The view from our cruise ship balcony in Nassau.

Everyone likes to run away once in awhile, and cruising has become a very popular and affordable way to vacation.  Shawn and I just enjoyed a Caribbean cruise, and as we prepared to go, I realized I think differently than most people when they plan how to spend their getaway.  Here’s what most of the people I talked to said about what they wanted to do:

  • Sleep in
  • Sit by the pool/at the beach all day
  • Skip exercise
  • Eat and drink all the unhealthy things they can find.

You have to admit – when you vacation like that, you return heavier, lethargic from the alcohol and sugar, and don’t always feel well rested. That first week or two back at the gym is rough, and you know you’ve lost ground in your journey toward your ideal health.

Of course, you are welcome to enjoy YOUR ideal vacation any way you like.  My ideal vacation is different though, and maybe you’ll consider some of my suggestions when you see the end result.

When I came home, I had gained 0.08 pounds, had no sugar withdrawal, felt well-rested, and the first day back at the gym felt great.  In the months leading up to my holiday, I lost the last five pounds I wanted to and arrived at what I feel is my ideal weight/body fat percentage.  My motivation to enjoy a more healthy vacation came from a deep desire to maintain my lean muscle mass and NOT gain back the fat I’d lost!  I fought hard to get where I wanted to be and I wasn’t going to give that up for frequent trips to the buffet.

I had no idea “Hell” is actually on Grand Cayman Island! Who knew?

It was more important to me to enjoy my vacation in a healthy way (while still having a few treats) and come back feeling powerful and awesome.  Here’s how I did that:

  • We did sleep in, but not more than an hour later than our schedule at home.
  • We did a physical adventure every day, (which made getting up fun!)
  • I worked out in the (huge!) gym on the ship at least once a day (on “sea days” I did two!)
  • I ate so many delicious things, and almost all of them were very healthy.
  • I drank only water, because I’d rather spend my calories on a fantastic occasional dessert, than something in a glass.
  • We walked up and down the stairs everywhere on the 18-story ship.  (No elevators for us!)

These day, cruise ships offer so many things to do, it didn’t seem appealing at all to just sit around.  The gyms are gigantic and offer not just machines and free weights (with a gorgeous view); they also offer yoga, spinning, and boxing classes.  (They wouldn’t let me KICK the heavy bag, so I just did it when the trainer wasn’t looking.) At home, I sometimes feel stressed about fitting in my workout.  On vacation, I LOVE that I have time to do it and not feel guilty.  That’s why I did two workouts on some days.  I could do something different each workout and had a beautiful moving landscape to stare at.

I was so excited when I found this in the ship’s yoga room! I wasn’t supposed to use it unsupervised (they didn’t know Adam has trained me to have sweet skills), so I sneaked in several times to kick and punch! I didn’t tell the cruise fitness trainer.

Out of the gym, you’ll find physical activities like basketball, mini golf, bowling, outside running tracks, climbing walls, simulated surfing, swimming and (on our ship), a three-story ropes course.  On your “at-sea” days, there are plenty of activities to keep you engaged on the ship.

Every day in port offers physical adventures as well!  We did plenty of walking to explore the islands, a bike trip, zip line, bobsled run (in Jamaica of course) and some yoga on the beach.

Whether you’re enjoying an at-sea day, or are in port, there’s dancing every night.  Large and small dance floors are in several places around the ship, so you can end your day with a little more exercise.

Seafood buffet.  Talapia with mango, shrimp and mussels with pumpkin and peas.

One of the things I love about cruises is the quality of the fresh food.  You can special order anything you like, ask them to alter something on the menu, and you don’t have to finish any food.  If you decide you’re hungry an hour later, you can head back to one of the dining rooms or the buffet and choose something else to eat.  You’ll notice in the pictures, my food choices were primarily seafood.  That’s because living in Idaho, I miss having fresh seafood all the time (I’m from Seattle).

Salmon over salad bar selections.

Seafood is generally healthy, and I love it so it was naturally my choice.  If you want just protein and veggies, you can order your meal that way!

Cruise breakfast almost every day was an egg white omelette with lots of spinach, onions, peppers, and mushrooms

The omelette bar (open every morning) lets you pick the number of eggs (or just egg whites), and whatever fillings you choose.  Each morning I’d pick ALL the vegetables to go on my egg whites, and skip the meat and cheese.

Roasted lamb with eggplant, red peppers and zucchini.

All the servings in the restaurants on the ship are small.  That works well so you can just eat what you need, and order something else if you’d like to!

Shrimp and Roasted Chicken with Polenta and green beans.  Nobody yells at you if you don’t finish your meal on a cruise, so you’re not obligated to eat every bit.

Someone said to me, “But you’re on vacation!”  That’s right, I am – which means I don’t have to bring these ingredients home from the grocery store, clean, chop and cook them and then clean up the meal.  I just get to ask politely for what I want and viola!  That’s a pretty awesome vacation.

Every day we were in a port, I’d stop at the buffet and grab some nuts and dried fruit to take with us on our adventures.  I also had homemade granola I brought with us – just in case we needed a snack and there weren’t any healthy options – but there always were!

Most cruise ships are really big – ours was 18 stories tall.  When we first boarded the ship, we decided to always take the stairs.  Our room was on floor 11, the gym, spa and buffet were on 16, and lots of other things we did were on 6, 7 and 8.  Going up and down all day was a welcome leg workout, and sometimes a yoga-balance feat (when the waves were exciting). We found that purposely taking the stairs actually saved us time (since almost everyone was in the elevators), and certainly gave our glutes some toning.

Did I ever have a dessert?  Yes!  They make small servings so you don’t have to feel guilty when you eat one – especially after all the physical activity you do all day.

Flan with caramel and berries.

Ley Lime “Pie”

Tiramisu.  Notice how small all these are!  Just 3 or 4 bites and you’re done.  Just right.

We were sure to sample the Jerk Chicken since we were in the Caribbean.  The people in Jamaica say they came up with it, but it’s all over the islands.  Our favorite one was in Nassau.

The best Jerk Chicken we had was in Nassau. I asked the lady who made it how she could make better Jerk Chicken than what we had in Jamaica. She laughed and said “I’m from Jamaica!”

Of course, you get to do whatever YOU want on your vacation.  However you chose to spend your time and calories, I hope you enjoy it completely. I sure did!


Roslyn Graham

We saw this sign as we were racing around on a scooter. I made Shawn go back so we could take a picture. Sage advice!

Sometimes you gotta just stop and do some yoga!

I got to hold baby turtles in Grand Cayman. (I did not eat them.)