#TravelTuesday: A FitPro’s Guide to Cruising without Rocking Your Resolution

by Brook Benten Jimenez on January 18, 2022 in Travels,

Cruises are known for large-living, large eating, and leaving larger than at onboarding. Here’s your guide to living life to the fullest aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line without expanding the waistband in your britches.

But first, let’s address those all-important safety measures. See here for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Sail Safe protocols. Your health is the paramount concern of Norwegian Cruise Line, which is why all fleets require 100% vaccination. There are also test and mask requirements, depending on your embarkation date. Savvy travelers should check the requirements for their sailing carefully, as they do vary. 

The hub of the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship is 678 Ocean Place, a space that flows, intertwines and connects three decks of daytime and nighttime amusements, including multiple all-too-tempting dining venues. Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

How To Cruise and Lose Weight

It’s not uncommon to gain 1%-3% of your body weight over the course of a 7-day cruise. Some of this may be water weight, but 3,500 calories is a pound of fat. So, if you consume many excessive calories over your normal intake, you can bet your bottom casino chip that the extra pounds on the scale are body fat. As a personal trainer, I’ve witnessed time and time again clients returning from cruises heavier than they were when they left.  

Cagney’s Steakhouse on Norwegian Bliss. Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Having recently embarked on a 7-day Norwegian Bliss cruise, I have these tried and true tips for how you can cruise and lose weight.

Tip #1 – Make a Note of Your Food Preferences While Booking 

The team of culinary experts responsible for Norwegian Bliss’s menu items at each of the 19 dining options are trained and fully capable of serving every guest’s dietary requirements. In my booking process, I was asked if I have any dietary restrictions. When I arrived in my stateroom, I had a message blinking on my phone from a nutritional concierge, ready to guide me on where to eat and orders that would jive with my food preferences.

Too often, people shy away from vocalizing what they really want. They don’t reveal their desires out of fear of being “difficult.”  If any occasion warrants blowing that stigma off your shoulder, it’s a cruise. Cruise ships take pride in being the top of the hospitality hierarchy. Let them serve you.

For breakfast, I frequented a sit-down restaurant called Taste on Norwegian Bliss. At my request, they would serve steamed broccoli as a starter. (Traditional starters, pastries and fruit, are bad decisions because they spike blood sugar before your meal even comes.) Off-menu special requests are welcomed by the chef, and steamed veggies are a great way to start your brekkie. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

Tip #2 – Work the Buffet Like a Dietitian

Buffets can be a stumbling block for people.  But if you navigate the Garden Cafe on Norwegian Bliss like a dietitian, you can eat healthy, low-glycemic meals with little or no added fat.  I loved the Fresh Salad. It began with mixed greens with lots of bitter arugula. I then added carrots, water chestnuts, celery, cucumbers, avocado, beans, and finished with a scoop of scratch-made hummus.

At dinner on Norwegian Bliss, I would add a filet of salmon for some extra Omega-3 fatty acids, but this salad had plenty of protein as a strictly vegetarian mix. Legumes — beans — are loaded with protein. Hummus is a protein and healthy fat winner, too. This salad option is both delicious, nutritious and dietitian-approved. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

Tip #3: Prioritize Daily Sweat Seshes in the Fitness Center

Norwegian Bliss has a fully stocked fitness center with the finest Italian-made commercial fitness equipment, Technogym. In lieu of your at-home Peloton bike, try a RYDE indoor cycling class.  

Norwegian Bliss will provide a pair of clip-in cycling shoes in your size prior to your RYDE class, which integrates wearable technology. They also lend a MyZone chest strap to each participant, allowing you to track your performance. Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

For an expert-led fitness session or curated program over your week on the cruise, Norwegian Bliss offers personal training services, led by a certified personal trainer. If you want a detailed look at your current physique, get an InBody body composition analysis, which will reveal your body fat and hydration (Poorly hydrated?  Norwegian Bliss offers a Just Water package to encourage you to drink eco-friendly boxed water). For post-workout recovery, the ship offers Normatec by Hyperice, a name known for the best recovery products in the world.

Tip #4: Detox in a Thermal Suite

The Mandara Spa service that will complement your fitness and wellness goals is a Swedish massage with firm pressure. This massage will benefit circulation and recovery. (NCL also offers a deep tissue massage, but you’ll save some money by opting for the Swedish, with firm pressure).  After your massage, take advantage of the Thermal Suite, which includes a wet sauna, dry sauna, salt room, snow room and thermal lounge chairs.  

The extensive and expert spa services onboard aid in physical recovery, and also boost wellness and emotional health. Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise LIne

Tip #5: Splurge Big on Non-Food Rewards

Finding gratifying activities that don’t involve eating or drinking is the cornerstone to weight management. The entertainment options aboard Norwegian Bliss are broad and deep. (Every morning aboard Norwegian Bliss, you’ll receive a Freestyle Daily newsletter, featuring over 100 entertainment options.)

The Broadway musical SIX premiered on Norwegian Bliss before it released on Broadway! And the presentation is breathtaking. A media group colleague of mine on this trip was a retired cruise director who has worked in the cruise industry for 40 years.  He said that he’s never seen an onboard show with greater production quality than this. It’s an all-female cast and all-female band. Together, they delivered a heaping helping of performing art and girlpower! 

One of an array of Broadway-standard onboard entertainments, the casting call for the musical SIX began with 4,000 submissions for the roles of the six queens in the show. 36 made callbacks. 6 were selected (with 2 “swings,” who serve as backups for any role). Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

A racetrack and electric race cars on the upper deck of a cruise ship is the epitome of fun and freedom. When you slide into the driver’s seat, fasten up, and put on the helmet, you feel like a bona fide NASCAR driver.  The course is filled with elevation gains and losses, and plenty of opportunities to quench the need for speed.  

For an adrenaline rush, The Bliss Speedway is where it’s at! Photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Bottom Line

These 5 tips will help you stay in stride with your wellness goals while enjoying the peace of the international seas. If you create merely a 500 calorie per day deficit in what you typically net in your everyday life, you will lose 1 pound of fat over the course of a 7-day cruise. Take advantage of the walking track around the top of the ship, pick stairs over elevator, make mindful food choices, sleep, and use the blissful Norwegian Bliss cruise to boost your healthy lifestyle pursuits.

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Cover photo courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed., an exercise physiologist based out of Austin, TX, is rocking her own resolution through a BB Well Challenge. In conjunction with the resolution, she’s posting free new workout videos to her blog at BrookBenten.com every Tuesday and Thursday for the month of January.  Brook raises her glass (of Evian) to you and your fit-well journey in 2022.