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Want to know how to avoid gaining weight on a cruise? Truth be told, we’ve been on 13 cruises and gained weight on nine of them.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise before/after

It wasn’t until we took the lessons we’d learned from the Noom app and the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, that we figured out a way to avoid gaining weight on a cruise. We’ve used these tips successfully on four cruises (so far) and hope you’ll find them helpful, as well. 

Know your temptations and triggers to avoid gaining weight on a cruise

Before you set sail, think about how you’ll avoid gaining weight on a cruise. You know yourself best. Reflect on the foods you really enjoy and the temptations that send you overboard. Take time before boarding the ship to think about what you’ll do when confronted by an endless supply of your favorite foods.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise cookies
avoid gaining weight on a cruise steak

For one cruise, Ann decided she really wanted to enjoy mudslide cocktail. Before we ever left home, she looked it up and found that one 12 oz. mudslide has 820 calories! So, she made a plan. She chose to wait until the last day of the cruise to try the mudslide. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise mudslide

She knew if she had it earlier in the cruise, another would be a constant high-calorie temptation. On the last day, we asked the bartender to split the drink in two (410 cal) and we each savored the rich, creamy, chocolaty goodness. Every. Single. Drop. 



Prioritize the foods you enjoy most

It has helped us to loosely plan out our day of meals and prioritize what we each enjoy most. For instance, if we know that the chocolate peanut butter torte is served on the evening chic night, we might skip the high-calorie cocktail on the pool deck that day. 

indulge in dessert

If you choose the lasagne for your entreé, maybe have a lower-calorie broth based soup that night instead of the cheesy potato and bacon one. The key is to prioritize the foods you like most and enjoy them guilt-free! 

Retreat worth it Retreat Sundeck slider

Also, watch your portions and stick to menu items that are steamed, grilled, or baked. Avoid foods that are sauteéd or fried.


avoid gaining weight on a cruise pin

Limit high-calorie cocktails

As mentioned above, certain cocktails can blow through your calorie budget in just a few sips. Limit high-calorie drinks like Long Island iced tea (800 cal), margarita (740 cal), and piña colada (644 cal). Instead have a rum and diet soda (96 cal), champagne (90 cal), or a cosmopolitan (160 cal).

Cruise ship etiquette cocktails

Another tip is to ask the bartender to go light on the simple syrup (52 cal/tbsp) if that’s an ingredient. And, don’t forget to drink your water throughout the day! Try having a glass of water between drinks, as well. Finally, remember you don’t have to drink alcoholic beverages all day. There are many mocktails available, or just ask for a Vitamin Water with a little mint and a lemon wedge. Yum!

Load up on low calorie dense foods at the buffet to avoid gaining weight on cruise

A cruise ship buffet is a wonderland of tempting foods. Most folks trying to avoid gaining weight on a cruise would simply steer clear of the buffet. But with a little planning (and these tips), it’s easy to find a satisfying, delicious meal without a lot of calories. First, do a little reconnaissance. Walk around the whole buffet without a plate in your hand. Make a note of all the marvelous foods available, and develop your plan of attack. If you just grab a plate and go, you’ll likely find more tempting treats and will wind up feeling remorse at your choices.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise buffet veggies

Second, fill your large plate with fruits and raw, steamed, or roasted veggies. These will fill you up but without tons of calories. Then, use a smaller plate for the higher-calorie items like entreés, meats and cheese.

Finally, limit high-calorie salad dressings and toppings like cheese and nuts. Also, pay attention to sauces, creams, and condiments like mayonnaise as these can add tons of calories quickly. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise buffet breakfast

Add more movement to your day

Let’s face it, the more you move, the more calories you burn. So, add a little extra activity to your day — which is actually pretty easy to do while you’re on a cruise.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise fitness center

The fitness center is always a good option. These spaces are well-equipped and have dedicated crew to help you learn to use the machines. Plus, you’ll never find another gym anywhere with such beautiful views. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise fitness center view

Cruise ship fitness centers also offer classes in yoga, pilates, and more. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. First, no one cares, and second, you’ll likely never see these people again, anyway. It was with this attitude that we tried a bungee swing. Ha!

avoid gaining weight on a cruise bungee gym

Speaking of fitness, every ship we’ve been on also has a dedicated outdoor walking/running track. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise walking track

Located on the upper decks, the track has a commanding view of the ocean. And with a fresh sea breeze, we can think of few nicer running trails anywhere.

Besides getting all “fitnessey,” there are some other ways to be active on a ship. Book a room far from the elevator to get more steps in. Take a dancing class, swim, or participate in silent disco.

Friends on board

Finally, if your destination is only a couple of decks away, take the stairs instead of the elevator. This is part of good cruise ship elevator etiquette, anyway.

Indulge in something other than food

Don’t let food be the only indulgence on your cruise. Treat yourself to something else that makes you feel good like a spa treatment (Steve loves a good shave), professional photographs, art, or jewelry. 

And remember, indulgences don’t have to cost a lot of money. Spend some time alone with a good book, treat yourself to a walk on the promenade deck at sunset, or relax with a game of cards or a puzzle. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise sunrise

Plan excursions that involve exercise

When planning your port day excursions, look for activities that involve movement. Take the walking tour instead of the bus tour, swim in cenote, or sign up for a hike that fits your abilities. 

Swimming in the cenote.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise hike

Don’t eat and drink just to get your money’s worth

Our friends at Eat, Sleep Cruise taught us this one. DB and the Princess pointed out that just because unlimited food is included in your cruise fare it doesn’t mean you need to eat it all. And likewise, don’t think that you have to consume enough drinks every day to break even on your drink package. You can read more tips from Eat, Sleep, Cruise HERE.

avoid gaining weight on a cruise cocktails by the pool

Shift your focus to avoid gaining weight on a cruise

Yes, food is a big part of any cruise, but honestly, there’s so much more. When you take the initiative to shift your focus a bit, you’ll find there are lots of things to love about cruising that don’t involve food.


We’ve loved getting to know new people, experimenting with activities like yoga, reading that book that’s been on our shelf for years, and playing shuffleboard, or learning a new dance. 

avoid gaining weight on a cruise shuffleboard

As you can see, with a little forethought, it’s not that difficult to avoid gaining weight on a cruise. And, it’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to leave the ship on disembarkation day with comfortably buttoned pants.

Do you have a tip for avoiding weight gain on a cruise? Let us know in the comments below.

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