How to Survive the Food on a Cruise

Sunset from the deck

Sunset from the deck

Think back to the first epic voyagers crossing the Atlantic and this seems like a ridiculous “How to.” If this were 200 years ago, it would just be “How to survive.” But times, they have changed. The dangers of scurvy have been replaced by bloating, weight gain, and an inability to think about anything but midnight chocolate buffets (yes, they’re real.)

Having recently survived these horrors on a transatlantic cruise myself, I felt it my duty to pass on some words of wisdom to my comrades in starvation.

Do not weigh yourself
It’s best if you just don’t know.

At my first breakfast, I was talking to an older couple. They both looked like they had healthy appetites, so I was surprised when the man said “I don’t think I could spend more than two weeks on a cruise. There’s too much food.”

Around lunchtime, I was in the lift going up when one woman commented to another, “We’ve just accepted it. You put on the cruise five pounds.” The other woman turned to her husband, “You see? She said it was only five.”

Walk to the chocolate cake
It’s not hard to find stairs on a cruise boat. If you can, use them. A skinny Australian woman told me that was her rule for keeping in shape. And I saw her eating a pretty big chunk of chocolate cake on the top deck, so it really does work.

You can also ice-skate, climb, go to the pool, go to the gym, walk around the deck, do the morning stretch class. Not to keep in shape. Just to build up an appetite so you can eat more.

Enjoying the beach

Enjoying the beach

Make yourself bored
The problem with buffets is that variety is meant to make us eat more. So try to make your life more dull. Eat the same meal over and over. If you have three plates of chips and fried bacon a day, you’re sure to get bored. Yes, guaranteed weight loss. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, maybe dull down the conversation. Avoid exciting topics like what animals the towels in your room were folded into. If all goes well, you’ll spend less time at the table and will surely eat less. Caution: I’m not a qualified health professional.

Only order two desserts
The thing is, you can order as many dishes from any course as you like. On the last night when there were lobsters, one guy ordered six mains (not six Maine lobsters, but six main dishes of multiple lobsters). When it came to desserts, I started with the Grand Marnier soufflé, but it was a bit plain, so I decided to follow it with a Chocolate Sensation. All good, so why stop? I also ordered the Ivory Chocolate Fondue. I started eating it and after a few bites I knew I should stop. But it was too delicious. I blame the chef.

Wear hats that impede your vision
This would have prevented the whole eating three deserts situation. Ivory Chocolate Fondue sounded nice, but it wasn’t until I saw it in the glass dish with the berries on top that I knew we had to be united. Impeded vision would also have limited my ability to see all the dishes at the midnight chocolate buffet. I told you it was real. And I had two courses. Who wouldn’t after seeing melted chocolate besides piles of strawberries, muffins, chocolate banana cake, ice cream, chocolate croissants…nom nom nom nom!

What? It's only my second dessert... or third, I can't remember.

What? It’s only my second dessert… or third, I can’t remember.

Skip lunch on the islands
I never ever ever skip meals… except for when I’ve already had two breakfasts and know that I have two or three dinners coming up. Ok, I still had to pack some fruit and something to drink and a muffin, but that’s basically skipping. Food really can become an addiction and you shouldn’t let being back in time for lunch keep you from having an adventure.

Eat the pecan pie
Our ship had a vitality scheme. Some of the dishes had a symbol by them letting you know they were part of the low calorie option. Digging into my pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, I did briefly wonder if it was the butter pastry, the sugary filling or the creamy ice-cream that constituted “healthy.” But what the hell, the symbol was there.

Do not discover alternative food sources
Leave finding out that the dining room and the buffet are not the only sources of free food until the end. It’s really for the best if you don’t know you have 24-hour pizza and cake. Ooops, just gave that one away.

Offset your eating footprint
By the end of a cruise, your footprints probably are actually bigger. Rather than feel guilty, why not do something about it? No, I don’t mean go for a run. I mean something you can do from your armchair, like take a moment to think about people who haven’t had access to 7 course meals. You can donate to somewhere like VegFarm (, which funds lasting solutions to hunger.

Cruising is all about keeping a healthy balance (maybe not on the scales). Food is part of the journey and you should have fun with it. How often do you get free ice cream beside the pool? My motto is: excess in moderation. Hopefully with these tips in mind (or real ones from a real nutritionist), you won’t end up rocking the boat!

Rosa Lia

About Rosa Lia

Rosa returned in May from a 7-month trip in Central America and will be going to Israel for a year in October. At the moment she is taking a course with the London School of Journalism, as well as writing and photography courses with MatadorU.