How to Remain OCR Fit on a Cruise Ship

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It’s no secret that my wife has a cruise addiction, specifically with Carnival Cruise Lines. Her mission is to reach “diamond” status as a cruiser (200+ days sailed), which I suppose is the OCR equivalent of achieving a few Spartan Race trifectas or taking the most laps during a BattleFrog Series BFX. Unfortunately, while cruising is a great option for family vacations, the typical hedonistic cruising atmosphere does present challenges for those who wish to remain OCR fit.

And yet not all is lost. As with most things, a balanced approach is best when confronting such a challenge. One can indeed remain OCR ready AND enjoy themselves on a cruise vacation. All you need is a little temperance and imagination.

1) Avoid the Buffet (when possible)

people group catering buffet food indoor in luxury restaurant with meat colorful fruits  and vegetables

Cruises are famous for their culinary diversity and abundance. From an all-American buffet to gourmet dinner spreads, there is something for everyone 24 hours a day. So how does one combat all this temptation for caloric overload?

In my experience with Carnival there are two main dining options: the Lido deck buffet lines, and the dining rooms. Buffet lines offer a copious amount of food, making over-indulgence nearly certain, whereas the dining room offers menus with specific portion sizes often much smaller (but no less filling) than our standard American fare. In this case, go for the dining room experience. The food is tastier (in my opinion), the atmosphere more intimate, and goes a long way in portion control.

No dining room experience for lunch? Try the free room service option, and select healthy choices from the menu.

2) Easy on the Mixed Drinks

Pouring brandy into glass with ice cubes

Good food and good times are the hallmarks of a cruise experience, but creating a jovial atmosphere with a few drinks doesn’t have to cost you your fitness integrity.

While mixed drinks are a fun and tasty way to lighten the mood, they are also covert calorie bombs waiting to explode your waistline. The culprit? Massive amounts of calories from sugar. Mixed drinks combine several high-calorie ingredients to create a sweet beverage which often masks its alcoholic contents. According to, a site which demonstrates the calorie and alcohol percentages of several drinks, just one Long Island Iced Tea contains 529 calories, over 1/4 of a typical man’s daily caloric intake!

Solution? Limit the alcohol and drink your spirits neat (a single or double w/o ice) or on the rocks (ice). Single shots of liquor typically boast between 80 and 100 calories and often go the distance when properly enjoyed (sipped), thus ensuring a good time without the added sugar bombs.

3) Utilize the On Board Gym/Recreation Facilities

gym hall with treadmills and exercise bicycle in cruise ship

Not all ships are identical, however most offer some form of fitness and recreational outlet. Gym and spa programs are often quite extensive. Carnival for example offers various fitness classes, from spinning, yoga, and even an intense HIIT boot camp, all free or little cost. There is also a wide selection of weights, machines, treadmills, ellipticals, etc. Your cruise may have a sports deck with a basketball court, running track, or other amenities.

Take time and research your cruise ship offerings and itinerary before embarking. Create a workout plan based upon the facilities and follow that schedule as if at home. Also check out any on shore excursions in any ports of call. Are there nature trails, snorkeling, running trails or hiking opportunities? Being an OCR athlete means creating opportunities for fitness and excitement regardless of your environment. There are no excuses, even on a cruise ship. Go find yours!

4) Have a Few Laughs!

No cruise experience is complete without attending a few stage performances like comedy shows. According to a study conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, laughing for 10 to 15 minutes can burn between 10 and 40 calories. So just think, you could burn off that Scotch in just one comedy show, provided the comedian has a descent act.

I hope this guide serves as a helpful tool to help you balance fun and fitness on your next (or first) cruise. Have additional suggestions? Please offer them in the comments below and be sure to join us on Facebook.

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