Our Hawaiian Christmas Cruise!

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! It feels like it’s been forever since I have written anything, probably because it has! We just got back from our two-week cruise to Hawaii a couple days ago, and let me say it has been hard to get off of vacation mode! We had a great time relaxing on our cruise, exploring Hawaii, and spending time together. I have a pretty small nuclear family (just me and the parents), so it was really nice to just relax and enjoy this experience with them! As you all know, I posted an entry before taking off on our cruise on how to make healthy decisions during a vacation! I am so excited to share with you all about my experience on this 14-day adventure filled with good food, intense workouts, amazing sights, relaxing beaches, and more! Bear with me as I try to fit two weeks into a single post; I definitely won’t be posting about every day but will try to give a general overview of what we did, what we saw, and (the best part), what my meals and workouts consisted of! Warning: this is a long post, but Hawaii was worth it! :)

So…let’s begin!

The day we were set to start our vacation, I woke up early to make sure I got a good workout in before my day began! For me, exercise is a stress reliever and I look forward to it in the mornings! I woke up and got a good sweat session in before getting ready to hit the LA dock to get on our cruise!


I did 30 minutes each on the elliptical and bike, then some weights! I grabbed a quest bar on my way out the door!


We checked in and got on the ship around noon, settled into our room, then headed up to the Lido Deck where they had the lunch buffet! Cruises are notorious for the amount of food offered and consumed. There is food somewhere at all hours of the day, so you will never go hungry! The Lido Deck always had a buffet, and the formal dining rooms had formal dinners with courses and waiter service! We usually had the buffet for breakfast and lunch, and then enjoyed the formal dining rooms for dinner. Below is my first lunch on the cruise before we set sail! They always had healthy grilled fish, a salad bar, and some kind of vegetable sides to choose from! The first day, I got mahi-mahi, salad, and zucchini roasted in tomato sauce!

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We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, and watched us leave the LA port around 5pm! I was still in shock at this point that I was going to be on that ship for two weeks!

Our dinner seating was always at 5:30pm, so we headed to the dining room shortly thereafter. The dining room had salmon, steak, and chicken offered every night, as well as some seasonal specialty items. Most of the options were a little too crazy for my taste (hey what can I say, I'm a simple eater!) so I usually had the chicken or fish dishes, with the occasional steak dish! The first night, I had a caesar salad with chicken in this AMAZING thyme au jus sauce. I fell in LOVE with this sauce! I am craving the chicken even as I type this; it was so yummy!


These dinners typically lasted about 60-90 minutes, so they were really nice and relaxing! I wish I could eat more like this in my regular life instead of having to rush through meals to get on with the day!

Hands down, mornings were my favorite part of my vacation. I am a big morning person, and the cruise did not change that one bit! My dad and I usually woke up early and were ready to start our day! The first stop on our cruise was in Ensenada, which is the view we enjoyed the first morning at 5am as we enjoyed our pre-workout meals! Most mornings, I had a banana with some peanut butter, or my macadamia nuts (once I got them from Hawaii!) with some kind of fruit from the buffet before working out. These meals definitely hit the spot and gave me the energy I needed to get through my workouts!




I always had some crazy morning hair as well, to entertain all of the other 5 people that were up with my Dad and I at 5am! :)


The gym on the cruise was SO nice. The view was spectacular, usually overlooking either the towns we were docked at, or the open ocean on the days we were at sea. I loved the machines too! You just clicked on the weight you wanted; I thought it was so cool!



My workouts were typically an hour of cardio split between the elliptical and bike, and some lifting and toning work! I really enjoyed working out at this gym while appreciating the view and meeting all the people we were cruising with!


I was also happy to have the weights section all to myself! SO unlike my gym at home, where I usually hide in the corner to get my toning done because I am so intimidated by the people in the weight room!


After our workouts, my dad and I went back to our room to get my mom, then headed up to the buffet for breakfast! I usually had some hard boiled eggs and fruit, and then discovered they also had gluten free toast! I had the toast for a day or two and then just went back to the eggs and fruit choices; they were much more filling, plus I felt strange having "fake" bread since I hadn't had a gluten-free substitute bread for so long! It had an odd, margarine-like aftertaste, so I was not a fan. It was like my body was naturally craving healthier, more wholesome choices instead...crazy huh? ;)


Our many days at sea were usually spent up on the Lido Deck relaxing and reading. My dad and I are avid readers, and my mom is a passionate knitter and loves to crochet. We each got to relax and enjoy our hobbies while being together, which was the best part of this vacation! We would typically stay up in the Lido Deck until lunch time rolled around, when we would head back to the buffet for more yummy food! My typical lunch consisted of salads and some kind of grilled fish or protein source! The salad bar had so much variety, so every day was different! Some days, I added black beans, pumpkin seeds and almonds to change things up. They also occasionally  had my favorite mozzarella cheese balls as a salad topping, so I enjoyed those as well!





While we were at sea, most afternoons were spent doing what we love to do best, relaxing, reading, and knitting. We really enjoyed ourselves! I read 6 books during the two-week vacation! If we got hungry in the afternoon, there was always a snack available! Sometimes I grabbed a piece of fruit, or had some dried fruit and seeds!




Since our cruise was a "Christmas Cruise," going from December 20-January 4th, we had a few formal nights coinciding with Christmas! For formal night, we all had to dress up for dinner. We had three formal nights throughout the whole trip. Our Christmas formal night was my favorite! I love Christmas decorations and they had them all over the ship for the entire two weeks! I took so many pictures with the decorations, but here are some of my favorites!




Our seating time for dinner was at 5:30pm, which worried us at first because we thought it was too early. But, as I said earlier, these dinners lasted a while, so we ended up being really happy we chose the 5:30pm time! Below are some of my typical dinner choices. I usually started with a salad of some kind, and then my main course was a chicken, fish, or meat dish with veggies. My favorites were the chicken (mentioned earlier) and the tri-tip with chimichurri sauce (below).

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Grilled tilapia with veggies!


The head waiter was informed a few days into the trip that I was on a gluten-free diet. Even though, as many of my readers know, I have been off and on with following a strict gluten free diet, I have been trying to be better about it. My stomach issues (and basically everything from my focus to head aches to sleep) is just BETTER when I am off gluten. I was so grateful that the waiter was helpful and guided me while making gluten-free choices! He knew all the ingredients in each food item, so it was easy to make choices that I knew wouldn't hurt me the next day. However, he always made sure I had a gluten-free dessert to enjoy every night! Some days, I just stuck the dessert on my dad (I am not a fan of puddings or mousses), but other days, I followed my 3-bite rule*, and sometimes even 1-bite rule, and enjoyed these desserts!

*See post on how to have a healthy vacation!


Almond chocolate toffee cake...yum!


We were so spoiled with the sunsets we were blessed to enjoy during our trip. God is an awesome artist, and I have never felt His presence more than I did on this trip! The colors of the sky were reflecting off the ocean, and the clouds would come alive and seem to have a mind of their own while the sun was setting. They were beautiful moments to watch!




Our days at sea were pretty much the way I described them above...wake up, eat, workout, eat, read, read, read, and EAT! But our days on the islands were so jam packed and busy! We had a long 4-day stretch at sea to get to Hawaii, but once we hit the islands, we were at a new island every day for four days! Our days were busy with excursions and tours, which were exhausting, but we enjoyed every minute!

Our first stop was Hilo, which is a city on the big island of Hawaii. We did a tour that took as to the Akaka falls, a rainforest zoo, and the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm!!! The Akaka falls was a breathtaking water fall. We had to take about 200 steps to get up to it, but once we did, the view was incredible!



Hilo had so many of these trees! They are called Banyan trees and they were so beautiful!


We went to the Pana Ewa Zoo, where it proceeded to pour rain on us! I guess you have to deal with the unexpected tropical showers when you visit Hawaii! We tried to find shelter to hide under while it was raining, and enjoyed the colorful animals (and bamboo!) in between the showers. I had packed a Larabar with me because I wasn't sure if lunch was included in the tour (it wasn't), so I definitely whipped that bar out at the zoo! I was hungry!

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Our last stop after the rainforest zoo was the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm! We went a little crazy here, and bought a TON of chocolate nuts, as well as a variety pack of other flavors. I am pretty sure that macadamia nuts are my new favorite nut. They are so healthy! People are often scared to eat them because they are a tad higher in fat than other nuts, but they are predominantly monounsaturated fats, which is much better for us than polyunsaturated fats, which is abundant in most other nuts! The tour guide actually called me out when he found out I was a dietitian (thanks Mom) and asked me to explain to our group why they are a healthy nut! Of course, I was happy to share with the group! :)

(Side note: polyunsaturated fats are still okay fats, but too much can cause inflammation in the body! But another story for another time...)

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That was the end of our Hilo adventure! The next day, we stopped at Honolulu, where we took a trip to the Pearl Harbor memorial. It was such a beautiful day, and such a touching memorial to visit.





It was also incredibly windy, and my hair was going crazy!


We stopped in Honolulu on the 27th, which is also my parents' anniversary! I decided to put a little flower in my hair for their special dinner! Yes, I went with them...I'm an only child, remember? :)


Our third island stop was Kauai. Kauai. Is. Beautiful. I have no words to describe it! The ocean was the bluest blue I had ever seen! We took a tour of a private garden that is grown and kept in Kauai, and it was like a whole other world.


The garden had so many fruit trees! I got to eat a pomelo straight off the tree! :)


There were also beautiful fountains and bamboo trees.



The trees below were HUGE. They are Morton Bay Fig trees, and their roots grow on their outside! They were incredible and towered over us to a point that we couldn't even see the tops of the trees! We felt so tiny standing next to them!


Our fourth and final island stop was Maui. We decided to take it easy on the last day and finally enjoy the beach! We went a beach on the Kaanapali shores.


Being at the beach was so relaxing!


Kauai and Maui were my two favorite islands. They were so beautiful, green, and tropical. I was sad that Maui was our last stop and wished we had more time to explore! But our Hawaiian stops were over, and for the next 5 days we were at sea again heading back to LA. We celebrated New Year's Eve while we were in the middle of the ocean, which was fun! They gave us all hats and headbands to wear at dinner.


Our last days at sea were spent just like our first days at sea. We worked out, read, ate, and relaxed. I absolutely loved being able to wind down and bask in this time with my parents. I enjoyed good, healthy, wholesome foods, worked out every day except one, and had a FUN and healthy vacation! I was also blessed to be able to relish the beauty of God's creation, both at sea and on the islands. Being in nature and in areas that are less urban compared to Los Angeles really opened up my eyes to how amazing God's untouched creation really is. His presence, love, and awesomeness was colored in every sunrise, sunset, hillside, beach cliff, and beautiful exotic tree we saw. This vacation definitely rekindled my love for the outdoors and nature, and I came back to California feeling refreshed and rested. As a result, I feel much more inclined to spend time in nature and find my own little beautiful spots right here at home! Of course, I also hope to visit Hawaii again someday and experience it all over again!

I'm sorry for the novel post! But I hope I was able to give you all a taste of our Hawaiian vacation! It was a wonderful trip and I am so blessed that I was able to enjoy it with my parents! And a late Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!