Leave your phone in your cabin, says Anthony Pearce, as he discovers the new way of cruising – including yoga, meditation at sunrise and detox meals
Mindfulness is the word of the moment that we’re going to be hearing much more about. According to Google, searches are up, proportionately, more than 500 per cent over the last 15 years, and in that time, mindfulness has gone from an abstract concept to a multi-million pound industry, spawning best-selling books, magazines, YouTube channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, celebrity acolytes and crossed over into mainstream consciousness.
But what exactly is mindfulness? In theory, it’s a straightforward concept that, although rooted in meditation and other ancient techniques (particularly sati, an element of Buddhist tradition that essentially means to continuously remember something), emerged in the 1970s and has now been updated for the information age.
The idea is that the mind is fully attending to what is happening in that moment, a deep form of relaxation, concentration and awareness. It has been used to reduce symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety – much more important in the digital age. According to Mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Of course, yoga and meditation retreats have long existed in destinations such as Thailand, but it’s only recently that mindfulness has been adopted by the wider travel industry, notably cruise, where it is often paired with other forms of wellness, such as fitness, healthy eating and spa treatments. These are often through themed cruises, but operators are working hard to ensure these are available on all voyages.
“Wellness is a growing phenomenon – and rightly so – as people around the world seek to live better, healthier and more mindfully for the benefit of their overall well-being,” Richard Meadows, president of Seabourn, said, when expanding the line’s offering of wellness cruises, which feature the celebrity doctor and author Dr Andrew Weil. “We have had great success with [the programme] Spa & Wellness with Andrew Weil on Seabourn voyages around the world, and we’re excited to follow up our past two wellness cruises with these new opportunities to learn from a group of highly regarded experts.”
One example is the Route to Ancient Wellness cruise on Seabourn Ovation, which will set sail on November 13, 2019 from Piraeus (Athens) to Dubai. It will call at Haifa (Tel Aviv) and Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel; before threading the Suez Canal to the Red Sea and Aqaba (for Petra), Jordan.
Celebrity Cruises has also introduced Mindful Dreams, which it calls a curated programme of treatments, products, instructional classes and expert lectures on mindful sleep and sweet dreams. It is also paired with a Detox your Diet programme, which allow guests to gain knowledge about the most effective detoxifying foods, and how they can help with weight loss and an overall feeling of well-being. There is also advice on getting a good night’s sleep, which is a key component to tackling stress, including nutrition advice, lectures and instructional classes.
Belmond, the luxury operator, makes much of its spa and wellness programme and has, in the past, badged its Road to Mandalay as a mindfulness cruise along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar – a country renowned for its golden-topped temples, monasteries and hidden pagodas and where meditation is a way of life. On all sailings, guests can enjoy a yoga class under the hazy morning sun and indulge in a massage or manicure while taking in the scenery of this deeply spiritual country.