Destination Guide: Cruise Vacations

A cruise can be fun and relaxing, but after a week of all-you-can-eat buffets, you might come home with extra baggage. Here’s how to maximize the fun while minimizing any weight gain.
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Few vacations give the same bang for the buck that cruising does. For as little as $50 per person, per day, cruise passengers live the high life onboard ships that offer round-the-clock entertainment, cushy accommodations and stops at exotic ports. It's no wonder cruising is fast becoming one of the most popular vacation choices for travelers.

Problem is, many cruise passengers tend to come home with extra baggage — about three-quarters of a pound for every day they sail, according to many travel agents and cruise fitness directors. Between the groaning buffets of food, the friendly bars every 100 feet and the ports with their tempting local specialties, its overindulgence that’s truly on the menu.

But cruising doesn’t have to damage your waistline. Every major cruise line carries well-equipped gyms, staffed with fitness pros available for private training or group classes. In fact, all of the lines covered in this piece use the same company (Steiner Leisure International) to manage their gym and spa facilities, so you’ll find no substantive difference in the type of equipment or the quality of the personnel from one line to the next. As for food, low-calorie meal options have become standard, and dining-room waiters (eager for tips) are happy to help passengers customize their food.

Whether you’re looking for a family-oriented getaway, a rollicking party ship or an excursion with an emphasis on fine living, there’s a cruise line for you. It’s possible to get good deals on most every line if you search hard enough. And know what sort of room you’re looking for: Inside cabins (without portholes or windows) are the least expensive and a terrific value. After all, you’re not on a cruise to hang out in your cabin, right? Plus, since they’re located in the center of the ship, they’re more stable — and a best bet if you’re worried about seasickness.

One cruise caveat: Your sailing experience can shift dramatically not only from cruise line to cruise line, but from ship to ship. A cruise on a smaller, older boat will be nothing like a vacation on one of the monoliths that have debuted in just the last five years, even if both are in the same fleet. The character of a ship can also change dramatically from one season to the next, so a boat that’s hosting mostly seniors in the fall may be a party cruise crowded with college students come spring. Use this article as a starting point (and for more research, visit CruiseCritic.com, CruiseMates.com and Frommers.com).

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