9 Ways To Stay Healthy And Fit On A Cruise Vacation

Even if you're on a diet or want to fit into bathing suit throughout your vacation, you can still have a sensible time on your cruise without sacrificing the fun. We spoke to a panel of nutrition experts and travel agents and rounded up nine tips for staying healthy and lean on your cruise vacation — even in the face of so much "free" food. 

Be All-Inclusive Wary

It's easy to get excited about the all-inclusive aspects of your vacation, but it's best to avoid the siren song of endless food. "All-inclusive excursions may sound enticing, but more often than not, you'll be inclined to get your money's worth by overindulging," says David Glenn, owner of Shoreside Travel in San Antonio, Texas. "Instead, opt for an active excursion with a pay-as-you-go option. Most everything is negotiable, and it never hurts to ask." 

Breakfast Is Crucial

The most important meal of the day on a cruise ship is breakfast. If you skip breakfast, you'll be more likely to overeat at lunch, and if you cheat at breakfast, you still have plenty of time to swim off those calories. Dr. Joanne Williams, a certified holistic nutritionist, suggests going for power breakfasts like oatmeal, fruit smoothies, egg white omelettes, and Greek yogurt. 

Drink Plenty of Water

Of course, this tip is crucial for any summer activity, but drinking water before and during meals not only keeps you hydrated, it can also prevent you from overeating. Infuse glasses of water with cucumbers, watermelon, and other fruits available on-board to keep hydration interesting, says Victoria Holthaus, registered dietician and nutritionist. 

Have a Buffet Plan

If you can't avoid eating at the all-you-can-eat buffet, always peruse the buffet table for healthy options before just picking up the first (cheesy, fried) thing you see. Fill up your plate with fruits and vegetables, avoid bread, and then come back for one or two indulgent items, says Keri Gans, certified nutritionist. "If the midnight buffet calls your name, do not answer."

Modify Your Meal

Most of our nutritionists suggest eating at sit-down restaurants more often than not. That way, you'll be more aware of what you order, and can ask your server to modify your meal. Ask for menu items — especially vegetables — to be steamed, boiled, and served without sauce, recommends Dr. Joanne Williams. 

Pace Yourself

Cruise vacations usually last between one and two weeks, so there's no need to try every menu item on board the first few days. "I try to think of the options as a tasting menu, and eat very small portions of a few of the choices I like best," says Adrienne Sasson, travel agent at Rubinsohn Travel.  "In a buffet situation, I survey the food offered and decide which are the items I most want to taste."

Remember: Alcohol Counts

You may be sticking to fruits and vegetables on your cruise, but if you're indulging in extra-large margaritas every day, those healthy habits will go right out the window. "If alcohol happens to be a part of your vacation festivities, stick with clear liquors, like vodka," says Brandon Mentore, sports nutritionist. "Beer and wine can rack up the calories." 

Snack Smart

Who says you have to eat three big meals a day when you're in the tropics? "Ensure that you have healthy snacks in your cabin so you don't feel the need to indulge 24/7," says Abby Langer, a consulting dietician.

Stay Active

Become familiar with your ship's gym, and if you have the option to go rock climbing or swimming on an excursion, take it. Don't just sit on the beach. "Exercise first thing in the morning for 40 to 60 minutes," says Brandon Mentore. "It will start your day off great, allow you to relax later, and set your metabolism up to process food more efficiently."