Exercising while cruising: It’s not impossible to burn off some calories…

I just finished writing about food on the Atla–all that glorious onboard food featuring fresh produce, seasonings, tasty sauces, flaky pastries made with real butter—and calories too numerous to count! Is it possible to stay physically fit on a river cruise to counteract the effects of all those great menu choices? Yes. But you may need to exercise some robust willpower that involves:

  1. Pushing away from the dining table.
  2. Exploring on- and off-ship options for getting physical.
  3. Thinking—and acting—a bit differently than the average river cruise passenger.

Let’s explore the first two ideas briefly—and then, in the next post, I’ll introduce you to a very active fellow Atla passenger who took on the third suggestion and “ran” her way though this river cruise itinerary! 1) Pushing away from the dining table. Plated and served portions onboard the Atla were plenty large enough for me, no matter what the meal. At a breakfast or lunch buffet, though, you’re on your own to self-regulate.

Resist we must!

Resist we must!

Geesh, though, it’s hard when everything looks so very delectable! Another curly, crispy slice of smoked bacon this morning? A small bowl of the ship-made muesli? There can’t be that many calories in an omelette, can there? Well, maybe it’s the addition of the two cheeses, ham, avocado….

That’s how it is on the Atla. The food is great and it’s a challenge to resist. Yes, I know the old maxim well—a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips—but holding on to that idea while staring down a lovely bowl of white chocolate honey mousse is hard. Really hard.

And there are so many new-to-me delicacies that I’ve only heard of but never tried. On this trip I enjoyed lamb for the first time as well as veal and osso bucco (I know, I’ve led a sheltered life, huh? But they always seemed to “cost” too much to try at a restaurant if I didn’t know I’d like ’em). Add to that a decadent dark chocolate wedge of Sache torte or an appetizer of blue cheese stuffed meatballs and you can quickly develop a real aversion to meeting up with the scales waiting for you back home in your bathroom.

It was a bit of a dilemma: I wanted to “experience” the foods but I didn’t want that to turn into a long-term relationship I’d remember for months to come.

Here’s what worked for me: I requested “small” portions at the served meals. No, frankly, they didn’t look that much smaller than anyone else’s at our table, but by requesting it I had made a verbal commitment—in front of others, even—not to overeat. So I felt honor-bound to eat lightly.

I taste sampled everything but finished nothing; a few small bites of one item, a nibble or two of another. This worked because I still got to enjoy the food and could join in on the inevitable, “Wasn’t that halibut incredible?” conversations post-dinner. The only time it didn’t work was when mashed potatoes (in any format or derivative) were on the menu. Did you know I adore mashed potatoes??? Oh well…

I tossed aside all guilt of being a “Good Do Bee” (don’t you remember Romper Room when you were little?) and being the requisite “Clean Plater.” I left food on my plate and, after a few meals, didn’t feel badly at all as it was whisked away from my sight (only to be followed by another course with more food!).

2) Options for getting physical on a river cruise. Follow the red lollipop. Yep, that’s what we did on our morning tours as our designated local tour guide in each port led us up stairways, across cobbled streets, into cavernous cathedrals and along miles of sidewalks, all the while holding aloft the Viking-Red “lollipop” sign so we could follow.

There are a lot of tours on a Viking river cruise. You can opt out of any or all of them. You can choose a “slower” moving group. But you need to get out there and walk. That walking, I’m convinced, is what burned off all those mashed potatoes (I told you I loved ’em). And maybe the Sache torte, too.

The QuietVox device you wear around your neck when touring means you have the flexibility to wander a bit far afield from your tour guide, yet still hear him or her. Mom and I, on the average, walked at least 15% more than others on our tours because we enjoyed exploring other building alcoves, heading up a stairway for a better view and then heading back to rejoin the group. Walk. And then walk a little more.

Opt for some later-in-the-day touring around on your own. After leaving the tour group in Miltenberg, I climbed the hill above the town fronting the city park. A narrow road led past an ancient Jewish cemetery and I had the chance to see the “other” side of the crumbling city walls before arriving at the requisite castle above the medieval town. The views were great and I certainly perspired a bit getting there—and burned some calories.

Michaelsburg Abbey, a brisk walk from where our Viking tour ended in Bamberg. I'm positive the extra walking burned off the apple strudel. earlier in the day!

Michaelsburg Abbey, a brisk walk from where our Viking tour ended in Bamberg. I’m positive the extra walking burned off the apple strudel. earlier in the day!

In Bamberg our regular walking tour ended in the rose gardens (heavenly fragrance!) at the New Residenz (palace). After admiring the blossoms, though, Mom and I gazed across the rock wall bordering the garden and saw a large twin-spired building on a hill above us and across a bit of a small valley. We looked at each other: “Let’s go!” And so we walked uphill to the Michaelsberg Abbey (now a facility for senior living) and enjoyed an experience not many on the Atla adventured to.

Note: It wasn’t my original intent to use these extra excursions as a weight control tool; we just enjoyed the walking. In fact, it didn’t even feel like “forced exercise” because there was so much to see, explore and ponder along the way.

Can you exercise on the boat? The Viking longboats are tight on “extra” space so there’s no exercise room onboard. There is, however, a walking “lap” up on the top deck.IMG_1596 Just imagine pacing along happily as your ship’s prow peels away the water along the Rhine. Now imagine doing that a lot—because the walking lap is only 415 ft (126 meters) long and it’d take you almost 13 laps to get in a mile of hoofing it.

I suppose you could run/jog the walking path, too, but, out of courtesy for folks whose staterooms are below (and that would be us!), on Level 3, they limit the hours of its use for running (stomp, stomp, stomp).

The walking path does, however, pass a shuffleboard court and two twisty putting greens. Confession: I never saw anyone playing shuffleboard nor did I see any golfers. But it looked like fun! There’s also an oversized, outdoor chessboard, but I didn’t poke around enough to find any chess pieces. I’m much better at shuffleboard and I didn’t even find time for that onboard! IMG_1589IMG_0940 IMG_1594

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3 thoughts on “Exercising while cruising: It’s not impossible to burn off some calories…

  1. One other option, if one is so inclined is to do yoga. It’s next to impossible to do it in your cabin but I found that, early in the morning while people are walking the course on the sun deck, I would make some private space between the lounge chairs and lay down one of the ship’s huge bath towels and enjoy a nice yoga practice. The calories still stay on but it revitalizes you enough to be able to want to walk a lot. I recommend walking up to the castle in Passau rather than taking the shuttle.
    Dagmar

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  2. Lexie

    Went on the same cruise except on a different line and in the opposite direction. We started about a week after yours. I never said no to eating much of anything and had to taste test something in most of the ports. Then we went on for another tour in London and Paris and did the same thing there. Not only did I lose a few pounds but all that walking made a difference in my shape, I was wearing a Fitbit but could only record about 2 weeks of info before it started writing over the oldest info. We averaged between 4-5 miles a day (some days were 6) and many 15,000 step days. I’m sure there was a 20,000 in there somewhere : ) All those inclines and declines and steps sure made a difference and after doing it for almost 4 weeks I have developed a new habit. Guess I never believed just walking could make that much of a difference in how I could look and feel.

    I found out about your postings from one of our travel partners. I have enjoyed reading them and comparing notes. Thanks for sharing all your info!!! It is a wealth of information.

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  3. Karen Baker

    I love your end of the fork will power 😀

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