Nineteen Ways to Work Off Those Cruise Ship Calories

April 2, 2015

Food is a huge part of any cruise, no matter which ship you choose or the usual size of your appetite.

The sheer variety and abundance of free food can see you grazing from morning to midnight like a Ben and Jerry’s cow!

Take Royal Caribbean ships as an example – from the famously addictive ham and cheese croissant-wiches for breakfast, to lunch with a side order of sea view, to six course tasting menus in 150 Central Park, your days at sea will be punctuated by exciting meal time choices, with doughnuts, ice creams, pizza slices, hot dogs and milkshakes thrown into the mix in-between.

With much more besides!

With the addition of the Dynamic Dining option on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Quantum class ships, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Freestyle Dining, there’s never been greater variety, flexibility and freedom when it comes to chowing down on your cruise.


So far, so amazing – especially for foodies. However, the slight fly in the complimentary soup is that endless eating can quickly see you piling on the pounds onboard.

Which isn’t so great if you’ve got fancy formal gowns to fit into or want to look sexy in your swimwear.

The trick is to balance out the bountiful foodstuffs with activity and exercise and thankfully that shouldn’t be too much of a chore or hardship.

Cruise ships are incredible hubs of activity nowadays, with megaships being sports centres, leisure attractions and waterparks combined. If you’re on a smaller ship you might have to be a little bit more inventive and look to your port stops or the ocean itself to stop you from getting portly!


Forget the running track – here’s our run down of the top nineteen exciting, fun and surprising ways to work off those extra calories whilst cruising:


1 – Head for Heights

If you’ve got a head for heights then why not climb off your dinner on a Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line climbing wall? – Norwegian Epic has the only US rated climbing wall at sea, as well as cruising’s first rappelling (abseiling) wall.

You can also work on your core strength and balance on Carnival’s SkyCourse (on Breeze, Magic and Sunshine) or in the RipCord by iFly indoor skydiving tunnel on Royal Caribbeans’ Quantum of the Seas.

Whilst you might think that floating in the air can’t possibly be much use when it comes to counter-balancing those dinner calories, in actual fact, indoor skydiving burns more calories than the equivalent time spent jogging on the ground!



2 – Floating Playground

If water sports are more your thing (you are on the ocean after all) then why not book a cruise ship that comes with its very own marina?

Windstar is one of the best, offering kayaking, windsurfing, inflatable boats, snorkelling and even waterskiing, straight from the ship or why not have a bounce on a floating trampoline? It gives all new meaning to the term ‘floating playground’!

Luxury liners SeaDream, Star Clippers and Seabourn also get special mention for their onboard marinas packed with water toys.

Watersports Marina

Watersports on a cruise ship

 3 – Dancercise

Dancing is one of the most fun ways of getting fit – and judging by the killer sequin-draped bods on Strictly, it’s a brilliant calorie burner.

Dance off your dinner on a Holland America Dancing with the Stars cruise or dance with the Strictly pros in person, rather than just around your living room, on a P&O Strictly Come Dancing itinerary.

Cunard also moves and shakes its way onto our list for the daytime dance lessons and evening opportunities to show off those shimmying skills and ‘gentlemen hosts’ mean that it’s a case of ‘no partner, no problem’ for single cruisers – orderly line, ladies!


If you’re interested in booking a P&O ‘Strictly Come Dancing Experience’ then you can find a lot more information here

Strictly come dancing

Strictly come dancing with P&O Cruise lines

 4 – Lose the Map

Cruise ships are coming up with new and innovative ways to help you find your way around on-board, like the Royal Caribbean WOW band which works with an app to give you your exact location or the smart screens that will save you from getting lost – but sometimes getting lost can work wonders for your waistline!

Walking from one end of RCI’s Oasis of the Sea (362 metres, fact fans), down a few flights of stairs and then back across the ship in search of your stateroom should go some way towards working off those ham and cheese croissants at breakfast or earning a shake and fries at Johnny Rockets.

Royal Caribbean WOW band

Royal Caribbean WOW band


5 – Get Your Skates On

If you love to skate – or you’re just happy to give anything a go on holiday – Royal Caribbean should be your cruise line of choice.

Not content with ‘just’ offering ice skating in the blazing sunshine (on Oasis, Freedom and Voyager class) and in-line skating tracks to rival Miami promenade (Voyager class), they’ve also gone all 80’s on us with a retro rollerskating rink in the brand new Quantum-class leisure hub, the SeaPlex.

Neon leg warmers optional.

rollerskating in Royal Caribbeans Seaplex

rollerskating in Royal Caribbeans Seaplex

 6 – Slam Dunk

If you’ve always fancied yourself as a next generation Michael Jordan, a cruise ship with ball sports will mean you can lace up those high tops and get your jump on.

You’ll find basketball courts on most Royal Caribbean ships, and in the SportsSquare on Carnival ships (as well as dodgeball and volleyball, if you’re feeling really athletic!).


You can compare which cruise line offers which sports courts here


Cruise ship sports court

Cruise ship sports court

7 – Push and Pull(eys)

Bored of the gym – even if it does have sea views?

Try something different on RCI Oasis class ships and get pushed and pulled on the Kinesis wall.

This exercise tool is made up of ropes and pulleys and Madonna is said to be a big fan (and you’ve seen her arms, right?). Crystal and Seabourn ships also boast Kinesis walls for a workout that will push you to your limit, in the best possible way.


8 – A Real Power Plate

No, we’re not asking you to skip the steak and chips for a plate of spinach and kale – RCI Freedom class ships boast Power Plates, which are exercise machines that take the hard work out of working out.

You literally just stand there and let the vibrations do the hard work for you!

You could even take a magazine and a coffee to your Power Plate session if you wanted to – although spillages are always a risk!

If you’re one of those crazy people that use the gym whilst on holiday then you can compare the different machines on offer per cruise line in our handy guide here.

Cruise ship gym

Cruise ship gym

9 – Fight Club

RCI Freedom class ships have also come out fighting with full size boxing rings so if you’re in the mood to go all Rocky Balboa and join Fight Club, you can strap on your gloves and go. Sorry, we can’t promise you Brad Pitt with his top off – these cruises are good, but they’re not that good!

Boxing on Independnce of the Seas

Boxing on Independnce of the Seas

 10 – Fun Run

Ok, so we know we said for you to skip the running track but when it’s as good as the one on Royal Caribbean Oasis class ships, it’s worth squeezing in at least a little mention.

These running tracks are shaded from the sun (with some of the track indoors and some out) and they feature motivational notices to spur you on as you go.

There’s also a running club you can join, if you fancy smashing that calorie count while being sociable.


A lot of cruise ships boast running tracks – You can compare the length of them between the different cruise ships here

Cruise ship jogging track

Cruise ship jogging track

 11 – Get Cooking

We all love to eat, especially on a cruise but it’s the bit that comes before that can burn off some calories, in anticipation of what’s to come.

Why not sign up for the new Cookery Club onboard P&O Britannia – fronted by Saturday Kitchen star James Martin?

Whilst it doesn’t burn as much as a session in the gym, it’s a fun way to work up an appetite and earn that extra scoop of ice cream or sauce with your steak.

Plus, you’ll take the skills to cook cruise-ship-style back home with you!



We’ve a lot more cookery club details for you here

James Martin

James Martin’s Cookery Club

 12 – Splash Around

Swimming is a popular full-body workout and even having fun in the splash pool with the kids can work off those poolside ice-creams or cookies (thank you Princess cruises!).

Climb the stairs to the flumes on Norwegian Cruise Lines, Disney and Carnival waterpark ships and give those legs a work out – and once you’re at the top, the adrenalin will get that heart rate up before you splash back down to deck!



13 – Battle the Current

If your swimming style is more Rebecca Adlington than teenager at the local fun pool, you can step your holiday swimming regime up a notch in the swim-against-the-current pools on Princess’s larger ships – like a wave pool but even harder!

The Kneipp Walk pool on Seabourn Sojourn and Quest ships offer another interesting way to work out in the water, as the journey from hot to cold water is a detoxifying and invigorating experience – just don’t expect a relaxing dip!


Cruise ships have a vast array of swimming pools, varying in both size and facilities but you can now compare them all here!

Swimming pool on a cruise ship

Cruise ship Swimming pool

 14 – Taking the Gym Outdoors

Indoor gyms can be pretty boring, even if they do have sea views and the latest high tech equipment.

Taking your workout outdoors can be much more inspiring and the average cruise ship offers ample opportunity to exercise alfresco.

Join the Zumba party on Princess’s outdoor decks, practise your downward facing dog with yoga on the helipad on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Allure or hit the Vita exercise areas on Carnival Magic and Breeze which, quite literally, take the gym outdoors.

Brilliant if you want to show off all your hard work to the rest of the ship – just make sure you wear your best workout gear (no holey leggings, sweat patches or stinky trainers!).

Yoga on a cruise ship

Yoga on a cruise ship


15 – On Your Bike

Cycling is a great way to burn calories – an hour in the saddle can pedal through up to five hundred! Princess Cruises are racing ahead with the Tour de Spin spinning workouts but for the best biking experience it’s necessary to go ‘off ship-ing’.

Thomson Cruises carries its own mountain and touring bikes onboard, as well as offering guided bike rides in many destinations, so they take the yellow jersey in our book.

River cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Tauk and Uniworld also do similar – and in some cases you can even ride along the river, catching up with the ship at the next port!

Now there’s an incentive to keep your speed up!

cycling on a river cruise

cycling on a river cruise

 16 – Surfs Up

Work that core and try to stay upright on a surf board on the FlowRider Surf Simulators on RCI Oasis and Freedom class ships.

Surfing can burn over two hundred calories an hour which will earn you a few bites of that burger at the Wipeout Café – a post-surf essential.

Or hit the surf for real on a cruise that offers surfing stop-offs. Norwegian Cruise lines’ Pride of America will take you to ride the waves of Hawaiian waters, with surf lessons on offer as an excursion.

Cool, dude.


17 – Walk 500 Miles…

For something a little gentler, it’s hard to beat a walking workout – after all, it’s something that can be done by anyone, anywhere and at any level of fitness.

Crystal cruise ships offer two innovative programs to get walkers up and moving; Nordic Walking (with poles) and Walking on Water (with a weighted vest).

If you fancy a ramble that takes in more than just the deck of the ship, Fred Olsen offers ‘Cruise and Walk’ holidays, with scenic walks in each port. We don’t just mean strolls around the nearest green space though – these amazing walks take in volcanoes in the Canaries, glaciers in Norway and the dramatic coastlines of the UK.

Don’t forget those blister plasters, people!

Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking

 18 – Desert (Dessert!) Island Dreams

Work off that dessert on Holland America’s private desert island, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

All manner of sunshine activities await on this island stop-off, including horse riding, kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing and loads more.

Even the kids can work up an ice cream appetite at the Lagoon waterpark and pirate ship playground.

Horse riding on the beach

Horse riding on the beach

 19 – The Horizontal Tango

Work all those ‘romantic dinner for two’ calories off by getting it on – you are on holiday, and there’s no work in the morning!

It’s been found that ‘sexercise’ burns more calories than jogging, so ramp up the romance factor by snuggling under a blanket for ‘Movies Under the Stars’ on Princess, watching the sunset across the ocean at Crystal’s Sunset Bar, floating together in the Norwegian Cruise Line adults-only pools or sleeping under the stars on a Balinese bed on SeaDream ships. Just save the amorous action for when you’re back in your stateroom or the red faces won’t be just from the exertion!




Make sure you’re not returning home with a case full of holiday clothes that no longer fit by staying active onboard.

Unfortunately a few laps of the pool (on a lilo, with cocktail to hand) won’t negate all those multi-course dinners, late night snack bar trips and room service orders, so make the most of your ship’s facilities to burn (and earn!) maximum calories while you cruise.