Notes from a cruise

Last Sunday, we got back from a pretty spectacular trip to Florida and the Caribbean with the Husband’s family. They flew from the UK, we flew from here and we boarded a very big boat in Fort Lauderdale and cruised off for 11 nights and 12 days in the Caribbean. Cruising isn’t my first choice of holiday but the whole thing was flipping dreamy and my son is very definitely a convert to the cruising lifestyle! I’m not going to do a day-by-day download of all we did (phew, you say) but there are a number of things that I wanted to talk about. They don’t necessarily flow together, but hopefully it’ll all make some sense.

So…notes from a cruise.

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  1. I was pleased with how I maintained my fitness.

I embarked on the ship in good shape. I’d just eked out my second sub-25 5k, I was as fast as I’d ever been. I’d lost 5 lbs by giving up sugar (and that’s a lot for a short girl). I felt really good about myself. And I didn’t want to lose all that hard-earned progress. So I set myself some boundaries.

  • two sweet treats per week
  • run 3 miles every day as a minimum

By limiting my weaknesses and having some discipline, I hoped to avoid the 0.5kg that most cruisers put on EVERY DAY OF THEIR CRUISE! And I did. I came back at the same weight and I ran (or did a spin class) every day but one on the ship and I’d made a purposeful decision NOT to run that day. I feel like the two weeks away were good, solid base miles for the 7-week training cycle for the Danville 10k.

2. Treadmills on a ship are a slow death by boredom

My ship had a great gym.There were some spin classes, some yoga classes…that kind of thing. There was also a 0.25m jogging track around the top deck. My plan was to use the jogging track. However, it was incredibly windy up there and the ‘track’ squeezed between loungers and deck chairs. I didn’t fancy running laps past people drinking daiquiris, so I hit the treadmill.

gym treadmill cruise ship cruise ship track

Oh my word, treadmills are dreadful. I’m grateful that they were there so I could keep fit but they are DULL. There was no wifi on the ship obviously, so none of my podcasts were available but luckily the Husband had some saved on his phone so that rescued me from going crazy. (If you go on a cruise, be sure to download some podcasts in advance for this reason). 

It turns out that Serial Series 2 isn’t as bad as I’d thought it was.

3. I was shocked at how badly people eat.

There was a plentiful, free, buffet-style restaurant open at mealtimes. The food was good. There was both healthy stuff and unhealthy stuff. But the Husband and I were shocked at how much food people eat!! Plates piled high with crap, back for seconds, two desserts.

I spent a few days wondering if I was the weird one. If I was some kind of obsessed, control-freak, joyless weirdo with a dodgy attitude to food. Did I have some kind of food issue? And then I decided that no..I just like to eat healthily. It’s important to me. It’s important to me that my son eats healthily. That’s just part of who we are. Don’t get me wrong….we had chips, I drank a solid amount of wine, my boys ate pizza and ice-cream. But it’s all about balance!

us me husband caribbean cruise
You’re welcome for this shot of us on ‘Caribbean Night’ which involved a quite ‘spectacular’ dress!

4. I realized how warped my body-image is.

Here in the Bay Area, I feel like most people are health-aware, at least within my friendship groups. A lot of my friends are runners. Several are triathletes. Most people I know have some form of exercise that they love, and as such, they’re in decent shape. As a result of this, I’ve sometimes felt like the chubby friend. I have a big bottom, I have ‘sturdy’ legs, I have a baby belly. Whilst in my head I know that my body is fine, a lot of my friends are more obviously ‘fit’ than I am.

On the cruise, where everyone’s prancing round in their swimsuits (which is basically underwear), I suddenly realized that things weren’t as bad as I thought.

One of the good sides AND the down sides of having healthy friends is that strong fit bodies become the norm. This is great because it inspires you and motivates you. However it can sometimes make you lose sight of what ‘real’ bodies look like. I will never have long, toned legs. I will always have a bit of an overhang from my c-section…but it’s all okay. I shall be running in my sports bra all summer long without shame! It was good for my body-image!

me climbing bouldering cruise abs
The time I won a silver medal for rock climbing! (There were 3 ladies in the competition)

5. I read some great books.

No wifi (well, there was wifi but it was $20/day) means I finally got back into reading and I read two excellent books. My ship had a ‘book nook’, like a free library and amongst the trashy novels were two wonderful books I read.  One has been much hyped lately – ‘When breath becomes air’ by Paul Kalanithi. It’s the memoir of a brilliant neurosurgeon who gets terminal lung cancer. I was nervous of reading it because I know the ending (it’s not good) and I knew I’d cry but I read it anyway. I did cry (ugly, dirty great sobs whilst sat on a beach in paradise) but it was wonderful and I encourage you to read it. The second was ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s a collection of short stories about being Indian in the West (most of them, anyway), about being an emigrant from your home culture. The stories are wonderful, I loved them all. So give that a shot too.

6. It’s hard to run in the Caribbean.

Before we left, I did loads of online research about running in the Caribbean…and discovered that there is very little out there. No blogs, that I could find. No central resource for running there. I found only one running shop (on Aruba). No companies that do guided trail runs on those beautiful islands! Such a shame. Most resources I found were on forums (fora?) that talked about the riskiness of running there – bad driving, unchained dogs etc. Such a shame…such a gap in the market, if you fancy moving out there?

7. Having said all that…

…it was pretty darn beautiful! I’ve shared some of my best photos on Instagram but here are a few others. We feel very grateful to have been to such a lovely place!

caribbean aruba ocean beach
Not the British coastline! (Aruba)
ocean caribbean bonaire beach
Bonaire. Pretty breathtaking beaches.
grenada caribbean ocean beach sunset
A local guy on an evening swim with his dog in Grenada. I loved watching them play!

st lucia caribbean

ocean caribbean beach
I KNOW!!! ME TOO!
rocket
We were lucky enough to get to watch the Dragon rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center
disneyworld me
I was ‘underwhelmed’ by Disneyworld…until I found the village from ‘Beauty and the Beast’
gaston disneyworld
‘No-one’s got a small cleft in his chin like Gaston’. My 20-year old crush come to life. Cue shameful swooning.

Not a bad trip at all, eh?

us family beach toes ocean caribbean

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Layla says:

    I went on a five-day cruise with a girlfriend in 2008, and I also subjected myself to the treadmill due to the wind (and our ship’s track was something like 10 laps to the mile). And I also gained zero pounds. Most of our meals were restaurant style, but they also had unlimited food. I told myself I would eat only half of the food they brought me, and never to the point of being full, and I think that really kept things reasonable. I felt guilty wasting food, but there was no option for a smaller serving. By the way, I have never thought of you as the “chubby” one! You look just like everyone else in the photos!

    As for the rest of your cruise, those beaches look lovely and really confirm that I need to see the Caribbean (but maybe with runners so we have company/safety in number). And I’m soooo jealous of your Dragon launch viewing. That’s fantastic holiday timing!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, the Dragon timing was wonderful.

      Thinking about it, I think going into the cruise with boundaries is the only way to do it healthily. You set rules that allow for some flipping fun, but also ensure you’ll stay healthy. It was interesting that we kept bumping into the same people at the gym – like this little band of people who took their health seriously, it was rather sweet! And thanks about the ‘chubby’ thing too 🙂

  2. Jen says:

    Glad to hear you had a good time! Re: body image — I felt the same way when I first went to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA locker room and saw women of all sizes and shapes. I realized that no one is perfect, and whatever issues I have with my body (and we ALL have issues, sadly), I’m definitely on the fitter end of the spectrum!
    I LOVED “Interpreter of Maladies”. I may or may not have cried through some of the stories…

    1. Cathryn says:

      You’re so right…no-one is perfect and everyone has their own body issues, no matter how healthy their body-image is!!! And I cried at the first story at least!

  3. Angela says:

    Fun! Yeah, I remember many of those same feelings from our one cruise to Alaska. OH. MY. GOD. The way the average Americans eat. Honestly, I came away from that not questioning my own attitudes about food but feeling sick every time I watched the people (multiple!) around me eating three pieces of cake before lunch. Even if cake were health food, I don’t think I’d be able to do that.

    Paul Kalanithi was a friend of Don’s at Stanford, so obviously the time during which he was writing the book was gut wrenching for us. We’ve read some of his and Lucy’s other writings but neither of us so far can bear the thought of trying to get through the book. I love hearing how much everyone has loved it, though.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Wow, I’m so sorry about Don losing such a remarkable friend. I would avoid his book for a while if I were you guys…the last paragraph of his writing literally shattered my heart, it was almost unbearable. But the book was much loved.

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