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Cruise Ship Fitness Centers

"Buff or Buffet"?

by Linda Coffman

Windstar Cruises Wind Surf Exercise Room

Even small cruise ships such as Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf contain fully-equipped exercise facilities

A popular Cruise Directors' quip during debarkation briefings is, "You came on as passengers, you'll be leaving as cargo." While it's meant as a joke, it does contain a ring of truth. Food, tasty and plentiful, is available 24-hours a day on most cruise ships.

Vacations, especially cruise vacations, can be hazardous to your waistline if you aren't careful. Eating "out" for all meals and sampling different cuisines can pile on unaccustomed calories. Most hotels, including some top resorts, have fitness facilities; however, few can compare to those on modern cruise ships. Maintaining a fitness regimen at sea is no problem with a wide assortment of exercise machines such as stationary bikes, treadmills, and stair steppers. As a bonus, shipboard fitness centers with floor-to-ceiling windows have the world's most inspiring sea views.

Silversea Cruises Silver Whisper Exercise Room

The aerobics room on Silversea Cruises' Silver Whisper has a cushioned floor

For guests who prefer a more social atmosphere as they burn off that sinful chocolate dessert, there are specialized fitness classes for all levels of ability. High-impact, energetic aerobics are not for everyone, but any class that raises the heart rate can be toned-down and tailored to individual capabilities. In addition, there are stretching classes to warm up for a light jog or brisk walk on deck, and even sit-for-fitness classes for mature passengers or those with delicate joints. Perhaps you are just starting a fitness program and require individualized attention. Look for fitness experts or personal trainers onboard to get you off on the right foot.

Watch your ship's daily bulletin for the times classes are scheduled and to determine if your cruise line has a bonus program for participation. Some cruise lines offer prizes—from sun visors and tee-shirts to water bottles and tote bags—to passengers who take part in their fitness programs.

Spa Cuisine

To the delight of many health and weight-conscious passengers, cruise ships offer light and low-calorie options, as well as vegetarian dishes that can be even tastier than the main menu. According to Jeanne Jones, the chef, author, and syndicated columnist who developed the tempting Spa Menus for Windstar Cruises, the ''lighter menus maintain nutritional value and taste integrity." She adds, "We're talking about moderation in calories and fat grams, here, not deprivation in taste and standards." 

Fitness Tips

  • When selecting exercise classes, be aware that most are complimentary, but there is an additional fee for some (such as Yoga, Spinning, and Pilates)
  • Turn your back on the elevators and use the stairs—they are the ultimate "step machines"
  • Walk, walk, walk!
  • Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated, even if you don't feel thirsty
  • To control calories, request that any sauces featured with your entree be served on the side; ditto for salad dressing

As the cruise progresses... slacks and shorts with elastic waistbands can become fundamental to comfort. 

However, have no fear—it's actually possible to lose weight on a cruise and return home more buff than buffet.

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