9 Helpful Tips To Avoid Weight Gain on a Cruise

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I just returned from a 10-day cruise and set out to avoid the usual weight gain associated with cruising. I actually lost weight on this cruise and am sharing some helpful tips on how I did it...

My family and I just returned from a 10-day cruise aboard the new Carnival Vista which started in Barcelona and ended in Athens. What an incredible experience sailing and eating my way through the Mediterranean. Like most people, gaining weight on a cruise is incredibly easy. I put on 5 pounds during my first cruise a few years back and losing those pounds was a challenge so I made it my mission this time around not to repeat those mistakes and can happily report that my efforts were a success (I actually lost 1 pound!).

This doesn’t mean I sacrificed enjoying great meals and cocktails while on vacation, after all I was there to taste authentic European cuisine (yes, I ate mozzarella, gelato and pizza in Italy, wine and macarons in France, spinach pie in Greece, etc.) and have lots of fun. If avoiding the dreaded weight gain while cruising is a high priority for you I’ve created a few simple strategies to help you find balance as you navigate the abundant sea of buffets, restaurants and watering holes available during your cruise.


Photo Credit: Andy Newman

1. Balance is key.

There are certainly lots of temptation on a cruise – buffets, cocktails, dessert, pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream, lava cake! But there are also tons of healthy options, so it’s about making the best choices and keeping your portions under control. The dining room on most cruise ships usually serves smaller portions, and may even offer a low calorie dessert option. Sharing dessert is also a great way to have a taste without overdoing it. The buffets also offer plenty of healthier options such as carving stations, salad bars, fresh fruit, oatmeal and omelet stations, whole grain breads, eggs, vegetables, soups and more. Load up on salads, veggies, soup and lean proteins. Don’t rush through your meals, relax you’re on vacation! If you eat at a moderate pace while enjoying the company you are with, before you know it you will be full and satisfied and wont be as tempted to go back for seconds.

2. Eat off the spa menu.

salad bar

Rather than indulging in burgers and fries for lunch I opted for the salad bar. Many ships have a spa menu such as the Vista’s Serenity Salad Bar which had all the fixins such as a variety of fresh lettuce and herb options, quinoa, chia, veggies, etc. Yum!

3. Eat fresh local seafood.


Take advantage of the fresh fish and shellfish both on and off the ship whenever possible. This was easy to do on the Vista, in my travels in Greece at Rhodes and Crete, I ordered grilled octopus and grilled calamari at quaint restaurants. Back on board the ship, the dining room often offered a catch of the day from the Port of Call. Carnival’s Bonsai Restaurant has incredible sushi for a low price and new to the Vista, their Seafood Shack also offers the local catch of the day prepared fresh and served anywhere on board, anytime, any style, any sauce. My oldest daughter loves Bronzino so we ordered this earlier in the day (fresh from Naples) and it was prepared, grilled perfectly and conveniently sent to our dinner table.

4. Avoid the all-you-can-drink package and skip the sugary drinks.


Cocktails are calorie-ridden and they add up quick. When you purchase the drink package, the mentality is that you need to get your money’s worth and chances are you’ll order a drink even if you don’t want one. Many cocktails, especially the umbrella drinks are loaded with sugar, fruit juice, creams, etc. Instead opt for a wine with dinner, and if you really want a pina colada, treat it more like a dessert and stick to just one. For those who love carbonated sugary sodas my husband says the best kept secret is simple….”Get the seltzer with fresh lemon”! All the effervescent, bubbly goodness without all the sugar.

5. Pack your sneakers and your gym clothes.

Carnival Gym

Again, I do believe in balance so enjoying a cocktail or dessert with dinner isn’t the end of the world. Instead, hit the fitness center and work it out! Where else can you work out while enjoying those beautiful ocean views while sweating off those calories. Take advantage of the on-board gyms and fitness centers.

6. Use the track.


On most cruise ships you’ll find an outdoor track on the promenade deck where you can walk or jog laps. What can be better than a track with an ever changing ocean-view landscape! On the Carnival Vista, 7 laps around the track was equal to a mile.

7. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

I did a ton of walking on the ship in order to get from my room to the pool, spa, dining, kids camp, shows, comedy clubs, the bars, etc. front to back, bottom to the top. Taking the stairs whenever possible is a great way to get to your destination while burning some calories along the way.

8. Track your steps and set a goal.


Using a Fitbit, pedometer or a phone app that tracks your steps (my iPhone comes with a free Health App that does this) set a goal for yourself and stick to it. Traveling through Europe I did a ton of walking (especially in Rome), so take advantage of excursions that allow you to get in some exercise enjoying your destination.

9. Burning calories while having fun aboard.


Photo Credit: Andy Newman

Ping pong, the sky course, the pool, sky ride, basketball, mini golf, the sport square – there’s so many ways to stay active while on board, take advantage of everything the ship has to offer and most of all don’t forget to have fun. Bon Voyage!

I hope you find these tips useful for your next cruise! Have you been on a cruise? Do you have additional tips you can share on how you navigate the seas while watching your waistline?


Photo Credit: Andy Newman

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise invited me as Press to experience their new ship, the Carnival Vista. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Skinnytaste possible. All thoughts are always my own.

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  1. was just on a cruise and gained six pounds, wish i would have thought about it before hand. will remember for the next one

  2. First off, thank you for all the delicious recipes and practical suggestions you share on your website!  As I type this, I have eggplant roasting for your lighter eggplant parmesan recipe.  
    On another note, I reached goal today on WW, so I am celebrating.!! 🙂 Along with the eggplant parm I’m making your oven chicken parmesan…bye, bye weeklies.  But at least I’m celebrating with skinny taste and not Baskin Robbins!!
    My husband and I and our daughter and her husband (all of us are on WW, btw) are heading to San Juan in 15 weeks for our cruise.  Your suggestions are great and we look forward to implementing them on our trip.
    God bless you and your sweet family!

  3. These are some great tips! It’s so easy to lose track of exercising on a vacation, but these tips make it seem easier to stick to a regiment and still have fun. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for the tips. On our last Disney cruise I always took the steps, tried to not overdo meals and limited myself to one alcoholic beverage a day. I will be doing that on our upcoming RCCL cruise in July. My weakness is desserts!! I need to psych myself up for some self control.  Also love your recipes! ????

  5. I’m a Carnival Cruise junkie! Our October cruise was cancelled, but will be going in April. I cannot wait! I definitely plan to eat more of the fresh foods, and I’m staying away from chocolate melting cake, ha ha. Thanks for the wonderful tips and the pics of the Vista. I can’t wait to get on her sometime!

  6. Loved this article. I’ve been on 3 cruises. 2 while single and 1 for my honeymoon. Worked out and took the stairs on all 3 and didn’t gain weight…but those were my 20’s! Now in my late 30’s I’m Going on a Disney family cruise in December with my hubby, along with our 3 & 6 year-old. I need all the help I can get! Thanks for sharing! BTW I love every recipe I’ve ever made by you! You rock!????

  7. All good tips! I would also add that many cruise lines offer tours that are for the more fitness-minded. We’ve bicycled across islands, kayaked in Iceland, gone horseback riding…and that’s in addition to just walking all over Europe!

  8. I loved seeing your photos from the cruise!! These are such great tips and I agree with you–balance is key! I always try to pick one meal to be richer/more special (and for me, it’s usually dinner), and then make the other meals a little lighter. And it doesn’t mean you can’t have a few bites of croissant with your eggs and fruit at breakfast, or a few bites of creme brulee with lunch, but don’t go all out at breakfast AND lunch AND dinner; choose one. 

    So happy you got to experience this with your family!! xo Andie

  9. Dancing is how I burn off calories! Between that, and all the walking, and the wonderful seafood options (think of how much they would cost at home!). I’ve cruised a total of 79 nights in my life so far, with another 12-night planned for this fall, and haven’t gained weight from it.

  10. I really enjoyed this post Gina! I’ve been on several cruises and unfortunately excersising wasn’t  very appealing. It was difficult for me to get pass the rocking of the boat. I did find that eating small portions throughout the day was key for avoiding weight gain. 

  11. Always use the small plate at the buffet 
    Drink a large glass of orange juice water 1oz juice to 7 oz water every morning, it will fill you up and give you energy instead of  a lot of food at. the buffet 

  12. Going on Vista in July Athens to Barcelona – your article was exactly what I needed to see today!!!

  13. I used to lose 3-5 lbs in the weeks before cruising and then made the entire trip about overindulging….definitely the wrong approach! Now I just bite the bullet and get on that treadmill every morning, STAIRS ONLY/ELEVATORS FORBIDDEN, and no buffets ever. It’s not as bad as it sounds….I have a fruity decadent drink by the pool everyday, enjoy whatever delicious meal is offered in the dining room at mealtimes and most definitely have a glass of wine with dinner AND the dessert. If I want to stay poolside during the lunch hour, I ask a family member to bring me a plate….even a slice of pizza or small burger is better than the damage a buffet can do to me!!

    • I’d like to add that there are ALWAYS healthy options in every buffet….I do not want to discourage any first-time cruisers. My lack of self control at buffets is my personal weakness but may not be yours!:)

  14. You know, I really have to compliment you on this partnership.  A lot (virtually all) of the sponsored posts I read on other blogs feel so forced, especially when the sponsor isn’t closely related to the theme of the blog.  You’ve managed to create some truly authentic content.  Kudos to you, and I’m glad you got such a wonderful trip! 

  15. Great tips, we are off to Greece and Rome this summer.  We aren’t cruising but will keep your tips in mind. I especially like the focus in your post (and helpful comments!) about filling up on foods that are smart choices. For us that will mean a filling breakfast and keeping an eye out for fresh fish and grilled options. Thanks again! 

  16. Great post! I love cruises, but I know what you mean about the food. It’s so hard when it’s always available. Making healthy choices and adding in exercise are great tips.

  17. I really enjoyed all your Instagram pictures of your trip!  It is a trip I hope to take one day.  Thank you for sharing them!

  18. I have been on several cruises and love them.  As a foodie, I appreciate the tremendous variety and quality of the food, but have to manage my desire to try everything!  We employ the tips you suggested, which are all right on point,  In addition, I have a few others.
    – I pick one meal per day to really enjoy.  Breakfast and lunch (for me) are not as exciting as seeing the dining room menu!  So I usually do fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and something light for lunch.  Then I make smart but enjoyable choices for dinner. 
    – We always take the stairs, for sure.  When we’re in port, we try to go for a walk to explore town in addition to whatever excursion we have planned.  On our sea days, we do 2 miles on the deck.  
    – My favorite naughty treat is a burger and fries.  I allow myself one day to enjoy that treat (usually the last day).  Then I don’t feel deprived, but I also don’t run amok eating it too often.  
    – Instead of grabbing dessert during the day, I get a baby cone of soft serve yogurt.  It fills the sweet tooth (and tastes great in the heat!) but it’s a pretty reasonable treat.  
    – and if I’m tempted to be bad, I ask myself, “Will it be worth it when I get home?”  Usually the answer is “no” and I am no longer susceptible!  If the answer is “yes,” then it must be pretty darn good and I go for it!   But that simple question keeps me from making a lot of mistakes.

    Enjoy your cruises -they are great fun! 

    • All great advice! Thanks for sharing, I split the Guy’s burger with my 6 year old, those are dangerously good!!!

  19. I’ve only been on one cruise but came home 3 pounds lighter. 
    It was great having all those fresh fruits and veggies all cut up and ready to eat!

  20. Your article provides some practical and simple ways to live enjoy the journey. Implementing these changes isn’t always easy, of course, but your site also give readers the inspiration to follow these steps not only on a cruise but also in a daily life..

  21. My husband and I pick a room that’s about as far away from the food options as possible. On celebrity, we stay at the front of the ship and then have to walk all the way to the back for every meal. It’s an easy way to make sure you are getting your workout in and don’t pop into the buffet for a snack!

    • That’s great. On Carnival Vista, you really need to walk a lot because everything is far away (which was a good thing).

  22. I’ve been on many cruises and my rule of thumb is to always take the stairs.   And just because there is food all the time doesn’t mean you need to eat all the time (24/7).  I also try to balance things. 

  23. On my first cruise I followed only tip #7 – take the stairs – and I lost 5 pounds while eating & drinking whatever I wanted!  Just get off the elevator two decks or more from where you are going and take the stairs. Five cruises over 11 years later and I’ve never gained a pound on a cruise. I did nothing else, just walk up/down a few stairs. As long as  you can physically handle it, it’s simple!  Enjoy your cruise.

  24. Great tips!  If only I can stick to that when I’m on vacation!!!

  25. Thanks again for the words of wisdom. Not only is your blog my ‘go to’ for meal planning, but now helpful and practical tips for vacationing. Sadly I didn’t follow your suggestions on our last cruise but have learned my lesson and will do better next time.

    Thanks for your website, keep up the great work!

  26. I am going on my first cruise in July and was worried about weight gain. Thanks for the helpful tips 

  27. I have been on a ton of cruises, but in 3 weeks I am going to my first cruise, while hoping to stay on plan.  I found a these tips so helpful and it made me even more excited!