Disney Cruise with Star Wars Day at Sea

This is an extremely late trip report about our February 2016 vacation aboard the Disney Fantasy, which was one of seven sailings this year that featured a Star Wars Day at Sea.

images

Photo via Cruise Critic

First things first: I am a Disney nerd but not a Star Wars nerd. I haven’t even seen all of the movies, and I’d rate my opinion of the ones I have seen as a solid “meh.” 

However, these probably qualify as fighting words around here, as Spouse and MGM (9) are huge fans.

We ended up booking this trip because of the timing, which included Trixie’s seventh birthday and a spring break week for the kids. The Star Wars day wasn’t the deal sealer on this one, but I knew it would be a bonus for the guys.

Speaking of bonus: our friends P. and T. and their two adorable kids decided to book the same trip, and not only were our cabins close to each other but we were also able to combine our dining reservations into one big table.

Our family traveled to Orlando a day early and spent the night prior to the cruise at the Swan Hotel. This day was Trixie’s birthday, and I had her presents sent ahead of time to the hotel to avoid filling luggage space with wrapped packages.

Once we settled in and the presents had been ripped open, we headed over to Disney Springs to check it out. None of us had been there since it was re-branded from Downtown Disney, and we were impressed. 

Our first stop was Erin McKenna’s NYC Bakery, which is the first Florida outpost of the renowned gluten-free bakery mini chain. Trixie was diagnosed with severe celiac disease when she was a year old, and this was the first time – ever – that she was able to go to a bakery and choose something to eat. Since it was her birthday, I told her she could get anything she wanted. We walked out $50 poorer, but her delight was totally worth it.

thumbnail_IMG_2105

Choices, choices, choices!

Spouse lost his mind at The Boathouse, which overlooks a harbor filled with vintage boats, including his beloved Chris Crafts. I thought he might need CPR at one point, such was his excitement. Also totally worth it.

We boarded the next day. Transport to the ship was smooth, and we were able to check in quickly at the Concierge area in the port terminal.

This time we were in a Concierge veranda cabin on the starboard side, and our friends were in the same type of cabin on the port side. We checked in with the staff at the Concierge lounge and were happy to see two of our favorite cast members were still there and were working our trip.

The itinerary for this seven night Western Caribbean cruise included stops in Cozumel,  Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay, plus three days at sea. Personal navigators from the same itinerary (albeit two weeks earlier) can be found here if you’re interested in seeing what each day was like.

Some highlights of the trip:

  • Brunch at Palo. The four adults in our group did this on our first sea day. I am still dreaming about the grape and gorgonzola pizza.
  • Cozumel. This was a new port to us, and our family opted to take an excursion to Xcaret Ecopark, which was awesome.  We started out by swimming in the underground river, and then both kids needed these juice drinks at lunch.

The access to the animals was incredible. I’d love to go back here again.

  • Cayman Turtle Farm.  Confession: I wasn’t expecting much. All eight of us had booked an Island Tour and Turtle Farm excursion in Grand Cayman, and up to this point the tour had been a total dud. Our guide had spent an hour driving around and pointing out numerous local attractions like Burger King and Subway. We were not impressed. The Turtle Farm redeemed it all. The kids were able to hold baby turtles and there were hundreds of giant sea turtles. (P. and I may have also sent the kids back to the boat with the guys after this excursion so that we could hit a few jewelry stores before the boat took off. We were highly successful in our mission and managed to get the very last tender back to the ship with our new bling. Score!)
thumbnail_IMG_0198

My favorite pic of the whole trip: Trixie was so excited to hold this baby turtle

  • Cabana at Castaway Cay. This was the first time that we’d sprung for a cabana. We split the cost with our friends, and it was money well spent. I highly recommend our cabana, Number 5, as it was not too close to the crowded main beach area yet not too far from where lunch is served. Unlike some of the cabanas further down the beach, it was also sheltered from the wind. The cabana came with a fridge stocked with chilled towels, soft drinks and bottles of water. There was also a basket of sunscreen, plenty of fresh towels and a few magazines. Cabanas also come with free use of bikes, snorkeling equipment, inner tubes and pool floats. Oh! There is also an extremely convenient button in the cabana that you can use to order drinks, which will then be efficiently delivered to your hammock.
thumbnail_IMG_2185

Welcome to Cabana #5

thumbnail_IMG_2194

  • Champagne tasting. The four adults did this on one of the sea days. We discovered Moet Ice Imperial, which is the first champagne designed to be consumed over ice in hot weather. Brilliant! This was delicious. We *may* have used that button in the cabana to get some Ice Imperial delivered right to our hammock.
thumbnail_IMG_0291

Moet Ice Imperial

  • Star Wars Day at Sea. Ok, I couldn’t leave this off. It *was* unique. A few things about this day: you won’t see “regular” Disney characters; it’s all Star Wars, all the time. You also won’t hear the usual Disney music; there are ominous marches playing overhead. This day also brought out a lot of fans, many of whom took the whole costume thing really, really far. I’ve said it before, but I have a theory that adults fall into two categories, those who never miss a chance to wear a costume and those who avoid it like the plague. I’m in the latter camp, so I was annoyed to have to dodge fully grown costumed adults having a lightsaber duel in the middle of the jogging track while I went for a run. Characters roamed the ship during the day, including Storm Troopers who patrolled the pool decks. Dinner that night featured a Star Wars menu and the kids got Storm Trooper or Chewbacca masks. The evening culminated with a show on the pool deck and then every single boy under the age of 15 on the cruise spontaneously engaged in a giant lightsaber battle. I had to drag MGM away at midnight and even then, he said that this was the best day of his life and he nearly cried at the thought of never being able to have so much fun again. And that, Friends, made the whole trip worth it.
thumbnail_IMG_2125

Even I had to begrudgingly admit that the Storm Troopers patrolling the pool deck was a cool touch

thumbnail_IMG_2144

Chewbacca mask/menu

thumbnail_IMG_2156

Best. Day. Ever.

While none of us had any hitches on the trip, we saw two people get evacuated from the ship. The was a first. Both happened during the Star Wars day at sea. The first time a Coast Guard cutter pulled up next to the ship and a door in the middle of the hull was opened (same one used as an exit for ports requiring tendering) and a passenger was moved off the ship. The second time was more dramatic: a Coast Guard helicopter hovered over the front of the ship and sent down a Coast Guard member on a cable, then loaded one of the medical officials from the boat into a giant basket and pulled her up and into the chopper. Finally, a passenger who seemed to have a head injury was strapped to a stretcher and brought up into the helicopter via a cable. I had a bird’s eye view of this from my vantage point in the ship’s spa (Yep – this all happened in the middle of my massage), and my heart was racing just watching the passenger sway back and forth on that stretcher as the cable slowly brought him up into the helicopter. We never heard exactly what happened, so I hope that person is ok.

Overall, this was an excellent trip. Having our friends with us really elevated the fun, and I hope we can do it again sometime soon. As usual, I’m already dreaming about our next getaway…

Ahhhhh-laska!

Wow.

You know how you can anticipate something so much and then build it up to a place where it’s impossible to meet even the tiniest expectation? In essence, you’re just set up for disappointment before the event has begun.

Scratch that thought, because our trip to Alaska completely exceeded all of my wildest dreams.

We’ve been back for a little over a week and it’s still hard to take it all in.

Alaska previously hadn’t been a bucket list destination for me, but last year one of my partners went and raved about the whole experience so much that I had to check it out.

I also enjoyed the thought of having an unplugged vacation with the kids, mostly free of lights/buzzers/gizmos.

Huge bonus: the chilly weather in Alaska also precludes bikini wearing, so bring on the buffet! (Kidding, sort of).

We started the trip with a weekend in Vancouver, a city I fell in love with last year.

al15 al14

The weekend was a mini-vacation in itself: spouse took a tour on a float plane, the kids and I went to the Vancouver Aquarium, we saw the Olympic torch from the 2010 Games, and I ran in Stanley Park twice.

al16

Our boat as seen from Stanley Park

By the time Monday rolled around, we’d squeezed in a lot of fun and it was time to board the Disney Wonder.

This was the sixth Disney cruise for the kids and me and #5 for Spouse (he missed out on a quick trip the kids and I took with my sister last winter).

The Disney Wonder was new to us. We’ve been on the Dream and Fantasy before, but not this ship. I was nervous because the Wonder (along with the Magic) is one of the older, smaller ships. Unlike the Magic, though, it hasn’t undergone a major remodel, so I didn’t know what to expect.

We stayed in a one bedroom suite on the 8th deck. Here are a few shots of the room. It was really spacious:

IMG_6917 IMG_6918

Trixie liked the fruit bowl that was waiting for us:

al13

Concierge service is also different on the Wonder than the newer ships. Specifically, there is no Concierge Lounge, which is usually our favorite hangout.

However, Glenn and Rodrigo – the two Concierges onboard – really went over the top to provide a Concierge experience. In the end, I think they out-did the newer ships, and that is saying a lot.

Here’s a summary of Concierge amenities on the Wonder:

  • A welcome reception where you meet the team, have a glass of bubbly and go over your personalized itinerary. We were able to book a wine tasting and a chocolate and liquor tasting for later in the trip during that event.
  • Snacks delivered to your cabin every afternoon. These varied from the above fruit bowl to small cupcakes, a cheese tray and chocolate covered strawberries.
  • Priority disembarkation. Being the first group off the ship helps beat the long lines at Customs on the last day.
  • A twice daily cocktail reception. Ok, I’ll be honest: this is my favorite perk of traveling Concierge. I was worried that without the Lounge, this wouldn’t happen. It still did; Glenn and Rodrigo’s team took over half of the Outlook Café every night and re-created the Lounge atmosphere.
  • Free fancy coffee drinks in the Outlook café. This was a new one to me. The Concierge Lounge on the new ships has a deluxe espresso machine that you can use any time, but you have to make your own coffee drink. Without that feature on the Wonder, you can get your coffee fix made by a barista, for free. This was actually even better than on the new ships, since you could order off a deep menu of things like Salted Caramel Hazelnut Mochas. I probably should have taken more advantage of this perk, but I didn’t think that a 600 calorie coffee drink was in my daily best interest.
  • Glenn and Rodrigo also came around every day, checking in on us. I really liked them. Glenn told us that this was his last cruise for two months, as he was leaving for vacation and to run the Disneyland Half-Marathon. I was jealous about the race! I hope we see them again on a future trip.

As for the trip itself, it was amazing! After setting sail the first day, the second day was at sea. The scenery was spectacular.

IMG_6974

During the third day, we slowly floated through Tracy Arm fjord, ultimately ending near Sawyer Glacier. Spouse and I had brunch at Palo that morning and were treated to views of iceberg chunks and jumping whales. (I also ate most of a gorgonzola and grape pizza, washed down with Prosecco. Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water…)

al11 al10

The glacier:

al7 al8

Trixie on our balcony, taking in the sights:

al9

The four of us took the Whitepass and Yukon Railroad in Skagway the following day, riding all the way to the summit. Spouse is a train nut and this was a long-standing item on his Wish List. Check! We followed up the four-hour trip with lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company.

The next day in Juneau, our first stop was whale watching. Hands down, this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We watched a group of five or six humpback whales bubble-net feed for nearly two hours. The whales swim in an underwater circle, blowing bubbles that force smaller fish (herring) to the surface.

Here is a National Geographic video of what this looks like (totally worth your time to watch this!):

The whales simultaneously jumped out of the water, over and over. I overuse the word “awesome” all the time, but this truly was something that left me awestruck. I could not believe this was happening in front of my eyes. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

al1

Whale tail

Our crew took us to lunch on an island and we feasted on freshly grilled salmon. MGM hunted for rocks when we were done:

al22

We also capped that day with a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.

al21

Our last stop was Ketchikan. The guys went salmon fishing (double thumbs up from them) and the girls went bear watching.

Trixie and I saw about ten bears, including a mom/cub combo:

IMG_7209 IMG_7202 FullSizeRender (10)

The streams were packed with salmon. I felt like I could have grabbed one bare-handed. The mama bear above just caught lunch and has a fish dangling from her mouth.

al4

High density salmon

There were also a lot of “Frozen”-themed events on board, which Trixie loved. She met Anna and Elsa, plus Olaf.

al3 al2

There was also a “Frozen” scavenger hunt around the ship that went on for three days. If you completed all the clues, you won a Rice Krispie treat decorated in a “Frozen” theme. Trixie and I had so much fun finding the clues, but it was disappointing in the end that she couldn’t enjoy the reward since Rice Krispies aren’t gluten-free (malt is the culprit in the regular version, although there are special GF Krispies out there).

One night even featured a “Freezing the Night Away” deck party. This was a stage show with all of the characters from “Frozen,” culminating in Elsa singing “Let It Go” (of course it ends with Elsa singing “Let It Go;” you knew it would) with fake snow falling on deck. MGM was having none of it and requested to be in the kids’ club that night. Trixie wore her Elsa dress and basically lost her mind.

FullSizeRender (13) FullSizeRender (12)

One other event worth mentioning: Trixie lost a tooth onboard. Fortunately the Tooth Fairy was able to scrounge up ten quarters in exchange for her tooth (the going rate around here), but there was much speculation about how she got to the ship (Flying? Her wings would get too cold? On another boat? But how? The final verdict was via helicopter).

al5

Two cute towel animals (why do I find these so hilarious?):

IMG_7014 FullSizeRender (14)

My souvenir:

FullSizeRender (11)

A coffee mug, natch

Final thoughts: For so many reasons, I think was quite possibly our best vacation ever. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Alaska really outdid herself. I am so grateful that we were able to have this adventure.

Is Alaska on your bucket list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Adventure Recap

We’re back!

Recently I posted that my sister and I were heading out on a two-part trip with my kiddos.

And I’m happy to report that there were no major mishaps and she still seems to be speaking to me, so I’ll chalk that up in the win column.

Trixie (now 6) decided to pack her own bag:

IMG_5784

Contents of one furry pink backpack:

  • Miscellaneous alphabet blocks
  • Two sticker books
  • A cardboard stove from a home-made dollhouse
  • Three small packs of Sweet Tarts
  • One American Girl doll
  • Blanket and pillow for said A.G. doll
  • Small white stuffed dog

I vetoed all of this.

We arrived in Orlando on February 19th and checked into the Swan Hotel. We had a newly renovated room and there were balloons, a card and a birthday button for Trixie waiting for us. She was so excited.

I was planning to run a series of races that started on Saturday with a 10k, a half marathon on Sunday and then finished with a 5k on Wednesday.

Total distance: 22.4 miles.

There was a cold snap in Florida last week and Saturday’s race started with temps in the 40s. This was the second year for this 10k race, and the course is awesome, winding through EPCOT and the Boardwalk hotel area. The cold temps made for fast conditions. I felt great.

Sunday was slightly warmer (50s) and not as humid as last year. The miles zipped by, and while I didn’t set a PR, I felt good the whole time and finished strong.

I was tired but we decided to hit the Magic Kingdom on Sunday afternoon.

Both kids tried to pull the sword from the stone in front of the carousel in Fantasyland.

IMG_5822 IMG_5824

Neither succeeded. 

We also went to a great new attraction called “Enchanted Tales with Belle.” This was actually a very interesting experience (detailed in this Slate article from late last year), and Trixie got to play Belle’s jailed father and meet Belle.

IMG_5837

On Monday we boarded the Disney Dream for a four night cruise to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

With any cruise that stops at Castaway Cay, there’s always a 5k race in the morning. Anyone can participate and there is no entry fee, and while you get a finisher’s medal, it’s not fancy.

This race was different; in order to participate in the Castaway Challenge, you had to have run at least one of the other Disney races the prior weekend and the race was capped at 400 runners.

All of the runners met at 5:45 AM and got to be the first passengers off the ship.

It was still dark and we got to see some great views of the boat.

IMG_5860 IMG_5864

By the time the race started, there was plenty of daylight:

IMG_5866

A major highlight was that Super Running Guru, Jeff Galloway, participated in the race and gave an inspirational speech at the starting line:

IMG_5872

I was pretty starstruck.

My original plan was to just slowly jog the 5k, but once it started, I felt like I was ready to push myself.

Although there weren’t official results, I was #17 overall with a time of about 25 minutes, which was ok with me.

The island was still quiet as the runners headed back to the ship:

IMG_5878 IMG_5877

And here’s the end result:

IMG_6063

Bling! 

The medals, from left to right:

  • Enchanted 10k
  • Princess Half Marathon
  • Glass Slipper Challenge (combination of 10K + Half)
  • Castaway Cay Challenge medal
  • Regular Castaway Cay 5k finisher’s medal (they gave us both)

A close-up of the Glass Slipper medal:

IMG_6064

And while I don’t usually like to post pics of myself here, this is a selfie (no make-up!) from the starting line of the Castaway Cay challenge:

IMG_5867

I was super happy in this shot.

Here are a few other random snaps from the boat:

IMG_5983 IMG_5929 IMG_5920 IMG_6015

We came home to some stark winter reality with temps in the single digits, but it was totally worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Adventure

Today we’re taking off to a big adventure: I’m running three races over the course of five days as part of the Disney Princess Half-Marathon series.

Accompanying me this year will be my sister (Spouse is busy with work and she was game to go!) and my kids. Today’s also Trixie’s sixth birthday, so that’s a bonus to celebrate.

Schedule for the weekend is to fly to Florida today and pick up my race stuff tomorrow, then run a 10k on Saturday and half-marathon on Sunday.

But that’s just part one: on Monday, the four of us are getting on the Disney Dream for a short (four night) cruise to the Bahamas.  The kids have spring break next week, so the timing is perfect.

While we’re on the boat, there’s a third race that I’m running, the Castaway Cay Challenge.

Billed as From Parks to Paradise, join the first-ever Disney Castaway Cay Challenge,” this is a 5k race on Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

I can’t wait! 

 

 

Anchors Aweigh

Today we’re finally heading off to our family vacation, a Disney cruise to St. Maarten and St. Thomas for the next seven nights.

Unknown

 

This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve done this trip. I’ve written about it before, but I promised to post some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Most important tip: Do not even consider going on this trip without children. The omnipresent shrieking and the inevitable meltdowns (adult and child) would make this experience a unique hell. Don’t do this to yourself unless you have kids of your own coming with you! Save your money and go somewhere relatively kid-free, like this place.
  2. Second most important tip, and this is what makes this trip tolerable: Go Concierge. Yes, these cabins are more costly. Yes, this is a luxury. But boy, are they worth it. On the two largest Disney boats – the Dream and the Fantasy – decks 11 and 12 hold the concierge cabins. The decor on this part of the ship is nicer than the rest of it. The halls are quiet since traffic is limited to only concierge guests. Plus:
  • You have access to the Concierge Lounge, which is stocked with desserts, snacks, cans of soda (fountain soda is free but cans otherwise come from room service and will cost you), a deluxe cappuccino/espresso maker, and – best of all – two gratis cocktail hours every day. Seriously, you can make up a lot of the expense right there. Tip: book the second dinner seating, and you’ll be able to hit both cocktail hours every day. Hour #1 begins about 5 PM, the time we’re usually starting to get washed/brushed/groomed for dinner. You can swing by the lounge for a cocktail or glass of wine to sip as you shower and get ready, and if you time it right, you can swing back for Hour #2, which starts at 7 PM before your dinner at 8 PM. Cost savings: $10 a drink x 2 drinks per adult per night x 2 adult drinkers x 7 nights = $280.
  • Concierge guests get to walk right on the ship. No waiting in line at the port. You have your own check-in area. That saves you about two hours right there.
  • You’ll be able to pre-book spa treatments for the busy at-sea days, adult dinners at specialty restaurants, and – if you have children less then 3 years old – the all-important Nursery Services (which are limited in space and must be reserved for the under-3 set) a month ahead of everyone else. With >3,000 people on board, the 2 PM massages on sea days go quickly. Get there first.
  • There’s a private sun deck. This is such an awesome perk. No more fighting for a deck chair that others have mysteriously “reserved” by placing towels down the night before. There are top-of-the-line lounge beds, free sunscreen, and misting machines to keep you cool. I want to live there.
  • Concierge cabins basically come in three flavors: regular rooms with a private terrace (no bigger than anywhere else on the ship but in a more desirable location), one bedroom suites, and luxury suites – the all-out “Walt Disney” suites that go for around $30k a week. Personally, I think that the best two cabins on the ship are 12004 and 12504. Both of these are the regular terrace rooms, but there’s something really special about them. The front five cabins on the ship – including two luxury Disney suites – can be purchased as a group and connected together. The decor is even nicer than the rest of the concierge rooms and they have a unifying nautical theme. If there’s a celebrity with a huge family or entourage on board, you can bet this is where they’ll be. Most of the time, however, the rooms aren’t booked en masse, and when the luxury suites are individually reserved, Disney will release the remaining rooms (including 12004 and 12504) for anyone else. We lucked into cabin 12004 on our first trip and loved peeking over our deck rails to see who was in the Disney suite (alas, no one glamourous). We asked for and got it again on our second trip, then last year we reserved it for Spouse’s parents who were traveling with us. This time and last, we decided to try a one-bedroom suite, which is super nice but honestly, I’m not sure the extra expense makes it that much better than a regular concierge cabin. Moral of the story: go concierge but stick to a regular room if you can get it.

3.  If you’re worried at all about being sea sick, bring scopolamine patches with you. While there is a small medical clinic on board, the hours are brief and they don’t stock the patches. You will be miserable if you need them and can’t get them. Play it safe and get a prescription before you leave home. If you don’t need them, toss them; they’re not that expensive. If you do need them, you’ve got gold.

4.  Consider staying on the boat if there’s nowhere you want to go in port. Some of the shore excursions are lame. Staying on board will guarantee lots of open space in the pool and no line at the waterslide.

5. Check out online boards ahead of time. Disboards is one example. People from your particular cruise will start to post a year and a half before embarking and virtually get to know each other before setting sail. This isn’t really my thing, but if you’re into it, then by all means make some friends in advance.

6. Discreetly give a cash tip – maybe $40 – to your server and your room attendant the first day. Especially since we have a daughter with a bad food allergy, we discovered that a cash tip on Night #1 is a great investment for above-and-beyond service the rest of the trip.

7. Get there the day before. Stressing about making the boat isn’t worth it. Stay at a Disney resort and they’ll pick you up and take you right to the port. It’s slick.

8. Liberally use the Kids’ Club. Ideally, I’d check MGM and Trixie into the Kids’ Club for at least 2 hours every day. Two delicious, quiet, nap-filled hours. 

Have fun. If you have kids, this trip is really a blast for them. Their happiness makes it all worthwhile. Our kids talk about the “Mickey Boat” all the time. Really, all the time. The experience is carefully curated, but when you’re five and six, it’s pure magic.

 

Healthy Eating On the High Seas

In a few months, we’re going on vacation. The same vacation we’ve taken four years in a row, a Disney cruise.

We’ve taken this trip over and over for the same reasons: our kids are still little enough to believe Mickey is a real friend to them and they genuinely delight in the organized, sanitized magic of it all, I’ve figured out many tricks to maintain my sanity among the masses (separate post about that in the future), and there is a kids’ club where they can be checked in to spend hours and hours a day, exhausting themselves in supervised Disney fun, while I relax in the spa and Spouse naps in the sun. Bliss.

Someday, we’ll do an adventurous trip to, say, Nepal, but that’s not happening right now. This crew? Forget it.

Cruises get bad raps for legitimate reasons. I get it. I really do. I would not want to aimlessly float for days at sea in a toilet-less incapacitated ship, for sure.

Food is almost always one of the things people complain about when they deride cruising.

To quote Woody Allen in “Annie Hall:”

There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Except that on cruises, the portions are ginormous. Quality can still be meh, as this is food prepared for the masses, not by a private chef. But one thing’s for sure: there are opportunities to eat 24/7.

So how do you stay healthy and avoid weight gain on a vacation like this?

My friend A., a dietitian, coach and my fitness inspiration, just came back from a cruise, and I asked her how she stayed slim and sane. Her tips:

• Pack a healthy mindset.
• Be active: take the stairs, use the track on the sun deck, rock climb, golf, play basketball.
• Go to the spa and relax. Enjoy some lemon or cucumber infused water.
• My top pick…Use side salad plates rather than the buffet platter. Be sensible with your portions. Don’t put yourself into a food coma.
• Don’t order room service for breakfast before you go to the dining room for breakfast [Sidenote from me: This is a thing? I didn’t realize people even could or would do this. Wow].
• Always choose the salad option as a starter. Order your dressing on the side.
• Cruise lines pride themselves in service so ASK how things are prepared and if you can get a substitution for a healthier option.
• Ask your waiter not to bring bread before dinner…that’s a meal in itself.
• Order double vegetables.
• Seafood is usually a healthy option but make sure it’s not swimming in butter or cream sauce
• Bring healthy foods with you like raw nuts, protein bars, Shakeology (protein drink)
• Avoid the umbrella drinks. A 7oz pina colada has 500 calories and 17 g fat. Opt for vodka with a splash of juice or a Corona light for 110 calories.
• Be mindful. Stay in the moment. Practice conscious eating.
Did I mention you should pack a healthy mindset?

Thank you, A!

I really appreciate this advice. Some of the things I do:

  • Run on the deck. Every day. It’s fun and challenging, as one side usually has a terrific headwind and the other a tailwind. Go as early in the morning as possible to avoid languid shuffle boarders.
  • Take the stairs. Elevator lines are often long when everyone is trying to get to the same place, like a show or dinner. Take the stairs! You could easily tally 20 or 30 flights a day if you just walk up and down.
  • Eat things that are special or unique, and try to avoid things that are easily available at home (unless you are hungry for it and it is a healthy choice, like fresh fruit). Last year I signed up for a chocolate and wine tasting, and this was worth it!
  • Stop eating things that don’t taste good. Last year I found myself eating stale tortilla chips and lame salsa at a late-night buffet, and I thought, ick, this is gross. I tossed it. I felt a tiny bit of guilt for the waste, but it wasn’t worth the calories to keep eating. Just walk away.
  • Better moral of the above story would be to avoid the late-night buffet altogether and eat only at regular mealtimes.
  • But don’t force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry. A frequent pattern for us is that I will wake up the earliest, before everyone else (a curse of doctor-dom, waking at the crack of dawn after so many years of practice), and quietly head out to run on the deck for an hour or so. By the time I get back, the rest of the crew is waking up, and then it still takes a bit of time to get everyone presentable enough to show up for breakfast. This usually puts us in the position of eating much, much later than usual, and when lunchtime rolls around shortly thereafter, I’m usually not into it. I might have a snack later in the afternoon so that I’m not famished at dinner, but if I’m not hungry for lunch, I don’t force it.
  • Stay hydrated. With water. Bring your own water bottle and use it.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol during the day. Just because it’s five o’clock somewhere doesn’t mean it’s cocktail hour on the boat.

P.S. Here’s some more sensible advice for cruising here and here.