How To Stay Thin When Cruising

By: Debbi Kickham

It's pizza and croissants and desserts, Oh My!

There's nothing like luxury cruising. But as my husband Bill would tell you, "There's a cookie around every corner." It's absolutely no fun to disembark a ship when you're 10 pounds heavier than when you got on. Let's face it, when you travel -- even in lavish luxury -- your diet-and-fitness routine usually takes its own vacation.

It�s easy to see how it happens: In their desire to pamper and delight you, luxury cruise lines offer oceans of opportunities to eat, eat, eat -- with belt-loosening breakfasts, lard-laden lunches, and calorie-ascending dinners, along with snacks and room service of pizza, ice cream, coffee drinks, cookies, and everything else on the fattening food chain. On all-inclusive cruises, your wine and fruity cocktails are also in the mix -- literally. Those tactics will certainly ensure that you never again fit into your made-to-measure Chanel suit or your custom silk jacket from a high-end Hong Kong tailor.

Keeping the pounds off and staying fit on any cruise line is always a challenge. There's an old anecdote that the average weight gain on a cruise ship is one pound per day. Yikes! So, how to not get fat on a cruise ship -- especially an extended cruise or World Cruise? Try these tips so you don't get detoured on The Road To Sveltesville. Here's how -- and believe me, you won't miss the bloat, especially when you wear all of your new designer resort clothes.

1). Prepare In Advance. After booking your cruise and prior to boarding, let the cruise line know that you crave special dietary requests. Typically, my husband Bill and I, before boarding, ask for nonfat, 90-calorie yogurts, 30-calorie almond milk, and 35-calorie diet bread, to be available for us, and placed in the refrigerator in our stateroom. At lunch we will typically bring the bread with us, instead of being tempted by the oh-so-delicious hot loaf on the table that's fresh out of the oven. Edie Rodriguez, a veteran cruiser who's worked in the industry for more than 30 years, and Brand Chairman, Americas, for Ponant cruises, says, "Staying thin on a cruise ship is a constant battle and a challenge." Her strategy? Not eating any bread, and drinking lots of water. She adds, "You can order healthy options on a cruise ship if you have the discipline -- and you don't order the chocolate lava cake."

2). Bring Your Own Slimming Snacks. Yes, cruise ships offer an overabundance of food, usually loaded with calories. But if you want to indulge without the bulge, bring some of your own healthy snacks, so you're not tempted by pepperoni pizza at 3 PM, an hour or so after you've eaten lunch. I always bring smart snacks when I travel, especially because I always require fuel before my 5PM daily one-hour workout. (At hotels, these are also very good choices instead of the overpriced and fattening selections in the minibar.) These nutritious snacks include:

Sunsweet 20-calorie cherry-, lemon- and orange-essence dried plums
PB Fit fat-free chocolate peanut butter powder (which has had all the fat and calories kicked out of it -- great with crackers)
Laughing Cow 35-calorie cheese wedges (the cheddar is awesome.)
Blue Diamond flavored almonds in 100-calorie packets

When onboard, I also request nuts, fresh fruit and raisins to be delivered to my stateroom, so I always have options that I can indulge in, after skipping breakfast and having a light lunch. I'm a diehard dieter, and even at 62 years old I'm still a size four -- and these tactics really work for me. Believe me, it's not easy -- but it is doable if you set your mind to it.

3). Order Special-Request Foods. Right after embarkation we typically meet with the chef, to tell him that we always crave low-calorie, non-fat foods, and to see what he can create for us. In fact, many luxury cruise lines even have a dedicated "special-request chef," who is there to accommodate your needs -- whether it's for gluten-free, sugar-free or low-calorie foods. Here's what else we do: Since we love a good tuna fish sandwich, we go on board with our own jar of low fat mayonnaise, which the Food and Beverage department stores in their kitchen refrigerator. That's what the chefs use when they make our special-order sandwiches for lunch, and they're guilt-free and gourmet. It's just like having your own private chef.

4). Bring A Special Low-Cal Recipe. Perhaps you have a favorite low-calorie item from the Hungry Girl website? Or you just love Grandma's tomato sauce? Or want a beloved veggie burger? Bring the recipe onboard, because cruise lines are all-too-happy to accommodate your special requests and serve you something extraordinary. Luxury cruise lines love going the extra mile to offer you outstanding service and cuisine -- it's a point of pride.

5). Order Healthy Dinners. Many cruise lines today offer special low fat items on the menu. In fact, on Oceania Cruises, which has a Canyon Ranch SpaClub onboard, there are even delectable low-cal Canyon Ranch spa entrees on every menu (also listing the calorie counts and nutritional information). For example, a sample dinner is mixed greens and watercress with mustard-seed dressing (55 calories); clear capon broth (100 calories); and entree of steamed Maine lobster with saffron rice (330 calories). Try it -- it won't feel like a diet. There are also a huge variety of vegan options on Oceania -- everything from chocolate-cherry muffins for breakfast, lunch of gazpacho and lasagna, and dinner of stir-fried veggies in coconut milk and lemongrass. No matter what you order, you'll get the full plate of fantastic. These healthy choices definitely do not feel like denial.

But if nothing on the menu floats your boat, just do what I do: I happily order lean protein (such as a grilled rosemary chicken breast or shrimp loaded with herbs), a dry-grilled vegetable, and a baked potato (yes, with butter) plus a bowl of fresh berries for dessert. Voila! You can also bring your own packets of fat-free salad dressing, and save calories, since many cruise line salad dressings can be high-calorie. I also bring flavored water packets, so I'm not tempted by fattening umbrella drinks. I also typically have a standing order, every night, for low fat ratatouille, the French dish of squash and eggplant in tomato sauce. This delicious vegetable side order makes taste without the waist. If you must indulge, and the creamy risotto is calling your name, try this: Take just two bites of something sinful and savor every mouthful. Your thighs will thank you for it.

6). Do What Veteran Cruise Experts Do. What do avid cruisers do to stay thin? Have the waiters leave the bread off the table to obviate temptation, and order the spa cuisine. Next, pre-book and pre-pay exercise sessions with a personal trainer on the ship, so that you're committed to working out --and can't back out. That tactic ensures that you'll stays fit and trim.

In addition, most luxury cruise lines have fabulous gyms where you can exercise to your heart's content, and even take complimentary yoga and Pilates classes to burn calories.

7). Walk The Decks. Even if you hate to exercise, it's fun and easy to walk the upper decks of a cruise ship, to show your body who's boss. Tasting the salt air, admiring the view, moving your body -- and still fitting into your Dolce & Gabbana bathing suit -- that's a good feeling. Afterwards, reward yourself with a professional massage in the spa. Another tip? Skip the cruise elevators and always take the stairs. Remember: One of the great benefits of exercising every day is that it lets you eat a little bit more, so you can treat yourself now and then.

8). Save The Best For Last. Luxury cruising will seem even more special if you save your calories, and then indulge just one or two times with a favorite entre, a fattening cocktail, or special dessert (or both). I usually plan on eating a high-fat food -- such as decadent carrot cake or Nutella gelato -- for the last day of the trip, or the second-to-the-last day, so I have something really noteworthy to look forward to throughout the sailing. The upshot? I get to return home -- without any guilt -- and without having to go on a diet. If you're like me, you'll appreciate that you can still fit into your skinny jeans, even when vacation's over.

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