How to stay healthy on a cruise in 15 easy ways (and still indulge)

If you’ve been on a cruise, you’ve experienced it firsthand – walking off the ship several pounds heavier.

I was shocked on my first one when I walked off not being able to fit into my pants.

How did that happen? I’ve only been on here for four nights.

It can happen.

cruise ship on ocean

Cruises are a time to unwind, make amazing memories and take advantage of the extraordinary amount of food and alcohol!

Except on a cruise, all of this happens within a space of a week. It means your health can go downhill very fast.

We cruised the Western Caribbean for five nights on Carnival Vista. This was the first cruise I’ve been on where I walked off feeling great and weighing the same. In fact, my pants may have been a little looser.

This time I was prepared. I proved that you can have a great family cruise vacation with a little indulgence and still walk off the ship feeling healthy and happy.

In this guide, I’ll show you the steps I took to staying healthy on a cruise…

How To Stay Healthy On A Cruise

Here’s how you can stay healthy on a cruise, yet still indulge and have a memorable time.

1. Ditch the elevators and walk

mom and daughter walking on cruise deck
Evening sunset walk

On our first full day at sea on the cruise, I walked a total of 10 miles…10 miles!!! That was 23,679 steps.

Our lives are so sedentary these days with most people commuting to work by wheels and then sitting down at a desk all day. We aren’t moving enough to keep our weight steady. If you’re not making your 10,000 steps, the weight will creep up.

I only caught the elevators once, and that was when we had to get our suitcases off the boat. It will take much longer to wait for the elevators anyway as most people are riding them.

Ditching the elevators gifts you many stairs to walk up and down. Don’t be afraid. Not only will it help to keep off the weight, but it will also improve your cardio and strength.

The restaurant was at the other end of the ship to our cabin and nightly shows, which meant we were walking back and forth along the length of the ship several times a day.

Bear in mind, choosing to walk everywhere, and clocking up those miles, is not an excuse for you to practice gluttony. You’ll just cancel out all the work you’re doing.

2. Swap the buffet for the restaurant

plate of beef and potato

Every time I walked into the buffet and saw the long lines, quality and quantity of the food I questioned why on earth so many passengers chose to eat here.

I’m not a buffet person at all and being gluten free, it’s often too difficult for me to find something I can eat amongst the pasta and fried food.

Here’s what’s going to happen if you go to the buffet – you’ll overeat. I’m a very conscious eater, with dietary concerns, and I still overeat at a buffet.

Humans err on the side of indulgence. Take away the temptation.

Not only was I horrified at the amount of food I saw people piling onto their plate for three meals a day, but I was also disgusted at the wastage of food. Your stomach can only fit in so much, despite how much your eyes want to argue against it.

By eating in the restaurant, you can exercise more restraint. You pause more before ordering.

Pausing is where consciousness arrives to make better choices.

In the restaurant, you are served by the most beautiful humans on the boat. I LOVED my interactions with the waiters in the restaurant.

We had great conversations with them and danced with them almost every night. They do that in between service – break out into dances and celebration.

You can see a bit of that in this video:

The food in the restaurant is top notch. It’s like going out for a special occasion every evening. We had frog legs, salmon, lobster tails, and the most divine chocolate melting cake.

We had three-course meals, but the portions were small, healthy and delicious.

We could indulge with dessert every night without feeling guilty as it was one dish and one small portion. Plus, the food is cooked to order which means less chance of it sitting out in the buffet sprouting diseases.

In the restaurant, you can order whatever you like from the menu and however much you want. I did hear of some people ordering four entrees.

If you want to stay healthy, I recommend ordering food your stomach can manage. Your digestive system and liver work extremely hard, don’t overtax it or you will end up sick.

If you have any dietary concerns, pre-order your meals the day before. We did this which ensured every course came out gluten free.

The restaurant is also opened for breakfast and lunch on sea days.

Again, I would skip the buffet and have a more enjoyable and healthy meal in the restaurant. We started our day each morning with healthy poached eggs and avocado toast. No choice like that in the buffet.

3. Take your probiotics

woman and daughters posing for photo on cruise ship
Healthy gut, healthy cruise

You are exposed to much higher toxin levels when cruising. You have an abundance of food and alcohol to choose from. Often, you are mixing cuisines and eating foods your stomach is not used to.

You’re traveling to foreign countries, which is a change your stomach and digestive system does not like.

There are thousands of people on the boat, so you are exposed to many germs – God help the cruise if a virus breaks out.

The number one thing you MUST NOT forget to take on the cruise with you is your bottle of probiotics.

Up4 Probiotics Ultra for travel

The UP4 Ultra Probiotics with ultra-high potency is perfect for travelers is a higher potency for digestive and immune support – strengthening your gut and helping you keep those germs at bay.

Make sure you take probiotics along for your children as well – The UP4 Kids Cubes come in the form of soft vanilla melts, which the kids will love. Savannah has a very sensitive stomach, and probiotics have done wonders for her.

I take probiotics daily. It’s the best thing I have ever done for my health.

I travel a lot and am rarely sick now. I can’t even remember the last time I caught a virus. The only issues I have are when I consume gluten, and the probiotics have helped immensely with how my body copes when I do.

4. Get active on board + exercise

people playing basketball on a cruise deck

The busier you are on board, the less time for overindulging and sitting still. There are endless activities for you to do.

Of course, you want relaxation time – that is also important for your body. Schedule in some time on the Serenity Deck to have a nap, cool off with a swim, read a book, and perhaps have an ice-cold beer or sangria.

But in between, get busy. Cruise ships have a fitness center and an exercise program.

I joined a relaxing yoga class one morning. It was $12 which I thought was reasonable for a Zen start to the day. I planned on attending it for two more mornings, but then we had the hassle of avoiding Hurricane Irma which took up all my time.

We played mini golf with the girls and loved the Sky ride and Sky-High Ropes course.

There are also basketball courts which were very popular with the young males on board. And there is a walking/running track on the top deck of the ship.

And of course, most cruise lines will have a state of the art gym, which will also sometimes have classes like pilates or spin classes if you prefer cycling.

You have endless options for staying active and engaged on board the cruise ship.

Read more: Easy yoga tips for when you travel and maintaining an excercise routine when you travel

5. Indulge the body

caz lying on sun bed on cruise ship deck

Good news. Your body really does need some indulgence.

Head to the spa for a treatment. Get a massage or a facial. You deserve it. Your body will feel rested, restored and loved.

The cruise spa often has deals throughout your time on the ship. They have the first day only deals, and if you attend one of the pampering parties, you can get a great deal on some facial and skin care treatments.

I participated in the pamper party and had a free mini ( like mini mini) facial!!

Why not start the day with meditation on your balcony or one of the many comfortable chairs you can find on the ship’s deck?

It’s 100% free and a lovely way to start your day and indulge your body mind and spirit.

6. Watch your alcohol and take a liver supplement

Carnival Vista cruise rum punch
Rum punch would be lovely in moderation

Cocktails on a cruise are enticing. It just suits the tropical vibe, right? It sure does not suit a tropical waistline though.

Limit your syrupy cocktails. They wreak havoc on your skin, your liver, your digestion, and hydration. All of which amounts to a wicked hangover and lazy sun lounge attitude. It’s truly a waste of your cruise day.

I limited my alcohol to one drink in the afternoon and a couple of wines over dinner. Traveling with the kids meant I wasn’t going to be out partying. We spent the evenings enjoying the nightly entertainment shows with them. No need to drink.

Keep yourself busy on the cruise. From comedy to Cuban dancing shows, there is so much for you to every night that can give you a buzz without the health attack.

You can purchase drink packages for the cruise. They are about $59 a day for 15 drinks total. If you buy it, everyone in your cabin has to as well.

Do you really need 15 drinks a day? This is a huge temptation you don’t need. Carefully consider your choice. I know if I brought the drinks package, I’d be making use of it. It’s probably best to just refrain, even if it means you spend a little more.

A smart idea (and another great reason to visit the restaurant each night) is to order a bottle of wine and have 1-2 glasses of it with dinner each night. The wait staff will keep your bottle of wine for you for the next evening, if you don’t drink it all in one night – it’s a fabulous way to save money on your alcohol as well. If only all restaurants did this.

One thing I highly recommend, and is something I have only just started doing, is to take a liver supplement. Your liver is the work horse processing and cleaning the toxins coming into your body, alcohol being the liver’s biggest enemy.

The liver is also very good at healing itself and regenerating  – if you give it a chance to.

When I’m drinking I have one serve before I drink and one before I go to bed. It’s helped hugely with how I feel the next day.

7. Choose adventurous activities on land

snorkelling Grand Cayman Island
Snorkeling is a great way to explore and stay healthy

The shore excursions are the easiest way to get active as you have more space and opportunities to do something different. Whether that’s going for a swim from the beach or going kayaking.

Cozumel was our last destination, and we decided to spend the day on the beach, and to be honest, I was really bored. The beach wasn’t brilliant, and I could have been anywhere.

It made me realize I no longer travel for beach lifestyle. Being Australian and growing up on the beach, beaches are so normal for me, and it’s hard to beat an Australian beach.

My favorite day was in Jamaica. We spent the morning zip lining through the rainforest interacting with the coolest Jamaicans – seriously how could you not love this culture?

In the afternoon, we climbed a waterfall which was one of the craziest, yet most fun things I’ve ever done.

It was an adventurous day which kept my body moving and away from over indulging on local food and alcohol.

On Grand Cayman, we hired a car to visit different local snorkeling spots. Again, we were busy doing adventurous activities, experience local culture, and not overindulging.

There are so many fantastic activities you can do when you arrive at your island destinations on your cruise. Keep moving and stay engaged with the local culture. Say no to the all-day food and drink packages.

8. Join the nightly dance parties

nightly dance party Carnival Vista cruise

I swear one reason I stayed thin in my twenties was because I was going out every weekend dancing with my girlfriends. Every time I spend a night dancing now (which is rare) I think about this.

When the girls and I were soaked in sweat after dancing for an hour on the deck with hundreds of other passengers, I smiled broadly knowing that I was working off all that food and wine indulgence and giving some love to my body on the cruise at the same time.

Matt, our cruise director, was an EverReady bunny on maximum power. He lead the boat through endless dances like Follow the leader, Macarena, and the Shuffle

9. Drink plenty of water

peopel swimming in pool on ocean cruise

When cruising in a tropical climate dehydration is an issue, so be sure to drink plenty of water.

There are plenty of water stations on the ship, so make sure you carry a refillable water bottle and are always carrying water with you and drinking throughout the day, especially when it is intensely hot like it was for us on our Caribbean cruise.

If you are drinking, always have a water chaser. This will help hydrate you and push away that hangover. This is something I always do when drinking alcohol, no matter where I am.

Be careful about drinking water, or drinks with ice in it, when you get off the boat to explore your destinations.

Water can be unsafe to drink from the tap in many countries, and your stomach may not be able to handle the different water quality even if it is safe to drink. Again, probiotics will help your gut with this.

10. Have sea sickness remedies

pool on deck of cruise with views of ocean

Despite Hurricane Irma roaring through the Eastern part of the Caribbean, we had the calmest seas of any cruise I’ve experienced. I barely felt any movement and did not have any sea legs when getting off the boat.

If motion sickness is something you usually suffer from, then come on the ship prepared. It’s probably best you don’t drink alcohol, but have plenty of water.

My favourite natural remedies for sea sickness are ginger and peppermint essential oil.

I had some peppermint oil that leaked in my bag so left a lovely aroma in the cabin, perhaps this helped us all feel well-balanced.

Don’t forget your travel insurance just in case something happens! Ship doctors won’t be cheap.

11. Get plenty of sleep and rest

caz reading a book on lounge chair by pool
Use those comfy lounges

Cruise vacations are busy. There are activities from sun up to beyond midnight.

When you get off the boat, you’ll also be busy exploring.

The number one remedy your body needs for optimal health is optimal sleep. You think it’s exercise, water, or healthy diet, but in fact, sleep is the number one!

Don’t go crazy. Get to bed at a decent hour.

We’d attend a nightly show after dinner which would usually finish by 11pm and then we’d fall straight into bed. We’d be awake by 7am of a morning which meant we were well rested and ready to start the next busy day.

Although, there was that one night I got up to get ready for my early morning yoga class feeling sluggish and disorientated as to why it was still so dark. Surely the time difference between Miami and where we were in the Caribbean wasn’t that much?

I had to google “what time is it in Miami?” to check. Yep, sure enough, the time was 2:30 in the morning! For some strange reason, my clock had changed to be four hours ahead. So bizarre, but boy was I happy to crawl back into bed for a few more hours sleep.

On your cruise, you will always operate on whatever the time was from the Port you departed, so make sure your phone stays on that time.

12. Bring all the medicine you need from home

No one wants to get sick on their vacation, so be sure to carry all the medicine you will need for unforeseen circumstances.

There may be somewhere you can buy medicine on land, but and some cruise ships will have an onboard pharmacy, but some of them don’t.

Be sure to pack sickness meds and paracetamol for any illnesses.

Be sure you get all you vaccinations for the destinations you are visiting beforehand.

13. Sanitize your hands regularly

The best disease control is prevention, and you can avoid picking up a lot of illnesses by using hand sanitizers.

14. Wear sunscreen

Protect your skin from sunburn and UV rays by wearing suncream every time you go out into the sun.

15. Hit the salad bar

The great thing about cruises is there are endless dining options, but it can also be your nemesis if you’re watching your health or weight.

Rather than skipping all these fine foods, just make sure you are adding fruit and vegetables to your plate every day.

Don’t skip the salad bar, and be sure to get a side of veggies.

It’s easy to get cheese pizza every night for the kids, but these are loaded in calories, so try and find a healthy snack for them to eat during the day too.

Also be careful on the amount of soda you drink. With everything all inclusive, you can easily get carried away and forget what you’ve eaten.

Planning on taking a cruise? Here’s s a cruise packing checklist to help

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide gave you some ideas for how to stay health on a cruise and gave you some food for thought.

It’s not easy keeping up a healthy routine on a cruise, and to be honest, you are on vacation so you will be forgiven for slipping.

But as you can see, it’s not a difficult task looking after yourself, so we hope that this guide put your mind at ease.

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What’s your best tip for staying healthy on a cruise? Let us know in the comments.

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