The Oasis of the Seas was my family’s ride for Thanksgiving week. Get the skinny on how to stay fit and healthy while cruising on the high seas.
Disclosure: During my trip, I was provided with an onboard credit and complementary wi-fi in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own.
If you’ve ever taken a vacation on a cruise ship, you are well aware of the overabundance of food at every turn and every moment of the day and night. In the land of lavish buffets and seconds, thirds and even fourths at dinner, how do we enjoy a little rest and relaxation without adding 5 or 10 pounds at the same time? Here’s a recap of my Thanksgiving week family vacation where I’ll share my tips and tricks on how to navigate cruise cuisine and avoid going overboard.
I recently returned from the most amazing family vacation aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas. I’ve cruised many times before, each voyage a challenge to stay fit while indulging in extra desserts and fat /sugar laden foods. To my surprise, the Oasis provided many opportunities to enjoy delicious AND healthy cuisine. Most ships promote “lighter” menu items offered in the dining rooms during mealtime. Royal Caribbean has taken it to a new level. The Solarium Bistro is a specialty restaurant dedicated to serving menu items lower in calories, fat and sugar. At breakfast you will find a beautiful fruit bar with cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, and muesli along with low sugar cereals and skim milk. At the hot bar, there are turkey versions of typical meats like bacon and sausage, accompanied by scrambled egg whites, roasted tomatoes, yellow and green squash, and sautéed mushrooms.
At lunch you’ll find whole grain wraps with butternut squash and other veggies, a wonderful salad bar and lean proteins. Breakfast and lunch are complementary with a modest fee charged at dinnertime when the Solarium is transformed into a romantic, candlelit restaurant. The menu is packed with a wide variety of delicious options with each entrée containing less than 500 calories. Check out a sample dinner menu. My husband and I dined there the last evening of our cruise and the choices were so tempting, I honesty could not pick. Check out that Yellowtail Tuna Sashimi, Caribbean Pumpkin-Coconut Pot, Sea Scallops and Whitefish Ceviche, Roasted Baby Beets and Spinach Salad with Chive Vinaigrette, Mexican Shrimp Bowl, Red Curry Seared Rare Tuna, and an amazing array of desserts.
If dining in the main dining rooms (either Silk, Grande or American Icon), there is a “Vitality” menu offered at each meal which contains an appetizer, entrée and dessert for a total of 800 calories or less. There were many delicious options throughout the week and I never lacked for “healthy” option. Some favorites were: Butternut Squash Risotto with Seared Scallops, mascarpone, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese, an Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Goat Cheese, Pomegranate and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette, Seafood Ceviche, Low-Fat Lemon Yogurt Cake with Soaked Figs and Apricots with Raspberry Sauce, Watermelon and Raspberry Soup with Pistachio Dust and Mojito Foam, Baked Alaska, and of course the famous Lobster Tail! I definitely indulged in dessert, though there were always sugar-free and lower calorie options. It’s important to remember that no one will be upset if you take a few bites and leave the rest. I have a “3 bite rule” when it comes to desserts. The first bite it the best, the last is the last, and each one in the middle is the same. Try to savor those three forkfuls and leave satisfied, not full.
The Park Café, located in the beautiful Central Park neighborhood of the ship, offers made to order veggie paninis on whole grain bread or pita, as well as a make your own salad bar with lean proteins, including shrimp. There are plenty of fruit cups and yogurt parfaits as well as other whole grain sandwich options. The Park Café also serves grab-and-go salads with roasted chicken or chef salads and whole fruit like apples, oranges or kiwis. The outdoor dining area is just gorgeous. You feel like you are dining at an outdoor park while actually floating in the middle of the ocean.
To be honest, my kids insisted on eating at the huge Windjammer buffet most of the time. It offers several different cuisines: Indian, Chinese, Italian, American BBQ etc… I admit it is a challenge, but it’s possible to navigate a buffet and come out with a healthy plate. At most meals there is some form of fish, often more than one. My favorite was a fish tikka! There are always veggies, salad, lean deli and carving meats, turkey burgers and broth based soups. The truth is, if you follow the rule of MyPlate.gov and fill ½ your plate with fruits/veggies, ¼ with lean meat, and ¼ with grains (preferably whole), it’s easy. Just avoid filling the plate 3 or 4 times! The 2 tablespoon principle always helps too. If there are items you love that you know are high in unhealthy fats and sugars, have a few spoons and enjoy. Just try not to go overboard, literally.
One of the most popular eateries on the ship is Sorrentos Pizzeria. Any time of day or late into the night you can grab a slice (or 5) of some tasty pizza. They change the availability of topping varieties often, and you can also stand in a different line to make your own personal pizza with many toppings such as mushrooms, onions, peppers, arugula, asparagus, shrimp, ham, chilis and more. My tip: save a few calories by blotting the extra oil off the top with some napkins. While I don’t recommend overdoing it on pizza, it’s definitely a treat to grab a slice around 4pm when dinner is at 8pm.
What’s the real trick to avoiding weight gain on a cruise? MOVE! Every ship I’ve ever seen has a gym and usually a track as well. The Vitality fitness center on the Oasis of the Seas is superb. With ample equipment, classes (some for a fee) and a walking/jogging track, there is something for everyone. This track is the most amazing one I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. It’s so large that 2.4 times around the track equals a mile. There are mile and km markers to help track your progress- a 5K equaled 7.5 laps. The track is also adorned with motivational signage and wall art of people running/walking. I took advantage of a little nook to do some planks overlooking the ocean- nicest workout view ever!
I was also SO excited to find Flywheel spinning classes offered 3 times during the week. Spin is my favorite type of group class, yet I’d never done Flywheel. Just in case you haven’t either, each bike has a readout measuring torque, RPMs and power output and they are all centrally connected to a readout, where everyone competes for the top spot. Instead of the instructor telling you to turn ¼ or ½, you are instead guided to cycle to a certain range of torque and to push to hit a certain number of RPMs. The class included some upper body work too, a great way to work your whole body at the same time. As an extremely competitive person (mostly with myself), I was pushed to my limit and emerged victorious, woo-hoo!
After your workout, there are snacks, juices, smoothies and protein shakes available at the Vitality Café. Snacks are complementary, shakes and smoothies are an extra charge.
Don’t forget the stairs. Many, many times each day you will need to ascend and descend decks to get where you need to go. Always take the stairs to go down, and try to avoid the elevator if you need to go up 5 decks or less. If you are pretty fit, try a few extra flights. You don’t need to be in exercise wear to walk a lap or two a few times a day to burn some extra calories. If the gym is not your thing, there is an ice skating rink, basketball court, flow riders, rock climbing walls, dance classes and nightclubs to keep you moving. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Don’t forget, consuming nutrient dense fruits and veggies, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins will help keep your immune system in tip top shape, an important part of staying healthy to enjoy your vacation. A little thought and planning goes a long way to ensure you stay fit and healthy during your special getaway!
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