How I Got In Shape While Cruising
Cruise-ship buffets can be dangerous: a thousand different meals, all ripe for the taking, and the only thing to limit your consumption is the final notch on your belt. According to recent research, 52 per cent of passengers gained a stone (6.4 kilograms) in weight during a two-week trip.
I wanted the convenience of an ocean-going holiday but not the consternation that would come with an expanding waistline, and I wasn’t sure I trusted myself at the buffet. Could there be such a thing as a healthy cruise?
The people behind Celebrity Cruises believe there is. They launched Silhouette, a ship that caters for those looking for a less lardy ocean-going experience.
Guests in Aquaclass stay in staterooms placed close to a gym staffed by personal trainers and complete with a pool, spa and running track, and have priority booking for a restaurant offering healthier eating options, Blu.
I booked a week-long cruise around Italy and the Dalmatian coast – I wanted to see several countries in one trip and figured this was the easiest and least stressful way of doing it – and, for the first time ever on a holiday, I packed my exercise trainers. Flying to Rome to board the slick, modern ship, I set my goals: I wanted to get fitter and possibly thinner while still feeling as though I were on holiday, which in my book means a few mealtime treats, a glass of wine or two at dinner and the odd cocktail afterwards.
My strategy was to have a fairly restrained breakfast and lunch and a reasonably enjoyable evening meal, and to exercise more than I usually would. I booked a daily session with a trainer, Claudine, assuming, because she was friendly when we met, that she would go easy on a gym amateur like me.
Wrong. Not only was Claudine strict, but after a quick chat about nutrition, it became clear she didn’t approve of my plan, either. I asked how much wine I could drink while still meeting my weight-loss target.
Her response was that alcohol sucks all the moisture out of your brain. I stuck to one glass that night.
To try to make my trip ever so slightly more scientific, I weighed myself at the beginning and end. On the first day I hopped on to the scales to discover that I weighed a mere 32 kilograms, roughly the same as an anorexic teenager and, sadly, most likely the target weight of many of the women exercising around me.
After much discussion, I convinced Claudine that her equipment was broken – either that or I wouldn’t need her services after all. The replacement scales revealed a much more believable 58.5 kilograms.
To ensure I didn’t undo my good work at the gym, I avoided the buffet and dined at Blu, which specialises in lighter dishes cooked with less butter and oil – lots of grilled chicken, fish, steak and steamed vegetables. As a treat, for two evenings I headed out to other restaurants: Qsine, a place of which Willy Wonka would have been proud, where you eat sushi lollipops and browse an iPad menu and wine list; and the Lawn Grill, where I flipped my own pizza base to applause from the staff and ate grilled prawns while watching a jazz band play on the real-grass lawn outside.
I also headed for the beauty salon, in the vain hope that I could look trimmer while lying down and doing nowt – by booking myself in for three ionithermie procedures, said to reduce cellulite and cut inches of fat. Yzelle, my South African detox therapist, got busy “waking up my skin” – basically brushing my thigh with a brush so hard it could have curried horses – before smothering me in algae and placing electrodes on various points of my body (the electricity helps the body to absorb the algae, apparently).
Flicking the switch, she explained that the treatment would improve blood flow, reduce cellulite, help drainage and help thin the fat. Lying there, aware of my muscles contracting while I did nothing, I felt like Frankenstein’s monster.
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Yzelle told me that a cruise is an ideal holiday for anyone wanting to lose weight. There is a huge choice of food, so if you are able to steer yourself towards the more healthy selections, you should never get too bored.
If that doesn’t work, standing in your underwear in front of a mirror as the stick-thin Yzelle examines your cellulite really ought to do it. What Yzelle didn’t add is that if you have a poor sense of direction, as I do, you are bound to lose weight on a large cruise ship, walking down long, near-identical corridors searching for your cabin.
In truth, I’m not sure the ionithermie treatment worked, but my sessions with Claudine clearly were getting me somewhere, suggesting that perhaps there really is no alternative to losing weight other than by running and cake-avoidance. My daily 20-minute runs on the treadmill – made much more tolerable by the amazing views: memorably, gliding out of the port of Naples and past the island of Capri – followed by 40 punishing minutes on the weight machines were starting to produce tangible results.
Suddenly 20 minutes’ running didn’t seem so difficult. And I had muscles.
For the first time in my exercise-lacking life, I can now flex my arms and a muscle pops up. By midweek I was nodding a hello to the other gym-goers: a few rail-thin trophy girlfriends and wives; one middle-aged man who appeared to sweat only around the nipples.
By the end of the week I was able to high-five Claudine after my workout without feeling like a fraud. She turned out to be lovely, despite only really approving of my performance when I was close to collapse on the floor, at which point she would demand another 20 reps.
So how much weight did I lose? I rushed to the gym on the last morning to find out – an eerie experience as everyone else was disembarking, so for a few moments it felt as though I had this huge ship to myself. Hopping on, I discovered I had shed 900 grams. That might not sound a lot, but considering that (a) I didn’t put on weight while on holiday, and (b) I didn’t really feel I had denied myself any enjoyment, I think it’s a real achievement.
Not only did I lose weight, but I had a thoroughly relaxing, enjoyable week, helped along by unfailingly thoughtful service.
It’s such an easy way to see the world, waking in a different city each morning: Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Naples … On days when I couldn’t face sightseeing, I could choose to laze in a hammock by the pool, visit the iLounge and read in the funky egg-shaped pod chairs in the library, or admire artwork by Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst in the public spaces.
Food and cruises may certainly go together, but I like to think I’ve found a way of having my cake and half-eating it.
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This article was written by Jessie Hewitson from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.