Shape Up and Ship Out

For some, the ideal cruise consists of a lounge chair, gourmet food, and many, many drink umbrellas. And while I admit that sounds wonderfully seductive, there are those whose ideal cruise is a bit more active.

Some of you might want to spend a week immersed in your favorite sport, or engage in some sporting activities you haven't done in a long time - if ever. At the very least, you may want to do something to help ease the guilt of excesses at the ship's bountiful tables.

Staying healthy aboard today's cruise ships is fun. Modern cruise ships are equipped with some of the largest and most sophisticated fitness facilities anywhere. On Carnival's Victory, for example, passengers are making a beeline for the ship's vast two-level health club where a collection of every conceivable gleaming exercise and body- toning device awaits them. And it's always free.

The view from the deck-to-ceiling ocean view windows in the Nautica Spa is spectacular. The state-of-the-art gymnasium, with its two whirlpool baths and steam, sauna, massage and loofah rooms, provides a fitness center that rivals most land facilities.

If you desire to start a fitness program during your seagoing vacation, you can turn to the trained instructors. More experienced workout-aholics can look forward to keeping fit with the most modern high-tech weight and workout gear. From exercise bikes to treadmills, step and rowing equipment, the spa has it all, ready to raise your heart rate and tone your physique.

And of course, there's the jogging track high above the ocean, and indoor and outdoor aerobics classes. Some ships now offer you in-line roller blade tracks as well. Cruise lines are rewarding you with prizes based upon the number of physical activities you participate in throughout your cruise. You may even go home with a new fitness wardrobe from your Cruisercise programs and activities.

For you ultra-conscientious, most cruise lines offer heart smart alternative dining choices, identifying menu items lower in sodium, cholesterol, calories and fat but full of flavor and delightfully presented.

Not enough? Too regimented? Many cruise lines offer you a combination of ship and shore activities to keep your land game sharp. On Royal Caribbean's Voyager and Explorer of the Seas (and others) you can experience a rock-climbing wall towering 200 feet above the sea. Not long ago, anyone who suggested ice-skating on a cruise ship would have been laughed out of the room. Not anymore, the Voyager, Explorer and Adventure of the Seas feature Center Ice at Studio B, which accommodates professional ice shows, and open skating (complete with skate rentals). Now at sea you will find million-dollar state-of -the-art golf simulators where you can play courses around the world and golf cages to fine-tune your long game and a small-scale course to assist with your short game.

For realism, you and your friends can tailor a unique combination of a world-class cruise and championship golf on courses. You can choose from a variety of different courses in the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii. You will play only the best golf courses each port has to offer. Just imagine driving a golf ball cleanly down a lush tropical fairway.

Looking for more? Tear yourself away from the wonders of your ship for in-port activities that include snorkeling in crystal clear waters, scuba diving along vibrant reefs, or just plain walking miles of beaches. Imagine yourself taking scuba diving training right on board combined with graduation dives in areas with stunning underwater beauty. Certified divers are offered even more exotic adventures to the home of 14 million varieties of fish and sea life.

Why not rides a raft over river rapids, or bicycle down the side of a 10,000-foot volcano? You can go horseback riding, and leave miles of hoof prints along secluded tropical beaches.

If you would rather be above the water than in it, you can take to sea aboard a world class sail ship and be part of the crew for a few wonderfully exhilarating hours. If there's still time (and you aren't ready to rest yet) play tennis or basketball, catch a record marlin or just swim the soothing waters.

Just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious and wonderfully tempting food, doesn't mean you have to come home out of shape. Burning calories was never so much fun!

Sid Kaplan - http://www.cruisevacationsguide.com

Mr. Kaplan has extensive experience in the travel business having owned and operated a successful cruise only travel agency in Canada.

Cruise Vacations Guide
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