Simon Brooke-webb / Ap File  /  AP
The newly built passenger cruise ship the Freedom Of The Seas is seen sailing near Southampton, England.
By Travel columnist
updated 6/13/2006 12:47:30 PM ET 2006-06-13T16:47:30

When Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas makes its debut this week, it will not only be the largest cruise ship in the world, it will also have one of the largest spa-and-fitness centers at sea. Add up the 17,089-square-foot exercise area, the rock-climbing wall, the ice-skating rink, the spa and the boxing ring, and you’ll find that the fitness craze has taken over an area roughly the size of a supermarket.

Currently, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 Canyon Ranch SpaClub is the largest shipboard spa-and-fitness center, coming in at 20,000 square feet. In July, the queen will pass the fitness crown to Costa Cruise Line’s Costa Concordia, whose double-deck spa-and-fitness center will measure 20,500 square feet. The ship will also feature exclusive spa accommodations and spa packages, as well as a specialty restaurant with all spa cuisine.

And it’s not just the new mega-ships. Older ships and smaller cruise lines are chasing the fitness trend, too, making renovations and offering new programs to accommodate passengers’ growing demand for more wellness options — everything from spiritual meditation to Spinning classes.

So, I guess it’s official: Shipboard fitness is big, big, big. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the fitness programs on 16 major cruise lines.

Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival’s SpaCarnival program dedicates up to 15,000 square feet to health and fitness on each ship, with a variety of ways for guests to pamper themselves. Onboard facilities include the latest workout equipment and aerobics classes as well as relaxation and stretching sessions. Carnival also hosts an annual “Mind/Body Cruise” led by a faculty of experts from Shape magazine and Men’s Fitness magazine. In the dining room, the Carnival Spa Fare menu offers food that is lower in fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories than the food offered on the main menu.

Crystal Cruises. The health clubs aboard Crystal Cruises’ ships are the only spas at sea designed according to feng shui principles. The line hosts several “Health & Fitness” theme cruises each year, with varying emphasis on Pilates, tai chi and yoga. Classes in the fitness centers change daily. Dining venues offer three-course, low-carbohydrate menus and selections that are low in salt, fat, sugar and cholesterol.

Celebrity Cruises. Celebrity’s AquaSpas offer panoramic views of the ocean and include state-of-the-art fitness centers with free weights, advanced weight-training machines, cardiovascular exercise equipment and aerobics areas. The facilities provide trainers for personal instruction. Many of the ships also have AquaSpa Cafes, which feature healthful cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Costa Cruise Lines. Costa’s ships offer Pilates and yoga, among other classes. Costa Concordia, which is scheduled to launch next year, is being billed as “the best ship in the Costa fleet for fitness and relaxation.” The big news is the innovative two-deck Samsara Spa, which offers such full-service spa packages as the “Nirvana Ceremony.” The ship also offers dedicated spa accommodations, a collection of 55 staterooms and 12 suites that have direct access to the spa (by private elevator).

Cunard Line. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 features 20,000 square feet of spa, beauty and fitness facilities located on two forward-facing decks. It is the first such facility for Canyon Ranch aboard a luxury liner. To provide guests with a more complete experience, Canyon Ranch chefs have also created a spa menu that is offered in QM2 dining rooms.

Disney Cruise Line. The Vista Spa & Salon fitness center recently doubled in size to include more cardiovascular equipment and weight machines and to provide more space for classes in aerobics, yoga and body shaping.

Holland America Line. Holland America’s Greenhouse Spas offer fitness centers with top-of-the-line weight and cardio machines, as well as Pilates, yoga and Spinning classes. Guests will find healthy meal options on lunch and dinner menus in the main dining rooms and Lido buffets.

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MSC Cruises. MSC’s fleet features spas that have a wide variety of fitness equipment along with classes in yoga, Pilates and aerobics. Lunch and dinner menus feature a selection of “Healthy Choice” and vegetarian dishes, including such sugar-free desserts as chocolate mousse and banana cake.

Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian Cruise Line and its American subsidiary, NCL America, both offer guests a spa program designed by Mandara Spas, one of the world’s leading operators of exotic resort spas. Ships also feature 24-hour fitness centers, jogging tracks, and volleyball and basketball courts. Other health and fitness amenities include putting greens, steam rooms, fitness classes and gyms with cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights. The cruise line that pioneered “Freestyle Cruising” also offers a wide variety of dining choices, including healthy selections from Cooking Light magazine.

Oceania Cruises. Oceania’s spa facilities, which are also operated by Mandara Spas, feature state-of-the-art fitness equipment along with yoga and Pilates classes and personal trainers. Oceania Spa Cuisine is available in the dining rooms, and guests dining in Toscana and Polo Grill can request light and healthy cuisine.

Princess Cruises. Lotus Spas on board Princess ships offer fitness buffs an Asian-themed experience in a colorful, Japanese-inspired décor. Guests will find a long list of exercise classes, both fitness instructors and personal trainers, and a series of health and nutrition seminars that include such topics as chakra balancing. In the dining rooms, vegetarian and healthy lifestyle options are always on the menu.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Regent offers several “Spotlight” and “Circles of Interests” cruises with expert lecturers who discuss the benefits of an active lifestyle and healthy diet, as well as shore excursions that include hiking, biking and canoeing. Classes are offered in aerobics, step aerobics, stretching and body toning, and the gyms are fully equipped. Dining rooms offer lean and healthy entree options.

Royal Caribbean International. ShipShape Fitness Centers aboard Royal Caribbean ships feature the latest in cardiovascular equipment, weight machines and stair steppers along with brand-new Life Fitness Cable Motion weight machines. There are classes in yoga, kickboxing and aerobics; personal training sessions are also available. Ships also feature jogging tracks, basketball courts, rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, miniature golf, golf simulators and FlowRider surfing simulators. With the launch of Freedom of the Seas, Royal Caribbean will kick up its active offerings with “PowerBox Ring,” a full-size 20-by-20 foot Everlast boxing ring, and a range of related training programs.

Seabourn Cruise Line. The Spa at Seabourn, a full-service wellness facility located aboard each of Seabourn’s three all-suite yachts, offers many workout options. Onboard equipment includes variable-resistance lines, treadmills, Stairmasters, stationary cycles, rowing machines and free weights. Classes in stretching, yoga, cardio-kickboxing and Pilates are often held on deck, and a personal fitness consultation is always available.

Silversea Cruises. Silversea has expanded the fitness centers aboard Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, adding nearly 300 square feet for new cardiovascular training equipment. It has also implemented a new “Wellness Program” that includes classes in nutrition and exercise, fitness activities, spa therapies and healthy dining options. Guests receive a daily schedule of the activities and offerings, including such popular workout programs as aerobics (including water aerobics and step aerobics), Pilates, circuit training and yoga, as well as daily light and low-carb menu selections. The spa program is run by Mandara Spas.

Windstar Cruises. The WindSpa aboard Windstar’s 308-passenger Wind Surf has an updated gym and Nautilus room, as well as several new fitness classes, including yoga, Pilates, high- and low-impact aerobics, cardio-kickboxing and total body conditioning. Wind Star and Wind Spirit, at 148 passengers each, feature recently enlarged gyms with new equipment. Guests on all vessels can enjoy healthy meal options and vegetarian selections.

With all the exercise offerings on board today’s cruise ships, you no longer have to leave your workout regime at home. Health and fitness is the new wave in cruising, and that’s something to jump up and down about.

Coming soon: a column on shipboard spas. Would you like to comment on your favorite spa treatments and spa experiences at sea? Send Anita an e-mail.

Anita Dunham-Potter is a Pittsburgh-based travel journalist specializing in cruise travel. Anita's columns have appeared in major newspapers and many Internet outlets, and she is a contributor to Fodor's "Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises 2006." E-mail Anitaor visit her Web site anitavacation.com.

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