize your time in port. If you want to do more than explore the destination on foot, book one of the cruise line's active adventures that will have you snorkeling, ziplining, tubing or trying a new sport FTFT. 

Ultimately, the extra steps I fit in throughout the cruise coupled with the fact that I'm usually in front of a computer all day, made a huge difference in my calories in versus calories out. I was able to indulge at dinner—eating as many as six courses one night—and not feel bloated. Hopefully, you'll be able to apply some of these hacks on your next cruise and come back feeling slim and trim. 

Do you have any tips for staying in shape while cruising? Please let me know in the comments below. I'll be cruising the Danube with AmaWaterways next and will put your tips to the test.

One of the stops on our seven-day Western Caribbean cruise was Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.

One of the stops on our seven-day Western Caribbean cruise was Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.

My trip to the Western Caribbean onboard Norwegian Escape was made possible by Norwegian Cruise Line and my wallet. Views expressed are my own. Starting April 22, Norwegian Escape will be sailing roundtrip from New York to Bermuda. The seven-day journeys start at $649 per person.