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Cruising with Diabetes

We love to cruise and have done so many times, but the food on a cruise ship has always been a concern for people with diabetes.  We all have only so much will power to insure eating only what's allowed on our meal plans. But take notice, cruise lines are finally getting the message from repeat passengers, particularly health and fitness oriented clientele, and are lightening up in their galleys. Most cruise lines now use the American Heart Associations's recommendations as their guide to produce menu items that get less than 30% of their calories from fat.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, for example, offers Ship Shape spa selections at every lunch and dinner on the line's 10 ships.

London restaurateur Michel Roux, a 3-star French chef, is the designer of Celebrity Cruise Line's Lean and Lite menus.

On Carnival Cruise Lines, a low-calorie Nautica Spa is available at lunch and dinner.

Costa Cruise Lines offer healthy menu items with an Italian accent, while Princess Cruise Line's contribution to lighter eating is the addition of sorbets and fresh fruit to the dessert tray and a top-notch aerobics class on the 7-day Caribbean cruises.

Jeanne Jones, noted cookbook author and designer of the spa cuisine for the Canyon Ranch Health and Fitness Resorts developed the Sail Light alternative menus for Windstar Cruises.

Depending on the ship, besides the popular light fare, you'll also find aerobics classes, well-equipped fitness facilities, paddle tennis courts, golf driving ranges, personal trainers for hire, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

Diabetes -specific Cruises

Cruises specifically for people with diabetes are being planned through Specialty Group Cruises (for information, call 1-800-228-0558).

On all of these sailings, special workshops will be conducted by doctors, dietitians, and diabetes educators from the renowned Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. Space is limited on each cruise, so if you're interested, book early.

Another note-worthy group of cruises geared for health and fitness (though not specifically for people with diabetes) is offered by Sheila Cluff, owner of two California health spas, The Oaks at Ojai and The Palms of Palm Springs.

All cruises will offer low-fat, low-sodium, and vegetarian cuisine and special exercise classes by Ms. Cluff.

Before You Go on a Cruise: Travel Tips for Diabetics

Just a few words of advice before booking a cruise:

  • Check with your physician before embarking on any trip that goes out of the country.
  • Carry a MedicAlert emergency medical identification or some other form of identification that indicates that you have diabetes. Also, carry a copy of your medical prescriptions with a diagnosis just in case a local authority questions your carrying an insulin syringe.
  • Make sure you health insurance covers you outside of the United States or get a special policy from Travel Guard (for information, call 1-800-826-1300).
  • Carry at least twice the amount of insulin, medicine, and supplies as you think you'll need. Carry these in your carry-on bag so that you'll have them on your flight to the port of embarkation and until your bags are delivered to your cabin.
  • When you take a shore trip, always carry meds and supplies that you'll need as well as snacks to avoid hypoglycemia. Make sure you're wearing proper walking shoes; wear a hat to help prevent sunstroke. Also tuck a pair of dry socks into your carry-all as it most important that you always have dry feet.
  • Be prepared to test your blood more frequently that you might at home as your activity level will likely be greatly increased. Discuss the trip itinerary with your health care team and plan ahead for any insulin/medication changes which might be needed.
  • Plan for time-zone changes when flying to the ship and returning home. When flying east, days become shorter; flying west, days become longer. Discuss this with your health care team before you leave to determine any changes in your medication schedule.
  • If you need to take insulin while on the airplane, do not inject air into the insulin vial. Since the cabin air is pressurized, introducing air into the bottle will make accurate measuring of the insulin more difficult.
  • Be careful eating ashore. Avoid under-cooked food and any raw fresh fruits and vegetables unless you peel them yourself.
  • At the first sign of illness, see the ship doctor, taking with you your medications and a brief medical history (obtained from your primary doctor before the cruise).

Bon Voyage!  It is possible to travel safely with diabetes; it just takes some extra planning.

Updated on: July 26, 2011
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