In some of my previous posts I’ve mentioned how getting a nutritious meal while living on a cruise ship is sometimes (most of the time) difficult.
Especially as athletes, us dancers need to get creative when it comes to “surviving the mess” and making sure we can perform to the best of our ability while feeling good doing it (and not getting fat).
Not to mention, food is important to any human being regardless of being an athlete or not. Good food equals good mood, am I right?
Here are my five tips for surviving a cruise ship mess:
1. Go early
One of the biggest struggles when surviving the mess is that it’s only open during certain times. If you miss the window, you won’t be able to eat until it opens again in a few hours.
With that being said, as closing time approaches, the food is picked over and sometimes not replenished. It isn’t surprising to get to the mess twenty minutes before it closes to find that there’s not much left.
Of course, this isn’t always in your control and depending on your work, there will be days where you have to eat whenever you’re schedule allows. Meaning sometimes you can't go right when it opens. But if you have the option to wait or not, I’d say the earlier, the better.
2. When in doubt, make a rice bowl
One thing you can always count on in a cruise ship mess is rice. This is where you have to use your noggin. Find a protein that’s not too scary, add some veggies from the salad bar, maybe some cheese and you’ve got yourself a halfway decent meal.
A lot of us add rice or pasta to our salads for some much-needed carbs. When the only good option is a salad, it’s important to add a bit more substance to get us through a night of shows.
3. Have snacks and supplements
Luckily, in our home port we’re able to grab some snacks for in between meals. Because even if you do make it to the mess in time, you might not always get the most nutritious meal.
So, in my cabin I always have granola bars, peanut butter, vitamins, and protein powder. I’ll go into more detail about what supplements I take and why in a later post. But just be prepared that more often than not, you’ll leave the mess unsatisfied. Better to have reinforcements.
4. Eat in the ports or the ship's specialty restaurants
A huge part of traveling is experiencing the food from the places you visit. And on top of that, it gets you out of the mess. There’s something to be said about choosing what you eat that really makes a difference. And it’s something you don’t get when you eat on a cruise ship. Yes, there are a lot of options but at the end of the day, you get what you get. So, when you can, go to a restaurant and choose your meal.
Check out some of my favorite food spots in the Caribbean here and here.
On Adventure of the Seas, we also have a few specialty restaurants to choose from on board. My favorite by far is Chops, our steakhouse (come on goat cheese salad) but we also have Giovanni’s for Italian, Johnny Rockets for burgers and milkshakes, the Windjammer (basically the mess with a facelift), and the Dining Room. Crew members can make reservations at any of these venues but keep in mind, we do have to pay and there are some limitations. But, it’s an easy way to take a break from the mess without leaving the ship.
*On some other cruise lines, dancers might have guest status or more stripes, meaning they can eat in guest areas all the time. This would be a huge perk. So, if you get a contract, check what your privileges are.
5. Skip dessert
I’m very bad at actually doing this, but it’s definitely something I’d suggest if you want to stay healthy while working on a ship. At least four dessert trays will be staring at you during every lunch and every dinner. Talk about temptation. So much so that I typically always give in to said temptation (creating my hips and ass which you can read about here). But I’ve learned that most of these desserts just aren’t worth it.
Except for cheesecake. And key lime pie.
But honestly, some of these desserts… What even are they? My favorite explanation of cruise ship dessert is from my friend Artur. It was the beginning of my first contract last year and dessert in the mess was an assortment of mousse cakes. How did it taste? Well, Artur rightfully asserted that the mousse tasted pink. And it’s true! It was pink mousse that tasted pink.
Overall, not worth the calories or the guilt. Just take my advice and skip it.
Unless it’s cheesecake. Or key lime pie.
It's easy to complain about the food on a ship (and almost every day at the mess you'll hear crew members groaning about the state of our meals). It's not my intention to add to the noise, but it's no secret that this is a common issue among cruise ship dancers that I wasn't prepared for.
For all my friends who work on ships where they don't have to eat in the mess, count your blessings.