How To Count Calories On A Cruise: 20 Helpful Tips

count calories on a cruise

Are you planning a cruise but worried about sticking to your calorie counting habits?

It’s no secret that cruises are known for their indulgent buffets and tempting desserts.

However, with a little planning and mindful choices, you can still enjoy your vacation while keeping track of your calorie intake.

In this article, I will provide you with the best tips on how to count calories on a cruise that I have personally used, so you can stay on track with your health goals without feeling deprived.

Let’s dive in.

Should You Count Calories On A Cruise?

When it comes to counting calories on a cruise, the decision ultimately depends on your personal health goals and preferences.

While some individuals may find it beneficial to keep track of their calorie intake to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle, others may prefer to indulge and enjoy their vacation without the added stress of meticulous calorie counting.

It’s important to strike a balance that allows you to savor the culinary experiences on the cruise while still making mindful choices.

If you have specific dietary restrictions or health concerns, counting calories can provide you with a sense of control and help you make informed decisions about your food choices.

However, if you’re on a cruise to relax, unwind, and fully embrace the culinary delights, you might choose to be more flexible and focus on portion control and overall moderation.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to count calories on a cruise is a personal one that should align with your overall health goals and the type of experience you wish to have during your vacation.

Related Post: Should You Save Calories For Later At Night?


If you are someone who plans on calorie counting or eating healthier on a cruise ship, I can help you. I have been on 11 cruises so far, and this is what works best for me.

Here are my tried and true tips.

1. Research the Cruise Line Menus

Before embarking on your cruise, take some time to research the menus offered by the cruise line.

Most cruise lines provide detailed menus online, allowing you to plan your meals in advance. Look for healthier options like grilled fish, steamed vegetables, and fresh salads.

If you are having trouble finding menus online, join a Facebook group for your cruise!

There are many private Facebook groups for each individual cruise ship and even sailing date.

Many members cruise on these ships and cruise lines frequently, and post pictures of the menus when doing so.

2. Practice Portion Control

Portion sizes on cruises can be quite generous. To manage your calorie intake, practice portion control.

Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean proteins, and the remaining quarter with whole grains or healthy carbohydrates.

It may be tempting to order double entrees and desserts when dining on a cruise ship, but if you are trying to count calories, you should maintain portion control.

3. Start with a Salad or Soup

Begin your meals with a salad or broth based soup. These low calorie options can help you feel fuller, reducing the chances of overeating during the main course.

4. Choose Grilled or Steamed Options

When selecting your main course, opt for grilled, steamed, or baked dishes instead of fried or breaded ones.

Grilled fish or chicken, steamed vegetables, and baked potatoes are healthier alternatives that are still delicious.

This is a great way to keep your calorie counts lower.

5. Be Mindful of Hidden Calories

Be aware of hidden calories in dressings, sauces, and condiments.

Ask for these to be served on the side so that you can control the amount you use.

Choose lighter options like vinaigrettes or salsa instead of creamy dressings or heavy sauces.

6. Limit Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic beverages can be high in calories, and it’s easy to lose track of your intake while on vacation.

This is especially true if you are choosing a cruise with an included alcoholic beverage package.

Limit your alcohol consumption, opt for lower calorie choices like light beer or wine, and remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!

7. Control Your Dessert Indulgences

Cruise ships are notorious for their decadent desserts.

While it’s tempting to try them all, be mindful of your choices.

Instead of having a full sized dessert, consider sharing with a friend or indulging in smaller portions to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard.

Another great option for dessert on a cruise ship is fresh fruit.

Cruise ships often have a vast selection of fresh fruit available onboard.

Watermelon is a great option for dessert. There are only about 90 calories in 11 ounces of fresh watermelon.

8. Pack Your Own Low Calorie Snacks

I am sure you have a list of your own favorite low calorie snacks. Why not take them with you onboard?

If you are enbarking on a cruise with any of the major cruise lines, they do allow you to bring your own snacks.

For example, Royal Caribbean allows you to bring onboard your own snacks as long as they are dry, non-perishable snack items such as cookies, crackers, chips, energy bars, etc.

If you have snacks onboard that you love, it will make it easier for you to enjoy your favorite snacks while also knowing exactly how many calories they contain.

9. Stay Active Onboard

Take advantage of the fitness facilities and activities offered on the cruise ship.

Engage in daily exercise, whether it’s hitting the gym, participating in fitness classes, or enjoying a morning jog on the deck.

Staying active can help offset some of the extra calories consumed at the buffet or when out for dinner with the family.

10. Utilize the Walking Track

Many cruise ships have a designated walking track or promenade.

Make it a habit to walk a few laps each day.

Not only will it help burn calories, but it’s also a great way to enjoy the ocean views and get some fresh air.

11. Explore Active Excursion Options

When planning your onshore excursions, look for activities that involve physical movement.

Snorkeling, hiking, or biking tours are excellent options that allow you to explore the destination while being active.

You do not have to book these directly through the cruise line either.

You can see what the island has to offer or check out those Facebook groups I mentioned above to see if anyone is planning a group excursion at a discounted rate.

12. Take the Stairs

Rather than relying on elevators or escalators, challenge yourself to take the stairs whenever possible.

It’s a simple way to incorporate extra physical activity into your daily routine.

Just imagine how many calories you could burn just simply walking to all of your destinations on the ship.

Some cruise ships are huge! This provides tons of exercise for you without even realizing it.

13. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is essential for overall health and can also help control your appetite.

Carry a reusable water bottle and aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated.

If you’re taking a caribbean cruise or a cruise that sails during hot summer months, it is even more important to stay hydrated.

The sun can burn you out fast!

14. Track Your Calorie Intake

Consider using a food tracking app or keeping a food journal to monitor your calorie intake during the cruise.

This can help you stay accountable and make informed choices about what you eat.

If you use the free version of apps such as MyFitnessPal, you will have an easy way to log all of your calories for the day without carrying around a food journal.

You may be thinking “How am I supposed to know how many calories these cruise ship foods have?”

You can just estimate. This does not have to be perfect, and it will not be perfect.

It is very hard to figure out how many calories are in foods and meals on a cruise.

Estimating for one weeks time will be just fine.

15. Choose Lighter Breakfast Options

Breakfast buffets can be overwhelming, but there are lighter options available.

Choose oatmeal, whole grain toast, fresh fruits, and yogurt instead of pastries, fried foods, and sugary cereals.

Remember, cruises are about enjoying yourself and enjoying the food, but this does not mean we can’t choose healthier lower calorie options.

16. Engage in Active Entertainment

Participate in onboard activities that involve physical movement.

Dancing, swimming, or playing sports can be enjoyable ways to burn calories and have fun at the same time.

Check out the deck parties! Lots of dancing and movement leads to more calorie burn.

17. Avoid Late Night Snacking

Late night buffets and room service can be tempting, but try to avoid late-night snacking if you really want to be mindful of calorie intake.

Stick to your regular meal schedule and resist the urge to indulge in unnecessary calories when you’re not truly hungry.

Related Post: Do Calories Reset At Midnight?

18. Practice Mindful Eating

Lastly, practice mindful eating throughout your cruise. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, eat slowly, and savor each bite.

Cruise food is delicious, so actually take the time to enjoy what you are eating.

If you are full, take this as a clue to stop eating. It may be tempting to get seconds and even thirds, but if you really want to avoid a caloric surplus, this isn’t the best idea.

By being more aware of your eating habits, you’ll be better equipped to make healthier choices.

19. Use a Pedometer Counter

Incorporating a pedometer into your cruise routine can be a game changer when it comes to staying active and tracking your calorie burn.

Strap on a pedometer or use a fitness tracker that counts your steps, and set a daily goal for yourself.

Aim to reach a certain number of steps, such as 10,000, by taking advantage of the various opportunities for movement onboard.

Take brisk walks around the ship, explore the different decks, or participate in onboard activities that involve walking.

By using a pedometer, you can easily track your progress and ensure that you’re staying active throughout your cruise.

Not only will this help you burn calories, but it will also provide motivation and a sense of accomplishment as you work towards achieving your step goals.

20. Actually Enjoy Your Cruise

Yes, being calorie conscious is important, but if you are spending your entire cruise being miserable counting calories, then simply give it a break.

No one ever gained all of their weight back or completely derailed their progress in one week.

You can count calories in a smart way on vacation or on a cruise ship without being so obsessed you forget to enjoy yourself.

If you are ruining your cruise because you are too focused on calorie counting, forget about it for the cruise!

Remember, this is your time to have fun and to relax, don’t spend it obsessing over food and over calorie intake.

Related Post: Should You Actually Log Calories On Vacation?

Last Words

Remember, a cruise is a time to relax and enjoy yourself. You can still count calories on a cruise, but it does not need to be harder than it needs to be.

While it’s important to be mindful of your calorie intake, it’s equally important to have fun and indulge in moderation.

By following these helpful tips, you can count calories on a cruise without feeling deprived and return home feeling both satisfied and healthy.

Now you’re ready to embark on your cruise adventure while staying on track with your health goals.

Live it up! And remember, enjoy that cruise! You earned it.

Don’t forget to check out more helpful articles below.