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Discover your ‘Om’ on the ocean and fight the flab afloat: Latest cruise wellness trends

Wellness cruise vacations have well and truly taken off in the last few years as travelers attempt to stay on top of health and fitness while away – we’ve rounded up some of the latest trends.

Words by Jeannine Williamson

There’s an old joke that you set off on a cruise as a passenger and get off as freight – with all the tempting food and drink some people pile on 0.45kg a day!

If you don’t want to stress about returning home with excess baggage, or want to leave all your cares behind when you’re at sea, there are plenty of wellness cruises offering the chance to stay fighting fit and float back in a zen-like state.

We’ve rounded up some excellent options for 2023 and beyond.


Run the river and raise money for a good cause

Hit the ground running and raise money for a good cause with an all-new river challenge created by A-Rosa River Cruises and the tourism social enterprise, Charitable Travel.

Open to all abilities, you’ll clock up 50km running 10k a day on Danube sailing departing on October 25, 2023.

The fare includes one-to-one pre-cruise coaching with leading lifestyle and running coach Rory Coleman who will be on board to keep everyone on track and lead runs in places such as Vienna, Bratislava and Linz.

Every vacation booked includes a 5 percent donation to your chosen charity, and you can use the cruise as a springboard to raise more money.

Get steamy with some Japanese ‘skinship’

Leave your modesty in your locker and indulge in the ancient Japanese institution of onsen bathing. The country’s natural hot springs are revered for their relaxing, rejuvenating and therapeutic properties and a Silversea wellness cruise offers this time-honoured experience in Kannawa and Noboribetsu.

You’ll be expected to go in wearing nothing but your birthday suit. However, everyone bathes naked and there are separate baths for men and women.

Your guide will give you the full run-down on onsen etiquette and afterwards you’ll enjoy the fitting treat of ‘steamed’ sweets and hot tea. Later you can bask in the knowledge that you’ve taken part in a truly immersive experience known as hadaka no tsukiai, which translates as naked friendship and is also called ‘skinship’.

japanese hot springs

Reach new heights with aerial yoga

Beginner-friendly aerial yoga combines traditional yoga with moves inspired by Pilates, dance and acrobatics. Using a hammock, or yoga swing, you can perform postures that are impossible on a mat.

Offered on Scenic’s ocean cruises, aerial yoga is credited with reducing stress, relieving compression on the spine and improving strength and flexibility.

Another unusual experience on a wellness cruise is a sound bowl meditation class using a Tibetan sound, or singing bowl. Producing a rich, rhythmic tone, by concentrating on the sound you can help reduce the constant chatter of the mind. They are available on Scenic Eclipse and the sister ship Scenic Eclipse II launching in April 2023.

Get on your water bike

Why swim or spin when you can go aqua cycling? Get bike wheels whizzing underwater on MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina, which sails in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Classes are held on selected sea days using stationary bikes submerged in the infinity pool. Participants pedal and sprint in time to the music against the resistance of the water.

Unlike indoor spinning classes there are panoramic views of the passing ocean and the feeling of actually moving along.


Bounce into bungee fitness

Put a spring in your step with a bungee class. Available on Celebrity Cruises’ Edge class ships, these novel low-impact sessions use elastic resistance to work on balance, endurance and strength.

If you don’t want to go it alone, Celebrity Beyond and Apex also offer F45 high-intensity team workouts.

For the ultimate holistic wellness cruise experience book an Aquaclass cabin where perks include free fitness classes and unlimited access to the thermal suite, on-demand in-room fitness amenities, the services of spa concierge and priority spa reservations, plus exclusive access to the ‘clean cuisine’ restaurant BLU which showcases healthy dishes.

X marks the fitness spot with Xponential

Dance, row, cycle and stretch like nobody’s watching with Princess Cruises. The line recently teamed up with boutique fitness brand Xponential Fitness to introduce more than 120 different experiences across its 15-ship fleet, with classes such as Club Pilates, Pure Barre, Yoga Six, CycleBar, Row House, AKT Dance, and StretchLab.

You can join classes in the gym or, if you’re feeling shy, join in on-demand in your cabin. All guests booking a Princess Plus package get two free classes per day, and there are unlimited classes with the Princess Premier package.

If you want to keep up the good work, there’s a post-cruise discount to sign up for the XPASS to stream classes back at home.

Angkor Wat

Meditation on the Mekong

Sunrise stretching classes, learning the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi and meditating with a healing bowl to focus on breathing techniques and centre your thoughts are all part of AmaWaterway’s wellness cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia.

As you float mindfully along the Mekong, other classes include an introduction to the traditional way of making 100 percent organic teas for detoxifying, healing and re-energising.

Healthy mealtime choices include gluten-free, low-sodium and vegetarian options. Closer to home, there are wellness hosts on all of AmaWaterway’s European ships, apart from Portugal, with free daily classes including core strengthening, resistance band workouts, cycling and hiking tours, plus wellness presentations.

Pack a punch

Knock out cruise calories with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Fight Klub.

Inspired by traditional boxing training, the non-stop high-intensity boxing classes pack a serious punch as you master skills from jabbing and punching, ducking and diving. And of course, as you’re squaring up to a boxing bag there’s no danger of getting a black eye.

Norwegian’s dynamic fitness classes also include a body sculpt boot camp, spread over several days, where you’ll get a personalised programme to continue at home.

For the ultimate adrenaline rush, scale new fitness heights on the high ropes course on Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy.


Chill out on the Croatian coastline

A sunset yoga class set against the atmospheric backdrop of the 16th-century fort perched high on the island of Hvar is one of the activities on Sail Croatia’s first-ever wellness cruise.

Other classes, including more yoga, sound healing and meditation, take place on the sun deck of the 40-passenger yacht Salve Di Ma.

The week-long itinerary along the Dalmatian coastline, departing on April 29, 2023, also includes the chance to up the pace on optional hiking, cycling and kayaking trips, plus plenty of opportunity to swim in the clear blue waters of the Adriatic.

What else?

Look out for special themed yoga cruises run by Star Clippers. The line’s beautiful masted tall ships, with traditional teak decks, provide a restful backdrop for morning classes, and chances are you’ll often be joined by dolphins swimming alongside.

Whether you want to sweat, relax or be still in the moment, Virgin Voyages puts a big emphasis on getting a good dose of healthy ‘Vitamin Sea’. From the Virgin-red outdoor running track, boxing ring and outdoor workout equipment, to HIIT workouts and yoga classes, there’s something for everyone.

Set Sail

Mediterranean: Italy, France & Greece with NCL

Duration: 11 nights

Where: Athens (Piraeus), Greece | Santorini, Greece | Naples, Italy | Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy | Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy | Cannes, France | Palma, Majorca, Spain | Barcelona, Spain | Ibiza, Spain | Motril, Spain | Seville (Cádiz), Spain | Lisbon, Portugal

Ship: Norwegian Jade

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Published 04.11.23