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Originally published Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 5:16 AM

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Cruising to a relaxing and fit vacation

Taking a cruise can mean a stretch of nonstop eating and drinking — with the cruel addition of swimsuits. But there are also healthful food choices and many opportunities to stay active.

Special to The Times

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As I write this, I’m on the deck of a ship headed for the Bahamas.

My boyfriend and I are on day five of an eight-day Caribbean cruise to escape the gloom that is January in Seattle. We both had never been on a vacation before, let alone a cruise, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

But having just come off the holidays, we prepared for another stretch of nonstop eating and drinking — this time with the cruel addition of swimsuits — with extra trips to the gym and extra clean eating to try to soften any further blow to our waistlines.

While I envisioned 24-hour buffets (true) and fruity cocktail calorie bombs at every turn (also true), I was pleasantly surprised by the healthful foods offered and constant opportunities to stay active.

Despite what many people think, which until now included myself, vacation is not stuffing your face and overloading your kidneys while you slowly boil in a hot tub. Who has the time, what with the rock wall, ice skating, surfing simulator and all night dance parties?

I’m discovering vacation makes making healthful choices easier, because the stress of it all is removed. I get to the state-of-the-art gym any time I want for as long as I want, instead of trying to cram a workout into the 45 minutes I have between work and making dinner so we can eat before Letterman. I can take the stairs from the first deck to the 11th instead of using the elevator because, hey, what’s the rush? I have nowhere to be.

We walk miles upon miles each day at each port of call taking our time to enjoy the sites and avoid paying unnecessary cab fare (we are 20 somethings, and this trip is expensive enough already) not to mention the outdoor running track perfect for an even tan, and the endless opportunities to participate in group fitness classes, health seminars, snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, swimming and doing lunges in the crystal clear, knee-deep waves on St. Thomas (I didn’t participate, but I raised my Corona to the fearless girls in bikinis who did.)

My biggest lesson learned on this trip has 2 parts:

1) There is such a thing as Island Time, which is actually that no one knows what time it is because we all turned off our cellphones the second we got here. Heck, the only reason we know what day it is because the floor of the elevators tell you.

2) When you’re on Island Time, everything that was once a block of scheduled, planned responsibility — workouts, eating right, getting enough sleep — suddenly becomes enjoyable, relaxing and voluntary. Even writing this article doesn’t feel like work when it’s done in the comfort of a lounge chair.

Oh, you’re looking for a health tip, aren’t you?

Here’s your health trip: Plan a cruise. They’re the best.

What do you expect? I’m on vacation.

Kelly Turner is a freelance fitness writer. Follow her on Twitter: @KellyTurnerFit

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