At dinnertime on my first-ever cruise, my server asked me: "Would you like another entrée?" I was so surprised, my jaw dropped. I was already stuffed from the appetizer, salad, and main I'd just consumed and I wasn't sure even my second dessert stomach had any room to spare.
With beautiful buffets, eager-to-please servers, and treats at every turn, coupled with our natural inclination toward indulgence when we're in "vacation mode," it's easy to see why our health can get lost at sea. But it doesn't have to! And we'd argue that a healthy holiday — or at least a healthyish one — is more enjoyable anyway. Of course, we're not saying don't indulge at all, but it's possible to have your cake while still leaving some cookies at the buffet dessert station.
We consulted a handful of health experts for their tips on staying shipshape at sea. Read on to learn how you can ensure your body operates at full-throttle in the open ocean. (Okay, I'm done with the puns now.)
1. Establish a healthy routine right away.
Many cruise lines offer a boatload of fitness options in the cost of your fare, making it easy to start the day on a sweaty note in a class, on the jogging track, or in the gym. "There's no better mood-booster than the happy hormones released when we work out," Jari Love, fitness expert and creator of the Get RIPPED! exercise videos, says. Plus, revving your body's engine in the morning funnels your day toward smarter health decisions.
2. Prioritize sleep.
Because cruise ships are social by design, most sailings have something going on every hour of the day, whether it's a towel-folding class at 9 a.m. or a dance-off at 11 p.m. While a packed schedule is part of the fun, don't get so busy that you lose sleep.
Sleep is not only integral to our health, but also essential to a healthy cruise experience, according to Catherine Roscoe Barr, founder of The Life Delicious, a global wellness practice. Specifically, she notes that a deep sleep "gives us the best chance of warding off illness, helps keep appetite hormones at a healthy level so we don't reach for sugar as a short-term boost, and improves our mood and focus so we have the patience and attention to be present and positive."
3. Give your mind a vacation.
Beyond exercise and sleep, we can't forget the part of the human body that makes all the decisions: the mind. As luck would have it, being near the water is the perfect place to give your brain a break and nurture its need for downtime.
According to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, "water gives our brains a rest." In his book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, Nichols does a deep-dive into our human connection with water, explaining that "our brains are hardwired to react positively to water, and being near it can calm and connect us, increase insight, and even heal what's broken."
4. Eat and drink in moderation.
"When presented with non-stop food and drinks, it's tempting to go overboard," says Love. To stay on course, she has a few tips. First, take your time, surveying the options before diving in with a protein and heaps of vegetables. Second, she suggests sharing when it comes to desserts: "Splitting something decadent allows you to share the experience with someone, and care for your body by not overloading it." Finally, she cautions cruise-goers to drink less alcohol, and to remember to hydrate. Drink plenty of water and eat water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
5. Don't forget to sanitize.
Finally, before you touch anything on your plate, wash or sanitize your hands. While many cruise lines have galley staff to serve guests (to ensure hundreds of people don't touch the same salad tongs), it's best to err on the side of sanitization.
How do you stay well at sea? Tell us in the comments below.