Ship Shape

Writer Catherine Tse | September 6, 2017

Grab your trainers and yoga mat, you’re going cruising. Nearly 26 million travellers will choose to cruise in 2017 according to Cruise Lines International Association, a 62 per cent increase over the past 10 years. Taking to the seas might seem counterintuitive to the concept of ‘booze cruises’ in the past, but wellness-themed sailing looks to be on the rise.

This new category of cruises reflects the growing demands of health-conscious travellers seeking specialty fitness and wellness programmes. Forget about all-you-can-eat buffets, 24/7 binge drinking and days idled away. These new programmes will keep you on your feet, which is probably how you like it.

Many cruise ships have a running track, but ‘running cruises’ now offer entire itineraries devoted to clinics, coaches and a variety of running locations at every port. Luxury cruise line, AmaWaterways, offers running cruises organised by Marathon Expeditions that take passengers to holiday destinations such as the South of France. Here, passengers can hike the Alps, enjoy a picnic lunch on a Van Gogh tour and run the Tour de France circuit. But options are available around the world. If you prefer a more laid-back tropical island experience, there are running cruises that will have you pounding the pavement (or beach) through a selection of Caribbean islands. Or for the wildlife enthusiast, try completing a half-marathon in ‘the last frontier’, Alaska.

But not all wellness cruises focus on one sport or activity. Some provide general, healthier lifestyle goals, motivating clients to find new, fun ways to stay active. Carnival Cruise Line teamed up with fitness coach, Shannan Ponton, reality-TV celebrity from The Biggest Loser (Australia), to create a boot camp at sea in 2014. It was so overwhelmingly popular that it is now offered twice a year.

With weight loss comes better knowledge about meal preparation and food nutrition. Cruises are responding to a demand from travellers for an elevated food experience that is gourmet but also healthy. SeaDream’s meals include vegan, organic and raw food options. Raw food preparation does not heat food above 47°C, to maintain the maximum amount of healthy micronutrients. In the hands of SeaDream chefs, raw food passengers can indulge guilt-free in delicious treats such as Asian-style cashew curry salad, vegetable lasagna and even raw avocado Key lime pie.

Providing excellent value, these niche food offerings are normally expensive in everyday life, but on a cruise ship where passengers receive equal treatment, everyone has the opportunity to dine like (healthy) royalty. Oceania offers the same dining experience, whether a guest pays US$1,799 or US$135,999. Meals are cooked to order and always prepped with the freshest quality ingredients that are replenished after three to five days.

Scenic’s Sapphire and Diamond ships have recently received extensive upgrades including a private cooking area, where guests can participate in cooking courses. Small groups can accompany the chef to a local market to shop for fresh ingredients that will be used to prepare a meal. The state-of-the-art cooking station includes a real-time overhead camera and screen to ensure each guest sees every detail and can take these new skills home.

Wellness cruises are part of a larger trend towards wellness tourism, according to The Global Wellness Institute. Growing at a rate twice the overall tourism sector, wellness tourism was valued at $563 billion as of 2015 and is expected to exceed $800 billion by 2017. Designed as a resort at sea, a wellness cruise reflects this desire to have it all: gourmet food without sacrificing a healthy lifestyle while vacationing against a rolling backdrop of South Pacific islands (or paradise of your choice).

For pure pampering, there are more than a dozen cruise lines now (and increasing every year) providing a sanctuary at sea, focused entirely on relaxation and wellness treatments. While sailing through Maldives, Southeast Asia, Africa and other exotic locales Silverseas passengers are immersed in the newly launched Wellness Expedition Voyages, a programme of wellness activities that include yoga, Pilates, spa treatments, nutritional counselling and daily wellness lectures. SeaDream, voted best luxury small cruise ship of 2015 by Forbes, offers the highest therapist-to-guest ratio of any cruise vessel and boasts the only Thai-certified spa at sea. Positioned more as a mega-yacht than small ship, it offers personalised service, and a nimble footprint allowing access to more private ports that larger ships can’t navigate. Just one sunrise tai chi session or private open-air massage while gliding through the Greek isles will have you wondering how you’ll ever travel any other way again.

Forget all-you-can-eat buffets, 24/7 binge drinking and days idled away. These new programmes will keep you on your feet