Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cruisin' for a Bruisin' or Calm Seas Ahead?

*This post does not contain food porn descriptions or photos. It is safe for reading by most anyone.

Cruise Ships are floating dens of temptation. Alcoholic consumption is encouraged 24 hours a day. Food is served 24 hours a day and it is always served to be a sight for the eyes. We eat with our eyes first. Whether it is the buffet line or the pastry tray - it is designed to entice. Smoking areas are now limited on ships but always available somewhere on board. Gambling is open every minute the ship is out of US waters and shopping on board and in port is pushed, pushed, pushed.  Illegal drugs are the only addiction I recognize as taboo to cruise line. Sex? It depends on the ship. There is a Royal Caribbean cruise this coming November that has been chartered by the corporate organizer of a 'swingers group.' Topless women will be permitted in many areas on board and at least one large meeting room will be wall to wall mattresses for non-private sexual encounters involving 2, 3, 4 and more participants on one mattress. If that has not killed your appetite to discuss food on a cruise ship, I will proceed.

Simple cut and arranged fruits
When you enter most cruise ships you are greeted and then directed to the lunch buffet or sit down restaurant for your first meal. I liken this to the pre-op meds given to calm people down before they reach the operating rooms for surgery. While at lunch you will be asked if you want anything from the bar. You will be shown the drink of the day and you will be offered the option of wine packages, beer packages or soda packages for the length of your cruise. On some ships the daily drink of the day is advertised in full color inside every elevator. I don't drink the drink of the day and I do not drink alcohol very often at all and never at lunch. I do not buy a wine package because one glass each is all I ever have. Same for beer. I do not drink soda. I do get a coffee card that gives me unlimited brewed coffee from the coffee bars so I do not have to pay for individual cups each day or drink the fake stuff they serve at the buffet. I carry my own re-fillable filtered water bottle everywhere. Beverages completely taken care of, let's discuss the food.

When I cruise I do not go with the idea that "I am on vacation and can eat whatever I want." I do not walk on board and leave my standards of eating behind." At least, I do not plan to do that. On my last cruise I fell into the food snare five days in - a hard lesson to experience but one I will remember next trip.

I am not going to discuss the excess. I will not discuss the items that I no longer eat. I am only going to talk about what is there for our special needs. I will take it meal by meal.

We almost always have breakfast at the buffet because the dining room is very slow in the morning and when I need to send something back it takes must too long. At the buffet there are always eggs available. You want an omelet made to your specifications - tell them exactly what you want and you will get it. If they do it wrong, have them do it again. You want poach eggs - tell them. You want hard boiled - tell them. All kinds of fish and breakfast meats are available. Some vegetables are available at breakfast. Fruit is always available and if you want an banana and do not see one - ask for it. (I find bananas are rarely good at the buffet but always plentiful and ripe at the ship's spa). Be careful of milk. If you want fat free, you may have to tell them in five languages as some servers think anything less than heavy cream is fat free. If you drink almond milk or soy milk you should bring your own. Most cabins have a refrigerator for you to keep it cold. I brought my almond milk on board in the shelf stable packaging and when I opened it, transferred the contents to small re-usable 8 oz bottles so I could bring just enough with me to my meal. If you bring your own bread from home they will toast it for you. I like that. They have all the carb-loaded breakfast foods but I avoid them, with the exception of oatmeal. I ask them to give me cinnamon to flavor the oatmeal and they bring it to my table. For the rest of the cruise they keep it out each morning for me. I like that. They have yogurts (watch the sugar) but not Greek yogurt. Skip past the pastry boards and the breakfast dessert boards without a look. You can do it!

Mid-Morning Snack:
If I have one on land I can have one on sea in the form of a piece of fruit or a serving of protein. I can get fruit everywhere. For the protein I order a piece of chicken breast from the pool bar/grill. Normally I do not have on on board.

Again, the buffet is good to get a meal and get out, rather than sit with the food for over an hour at the restaurant. There is always a salad spread available. Protein at lunch on board often has a sauce or oil base. Many proteins have been breaded and fried. However I can usually find a baked or steamed fish and either a roast or turkey and have a portion of that. I have to watch for oil and sauces on the cooked vegetables and things like carrots cooked with sweetened water. If I want an avocado I ask for one and almost always find it is easy to get. There is always a dessert bar at the buffet. I avoid it but often find my eyes going there as I pass. It can be tough. I usually have to get up and leave as soon as I am done eating so I do not wander back through the buffet to the dessert boards. It is fine if you want to bring a scale and measure your food. I have done it. I also bring a measuring cup. It has been an eye opener when I took my food by sight and then measured it at the table. Probably save myself over 1000 calories each time I use the scale on board.

Afternoon Snack:
Again, fruit can be found in several places. I bring my protein bars since I often have them on land in the afternoon. In the past I have always missed my Greek yogurt on board since I have it each day but I am currently on day eight of a no dairy restriction for testing and I have gotten use to skipping the yogurt. I am finding a cup of tea with a fresh strawberry to be a wonderful treat in the afternoon. I stay off the food deck all afternoon so I can avoid the aromas coming from the pool grill and the sights of the ice cream bar.

Sit down restaurant has lovely food and they WILL give you exactly what you want in steamed vegetables, plain protein, un-dressed starches and sliced fruit for dessert. However service is often slow to keep up with the high demand of so many people sitting down to dinner at the same time. I personally do not like to sit for 90 minutes at one meal. One wonderful thing about good service at the sit down is I can tell them on the first night "No milk fat, no wheat, no soy and no sugar of any type" and they will remember it for the whole cruise. The head server will come over to me each evening and show me the next day's menu and tell me exactly what is added to each dish so I can make educated choices the next day. *If you do not want to have the sugar free desserts offered each night, tell them this the first night and they will not try and tempt you over and over again.

After Dinner thru till Midnight:
Some ships have Movies Under the Stars. We like to go to the 10pm show and snuggle on the chaise under the blankets. Practice saying no thank you because during a single movie they will be around with free popcorn, pizza, ice cream, and cookies. Remember that free food is usually the most costly and turn it down with a smile. I have to remember that otherwise I can consume an additional 1500 calories during one movie.  Then the next day I will be wondering why I feel so bloated and uneasy. As for the midnight buffets - most cruise lines have curtailed this wasteful and dangerous binge-fest. Something to remember is this: the food at the midnight buffets is cheap food - not anything worth getting excited over. It LOOKS good but it never tastes as good as it looks. The more you take on your plate, the more you will sample-taste. Even if you limit yourself (can you?) to one taste of each item that appeals to you, you could consume the equivalent of an entire day's food during the first 30 minutes of the new day. Been there, done it. Chastised myself for it and hope to God to never do it again.

Room Service:
This is free on all ships. You just tip the server. No changes are permitted in room service food orders. If you need something other than what is on the menu you have to go to a food service area. The only thing on the menu I eat is the salad and I can get that anytime. It is available 24 hours a day. If for some reason I cannot make it to lunch or dinner, I will not starve and I do not have to binge.

Yes, I can cruise and do it while keeping the pounds off.  It takes effort. The effort required can be a bit more than on land but it is worth it. If you like cruising, it is damn necessary to take your tool kit with you. I cannot get on board and think I will be taken care of unless I extend the effort to ensure that my needs are met. It pays to fax and email the food manager as soon as you book and again 1 month before the cruise to alert them to your needs.

When I take care of me, it is calm seas ahead.  When I don't, I am just cruisin' for a bruisin'.



Diane 150 Pounds Gone Forever said...

I've never been on a cruise but know people who have gained 10 pounds on one! These are great tips for crusin' on land and on sea. It's all about planning and choices. Oh, and setting your own boundaries.

Unknown said...

I guess what you are saying is that you have to have a good plan and then be assertive to get it.

:-) Marion

Zuupdesign said...
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Jane Cartelli said...

Comments from spammers will always be deleted. :-)