You can’t lose weight while you’re on holiday!

Or so I’d always told myself. But it turns out I was wrong (Ssshhh! Don’t tell Mr FFF – my official line is that I’m always right!). On my recent 14 night cruise, I somehow managed to lose 2lb! And no that’s not a typo. I actually lost weight whilst on a cruise where food and drink were available 24 hours. I’m still in shock. Last year, on an almost identical cruise, I put on about 7lb.

So how did I do it? Did I deprive myself and eat only lettuce leaves and plain, grilled fish whilst sipping water? No. But I did change my mindset towards the way I ate whilst I was away.

On holidays past, I would pretty much eat whatever I wanted, whenver I wanted and would justify it to myself by saying that I deserved it, after all I was on holiday. The thing is, for me, as for many others, it always seems to take longer to lose weight than it does to put it on. And, I’m lucky enough to go away at least a couple of times each year. I realised that my ‘enjoy it while you can’ attitude effectively meant that I was only ever gaining and losing holiday weight.

This realisation, coupled with my latest attempt to lose the weight for good, lead me to review my mindset towards holiday eating before I even packed my suitcase. I knew that there would be wall-to-wall food and drink available if I wanted it. I also knew that, while lots of the options available are at the less healthy end of the spectrum, there would also be plenty of healthier stuff too. So I decided to make the most of having healthy food freshly prepared for me at each meal.

I mainly ate omlettes, bircher muesli and fresh fruit for breakfast. For lunch I would generally load up on the various different salads offered in the buffet and add some chicken or fish to them. At dinner, I generally opted for the fish or chicken options and avoided anything that came in a creamy sauce. I didn’t eat like a fitness model all the time though. I had a dessert every night – but I didn’t have a dessert every lunchtime, just once or twice. I also ate breakfast pastries a couple of times, but not every day.

We also chose not to get the all inclusive drinks package on this cruise. There were several factors that played into this but the main one being in the past when we had a package, we sometimes felt like we were drinking just for the sake of it. I still drank wine with dinner almost every night and enjoyed several cocktails, but it was in moderation.

I think that exercising regularly also really helped. I went to the gym on every sea day as well as the one port day when we’d decided to only get off the ship for a couple of hours. In the past, I’ve had good intentions about exercising whilst on holiday but they’d usually stayed at that – intentions rather than actions. This time, I’d decided in advance that I would continue to get up early and go to the gym before breakfast. This would then give me the whole day to lounge around or take part in the activities offered. Although there were a couple of times when I was tempted just to lie in bed, I reasoned that, once I’d been to the gym, I could spend the rest of the day lying on my balcony reading if I so wished. Exercising first thing also helped me to make healthier choices with my food as I always feel like eating more healthily when I’m exercising regularly.

Better than the view from my local gym.
Proof that I was actually there!

The funny thing was, I didn’t feel deprived at all. I felt lucky that there was such delicious, healthy food being prepared for me for every meal. And I enjoyed being up early and in the gym when there were only a few other people about. Sitting on my balcony afterwards with a cup of tea and enjoying the peace and quiet was also something I really looked forward to each day.

So, it turns out I’m not always right; it is totally possible to go on holiday, enjoy yourself and still lose weight.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

How do yo holiday? Do you follow your usual eating and exercise habits or do you use the time to do as you please? Let me know in the comments section.

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 14: Final Sea Day

The final day of our cruise has arrived. In a break with tradition, I didn’t go to the gym this morning because I’ve got an appointment booked with my personal trainer tomorrow afternoon and I’m not supposed to train for more that 2 days in a row. So instead, I enjoyed a cup of tea of the balcony before heading up to the buffet for breakfast.

After breakfast, we did the bulk of our packing until it was time to go to the wine tasting event that we’d booked. It was held in one of the MDRs with the head sommelier. It cost £15pp and included a welcome glass of prosecco, 2 whites, 2 reds and a plate of hor d’oeurves. The head sommelier gave us an introduction to the world of wine and instructions on how to properly taste wine. The wines tasted, a French sauvignon blanc and chablis, an Argentinian Malbec and a chateau neuf du pape, were all were different and very drinkable. A good introduction to wine tasting. All of the wines were reasonably priced and available to buy on board. I think it would have been better to hold this tasting earlier on in the cruise as then we would have had the opportunity to enjoy more of our favourites but this was the only time that the event was held. It was a nice way to pass an hour anyway.

Before heading up to the buffet for our final lunch, we visited the photo gallery and found that we’d actually managed to get some nice photos taken last night! We took advantage of one of their offers and ordered 10 photos between us for £70.

The afternoon was still nice and sunny so I took the opportunity to sunbathe on the balcony for the final time although it was hard to concentrate on reading as there were loads of dolphins out playing.

All too quickly, it was time to get ready for the last supper which saw us in the MDR for the final time. I ordered a Waldorf salad – not something I’d usually go for but it was really tasty, pea and asparagus raviolli and a creme fraiche bavarois with apple and cinnamon. Another superb meal to finish off a wonderful 2 weeks of eating.

After dinner, we snapped a few photos around the ship before going to see this evening’s entertainment, an Elton John tribute act who was pretty good. A final stroll on the promenade to take in another beautiful sunset was followed a last drink on the balcony before heading to bed ready to disembark and drive home tomorrow.

All in all, we had a really good cruise and I would sail with P&O again.

Time for the countdown to the next cruise to begin…

Thanks for following along with me,

FFF

PS Do you enjoy cruising? If so, which cruise lines, ships and destinations do you enjoy and why?

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 13: Sea Day

The first of 2 relaxing sea days as we sail home.

I started as usual with a visit to the gym before breakfast in the MDR where, for the first time this cruise, I had a full English. It’s not my favourite type of breakfast so I don’t often choose it but when Mr FFF and MIL had it last week, it looked really good. Unfortunately post-gym hunger meant that I forgot to take a picture of it.

As we’re now out of the Med and in the Atlantic, the temperature has dropped quite a bit and it was a bit windy on the outdoor decks. Luckily for us, we have a spacious balcony on the starboard side which got the sun all day and was sheltered enough to provide a very pleasant sunbathing and reading spot for me for the day.

We took a little break at lunch time to enjoy food in the MDR. I do enjoy a more leisurely MDR lunch from time to time and today’s disn’t disappoint. I had a ricotta ravioli that had been fried giving it a nice crisp texture followed by a chicken Caesar wrap which was very fresh and garlicky.

After a bit more relaxing, it was time to get ready for our final formal night which tonight had a ‘black and white’ theme. We took time to get some photographs taken at different locations around the ship as we’d like to have a nice photo of the three of us as a memento of the cruise.

For dinner this evening, I decided to try the ‘always available’ option of prawn cocktail which is a classic that I very much enjoy. This was followed by an incredibly tender roast prime rib and finally, a creamy but light Irish cream soufflé topped with a delicious piece of fudge. We didn’t want to miss the early performance of tonight’s show so decided not to have tea or coffee. It was a nice touch that the waiter still brought us a plate of petit fours which was more of the fudge that had garnished my dessert. Yum!

Tonight’s entertainment was a comedian/impressionist/musician by the name of Mark Walker who had performed earlier in the cruise and whom we’d heard good reviews of. He is Roy Walker’s (of Catchphrase fame) son and was very funny.

After the show, we went up to the Planet Bar to listen to the acoustic duo with another couple of drinks. I chose one of their gin flights: 3 samples of gin served with Fever-Tree tonic and garnish. It was £9.95 and, like the wine flights available in the Glass House, a good value way to sample a some different gins.

Tomorrow is our last day and we will again be relaxing at sea.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 12: Gibraltar

The last stop on this cruise is Gibraltar and this would be my third visit.

Mr FFFand I have previously done a tour of the rock and been to the siege tunnels and we found both very impressive but this time, we just hit the shops where I managed to get myself a pair of shoes for a bargain price as well as picking up a couple of gifts.

Unfortunately, we were in port at an odd hour: 07:30-13:30 so it didn’t leave time for much else. We didn’t see the point in going ashore before 9am as I doubt much would’ve been open.

Once back on board, we had lunch before finding a spot on the promenade deck from which to view sail away and hopefully spot some of the dolphins that the water off Gibraltar is renowned for. Unfortunately we were in for a bit of a wait as there was a family of 4 who were late getting back to the ship. I don’t know if they thought we were back on ‘home’ time but they were almost an hour late and if it hadn’t been for the fact that they were brought from the dockyard gate to the ship in a port vehicle, they still would’ve been past the all aboard time even wirh the 1hr time difference. However, this did give us plenty of opportunity to admire the views of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of The Seas who was berthed alongside us as well as one of the Saudi Royal Family’s yachts.

Anyway, with them safely back onboard, we headed out into the bay where we were treated to a fantastic acrobatics show by dozens of dolphins. This is the first time I’ve seen any on this cruise and, although I’ve spotted them on previous cruises, I’ve never seen them leaping so high out of the water as I did today. It was really spectacular to watch.

Following nature’s show, we went to see the early showing of today’s theatre show ‘Astonishing’. Designed by Stephen Mulhearn and Johnathan Wilkes, it saw the ships singers and dancers performing a selection of illusions including one which the audience participated in. Although it was obvious how some of the tricks were performed, the quality of the performance, costumes and visual effects was stunning.

And so to dinner which tonight was in the ship’s specialty Indian restaurant, Sindhu.

Between us we ordered a real variety from the menu including tiger prawns with pineappple, Tamilian siced chicken with coconut relish and and beef pepper fry on a flatbread that was as crispy and butteru as flaky pastry.

Mains saw us ordering lobster with seafood biryani in a coconut and mango sauce, tandoori chicken and theor speciality, a trio of curries. These portions were huge but on top of that, they also brought us extra rice, lentil dhal and a Bombay potato dish.

Even though I hadn’t eaten everything that had been put in front of me, I was feeling pretty full and so I broke with my tradition of ordering the chocolate option and instead ordered the mango and passionfruit parfait with chilli glass. It was a great choice as it was light and refreshing but still felt indulgent. Mr FFF chose the kulfi trio and MIL chose the cardamom bread and butter pudding with ginger custard. I never would’ve thought to add ginger to custard but again, it’s something I’ll possibly be doing in future as it worked really well.

The food was all delicious and the service was fantastic. With the added bonus of poppadoms, an amuse bouche, pre-dessert and pettit fours, we thought it was excellent value at £20pp and was possibly the best food we’ve had on this cruise which is saying something as it’s all been very good.

We had considered taking in another show after dinner but we were all so full that we decided to take a quick stroll on the promenade deck, where we caught the end of a beautiful sunset, befote retreating to our cabins and succumbing to the inevitable food coma!

We’re now homeward bound with 2 more sea days to make the most of as we sail back to Southampton.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 11: Cartagena

Our penultimate port stop finds us in the Spanish town of Cartagena. From here, it is possible to visit Murcia but we decided just to have a wander around the town as it aparently has lots of Roman ruins and interesting architecture.

We think MIL is tired of us walking her legs off in port as she decided just to go shopping leaving us to explore on our own.

First stop was the remains of the Roman ampitheatre which is very much a ruin. Work is being done to preserve it but it still looks quite impressive.

Next to the ampitheatre is a panoramic lift to take visitors up to a castle at the top of a hill. The cost is €2pp just for the lift or €12 fir entrance to the castle, the Roman theatre and either the civil war museum or the air raid shelter museum. We chose the  €12 option as we wanted to visit the Roman theatre as well.

The castle itself is really more of a tower but it is worth the visit for the panoramic views over the town. There is also a museum about the history of Cartagena inside it but we sort of rushed through that as we were more interested in getting to the Roman theatre.

Amazingly, the theatre was only discovered in 1987 as it had been built over and covered up for centuries. They’ve done a really good job of excavating and restoring it to show the scale of the structure and how impressive it would have been in it’s time whilst still showing the ancient ruins.

After this it was time for lunch and we headed to a tapas bar which I’d found recommended online. According to the reviews, it was very much a ‘locals’ place with an absence of tourists. So I was a bit disappointed to find a coach load of people from our cruise there, although it turns out they were on a tapas tour so it wasn’t such a bad thing. Anyway, we ordered a range of dishes and had a couple of beers each and only paid €29 which we thought was really good value as the food was delicious and the beer was good.

A leisurely stroll back to the ship followed and we headed for the pool deck for a much needed dip in the pool as it had been extremely humid in port.

Pre-dinner drinks found us in The Glass House, the on board wine bar where they have a wide array of wines by the glass. Here I tried one of their wine flights which, at £9.95 for 3x 100ml servings, I thought was a good value way of trying some different wines.

Dinner this evening was again in the MDR where I enjoyed Pate, Blackened Sea Bream with Dirty Rice and a Black-Eyed Bean Salsa following by a very rich and tasty Vanilla and Saffron Scented Pear Tart with a pastry case that was incredibly crisp.

After dinner, MIL retired to bed to continue reading her book whilst Mr FFF and I went to one of the lounges for  a couple more drinks before turning in.

Tomorrow is our last port stop and we’re kind of almost home as we’ll be in Gibraltar.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 10: Sea Day

Today was a much needed sea day following yesterday’s long trip to Rome. As with any other, it started out with the gym and then breakfast before a well-earned laze on the sundeck reading my book with occasional dip in the pool to cool off.

Nothing else of any consequence happened until, you guessed it, dinner time! Tonight was our third formal night and I had booked a table as a surprise for the 3 of us in the Epicurean restaurant which is the ship’s fine dining venue. Following a pre-dinner drink in the Planet bar, we began our 2 hour gastronomic meal.

First, a bread basket was brought out with three different types of bread: beetroot, mustard and wholemeal. These were served with 2 types of butter: unsalted and Marmite. Now, I’m not a fan of Marmite but of course, I had to try it and I was pleasantly surprised. The saltiness of the Marmite went well with the creaminess of the butter and wasn’t overpowering. Another thing to recreate at home perhaps…

We were then presented with a frozen Bloody Mary lollipop with celery salt. This was really tomatoey and refreshing.

Next up came the starters. I opted for the Tiger Prawn and Octopus Cocktail with Avocado Mousse which was creamy yet light. Mr FFF chose a pulled duck dish which was tasty but not particularly photogenic and he felt the brioche it was served on was too thick for a starter. MIL ‘won’ the starters with her ‘Textures of Tomato’ dish which was served with a white gazpacho which was incredibly fresh and full of flavour.

Onto the mains and we all chose steaks with Mr FFF & MIL going for th sirloin whilst I plumped for the fillet which was served with ox cheek. We were also able to order sides although the sirloin steaks didn’t really need them. I ordered asparagus and was impressed that when the waiter noticed I’d polished it off pretty quickly, he asked if I wanted more. Which of course I did!

We then had a little break before our ‘pre-desserts’ which were a take on a G&T with tonic jelly, lemon sorbet and a squirt of gin over the top. I love a good G&T and so this was a really fun, palette cleansing course for me.

Finally, it was dessert time. It was really hard to choose between the different options. I went for a Banana & Peanut Butter dish (I’m a sucker for that flavour combo) which was served with a fabulous muscovado sugar ice-cream. MIL went for ‘Textures of Summer Trifle’ which came with a custard fritter which I might just have to have go at making at some point. And Mr FFF was in his element as his favourite dessert, crème brulee, was on the menu which is the first time we’ve spotted it on this cruise. It was finished table side which added a nice bit of theatre. Mr FFF reported that it was a really tasty brulee but that it didn’t need all the ‘other stuff’ that came with it on the plate – he doesn’t like his classic desserts messed with!

Stuffed to the gills, we waddled around the promenade deck before grabbing a Kahlua for me and heading back to our cabin where we sat listening to the waves before rolling into bed.

It’s our penultimate port stop tomorrow and we’ll be in Cartagena, Spain, where I’m looking forward to some proper tapas. Yes mother, if you’re still reading this, it’s still all about the food!

Thanks for reading,

FFF

P&O Azura 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise – Day 9: Rome

Day 9 sees us in the Italian port of Civitavechia which is best known for being the port from which to visit Rome.

Myself and Mr FFF have been to Civitavechia twice before but had opted not to visit Rome for two reasons: 1) there’s so much to see a few hours wouldn’t do it justice; 2) we wanted to avoid the summer heat and crowds. This time around, MIL said it was one place she really wanted to see so we agreed to go with her.

We opted for an excursion booked through the ship for peace of mind because of the long distance between the port and Rome itself and because the roads in the area are renowned for traffic jams and the public transport is about as reliable as that at home (ie not very!).

We chose a completed guided option that also included a couple of river cruises as we thought this would be a good way to rest our feet and get out of the sun on what we were sure would be a long, hot, tiring day.

Our tour left at 8:45am and we drove for about an hour before stopping at a service station on the outskirts of Rome to use the facilities. About 15-20 minutes later, we reached Rome itself and picked up our tour guide. We began with a panoramic coach tour of some of the outlying sites including the Baths of Caracalla, Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus. It was breath-taking to see the scale of these paces, especially when considering how long ago they were built.

We were then dropped off on the edge of the trastevere district – the ‘old town’ area full of narrow, cobblestone streets and traditional tavernas. Here, we stopped at a quaint little place where we were fortified with a small snack of fruit, cured ham and smoked cheese. This was an unexpected but welcome surprise. The fruit was really refreshing and the cheese was particularly delicious.

We wandered through the old town some more, taking time to look at the magnificent architecture as we made our way to the river Tiber where we boarded a small boat to take us to the next part of the tour. It was a welcome relief to rest our feet and sit in the shade, even if it was extremely hot – 29°C according to Accuweather.

The boat took us to the Castle of Angels and after a climb up 57 very steep steps from the riverbank to street level, we made our way through the city towards the Pantheon, stopping the very majestic Piazza Navona. At the Pantheon, we were given 1hour of free time for lunch and as it was such a short time and so crowded, we decided it would be easiest to eat at the restaurant which had been booked for our tour group, although lunch was not included as part of the tour. We had lasagne, a pizza and a salad along with 3 soft drinks between the 3 of us and the bill came to €22 per person. The food was fine but I’m sure we could have found better and cheaper if we had had time to explore off the beaten track.

After lunch, it was back out into the heat (by this time, 41C was showing on local signs!) to walk to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. The found in particular was magnificent but it was extremely crowded. People were 3 or 4 deep and you had to wait to be able to get a spot to be able to view without anyone in front of you. The Spanish Steps were not as crowded although I imagine they would have been if they hadn’t recently stopped people from sitting on them. I did hear police blowing their whistles a few times to tell people to get up.

The Spanish Steps are on the edge of the very expensive shopping district and Mr FFF was glad that we didn’t have time to stop in any of the designer shops as we walked back to the Tiber for the next boat portion of the tour.

This was where the tour became a bit bizarre: All 47 of us on the tour, plus 2 guides, plus another group of about the same size, walked down another 57 steps to the river bank and got onto the boat. The boat then sailed about 100yds down the river before turning around, sailing back past where we’d got on, and then on for another 100yds to the point where we’d got off the boat earlier in the day. We then had to get off and climb the same 57 steps we’d climbed earlier in the day, to come out onto the road 200yds from where we’d just climbed down 15 minutes before!! Nobody could understand the point of this. Then we walked to St Peter’s Square where we were given 10 minutes to take photos AND use the toilet before heading back to the coach to go back to the port (which would not be stopping at the services). We decided that taking pictures of this iconic place was more of important than going to the toilet and that we’d just cross our legs and hope for the best on the way back!

Also, our tour guide wasn’t the best. Although he guided us safely around Rome and pointed out the sites, I felt that he didn’t really give much information about them or the city itself. It was my first time in Rome and I came away feeling I hadn’t really learnt much about it which was disappointing.

All in all, I was impressed with the sites that I saw. However, I stand by my previous assumption that there is too much to see and do in Rome than a day’s tour can do justice to. I would like to go back for a few days in the spring or autumn and spend time seeing the sites properly.

Back onboard, we showered and went up to the Planet bar at the back of the ship to enjoy sail away with a drink before dinner in the MDR.

Dinner tonight was Dressed Asparagus with Egg Mayonaise and a truffle dressing followed by Monkfish wrapped in cabbage leaves with Ponzu Sauce (I didn’t think the monkfish needed the cabbage personally but I just unwrapped it and ate them separately. For dessert, I chose the Cranachan. It was my first time eating this dish so I’ve got nothing to compare it to IRL but I have seen it prepared on a number TV shows and as is often the way with cruise desserts, the chef had gone his own way with it. The oats were in with the cream and were soft and a piece of shortbread was serve on the side (rather than the oats and shortbread mixture being baked together to make a crumble to sprinkle over the top of the cream). The texture of the cream and oats was a bit weird (it put me mind of my breakfast which I must make again) but it was nice enough and happened to be the low sugar option on the menu so I can’t complain.

There was some entertainment on that sounded good, but we were exhausted from the day’s expedition so decided to have an early night before a well needed sea day tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,

FFF