Back in the day it was probably pretty difficult to stay fitness-focussed while on a cruise ship. All Inclusive dining and access to drinks and snacks of every shade, combined with minimal movement is, unfortunately, a recipe for piling on unwanted pounds. And in theory, holidays are a time to relax, not to stress about our waistlines or whether we’re burning enough calories.

But as people continue to become more health conscious – and as cruise lines invest heavily in onboard fitness facilities – many guests are returning home healthier and lighter, having chosen to indulge in a different way. Disciplined passengers need no longer worry about breaking their fitness routines or putting on pounds, while modern cruisers can take inspiration from all the equipment, classes and healthy dining options on offer.

While it may be easy to consume extra calories on a cruise vacation, keeping fit on holiday has never been easier. Cruise ships are the perfect location to kick start a physical transformation and make it increasingly possible to disembark in better shape than when you stepped onboard. Here are our top ways to stay active on a cruise.

1. Hit the gym

Most cruise ships offer onboard fitness centres of varying degrees, with facilities like weight and cardio machines that offer up views of stunning coastlines and horizons. It’s these facilities in particular that pave the way for healthy cruising. Royal Caribbean® scores top marks for its gyms, especially within its Quantum Class. Ships including Quantum of the Seas® and Anthem of the Seas® feature multi-level decks with a number of different machines and weight-training equipment, enough so that the gym itself rarely feels crowded.

Some lines even offer personal trainers that’ll help design a fitness plan that’s just right for you. You’ll also find daily classes such as yoga and pilates, or more energetic boot camps and circuit training. If it’s wellness training you’re after, Celebrity Cruises® puts a specific focus on holistic treatments, with a variety of different yoga classes on offer.

2. No gym? No problem

If you’ve found yourself onboard one of the few vessels without any fitness facilities whatsoever, worry not – there are still plenty of ways to get your daily fitness in.

Take Viking Cruises for instance – their fleet of longships might not feature gyms, but there are top deck walking tracks you can jog around to get your heart rate up. You can also use the ship’s railings and your own body weight for strength training.

How much fitness you cram into your cruise can also be down to what you pack. Bring a yoga mat and make space in your cabin for some stretches, yoga or exercises to tone your core. Bringing a skipping rope and hopping around on the top deck will give you one of the best cardio exercises while being surrounded by sweeping views. If you enjoy a favourite work-out DVD at home, you can bring it and your computer along, making a daily ritual of clearing some space in your cabin and working on your fitness.

If all else fails, carrying a pedometer with you. Pretending your ship doesn’t have lifts will help you rack up some steps – just take the stairs at every opportunity.

3. Get off the boat

Once your ship has docked, you’ve got a whole world to explore on foot. Shore excursions are a great way to get moving and dive into the ports you’ve paused at along the way. Depending on where you’re cruising, you’ll find all manner of activities on shore, from walking or biking around picturesque cities, hiking up mountains or snorkelling with tropical fish.

If it’s a fitness-lead excursion you’re after, you’ll want to avoid bus tours as this will keep you stationary. There are walking tours, self-guided or with a group, to keep you on your feet instead. To make matters even more robust, companies like Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offer special ‘Cruise and Walk’ journeys that get you on your feet and exploring the Norwegian fjords, past Icelandic glaciers and up to volcanic heights in the Canary Islands.

Not only is getting out and about on a cruise excursion beneficial physically, experiencing different cultures and filling your mind with beautiful landscapes and nature is great for your mental health too.

4. Eat well

Onboard a cruise ship you’re most definitely on holiday, which means it’s a time to enjoy yourself. If you’re going to splurge however, you’ll ideally want to restrict it to once day – preferably at lunch so you’ll have time to burn off the extra calories before bedtime.

It’s still possible to eat your favourite foods and taste the local cuisine, but keep things simple and structured by sticking to what you’d normally eat at home as much as possible. Most cruises offer a wide range of food choices, including fresh, healthy, vegetarian options. This is especially true in spas that also feature restaurants. Lines to embrace this trend are Cunard and Celebrity Cruises.

It’s also a good idea to include some of your favourite healthy snacks in your luggage. Raw nuts and seeds, protein bars or even a jar of low fat peanut butter will help keep the calories at bay and prevent you from reaching for cakes and sweets.

5. Don’t drink your calories

Speaking of calories – it’s easy to find yourself having one or two extra drinks while on a cruise, yet most of us would be surprised at just how many calories those drinks contain. It starts with a cocktail by the pool and before you know it, you’re perilously close to your recommended daily calorie intake before dinnertime.

A good rule of thumb is to choose a couple of evenings a week to either abstain, or just drink moderately with dinner. You should also try to hold back on sugar-packed sodas and juices, filling up with water and herbal teas instead, which are usually complimentary, might we add.

On a modern day cruise it’s easy to return home even healthier than before. Cruises are quickly becoming a time to relax, focus on yourself and take advantage of the fantastic health and fitness facilities onboard. Above all, they’re an opportunity to return home feeling utterly rejuvenated.

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