Last week, Matt and I took a cruise. We went to the Caribbean on the Grand Princess, to be exact. Now, once you get over the fact that two twenty-somethings went cruising (and, weirdly, freakishly enjoyed it to the fact we’re probably going to do it again), the following questions will enter your head: But, Erin, aren’t cruises decadent? Aren’t the food options not very healthy and totally overwhelming? Aren’t you on a boat? How do you stay fit on a boat?
The answers to those questions are, respectively: yes, yes, yes, and why let me tell you!
1) Take advantage of the fitness centre
Every cruise ship has a gym. The one on the Grand Princess has a weight room and a general assortment of exercise machines. Cruises are very much about routine, so if you get in one early (ie. tell yourself “I’ll go to the gym every morning at 9” then actually do it), fitting in fitness isn’t all that hard. Because I was “tapering” (aka being lazy), I didn’t hit up any of the machines. But lots of people did.
2) Sign up for classes
Our cruise had two kinds of classes: drop-in classes that cost $12 and free classes. The $12 classes included yoga, pilates and spinning. The free classes included stretching, Chillax (which is a code name for yoga), and ab work-outs. If you don’t want to pay the top-up for the special classes, don’t! I enjoyed the Chillax classes more than the paid yoga classes. They were 30 minutes long, offered on port days and — for some reason — no one goes to the free classes. I took Chillax three times and the largest class was five people. One day, there was two of us in the class. Where else can you get an almost personal fitness session for, essentially, free?! Mind you, the space for the classes was right next to the treadmills, so it felt like doing yoga in a Goodlife, and not in a proper yoga studio. But there was a snazzy view of the ocean.
The yoga classes were after the ab classes and before the pilates class. I didn’t do them, but I got to watch. Those classes could easily kick your ass.
3) Choose active excursions
Most excursions involve trolley tours or museum tours or boat tours. But some will involve diving or snorkeling or golfing or hiking. Choose those excursions. They are usually smaller (one of the benefits with cruising with a less mobile generation) as well as fun. In Aruba, I signed up for the Hiking/Swimming/Shopping excursion. We were bussed out to Arikok National Park and did a 5k loop through some scenic landscapes. I learned a lot about Aruba’s history and ecosystems and worked up a good sweat while doing so. (It was 37 degrees that day, which probably aided in the sweat production). It was just like Envirothon, but with more cacti. Then we went to the beach, where I did laps in the roped-off swimming area. Swimming in the ocean is awesome.
4) Eat smart
This is probably the toughest thing to do. There is food everywhere! The secret is to be smart at the buffet. Take the smaller plates inside, not the giant plates they hand you at the entrance. Head straight for the salad bar. Do not linger at the stations where they cooked potatoes 87 different ways. You will end up eating only potatoes. Most mornings, I made a fruit salad. Most lunches, I made a regular salad. For example, on taco and burrito day, I made a taco salad with lettuce, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beans, salsa, guacamole and corn chips, even though it wasn’t technically on the menu. Easy! The vegetable offerings were plentiful, so I could make a different salad every day. When I wanted a snack, I popped by the buffet and grabbed a banana or an apple to munch on.
Dinners were a bit tougher, but eventually Matt and I gave up on the sit-down dining experience to eat at the buffet every night (hint: of the four nights were did this, three had the exact same menu in the dining room and the buffet). The in-room dining options were not veg-friendly and the dining room options were often too heavy for my liking. By choosing the casual buffet, I got to sample what the kitchen was making without overloading, complement the meal with a salad of my choice and — bonus! — eat outside. All the traditional dining options on board are indoors. But the back pool? The deck emptied once it got dark out, and no one, except Matt and I, seemed to enjoy dining al fresco. It was win-win.
And stay away from the dessert buffet. It’s not worth it.
5) Drink smart
I drank A LOT on this cruise. But you’re supposed to, right? I was on vacation, after all. Matt and I stuck to the classic “get drunk and stay awake” concoction of our choice: rum and cokes. They were perfect in the Caribbean heat and — bonus! — are much lower in carbs and calories than our beloved beer. (If you want to be really smart, don’t drink at all. But that’s not my style.)
How do you stay fit on vacation? Share your tips with us!