Eating onboard without cruise weight gain weight is easy with these tips, despite the challenge of all the delicious options available.
To date, we have spent over 160 days on cruise ships, and I will be quick to admit that the fabulous culinary delights are one of the day-to-day highlights. When we first started cruising, I was like many of the passengers, indulging whenever possible and leaving the ship with a 10-15 pound cruise weight gain.
And the cruise line doesn’t matter. For the most post, we have been bombarded by tempting treats on all of them, and for us, that list includes Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, MSC, Azamara, and Holland America.
Gluttonous, continuous eating onboard appears to be the goal of many passengers. We, however, opted to stick to three meals a day (plus morning coffee and an occasional afternoon tea).
The temptation comes as, with minimal exceptions, all food is included in the cost of a cruise, and we often hear people say, “I paid for it, I am going to eat it all!”
Cruise weight gain is not mandatory!
Nowadays, I rarely have cruise weight gain.
While many consider this an impressive accomplishment, I think it is just making a plan and sticking to it. After all, every meal includes expertly prepared, appetizing, aromatic, and flavorful food.
Even after 19 days of eating onboard the Island Princess on a repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Auckland (New Zealand), I had no weight gain.
Whether or not you have cruised before, prepare to leave this page hungry and with the tools to enjoy eating onboard without gaining weight. The food photos here are all from Princess Cruises but are quite representative of what we found on every line.
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See why cruise weight gain comes easy for some
Sorry if these images stimulate your hunger, but they seemed the perfect way to demonstrate why so many people need to bring elastic waist clothing when they cruise.
- Room service is available 24/7. This cheese tray also arrived with a plate of individually wrapped crackers.
- The sweet tray at afternoon tea. There are also finger sandwiches, cookies, and my favorite – the fresh hot scones served with jam and cream.
- A typical dessert with dinner … I do allow myself some treats on my plan.
- This scallop meal is one of my favorite dinners. I know my photos are heavy on seafood, as that is what I like. There are meat, chicken, and vegetarian options on the cruise ship menus.
- Mouthwatering and blissful paella on the Island Princess perfectly prepared.
- As we passed through the Caribbean, some of the cruise ship menus reflected the local cuisine.
- I know, I am a bit of a coffee snob. Therefore, I opted to purchase a coffee card that gave me a discounted price for 15 espresso coffees during the cruise. This is a cafe latte. If you are like me, remember to ask for it in a glass mug, or it will come in a takeaway container.
- The antipasto at the top of the page was followed by hot appetizers, pasta, a lobster tail dinner, and then these three mini desserts.
- One of the daily lunch options is handmade pizza at the Italian restaurant that charges a cover at dinner. There is no extra charge for this, and it is as good as it looks.
- A meat pie is served at the British Pub specialty restaurants, but without any extra charge at lunchtime. On the pub menu are also traditional items like fish and chips or bangers and mash.
Tips for avoiding cruise weight gain
Sorry to say it …
there is no secret, it’s the same as everyday life.
Calories in versus calories out.
However, there are a few tips to help …
Best tips for eating healthy on a cruise
- Order a side of steamed vegetables with your dinner, even if it is not listed on the cruise ship menu, they will make it for you.
- Similarly, order a plate of fresh fruit with your breakfast.
- Drink water, rather than soda, throughout the day.
- If you don’t want to gain weight on the ship, you need to make healthy choices and get some exercise. The latter is easier, as there was both a gym and a walking track on all the ships we have sailed to date.
- Join some of the active onboard options like Zumba, line dancing, ballroom dancing, swimming pools, and basketball court, and on one ship, there was even a 5K breast cancer walk.
- Personally, I upped my daily walking goal. Using my Fitbit Alta HR, I strived for 15,000 steps per day before I allowed myself dessert. There is an outdoor walking track, so breathing the sea air, it is easy to get in the extra steps.
- I actually lost weight on a 15-night cruise on the Azamara Quest, but I don’t recommend the method used. Unfortunately, Azamara accidentlty served me foods I wasn’t allowed to eat on five of fifteen days, leaving me chained to my toilet and losing weight.
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Adventurous eater in port? Think about travel insurance
If you are also an adventurous eater in ports, consider carrying Travel Insurance. As someone who has seen the emergency room of hospitals in six countries, I speak from experience.
Save on your trip and cruise with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we cruise. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Cruise: We find great deals at Cruise Direct.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com (hotels at our end ports) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Set up private guides at the ports: Looking to maximize our limited time at a port, we often hire private guides from Tours by Locals.
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
Don’t miss our best cruise tips.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
If you enjoy eating on board but not the associated weight gain, please share this article on social, starting with Pinterest:
How will you avoid cruise weight gain?
Disclaimer: In addition to VIP treatment onboard the Island Princess we were provided with many complimentary extras, including speciality dining. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
if you adjust your camera setting to accommodate for tungsten light it will make a world of difference when shooting “food porn”.
Good article! We went on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our 45th anniversary (almost at 51 now) and I didn’t gain any weight at all. I didn’t conscioulsy try not to but I just wasn’t interested in eating all the time, especially the junk that was readily available. I did enjoy my daily latte though. 🙂
Impressive that you didn’t gain weight without any special efforts.
Had to drop in to read this article! My husband and I have only been on one cruise and we had lost a good amount of weight before getting to the ship. Even with all my good intentions, the food was so good and all those buffets round the clock – we totally lost it! Next time…I plan to be much more intentional about eating in moderation and getting exercise. And there is so many options to exercise that there’s no excuse not to!
Well at least you pre-dieted, so if you weren’t careful, you probably were not any bigger than before you started.
When I travel, I don’t usually gain weight and don’t tend to watch what I eat. The walking keeps all of that in check I have to worry when I get back to my regular semester routine, and it’s easier to eat junk food then cook a meal. (Although, I’m working on that!). I’m not so sure how I would do on a cruise with all those temptations. All of the dishes you’ve posted here are drool worthy. I would have to make a plan, and part of that would be to make the ships walking track my best friend. I’d also get in some swimming. I’m a bit of a coffee snob, too, so I can see myself opting for the coffee card.
Having a plan before you get on is the easiest way to succeed. If you can stick to it amongst all the temptations.
Lisa @ LTTL
I waited to read your post last becasue it looked so enticing 🙂
Hmmmm…. I think I’d have to up my exercise intake so that I could splurge. I am a coffee snob too. 😀 I love that you said that. What a fun post, but now I am hungry. 😀
So glad you found me over at my blog.
Lisa at Life Thur the Lens
LOL – yes this one should come with a warning, it will make you hungry.
So funny to see a food porn post, with that title! Actually all very sensible things you have to say, brilliant tips for travellers, as it can be hard! Thank you!
I am super tempted indeed, Rhonda..everything looks sooo good 🙂
Dare I tell you, it is . . . everything is delicious, and should you happen to order something that isn’t to your preferences, they will take it back and get you something else.
You did well!
Merlinda Little (Glimmer of Hope)
This made me miss my fitbit flex as it died down on me! And now I am feeling that I am carrying more weight than usual.
This is such a lovely series. The food looks gorgeous!
I love my fitbit. I am on my second one, as they don’t do well in the washing machine.
I have always wondered how to handle a cruise with all that beautiful food, I dont think I would take up exercise, just take loose fitting clothes and “try” to eat small portions, that said, it still might not help. Karren
LOL – it’s always up to you. Think about it, you are probably surrounded by great food in your own kitchen, you just make choices.
Great advice Rhonda. We’ve been on two cruises (one on the Sapphire Princess) and we have witnessed how much passengers “pig out” on these cruises. Anybody would think they were starving!! My husband and I like to watch what we eat and exercise daily to keep the weight at bay, however on both cruises I have put weight on – but not a lot!
Not a lot is the secret. Taking off a bit, is easier than a ton.
All the meals look so appetizing. Attracted by the meat pie at the English pub, though. And the caribbean meal as well.
All of these photos are delightful. Now I’m ready for a cruise 😀
The meat pie was hubby’s meal, I had bangers and mash. It was delicious, but not so photogenic.
This food does look wonderful! Everything is presented really wonderful! I try and drink a lot of water.
Yes, I drank tons of water too. I always do. While bottled water cost money onboard, there was nothing wrong with the tap water.
Oh my what fabulous food I think I would indulge too much especially that Paella hmmm 🙂
Have a foodtastic day Rhonda 🙂
And the best thing (or worst if you are watching the waistline) is you can order two or three mains, as many as you want. (I stuck to one.)
You must be Super Woman not to gain but a little on a cruise like that!
It’s all about walking for me.
Stunning photos Rhonda!
Wow, that is quite a parade of food. We took a seven day Alaskan cruise and all went well. The food was great, but we stayed active enough to maintain our weight. I would recommend cruising to anyone. It is a wonderful way to travel.
We did an Alaska cruise a few years ago, and I think I over ate. I have learned a bit of self discipline since then. But as you can see, I didn’t go hungry, nor did I cheat myself out of the treats I wanted.
Paul F. Pietrangelo
Wow, all the beautiful and delectable food. On my 8 day cruise, I try not to gain anymore then 5 lbs. It’s very difficult but it can be done. What amazes me are those people that pile up their plates with food and goodies and then leave the plates close to full and leave the room. That really gets me angry. It sounds like you & your hubby are enjoying this cruise. Good for you Rhonda. See ya later my friend.
Wow, that’s more than half a pound per day. I worked way too hard taking it all off to do that right now. We didn’t eat in the buffet very often, so I didn’t see too many of the people piling the food
Those desserts look absolutely delicious
They generally tasted even better than they looked.
Cruise food is amazing. Congrats to not gain weight on a cruise.
I did gain a bit, but it’s almost gone already.
L. Diane Wolfe
Our cruise ship had a wonderful gym. Nothing like running on a treadmill while watching the waves. Plus there are so many offshore excursions where you can spend some calories.
I prefer the walking track, also looking at the waves whilst I exercise.
I agree. Hubby and I want on a 17 day cruise to Hawaii and back. We exercised every single day and made good choices. I gained two pounds. I was happy with that.
Have a fabulous day. ☺
It’s hard not to gain anything.
Hi Rhonda – it all looks wonderful … and yes we can choose carefully – not get carried away and take advantage of the exercise options … love all the photos … it is mind over enjoying some deliciousness but not stuffing ourselves unnecessarily … I wonder what they do with the left overs?
The whole looks to be an amazing experience … and I’m looking forward to seeing more – cheers Hilary
I wonder what they do with the left overs also, there much be an enormous amount of waste. And, more coming soon.
That food looks fantastic
And it was.
24,000 meals a day?! Holy cow! And all the food looks spectacular! I’d end up twice as big as when I boarded. I’m trying not to be super jealous, but with your awesome pics and details every few days, it’s getting harder and harder! 😉
That is exactly what I thought. It sure is more than 3 meals per day, per person – again going back to those on the ship that are there to stuff themselves. As for our trip, the blog point here is only about 2/3 of the way, there is a few more really interesting destinations to come.
N J Magas
Your pictures look absolutely amazing! And it actually reminds me of an all you can eat buffet we liked to go to in Japan. The food was fantastically prepared, with specialty dishes that were brought out every 30 minutes or so. If you took your time, you could sample a small but of everything without stuffing yourself too full.
I know when my parents went on their cruise, their temptation wasn’t the limitless food, it was the open bar. They went on an Alaskan cruise and when they came back they said, “Once you’ve seen one iceberg, you’ve seen them all. We mostly just drank.” I remember thinking that it must have been a waste, except they didn’t end up paying for it. 😛
Neither our Panama Canal cruise, nor our Alaska cruise a few years ago had an open bar. Too bad your parents didn’t love Alaska, I know I did. They probably should stay out of the Panama Canal as well – as the locks might not be interesting enough to hold their attention.
I think I just might gain some weight, but I might have a chance not to with so many exercise opportunities available.
LOL – It’s worth it to have a bit of indulgence.