Whether your recipe for staying in shape at sea is an advanced yoga class in a gym with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean, a morning constitutional on a breezy top deck, a eucalyp-tus-scented herbal wrap in a candlelit cabana, or all of the above, there is without a doubt a cruise to suit you. The newest ships have been built to accommodate sports once firmly associated with dry land, such as rock climbing and basketball, while spas like the Canyon Ranch spread on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 take to new heights the pampering and relaxation that have always been part of the appeal of cruising.
The onboard and in-port activities noted here are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg—virtually all the major cruise lines, as well as the smaller luxury yachts, have enhanced their facilities to entice active, body-conscious seafarers. The food has gone lean as well, with low-fat menus and spa cuisine choices popping up alongside more indulgent feasts. Traditionalists, take comfort: though many new ships will sail this season, no plans have been announced to christen them with low-carb beer—yet.
• WALKING WORKOUT Revelers on Crystal Cruises' Christmas-New Year's round-trip jaunt from New Orleans will be the first to try a walking program designed by pro athlete Debbie Rocker. Wearing vests with pockets holding up to 16 pounds of weights, cruisers will stride, stroll, or stagger the ship's promenade while listening to custom-designed music tapes. The program is also available on Crystal's Wellness at Sea ocean crossings in April and May, along with yoga, tai chi, spa cuisine classes, and more.
NEW ORLEANS CRUISE, DECEMBER 22-JANUARY 5, FROM $4,850 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; WELLNESS AT SEA SAILINGS, FROM $2,425 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/820-6663; www.crystalcruises.com
• SLIM, FAST The personal trainers and nutritionists of Cruisin' Toward Wellness, an independent company that works with a number of cruise lines, create for each guest an individual plan of action for slimming and toning. Twice-daily workouts plus one-on-one fitness and nutrition sessions are the essence of Make Good on Your New Year's Resolution, offered January 17-24 on Holland America's eastern Caribbean sailing aboard the Zuiderdam. You can Jump-Start Your Summer Tone-Up on the Amsterdam's Alaska voyage, May 16-23.
FROM $1,024 PER PERSON, DOUBLE, FOR THE JANUARY SAILING, AND $1,250 PER PERSON, DOUBLE, IN MAY;800/688-8500; www.cruisintowardwellness.com
• TONE UP Royal Caribbean's 3,114-passenger Mariner of the Seas launches this month sporting the largest fitness complex at sea: it includes cardio, free-weight, and aerobics areas as well as a rock-climbing wall, in-line skating track, miniature-golf course, full-length basketball and volleyball courts, jogging track, golf simulator, and ice-skating rink. The gym classes and organized activities range from Pathway to Yoga and Combat in Motion to (down in the wine bar) How Merlot Can You Go?
ON ALL SAILINGS; FROM $749 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com
• BABIED ON BOARD When the Queen Mary 2 makes her maiden voyage in January, she'll be carrying a 20,000-square-foot spa run by Canyon Ranch. The spa includes a giant coed thalassotherapy pool with air-bed recliner lounges, neck fountains, a deluge waterfall, air tub, and body-massage-jet benches, and offers a vast array of healing massages, seaweed wraps, mud packs, and other treatments. You'll want to toddle out of there eventually to explore the rest of the ship, which features the world's first seagoing planetarium and the largest library and wine collection afloat, not to mention a Veuve Clicquot champagne bar. For your non-champagne-drinking associates, there's a children's play area, complete with British nannies, and a pet kennel.
ON ALL SAILINGS; SIX-DAY TRANSATLANTIC CROSSING FROM $1619 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; INCLUDES ONE-WAY AIRFARE TO GATEWAY CITY; 800/728-6273; www.cunard.com
• SKYLIGHT HIGHLIGHT Like her big sister Mariner of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's new 2,110-passenger Jewel of the Seas, debuting in May, has a spacious (24,900-square-foot) gym and spa, with a luxurious thermal suite with sauna, steam room, fog and tropical showers, and heated-tile loungers facing the ocean. The adults-only solarium has a pool and a retractable glass canopy that ensures perfect climate and temperature at all times—a fine spot for kicking back with a drink after a day of hiking or kayaking at one of the Jewel's Scandinavian stops.
MAIDEN 12-NIGHT SCANDINAVIA-RUSSIA VOYAGE, MAY 16-28, FROM $1,929 PER PERSON,DOUBLE; 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com
• HAVE YOUR GINGER AND EAT IT, TOO "Well-being friendship massage in sensory cabana," "exotic coconut rub," "Etruscan earth ritual," and "Egyptian ceremony of milk and ginger" are just a few of the treatments you can enjoy in the Elemis AquaSpa on Celebrity ships. Celebrity also caters to health-conscious eaters, with a sushi café serving everything from fresh fruit smoothies to blackened tuna with plum tomatoes. Also new: sunset yoga and Pilates sessions on deck.
ON ALL SAILINGS; SEVEN-NIGHT CARIBBEAN CRUISE FROM $600 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/437-3111; www.celebrity.com
• SILVER STANDARD Behind the canvas of a cabana with two sides open to the ocean, guests on Silversea's four small ultra-luxury ships (which carry between 296 and 382 passengers) can now have a poolside massage—choosing from such options as traditional Swedish, Hawaiian lomilomi, and the Mandara Spa's signature combination of Asian and European techniques. A variety of the latest Elemis aromatherapy treatments are also available.
ON ALL SAILINGS; SIX-DAY CRUISES FROM $1,967 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 877/215-9986; www.silversea.com
• GOOD VIBRATIONS Travelers on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner's voyage from Seward, Alaska, to Vancouver next June will enjoy an unusual combination of health and harmony. The Spotlight on Wellbeing cruise will feature sessions with performers and researchers studying links between music and healing, from the intelligence-enhancing "Mozart effect" to music-based meditation practices.
SEWARD TO VANCOUVER CRUISE, JUNE 16-23; FROM $2,875 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com
• BIG SCREEN The Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Caribbean Princess will set sail next year, each with a large movie screen out by the pool where both new releases and classics will be shown. Their gyms have 180-degree views of the ocean and offer classes in everything from kick boxing to Pilates, along with personal trainers, basketball and tennis courts, swim-against-the-current pools, and running tracks.
ON ALL SAILINGS; FROM $549 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/426-0442; www.princess.com
• SPLASHDOWN Sometimes just looking at the ocean isn't enough—you have to get into it. That's why the yachts of Windstar are now equipped for all water sports. When the ships are anchored or docked, an aft platform opens for swimming, snorkeling, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing, banana boating, and windsurfing. You can even get diving instruction and PADI certification while on board, then take a guided scuba dive to Shark's Tooth off St. Bart's, Toopua Island in Bora Bora, a sunken B-17 bomber off Calvi, Corsica, or a rugged seamount in Bodrum, Turkey.
ON ALL SAILINGS; FROM $1,406 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com
• TOUR DE FRANCE This March, Continental Waterways' classic French canal barge, Escargot, will ferry 24 cyclists through the byways of the Upper Loire for a six-day tour of the villages, forests, and architectural treasures of the region. Daily 30-mile biking expeditions vary in difficulty and include visits to the châteaux and vineyards of Sancerre, the cathedral of Notre Dame at Briare, and the tiny hamlet of Chavignol, famous for its goat cheese.
FIVE-NIGHT TRIPS IN MARCH; $1,390 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/676-6613; www.continentalwaterways.com
• ON THE RUN Anyone who runs a marathon deserves a treat after crossing the finish line, and Passport to Adventure makes the reward as great as the accomplishment, combining excursions to top destination races with one-week cruises. New in '04 is their Los Angeles Marathon trip, in March, followed by a one-week cruise of the Mexican Riviera, from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta, on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas. In June, Passport caters to less hard-core runners, with a trip to the Vancouver Half-Marathon and 5K, followed by a sail to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas.
L.A. MARATHON AND MEXICO CRUISE, MARCH 5-14, FROM $1,209 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; VANCOUVER RACES AND ALASKA CRUISE, JUNE 25-JULY 4, FROM $1,278 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/955-5769; www.passporttoadventure.net
• SWING WITH THE MONKEYS Though most associate the ultra-luxury Seabourn line with refined in-port amusements like shopping and museum visits, guests aboard the Seabourn Legend's Central America cruise play hard: climbing trees, swimming with dolphins, scaling pyramids, white-water rafting, and rappelling through the rain forest canopy in Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica. And in early 2004, Seabourn Spirit will cruise the South Pacific, stopping in Papua New Guinea and offering great snorkeling, board sailing, and waterskiing. Seabourn has also doubled the gym sizes and added exercise equipment on all of its yachts.
CENTRAL AMERICA VOYAGES FROM $3,998 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND PACIFIC ADVENTURE SAILINGS FROM $6,399 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com
• ALONG THE ALASKAN COAST For more than 30 years, Sheila Cluff, the force behind the Oaks at Ojai and the Palms at Palm Springs, has taught her fitness program to cruise passengers; this year, she'll be on Crystal Harmony's July sailing to Alaska. Participants will start each morning with yoga, stretching, and strengthening exercises followed by a two-mile walk on deck. Later, there's aqua-aerobics and, yes, disco dancing. In each port, Cluff offers an activity to whip guests into shape: an "aerobic shopping" tour around Juneau, for example, or an invigorating hike near Victoria, followed by a formal tea service.
JULY 17-29, FROM $3,120 PER PERSON, DOUBLE; 800/892-4995; www.oaksspa.com
NPR commentator MARION WINIK is the author of First Comes Love.