20 cruises that will make your healthier and happier

Yoga on deck with Seabourn
Yoga on deck with Seabourn

With our minds still focussed on New Year’s resolutions and working on fitter, healthier, more mindful versions of ourselves, we want a holiday that helps us to achieve those goals. Cruising often gets a bad rap, with an assumption that we’ll pile on the pounds at the buffet and limit our exercise to ordering drinks at the bar. There are, however, many ways in which cruises can help to promote active, healthier lifestyles, from spa programmes to on-board menus and fitness facilities to wellness tailored shore excursions. Read on for our round-up of 20 ways to feel fine at sea or afloat on a river over the year ahead – and beyond.   

1. The Nordic way

Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking’s LivNordic Spa and Wellness Centre channels age-old Nordic wellness rituals. In the Thermal Suite, muscles detox and relax as you move from the steamy sauna to the icy snow room, followed by a brisk dry skin brushing session with some birch twigs. Having a cupping session after a sauna enhances the benefits of both, not forgetting a true Swedish deep-tissue massage to unknot muscles and stimulate the circulation. The spa is clad in Nordic ash in homage to Norse mythology and the holy tree Yggdrasil, which unites heaven and earth.

From £1,940pp for a seven-night cruise departing Barcelona for London on Jan 26 2021, including outbound flight (0800 298 9700; vikingcruises.co.uk).

Viking’s LivNordic Spa - Credit: JAKE CURTIS
Viking’s LivNordic Spa Credit: JAKE CURTIS

2. Salt of the earth

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Scenic’s Salt Therapy Lounge is a river spa first, appearing on-board eight of the line’s 12 European river cruise ships. Also known as halotherapy, from the Greek halo for “salt”, it’s thought to boost the immune system, aid respiratory problems and ease skin conditions. The three-station lounge features a humidity and temperature-controlled room simulating the microclimate of a natural salt cave – albeit one with comfortable loungers, mood lighting and ambient music – with walls lined with bricks made from golden Himalayan salt. All you have to do is lie back and breathe deeply. Round off with a customised aroma oil massage for total relaxation.

From £1,645pp for an eight-day Gems of the Danube itinerary, departing Budapest on April 1. Flights included (0808 301 8277; scenic.co.uk).

3. Sauna with a view


If you need to ease muscle soreness caused by the exertions of an expedition cruise, Ponant’s next-generation Explorer yachts each have a traditional sauna with the unusual benefit of a large picture window. So you can relax and enjoy the views. In its spas, Ponant partners with illustrious Paris-based beauty brand Sothys to offer facials, massages and anti-ageing treatments with hi-tech lotions and potions.

From £7,496pp for a 10-night Australia’s Iconic Kimberley trip, departing Darwin on June 17 (0808 2343 802; en.ponant.com).

Ponant’s next-generation Explorer yachts each have a traditional sauna
Ponant’s next-generation Explorer yachts each have a traditional sauna

4. Trailblazer


Cunard has partnered with wellness trailblazer Canyon Ranch to create its first holistic spa concept. At Mareel Wellness & Beauty – mareel means “phosphorescence on the ocean” in ancient Norse – the treatments are sea-inspired, including a new couples’ suite for seaweed bathing rituals, a meditation room with acoustic resonance loungers and the signature “Ocean Discovery”, where you choose your combination of treatments, all using organic marine-based products from Voya, including hand-harvested seaweed from Ireland. Mareel launched on the Queen Elizabeth as part of its new look, followed by the Queen Victoria, and will be on Queen Mary 2 from November.

From £1,349pp for a nine-night circumnavigation of Japan, departing Tokyo on May 26 2022 (0344 338 8641; cunard.com).

5. Yoga at sea

Uniworld River Cruises

Celebrate India’s ancient practice of yoga as you drift gently down the Ganges, discover the dynamic city of Delhi and marvel at the opulent palaces of Agra and Jaipur. Daily included sunrise and sunset classes will introduce the different types of yoga, from Ashtanga to Vinyasa, with the option for one-on-one sessions, all led by a renowned yogi. Group lectures trace the history and traditions behind yoga, and an introduction to meditation and Ayurveda, balancing the body with organic food. And you can round off with a relaxing Indian head massage. Departures in January, February, March, September, October, November and December.

From £5,795pp for the 13-day India’s Golden Triangle & Sacred Ganges cruise from New Delhi to Kolkata, including flights, hotel accommodation and seven nights on board Ganges Voyager II (0808 273 1667; uniworld.com).

Uniworld's Ganges Voyager II
Uniworld's Ganges Voyager II

6. Mindful Med

Star Clippers 

Chant “om” under billowing white sails when you cruise on Star Clippers’ fleet of tall ships around Indonesia, Thailand and the Mediterranean. The teak deck becomes an al fresco studio, where you’ll be treated to free daily yoga and meditation sessions early in the morning and again at sunset. And if you want a more vigorous workout, you can always have a go at scaling the rigging (with a harness, of course) or join the crew hauling the ropes.

From £1,680pp for a seven-night Croatia and Montenegro sailing, departing Trieste on July 18 (0845 200 6145; starclippers.co.uk).

7. All about wellness

Blue World Voyages

Fitness junkies, your ship has come in. Blue World Voyages will be the first cruise line dedicated to all things health and fitness when it sets sail in April 2021. With a whole deck given over to sports and fitness, passengers will be able to sign up for cross-training, spinning and yoga, and even try out their golf swing. You can be equally active on dry land – horse riding in France, cycling in Tuscany or surfing in Portugal. Take a dip in the retractable seawater lap pool, which will sit at the side of the ship, or make use of the spa and wellness amenities, with treatment rooms, solarium, mud bath and more, filling an entire deck.

From $3,500pp (£2,700) for a seven-night cruise (blueworldvoyages.co.uk).

Blue World Voyages is coming in 2021
Blue World Voyages is coming in 2021

8. For gym bunnies

Virgin Voyages

Short of “Vitamin Sea”? That’s the ethos behind Virgin Voyages’ well-being offering on the Scarlet Lady, launching in early 2020. Work up a sweat at the complimentary group fitness classes in the Build, Burn, Bike and Balance rooms, or flex your muscles in the boxing ring and at the al fresco adult playground with its Venice Beach vibe. The ship’s spa is inspired by an underwater cave, and would-be mermaids – and mermen – can indulge in the hydrotherapy pool, mud room and cold plunge pool. The well-being journey rounds off at a party to the beat of a top DJ.

From £1,430 per cabin for a four-night Fire and Sunset Soirées cruise departing Miami on Oct 7 (020 3003 4919; virginvoyages.com).

Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady
Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady

9. Workout on water

MSC Cruises 

MSC Cruises has some of the best fitness equipment at sea, thanks to a partnership with Technogym, a designer of cardio and strength training equipment. Gym users can evaluate their workout through Technogym’s mobile app, which monitors results, sets challenges and provides motivation. Gyms have panoramic sea views and are staffed by qualified personal trainers and fitness instructors. But that’s not all – fitness fans can exercise to their heart’s content on board MSC Cruises, with the ships offering a wide choice of outdoor sports and tournaments including football, tennis, basketball, volleyball, squash and mini golf. Group classes range from aerobics and Pilates to spinning and aqua cycling.

From £769pp for a seven-night cruise departing from Cannes on Nov 5, with unlimited drinks, one massage and access to the Thermal Area, based on the Aurea package (020 3426 3000; msccruises.co.uk).

10. Food for thought


In a seagoing first, SeaDream designed a plant-based “raw food” menu option that’s available on every voyage, so you can mix up elements of the nutrient-rich organic and vegan dishes while still indulging in more sinful culinary treats. Created in partnership with the long-standing Hippocrates Health Institute, think Asian-style cashew curry salad and vegetable lasagne with “pasta” made from coconut flesh and spinach, with desserts such as the raw avocado key lime pie, all washed down with a creative juice, perhaps the Blood Apple Blaster, a blend of apple, beetroot, ginger, agave and lime juice.

From £2,686pp for a seven-night Caribbean cruise departing Barbados on Nov 14 (0800 783 1373; seadream.com).

SeaDream cuisine
SeaDream cuisine

11. Moreish menus

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Cruising doesn’t have to mean piling on the pounds and Regent Seven Seas Cruises has introduced more than 200 gourmet plant-based selections to their daily menus, developed with renowned chef and food guru Christophe Berg. Feast on healthy and delicious fare, perhaps start the day with the chia cashew yogurt with carrot and hazelnut granola, try a Hawaiian poke bowl or Osaka power bowl packed with flavourful ingredients for lunch and round off the day with baked porcini and spinach cannelloni and a pear and rosemary sorbet.

From £4,889pp for a seven-night Med cruise, departing Barcelona on May 28, 2020, including flights (rssc.com; 02380 682 280).

Regent Seven Seas offers plenty of plant-based food
Regent Seven Seas offers plenty of plant-based food

12. Sleep easy

Princess Cruises

Short on shut-eye? The one-of-a-kind Princess luxury bed combines science, technology and design to ensure a good night’s sleep, with enhanced mattress support, a custom-designed pillow menu and top-notch linens. Princess collaborated on the bed with certified sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, aka the Sleep Doctor, and innovations include individually wrapped coils to give support for all body types. Evening menus have slumber-friendly meals, state rooms have sleep-inducing lighting and the gentle sway of the ship and the sound of the ocean will do the rest.

From £549pp for a seven-night Alaska Inside Passage cruise, departing Seattle on May 9 (0344 338 8663; princess.com).

13. Mind, body & spirit

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity collaborated with interior design queen Kelly Hoppen to create The Spa on newly launched Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex, which arrives in April. Decked out in soothing neutral tones and natural materials, it boasts a host of sea-spa firsts, with more than 120 treatments. The Sea Thermal Suite offers eight therapeutic journeys, including the vast Crystalarium, where warmth and healing energy radiates from a shimmering amethyst, making it the perfect spot to meditate. Want your muscles to feel the burn? Head to the hot yoga session or relax on a Spa Wave MLW Amphibia table and be bathed in restorative light therapy.

From £1,469pp for a 10-night Northern European Capital Cities round-trip from Southampton, departing April 13 (0800 441 4054; celebritycruises.co.uk). 

Celebrity Edge
Celebrity Edge

14. Healing in Venice

Crystal Cruises

In need of some holistic healing? Crystal’s Mind, Body & Spirit-themed cruises mix up ancient philosophies and modern science to create a total wellness package, all led by experts in yoga, Pilates and tai chi, alongside guest speakers on everything from diet and nutrition to managing stress and ageing gracefully. And tie it in with the one-of-a-kind Walk-On-Water programme developed by Debbie Rocker, a fitness expert. There are two sailings from Venice in May and a third in October from Athens to Dubai.

From £4,053pp for the 16-night Athens to Dubai sailing, departing Oct 23 (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk).

Crystal Cruises' spa treatment
Crystal Cruises' spa treatment

15. Onshore activities

Oceania Cruises

Swap gym-based workouts for one of Oceania Cruises’ 60 wellness-themed shore excursions around the globe. Instead of pounding on a treadmill, hike along a wild coastal path in Spain’s Basque country or up a glittering glacier in Argentina’s Ushuaia, or stop spinning and instead cycle through the heart of medieval Bordeaux. There’s something for all levels of fitness too, so you can start the day meditating with a monk in Bangkok or taking tai chi in a Saigon city park.

From £5,852pp for a 15-night Pagodas & Shrines cruise departing Singapore on May 9. Flights included. Wellness tours on this cruise include Meditation Experience with a Monk in Bangkok and Tai Chi and Vegetarian Lunch at Zen Monastery in Hanoi (0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).

Explore Spain's Basque Country - Credit: GETTY
Explore Spain's Basque Country Credit: GETTY

16. Best of the Danube

Emerald Waterways

Responding to the demand for more adventurous pursuits, Emerald has recruited dedicated activity managers on all seven of its European Star-Ships to boost fitness options on-board and ashore, including aqua aerobics and guided hiking, cycling and kayaking tours. Along the long and winding Danube, you can take a four-hour cycling excursion through the – mostly flat – Wachau Valley, passing picturesque villages and vineyards on route, stopping for lunch on the river bank. Or hike up the historic cobblestone streets of Buda Hill for a close-up of Buda Castle and panoramic views over Budapest. Avalon Waterways’ Active & Discovery Cruises and AmaWaterways – with wellness hosts on select cruises – also offer active excursions.

From £1,395pp for an eight-day cruise from Passau to Budapest, departing Aug 2. Flights included (0808 252 0436; emeraldwaterways.co.uk).

17. Meeting of minds


Mindfulness is one of the world’s fastest-growing health trends, and Seabourn’s Mindful Living programme is the first of its kind at sea. Developed in partnership with Dr Andrew Weil, the physician and bestselling author, the fleet-wide integrated wellness programme includes complimentary yoga and meditation. Dig a little deeper with this dedicated wellness cruise – there’ll be daily lectures, discussions, classes and demonstrations from Dr Weil, along with four other experts, covering everything from mental health to spiritual fulfilment and nutrition.

From £5,499pp for a 16-day Wellness in Australia and New Zealand cruise, departing Auckland on Feb 21 (0344 338 8615; seabourn.com).

18. Teenage kicks

Royal Caribbean International

Being a teenager can be stressful, even on a cruise ship, so Elemis has developed the YSpa for younger Royal Caribbean passengers, aged between 13 and 17, with a menu including hair and nail treatments, massages and facials. Blitz any blemishes with an oxygen-rich acne attack facial or deep condition your hair with a beach babe ritual, then enjoy some mother-daughter time with a paradise massage for two or a father and son chill-out massage. Teenagers can burn off energy with rock climbing competitions, volleyball and basketball tournaments, and dance-offs.

From £1,364pp for a seven-night Western Mediterranean fly-cruise, departing Rome on June 20 (0844 493 4005; royalcaribbean.co.uk).

19. And for the gents...

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Men can often be sidelined when it comes to visiting spas, but Norwegian’s Mandara spas have a range of dedicated treatments. Close shaves come with a variety of extras, such as skin exfoliation, an anti-ageing facial with scalp, hand and arm massages, or a deep cleanse with a scalp and face massage, all using Men’s Collection products from Elemis. Or have a Swedish or deep-tissue massage to ease post-workout muscles. Norwegian Epic’s spa is currently the largest at sea with couple’s villas for massages a deux – Hot Stone Heaven, Mandara’s signature treatment, is perfect for everyone.

From £1,240pp for a seven-night Western Mediterranean fly-cruise, departing Barcelona on May 17 (0333 241 2319; ncl.com).

20. When you’re smiling

Marella Cruises

Holidaying at sea has the power to make you feel better and smile more, according to research carried out by Marella Cruises. Research conducted by Emma Kenny, the smile expert and resident psychologist on ITV’s This Morning, on board Marella Cruises’ Explorer 2 this year, showed that 83 per cent of guests smiled 60-plus times a day – more than three times the average on land (20 times). The cruise line has even appointed a head of nautical smiles, Nic Spanoudis, whose job is to devise hints and tips on how to spread more smiles among passengers and colleagues. If a sunshine cruise doesn’t quite get you there, you can always fall back on Marella’s Champneys spa, the first spa at sea for the brand, which has been going for 90 years.

From £794pp for a seven-night Mediterranean Gems cruise departing May 6, including flights (0871 230 2800; tui.co.uk/cruise).

Flights not included, unless specified. All prices per person based on two sharing, unless specified. 

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