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Cruise Control

Running aboard ship proves better than expected

by Hal Higdon

Running on a treadmill and trying to ignore the TV set overhead in favor of the seascape before me, I heard that 6 to 8 inches of snow was headed for Eastern Long Island.

I didn't want to hear that, nor hear depressing news from Iraq or any other world crisis point. This was vacation time, and I was cruising the Caribbean. One of the reasons I had signed up for a cruise was to escape weather, and news, and other Real Life distractions.

My wife Rose and I actually were on our first cruise, a week-long journey on the Costa Mediterranea, essentially a floating Las Vegas hotel. There was glass and marble and stainless steel and polished wood and cushioned carpets everywhere. Until now, I had avoided cruises, which I perceived as featuring mostly eating, drinking, eating, gambling, eating, fancy shows and more eating. From time to time, Rose or I would consider a cruise of the Greek Islands, or Alaska, or even Antarctica, but one troubling question that kept me from signing up was, where would I run? Cruise ships seemed restrictive, and if you didn't know the territory around ports-of-call, running offshore might not be that ideal either.

But at a Christmas party, we got into a conversation with a couple who in January were going on a cruise featuring the Tom Milo Band, an 18-piece orchestra from our area that plays the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington. When we got home that night, I told Rose, "We're going."

Jogging the Upper Deck

After sending our deposit to--of all organizations--Wal-Mart Vacations, I learned that the Costa Mediterranea had a fully equipped fitness center with nearly a dozen treadmills and a short but usable running track, but I was also welcome to jog on the upper deck of our floating hotel.

After several tours around deck, I judged that one lap equaled near a third of a mile. Ten laps equaled maybe 3 miles, enough to burn a few calories and offset the great quantities of food available to us.

That became the challenge: not to log enough miles for my next marathon, but to balance calories burned with calories consumed. I had heard that the average cruise passenger gains a pound a day, and that frightened me.

No small challenge given testimony from a sax player with the band, who sat next to us at breakfast one morning. "We've been on a dozen cruises," he claimed, "and we've never encountered food this good before."

Calorie Burning Strategies

Thus, after breakfast, Rose and I headed for the upper deck and walked for an hour. We chose as another calorie-burning strategy avoiding elevators and using stairways. Since our stateroom was on the 7th floor with most of the activities on the 2nd or 9th floors, that helped. With the Tom Milo Band playing in the evenings, we also did a lot of dancing. Best Miller melody for burning calories: In The Mood.

And the food proved less filling than I thought. Costa is an Italian line. The dining room meals, though lavishly presented, featured sensibly small portions. We avoided one Midnight Buffet, which our friends later informed us, indeed, was Bacchanalian in its splendor. Returning from a week on the water, I stepped onto my bathroom scale and discovered not a single pound gained. Rose scored a similar victory.

That proved we had been avoiding cruises for all the wrong reasons. I'm now considering a cruise to Antarctica next winter that features kayaking among the ice flows. Less running space, gourmet food and no gambling or fancy shows, but sign me up. I'm in cruise control.

Related Content:

- Sir Harry and the Caribbean Cruise

- Go Guide: Cruising the Caribbean

- Click Here To Order Books by Hal Higdon