SHIP OUT AND SHAPE UP
Overindulged at the midnight buffet?Most ships now offer redemption in the form of health-conscious cuisine, exercise programs, and spa treatments.
Celebrity Cruises 800/437-3111. Celebrity's beautiful AquaSpas, inspired in some ships by Japanese gardens, in others by Moorish palaces, are a good reason to sail on one of their latest vessels, the Century, the Galaxy, or the brand-new Mercury. Target different muscle groups as you migrate from station to station in the cross-shaped thalassotherapy pool, or soothe frazzled nerves in a hydrotherapy bath of seaweed and essential oils. But the AquaSpa's most distinctive treatment is Rasul, derived from an Asian ceremony: couples lather each other with therapeutic mud as aromatic herbal steam wafts around them; then a masseuse steps in to finish the job.
In the fitness center, personal trainers design individualized aerobics and weight-training programs. And Celebrity's "lean and light" menu, created by Michel Roux, whose Waterside Inn in England has three Michelin stars, makes it a little easier to resist temptation.
Norwegian Cruise Line 800/327-7030. Barrel down the 3,292-foot summit of White Pass in Alaska on a mountain bike. When you reach the 15-mile coast, the grade is moderate, allowing for stops to photograph waterfalls, the White Pass railroad, and the dramatic mountains.
Princess Cruises 800/421-0522. Start your day with a no-impact cardiovascular workout in the swim-against-the-current lap pool on the new Grand Princess, the largest, most expensive cruise ship ever built. Later, shimmy off your dinner in the disco, lofted 17 stories above the sea and reached by a moving sidewalk.
Radisson Seven Seas 800/333-3333. When the Paul Gauguin is inaugurated in January 1998, it will mark the first time that a Carita Spa opens at sea. While many cruise lines' spas lack distinction, the Paris-based Carita has attracted customers such as Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani in its 45-year history. Besides the usual battery of spa treatments, Carita has expanded into the realm of exercise machines and toning and bodybuilding classes. Windstar Cruises 800/258-7245. Light-cooking guru Jeanne Jones's Sail Light and vegetarian meals are so flavorful you might forget you're being virtuous. Wake up to blueberry blintzes (139 calories, 4 grams of fat); have a seafood paella lunch (393 calories, 5.2 grams of fat); and save room for the lemon custard cake (245 calories, 5.6 grams of fat).
CRUISING WITH KIDS
Cruise lines have developed creative, age-specific programs that allow parents to pursue their own adventures.
Disney Cruise Line 407/566-7000. Disney's first ship, the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic, sets sail March 12, and promises the most extensive and innovative children's activities at sea with its Oceaneer's Club. Each night there's an original musical starring Disney characters. Not only do kids meet the actors; they can also put on their own shows, dipping into Disney's costume closet.
Holland America Line/Westours 800/426-0327. Among its most intriguing offerings, Club HAL has specially designed programs for young adventurers on Alaska sailings. There are rain-forest hikes and kayaking expeditions, as well as a visit to the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka, where children can observe recuperating bald eagles and owls.
And you thought you'd be lying at the pool. . . . The most enlightened cruise lines offer ample opportunities for you to expand your mind.
Cunard 800/528-6273. Back to school. Between sunrise and sunset, you might hear presentations by a novelist, an ambassador, a jazz historian, and a Metropolitan Museum of Art curator.
Holland America Line/Westours 800/426-0327. Authorities on European history and culture share their wisdom with passengers aboard European voyages in the Flagship Forum lecture series.
Natural Habitat Adventures 800/543-8917. Eight guests join a marine biologist and a marine engineer as they research dolphin behavior in the Bahamas aboard a double-masted schooner. Seabourn 800/929-9595. Commentator David Brinkley, author Peter Mayle, and astronaut Walter Cunningham are among the lecturers who have participated in Seabourn's Enrichment Program. Watch for Edwin Meese, Rex Reed, and Walter Cronkite in 1998.
Swan Hellenic Cruises 800/426-5492. Visit far-flung ports, from Sri Lanka to Brunei, with the foremost experts on the regions, aboard this line's newest luxury vessel, the 388-passenger Minerva. The lineup of speakers is peppered with Oxford fellows and titled gentry. For example, Britain's former ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia will accompany a spring sailing in the Levant.
World Explorer Cruises 800/854-3835. Sail up to a mammoth tidewater glacier as it calves 100-foot chunks of ice into the sea with a sound the Alaskan Indians called "white thunder"— a detail your ship's geologist will expound upon. Later, when you sight an Eskimo totem pole, an anthropologist can answer questions about its symbolism. And for those they can't answer, there's the Universe Explorer's library— the largest one afloat, with 15,000 volumes.
ROLLING DOWN THE RIVER
A leisurely river cruise allows you to dock at small villages and sidle up to local culture.
Abercrombie & Kent 800/323-7308. Scout for rose-colored dolphins on the Amazon with a naturalist, or traipse through tombs and temples in Egypt with an archaeologist. A&K's agile 100-passenger expeditionary boats are the best of their breed, with botanists, zoologists, and archaeologists on board.
Peter Deilmann EuropAmerica Cruises800/348-8287. This line offers 150 itineraries on just about every navigable river in Europe, aboard vessels with a 21/2-to-1 passenger-to-staff ratio. Next year, their Königstein, on its Elbe cruise from Berlin, will be the only passenger vessel with docking privileges in Prague.
Uniworld 800/733-7820. Besides traditional river cruises in France and Germany, Uniworld offers trips to less expected places. Time-travel up China's Yangtze River through the Three Gorges, past rice terraces still worked by barefoot farmers and oxen. Or board their newest cruise down Italy's Po River from the French Alps to the Adriatic sea. If you can't bear to go back to land yet, you can always hitch a ride on a passing ocean liner.