Keeping Fit At Sea Is A Worthy Challenge

by Ming Tappin

With the abundance of food on a cruise, it's hard to resist having everything!

Work off that extra pound a day - perhaps do a little yoga on deck?

Desserts - my weakness!

The ship's promenade is a great place to walk a mile or 2.

Staying active on shore is another way to counter the calories consumed onboard.

Have you heard the statistic that weight gain on a cruise is about a pound a day? Or the joke about people who board ships as passengers but disembark as cargo? All kidding aside, with all the available food and desserts tempting you 24/7, weight gain is a serious reality for most cruisers.

Except for a friend of mine who is a fitness fanatic - he worked out twice a day, every day during our cruise together, and lost a couple of pounds at the end. If only I could be so disciplined!

Cruise lines realize that today, consumers are a lot more health conscious. Healthy choices have always been on cruise menus as far as I can remember, but in the past decade, it has really come to the forefront.

New ships began to have eateries conveniently located next to the spa that offered low cal yet delicious bites. In the dining room, everything from low fat, low salt and low sugar is available every day, with calorie and fat content displayed on menus.

At the buffets, salad bars are now just as large as the hot entrees section, accompanied with plenty of fresh fruit. With some will power, there is a way to win the battle of the bulge at sea.

However, cruise lines in my opinion could give better focus on the exercise front.

Does anyone remember the Royal Caribbean ShipShape Dollars? Passengers earned 'dollars' by participating in exercise programs or active shore excursions and at the end of the cruise, could cash in those 'dollars' for small prizes.

Holland America had a similar program (I still have the water bottle I redeemed years ago). But they all went away quietly - perhaps a result of the cutbacks. I wish they would bring these little incentives back.

A look at today's fitness programs onboard also reflects a big reduction in what is being offered compared to 20 years ago when I started cruising. There used to be a plethora of free cardio, toning and abs classes throughout the week. Now, it's usually reduced to morning stretch and perhaps one other low impact class.

The emphasis lately is on yoga, pilates and spinning - which are all paid classes, unless you are on a luxury ship. Personal training sessions are also now being flogged, as are lectures on teeth whitening, botox and acupuncture, which are all onboard revenue opportunities for cruise lines.

Kudos to Celebrity and Princess that offer complimentary Zumba classes, my favourite way to burn calories while moving and shaking to a Latin beat.

Walking around the promenade deck is still popular - providing there is still a promenade deck! A hallmark of traditional ocean liners, some newer ships no longer have them.

But if you are on a ship that still has this feature, a walk around the circumference of a big ship is great exercise at any time of day. Most ships also have a jogging track, an elaborate fitness centre, as well as set ups for a game of basketball or paddle tennis.

I have to admit, it is a monumental task to keep active and eat healthy at sea - desserts are my weakness - but I don't stress out about it. I am on vacation after all.

Bon Voyage and healthy cruising!

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with 20 years' experience in the industry and has sailed on 36 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is passionate about cruising and has just launched her new business - Your Cruise Coach Consulting. Ming can be reached at

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