Cruise yourself fitter

resistance band class in action. (Fitness instructor Tiago in green top) - photo credit Mike Pickup copy

Gilly Pickup boards an AmaWaterways Rhine river cruise and – alongside the indulgences – enjoys a healthy lifestyle and gets plenty of exercise both on and off board.

The coach whisked me from the airport to join elegant river cruise ship AmaSonata, where my spick and span balcony cabin awaited. After the mandatory safety briefing and the chance to say hello to some fellow travellers, it was time to set sail on our Rhine odyssey with a difference. This was a wellness themed cruise and I was determined to take the chance to experience as much as
I could of what this had to offer. 

AmaWaterways’ wellness programme was first rolled out on AmaLyra and now has fitness instructors on six ships in the European fleet. The programme includes up to four daily classes, including yoga or stretching, cardio, core strengthening, postural behaviour and a circuit class for those who want a more serious workout. There is also at least one lecture a week on health, wellness and fitness and you can sign up for half-hourly or hourly personal training sessions at €35 and €50 respectively.

Young lady standing with bicycle on a wild meadow by a river at sunset

The healthy angle continues on land and AmaWaterways have ramped up their excursion options, so guests can now choose from a packed programme. Sightseeing, cycling, hiking and walking tours – graded according to ability, with more rigorous options available – are all included in the cruise fare. For sleepy heads who can’t get up in the mornings, a few late-riser tour options are occasionally available. 

All ships in Ama’s European fleet are equipped with a massage room, a small fitness room with treadmills and stationary bikes and a whirlpool or swimming pool and walking track – showcasing AmaWaterways’ passion and commitment for maintaining, or indeed kickstarting, a healthy lifestyle when away from home.

Certainly, this cruise left no stone unturned. I got into the habit of starting most days with early morning stretches, or joining a resistance band class in the lounge and, after lunch, taking advantage whenever possible of that day’s offerings, perhaps gentle yoga or a core-strengthening class. 

As far as food on board goes, AmaWaterways specifies allergens in each dish, highlights healthy choices and offers gluten-free, low-salt and vegetarian options. They have a Hydration Station, too, which features gemstone water and infused detox water. As executive vice president Kirsten Karst points out: “We offer plenty of ways for our guests to burn off those extra calories, but know many guests simply enjoy adding healthier options to balance their meals. Guests take great satisfaction knowing that the choice is theirs.”

Besides ample opportunities to get your blood pumping with bike rides, jogging and active walks, highlights of this trip were many. One was the chance to explore historic Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university town where I joined the group hiking up the Philosopher’s Path to enjoy king-of-the-world views from the top. There was also the chance to swoop up on the funicular to check out its red-walled castle which has an ‘English wing’ built in 1612 by the elector Friedrich V for his Scottish bride. The Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel, is in the castle cellar. It can hold over 250,000l of wine and has a dancefloor on top.  

Amawaterways ‘Enchanting Rhine’ and wellness themed cruises at amawaterways.co.uk or 0800 520 2250

THE RISE OF THE HEALTHY CRUISE

Cruises are no longer just about eating – you can now lose weight and increase your fitness onboard.

Gone are the days when cruise was associated with passengers gorging themselves on food 24/7. This was what led to the old joke ‘board as a passenger and leave as freight’. It’s a sigh of relief all round because that old adage doesn’t apply any more. On a cruise you can lose weight, or at least avoid gaining weight, as well as increase your fitness levels.

Young woman doing meditation practice on the beach. Intentional sun glare and lens flare effect

It’s a sign of the times that ever more cruise lines are jumping on the wellness at sea bandwagon. If you’re into meditation and yoga, there are plenty of options. Celebrity Cruises offer yoga and meditation sessions on the lawns of its Solstice-class ships while Star Clippers yoga classes take place on deck.

If it’s tai chi that floats your boat – so to speak – Crystal Cruises and Holland America are two to go for. Crystal also offer a Walking on Water programme, where participants wear weighted vests, so walkers can increase their resistance training while walking round the promenade deck.

Dance to your heart’s content with Princess Cruises’ Zumba classes, while Pilates and boot camp sessions are the name of the game on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ ships. They also offer indoor cycling classes which integrate technology to track intensity and enhance future workout results – no excuse for slacking during or after your cruise. MSC Cruises’ Wellness Experience includes a health check with the ship’s doctor and body analysis with a personal trainer. Royal Caribbean is currently the only cruise line to offer ice skating and roller skating on its Quantum Class ships and, for something different, simulated sky diving is a great muscle work out, so be prepared to ache next day.  

The wellness theme extends to shore excursions too, with operators including Avalon, AmaWaterways, Saga and Crystal offering guided cycle and/or hiking tours and jogging excursions. No excuse now for not getting into tip-top shape while cruising.

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