Cruises, Your Weight, Having Fun and a bigger Economic Picture

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Sunrise at Sea Tom Abbott

So we went on a cruise.

For most people, this is a time to throw caution to the wind. It is a moment to taste amazing food, and to forget about any diet you may be following. There were a few things that made it easy for me to keep my regime. And this meant that no, I did not gain weight. In fact, I might have managed a feat that most cruisers do not: Lose a pound or two.

We took the MS Oosterdam, part of the Holland America Line.

First off, it helped that some of the food on the cruise was not that spectacular. Yes, I am a critic, but as my husband keeps telling me, I am a damn good home cook. To be brutally honest, some of the food onboard was not that good. The specialty Italian restaurant is hardly one I would recommend. (I ate from the GF selection, the fish soup was good, the entree was hardly memorable) So if you are taking a Holland America cruise, avoid Canaletto. They will charge you extra, and it is hardly worth it. The Gluten-Free Italian pasta I had one day for lunch from the buffet line was far superior. The meat sauce was very good.

Now, Pinnacle Grill was worth the extra expense if you like good cuts of meat and seafood. Which brings me to the rest of this. Like most cruise lines, Holland America is no longer serving large portions. This is a movement across the industry. This would theoretically allow you to stay within calories if you chose to do that. And if you want to taste different things, they will serve it. The buffet did lack some of the variety we experienced on Celebrity (over ten years ago, it’s not like we take these vacations often.) However, some of their selections were calorie-dense. So as they say, watch it.

Sitting down at the dining room for breakfast and even lunch, surprisingly, proved a better strategy. Though the Lido deck had a fairly good salad bar. So if you chose, you can have a salad for lunch, even a light salad. Then you can enjoy a heavier dinner.

Of course, like all cruise lines they are still serving a lot of alcohol, and some of the cruise shore excursions offered bar hopping as an option. That is the best way to describe some of the margarita and salsa tasting jaunts. You must realize, alcohol is part of the income for cruise lines, why they have it in large quantities, and finding tea or coffee outside of very few places is not that easy to do. I wish they did it at the bars, but they mostly do not.

We do not drink alcohol, so for us, that is an easy pitfall to avoid. It is not for religious reasons. It is for health reasons. Plus I would rather eat my calories, and not drink them. I know the debate about wine and heart health, but I really do not enjoy it. If you wish to have some, like everything else, in moderation.

One thing that we were disappointed in was the state of the cardio exercise equipment on board. When more than half the machines are off because they have issues, that is a problem. The answer from the crew member was that she just got there three days before. That is unacceptable. Especially when the spin cycles for the spin class (that costs extra) are in good working order. No matter, there are pre-installed stair masters on board, three of them in fact. And there is deck walking. This can be spectacular early in the day or with the sunset. So…I kept moving. This is critical, that you do not stop doing your daily exercise. In fact, I walked more during that week of vacation than I usually do during the workweek. Hmm, I will try to do that now. It is good for me, and my knees.

As I have stated in the past, I do have a gluten allergy. No, it is not a fad or lifestyle for me. So kudos for the staff to keep me healthy over the course of the trip. Yes, I took my medications, and they were not used. (My effect is pretty bad diarrhea) This is good. On the downside…I know that there are amazing gluten-free and sugar-free pastries. I was looking forward to at least enjoying some and would exercise to account for it. So I was disappointed that they were MIA on this cruise. While I rarely have deserts, I do like to rarely have a good dessert. The cruise looked like a good place to do that. It was not to be. My husband did not find their regular offerings that good either, so perhaps I did not miss a thing.

Incidentally. I made an apple crumble the other day that met both of those requirements. I got the recipe, and then modified it, from the extremely good Americas Test Kitchen programming onboard. So I know it is not impossible.

The GF bread they had on board was a not so good commercial brand. So I avoided their bread, and just had other things. Kudos to the kitchen for the good quinoa. The Celebrity Cruise we took ten years ago did offer both. And there is an increasing variety of gluten-free offerings since a medically mandated diet has become a fad. For that, I thank those who have driven that increased demand.

There were some obvious maintenance issues, such as rust on the verandah of our stateroom. They have such a high tempo that time for needed maintenance is likely not in their list of things to do. This vessel is in need of upkeep and it is obvious at this point, even to the land lover in me. My husband noticed those issues a lot more, being he is retired Navy.

Blocking fire doors for a blower is not a good idea either. And having emergency tones going off and then having shifting reasons as to the cause for the alert is not funny. It was first a medical emergency at the engine room, then they secured from the fire drill…I know, they want to keep these things from cruisers, but we noticed. I realize most cruisers did not.

Overall though, we relaxed and slept a lot. It was a good vacation. I would take that line again if this is a trip in the local area. However, for longer trips or leaving from another port, I would consider another cruise line. The extra expense may be worth it in the form of a fitness room that works, and perhaps some nice treats. I promise not to go crazy and still account for them. I did the other day for the crumble.

As to shore excursions…

We took an eco-tour in Mazatlán that we enjoyed a lot. The boat took us through the mangroves, and we were able to see and photograph a few of the local and migratory birds. Lunch at a local restaurant was excellent. The walk along the beach, even when wearing non-beach clothes due to the mosquitoes in the mangroves, was enjoyable.

So was this blackbird by the beach.

The tour we took in La Paz was just ok. We saw some nice art, and local architecture. But there was something missing to it.

One of the goals for this trip was to relax, and we did that in spades. We have not taken such a vacation in slightly over a decade. So we needed the time off. We all need to do this from time to time.

But what none of us can afford is to completely forget about what we eat and when. Even though I was careful with mine, not surprisingly, I did have some issues with my diabetes. They were minor, and now back onshore, they will correct. This is the other reason why you cannot afford to just lay there, and do nothing. You may have health reasons where moving is essential. I know I do. And these days I do enjoy physical life.

Incidentally, one of the major complaints of cruising in the age of the climate emergency is pollution and plastics. Across the industry they are cutting down on the use of single serve things. There are no straws, and they remind people that perhaps they do not need to change the towels every day. Also, the single use shampoo bottles are gone, as well as single use soap. These are the details one notices that over the course of many cruises do add up. Then there is the issue of the diesel these ships use. Some lines are starting to jump on the Natural Liquid Gas, and it is because of the cost. However, this is far less polluting than the diesel. As technology advances we may even see solar and wind again deployed for cruising and commercial shipping.

Ships are at times still emptying their bilges on the high seas to avoid port fees, that happens. However, cruising is about one percent of sea traffic, and if you think those wonderful container ships that bring stuff from China are not doing that, I have a bridge to sell you. This is a problem not limited to cruise ships. However, given. That they serve such a small sliver of privileged people who can travel, they are easy targets. Collectively we add a lot more to the collective footprint of the planet with how global trade happens.

However, from a price point perspective, they are a nice way to see coastal towns, and they inject money into local economies. We did learn that La Paz relies almost exclusively on tourism which is problematic. Why? Mono-economies rarely do well long term. And an economic crash will impact that local economy more than others. Tourism is one of the things to fall off first, and recover last. Many of the ports of call for these ships in the Mexican Riviera have this issue, in fact. They rely on tourism to a very large extent. Mazatlán though still relies on fishing and agriculture as well. They have the largest shrimp fleet in Mexico and a large tuna fleet.

So you taking a trip is also helping other people make a living. In a globalized economy though, we were horrified to find a lot of crap that came into these towns via container ship. The local economy that included some light manufacturing seemed to be gone. This was especially the case in Puerto Vallarta, where finding a local straw working hat proved impossible.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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