Cruises: Expand horizons, not waist

As the cruise industry experiences incredible growth these days, so do many of the passengers who elect to spend their vacations at sea.

With the endless eating opportunities aboard ship, many people find that, along with broadening their horizons, cruising can lead to expanding waistlines. But if you keep a few strategies in mind before you choose a cruise and while you’re on the high seas, you can return home without any excess baggage.

And that doesn’t mean dieting or deprivation. Pleasurable meals combined with active pursuits can help you avoid the shock of a grand weigh-in when the holiday is over.

Onboard activities
The first step is to check out the brochures to see if the cruise line offers the time and opportunity to be physically active at the ports of call.

Make sure there are plenty of appealing options, whether it’s golf, kayaking, diving or simply walking. Sitting on a tour bus may provide a glimpse into the major highlights of a port, but chances are you won’t work up much of a sweat if all you’re doing is getting on and off.

And when you’re facing meal after meal, it’s tough to savour them after a day of intivity.

Fitness options
It was snorkelling in the waters of the South Pacific that sold my husband and me on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’ ms Paul Gauguin . Another attraction was the retractable water sports platform, which takes passengers down to sea level where they can sail, kayak or water-ski in the lagoons of Bora Bora and Moorea.

Over the years, cruise lines have recognized passengers are interested in more activity than simply reaching for a cocktail from their deck chairs. Onboard fitness opportunities abound.

But be sure to explore your options beforehand. If a daily workout on a treadmill is a must for you, check out what equipment is in the ship’s gym.

For early birds, many ships schedule morning walkathons where fellow passengers can meet for deck laps.

Next page: Healthy menus

Healthy menus
And when it comes to culinary offerings, chances are a cruise line that keeps fitness in mind will also provide alternatives for the health conscious.

On the ms Paul Gauguin, the daily “Well-Being Menu” offered delectable selections from appetizers through to dessert. But even the standard menu, anything but ordinary, included a variety of international dishes that were as healthy as they were innovative.

Fresh from the pristine waters, there was always fish and seafood, prepared differently each day, along with an array of Polynesian specialties using tropical fruit and vegetables.

At breakfast and lunch, platters of crisp fresh vegetables and perfectly ripened fruits were consistently available.

Special diet meals
Cruise lines also offer special meals upon request. Vegetarian dishes, which once needed to be ordered in advance, now appear as regular menu items. And low-sodium or allergy-free options are just a request away.

Asking for a salad dressing or a sauce on the side is always greeted with a pleasant response. But no matter how light the choice of fare, there’s one rule to keep in mind: Don’t clean your plate.

With meals sometimes consisting of six or seven courses, finishing everything is a sure-fire way to pack on the pounds.

Eat later
In the battle of the bulge, the timing of meals can also be a weighty issue. On ships with two sittings, meal times must be requested when the cruise is booked. Opting for the later one can allow for a pre-dinner workout.

On previous cruises, we’ve headed for the fitness centre or enjoyed power walking on the promenade deck at sunset while the early diners were on their way to the first sitting. The second sitting also ensures you’re not hungry for a midnight buffet or snack.

Good mealtime habits and fitness routines while cruising can have other perks as well. When you want to pack in all the activities you can into a day, there’s nothing as effective as exercise to energize you.

And if that doesn’t interest you, just think of how you can work up a terrific appetite to be able to manage the marathon of edible offerings.