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Surviving the Eats on a Cruise

If you’ve ever taken a cruise you know it can be a care-free way to travel. All you do is pick your destination and they take care of the rest. During the day, activities abound. At night, you travel from one exotic port to the next.
The most difficult choice is not when to eat, but what to eat. I’ve been down this road before, so for this vacation, I went with a game plan in mind. I’d love to tell you that I killed it, but … umm, not so much. Here’s what to expect when you cruise.
Food is included in the price — and available 24/7. You can eat at the massive buffet or treat yourself to a formal feast. (You might want to brush up on your dinner etiquette; formal place settings require a nine-piece flatware service! Although, if you use your salad fork for the main course, nobody is likely to call you out.) Both lunch and dinner are three courses, sometimes four. There are at least a dozen options to choose from, some are on the lighter side, but when your choice is between a plain broiled chicken breast or beef bordelaise, guess which one wins?
And the buffet—– oh my! Cruise vacations attract an international crowd so many cultures are represented in the culinary offerings. And don’t worry if you have a food allergy or intolerance — dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, kosher and vegetarian options abound.
Scattered about the ship are coffee bars, pizza by the slice and ice cream stands, and your stateroom offers no refuge! Snacks arrive daily and at night expect turn-down service complete with requisite chocolate on the pillow.

My server Remy wouldn’t let me take a pass on this classic Baked Alaska;  I’m glad he didn’t!

In their defense, the portion size is spot-on. There is no super-sizing to contend with (and you can even order a petite portion of some menu items), but it’s all those damn courses that get you! Everything is made from scratch; bread is baked daily, and even the gelato is made on the ship!
So, what’s a fit bottomed gal to do?
My advice: try not to go crazy, but do enjoy the service and what the ship has to offer. It’s all part of the experience.  But remember, you don’t have to finish everything they put in front of you, so savor each bite, and if you’ve had enough, back away from the plate. (Checking in with hunger and fullness cues can be a HUGE help here!)
Take your exercise gear (you can jog on the top deck, join a class or work out in the gym), drink plenty of water, go European and sip on a digestif after dinner and hit the late night disco to burn extra calories. And know that this is just a week or so out of your life — you can get back to your regularly scheduled salads and healthy meals and killer workouts as soon as you get home, so don’t stress about veering outside of your norm for a few days.
Have you been on a cruise? Did you bring home extra baggage? I gained a couple of pounds, but it was worth it! —Karen

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