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Travel Trend: Cruises Expanding Their Fitness, Wellness Programs

Your exercise regimen can stay in ship-shape as you cruise the seas, rivers.

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Between all-you-can-eat buffets, free-flowing cocktails and endless time spent lounging by the pool, cruises may seem more like a vacation from your health than a healthy vacation. But if you’d rather avoid the two-entrées-per-meal stereotype, you can take advantage of new fitness and wellness programs that more cruises are building into their onboard programs and onshore excursions.

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If you’re happy just to have free time to devote to your exercise regimen, you’ll find a slew of choices right on the boat. “With every new ship, there’s a contest to have the latest, greatest gym,” says Chris Meyer, franchise owner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Laguna Hills, Calif. Fitness classes are getting trendier (think Fight Klub, a twist on boxing, and Ryde, a type of indoor cycling). Norwegian’s new Escape has a three-story ropes course, and some Royal Caribbean ships have a rock-climbing wall or surf simulators.

Cruising for fitness. For a comprehensive onboard fitness checkup, you can book a personalized “wellness experience” on MSC Cruises starting in April (a two-for-one deal starting at $699 for both the cruise and the wellness program lasts until March 31). You’ll fill out a questionnaire with your health goals (such as toning your figure or building strength) before setting sail, then consult with a trainer and get a medical checkup when you’re on the ship. Participants can take fitness classes, such as Bella Barre or HulaFit, and continue exercising onshore by jogging around ancient Olympia in Greece or kayak­ing and snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico.

UnCruise, a small-ship company that focuses on the wilderness and wildlife, will host trainers and yoga teachers from fitness-center chain Life Time Fitness on select Alaskan voyages in 2017 (prices start at $3,495). You can take strengthening classes, nutrition tutorials and more.

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If you’d rather incorporate a specific passion into a cruise vacation, such as yoga, golf or Zumba, ask a travel agent about themed or chartered cruises (you can find an agent through Cruising.org), or check CruiseCritic.com’s roundup of the best cruises for different types of fitness. For example, Marathon Expeditions, an adventure travel company, charters cabins on ocean and river ships for runners and walkers. During port calls, you’ll run races, jog or walk in far-flung locales, from Mayan ruins in Belize to vineyards in Austria and France.

For example, the eight-day “Hawaiian Running Cruise” in 2018 ($2,745 and up) includes five races or walks on Hawaiian islands and a hike up to the Kilauea Iki crater in Volcanoes National Park. If you prefer a more sedate vacation, luxury line Seabourn is rolling out a mindful-living program this year across the whole fleet, with daily meditation and yoga classes. The Mindful Living package ($499), available on the Encore, includes an introductory seminar, a couple of classes, access to the thermal suite and more.

Rolling down the river. River cruise ships don’t have much space for flashy gyms. But several river cruise lines have partnered with tour operators to offer complimentary guided cycling trips through the European countryside (or e-bikes for a gentler ride); others offer free bike rentals for port stops. Partnerships include Uniworld with Butterfield & Robinson, AmaWaterways with Backroads, and Scenic with Trek Travel.

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Uniworld, Avalon Waterways and other cruise companies offer other active shore excursions, too, such as hiking along a World War II smuggling route or canoeing down the Danube. On Uniworld’s 13-day “Legendary Rhine & Moselle” cruise (from $3,960 in 2017), you can hike the steepest vineyard in Europe or tour a German castle.