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A massage from a trained masseuse at Voyager of the Seas' full-service Vitality Spa can revitalize the mind and body.

Tony Arruza / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

A massage from a trained masseuse at Voyager of the Seas' full-service Vitality Spa can revitalize the mind and body.

Guide to wellness on a cruise

A look at 6 cruise lines’ offerings to refresh your mind & body

This is the first of a three-part series on wellness options at sea. 

Lounging by the pool, lengthy naps, and eating and drinking like a Minoan emperor are all part and parcel of the cruise experience. But that doesn’t mean you need to gain 10 pounds on your trip.

Articles on travel well-being

Cruise lines today offer a bevy of experiences for health and well-being, all crafted to immerse you in each destination while also helping you to achieve your wellness goals. From onboard spas and fitness studios to specialty themed itineraries guided by life coaches and yoga gurus, these cruise vacations will have you looking and feeling your best.

Here are 6 wellness offerings from the mainstream cruise lines  that will help you get rebooted, refreshed and reinvigorated.


An instructor leads a fitness class on Princess Cruises.
Courtesy of Princess CruisesAn instructor leads a fitness class on Princess Cruises.

Princess Cruises


Work out, indulge in a chocolate massage or escape to the Sanctuary


Princess Cruises’ slogan says it all. If you’re going to “come back new,” you know Princess has planned its onboard activities — such as classes for Zumba, yoga, Pilates, spinning and stretching — and shore excursion experiences with your revitalization in mind. The Lotus Spa, named Best Spa on a Cruise Ship by Spa finder Wellness 365, offers treatments such as aroma stone therapy massages and detoxifying ocean wraps, as well as mani-pedis and other salon services. And who's to say a chocolate massage can't be therapeutic?

For a complete break from the pressures of the real world, you can visit adults-only retreat Sanctuary — a luxe, day-spa-inspired top deck retreat with no kids allowed. Attentive Serenity Stewards are on hand to ensure your every wish is catered for, from healthy drinks and spa dishes to open-air messages in your own private cabana.

Princess Cruises' sailings start at $349 per person. Lotus Spa's signature services, the hot stones and Thai Poultice, are priced starting at $149; bamboo massage of 50 minutes costs $159; 75-minute treatment starts at $195.


Cozy up to a fireplace in the LivNordic Spa on your Viking Ocean Cruises ship. The spa area is open to all guests at no charge.
Courtesy of Viking Ocean CruisesCozy up to a fireplace in the LivNordic Spa on your Viking Ocean Cruises ship. The spa area is open to all guests at no charge.

Viking Ocean Cruises


Face & body treatments galore at LivNordic Spa 


If being completely surrounded by open water isn’t enough, each Viking Ocean Cruises ship enables you to immerse yourself into the ocean — almost — in its glass-backed Infinity Pool, cantilevered off the stern. There’s also a main pool featuring a retractable roof up top so you can swim, whatever the weather. The fleet includes Viking Star, Viking Sea and the soon-to-debut Viking Sky and Viking Sun.

Viking’s Nordic theme continues in the LivNordic Spa — named one of the “5 best cruise ship spas” by Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2016 — with an invigorating selection of face and body treatments. If you’re feeling brave, why not try the Snow Grotto and sauna for the ultimate circulation-boosting Scandi experience? First steel yourself to sit in the chilly grotto air as goosebumps settle on your skin, then jump into the sauna in accordance with the centuries-old Nordic tradition.

Viking Ocean Cruises sailings begin at $2,499 per person.


Indulge and recharge at Serenade of the Seas' Vitality Spa.
 AccuSoft Co. / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalIndulge and recharge at Serenade of the Seas' Vitality Spa.

Royal Caribbean


From body & medi-spa treatments to Active Adventures 


OK, so while I can’t technically claim experiences such as “skydiving” in the RipCord by iFly simulator, catching waves on the FlowRider surf simulator or hanging around at the onboard trapeze school (available on Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships) as a fitness exercise, you can’t deny that they offer feel-good fun in spades with a jump in heart rate, to boot. The full-service Vitality Spa does, however, fall firmly into the wellness category, with 24-karat-gold facials, collagen booster serums, signature La Therapie HydraLift Facials, Elemis Spa massages and body treatments, plus medi-spa treatments such as Go Smile tooth whitening and Botox, Dysport, Perlane and Restylane.

On shore you’ll find Active Adventures for every passion — you can harness up for a suspension bridge adventure in Vanuatu or go snorkeling off Hawaii — and there’s even a Royal Tour Challenge for families or groups with a competitive streak: You can train with lumberjacks and then host an axe-throwing competition in Alaska, learn to crew a sailing yacht in the Caribbean or challenge yourself with an Amazing Race-style adventure in St. Maarten.

Cruises aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class ships — Anthem of the Seas, Ovation and Quantum — start at $339 per person. 


Unwind in the largest thermal spa at sea with a steam or a dip in the Vitality Pool aboard Norwegian Escape.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineUnwind in the largest thermal spa at sea with a steam or a dip in the Vitality Pool aboard Norwegian Escape.



Cardio equipment with a beat & the largest thermal spa at sea


If you want to have a camera-ready look, Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line has you covered with a suite of fitness and spa options to rival the latest celebrity hotspots. Technogym cardio equipment syncs to Apple music devices and features a large high-def screen and training programs. Group fitness favorites include Pilates, body sculpting boot camp, yoga, Zumba, TRX and high-intensity cardio boxing class Norwegian Fight Klub, with personal training sessions, nutritional consultations and metabolic testing available on-demand.

After working up a sweat, you can retreat to the secluded, limited-access Thermal Suite, where amenities include a sauna, steam room, plunge pool and hot tub; Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Getaway offer an added ace: a salt room that uses halotherapy to improve respiratory and skin ailments and aid in overall wellness.

All ships feature Mandara Spa — must-try experiences include an Elemis Frangipani Conditioning Hair and Scalp Ritual and Mandara Four Hands Massage, when two therapists work to tease out those knots in perfect synchronicity — plus medi-spa treatments Botox, Dysport, Restylane and Perlane and skin contouring treatment Thermage. And, in a first for the line, Norwegian Escape offers a circulation-stimulating, immune-system-boosting Snow Room, which ranges from a frosty 21 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't forget to check out the ship's Vitality Pool, part of the largest thermal spa at sea. 

And finally, Norwegian helps guests make the most of their vacation with Cruise Tour pre- and post-cruise extensions, available for Alaskan itineraries and their 7-day inter-island Hawaiian itinerary (an exclusive to the line).


The Greenhouse Spa & Salon on ms Koningsdam.
Courtesy of Holland America LineThe Greenhouse Spa & Salon on ms Koningsdam.

Holland America Line


Get active on shore, hike a glacier or bliss out in the Greenhouse Spa


Seattle-based Holland America Line has a fleet that spans the globe on wide-ranging itineraries with active shore excursions. Its "Journeys Ashore" program appeals to active travelers. For instance, the Pulpit Rock Hike in Stavanger, Norway, offers an intense two-hour hike up to its beautiful 1,500-foot summit — not for the casual hiker. And the St. Maarten America’s Cup 12-Metre Regatta offers you the only opportunity in the Caribbean to race an exotic multimillion-dollar America’s Cup racing boat. Guests will participate in a race similar to what the actual yacht racers in Bermuda will do this spring. (Want to grind a winch or trim a sail?)

Other fitness-oriented excursions include a helicopter flightseeing and glacier trek in Juneau, a rock climb and rappel, or a 4- to 6-mile hike in Skagway, Alaska. In addition, overnight/overland tours are popular for iconic destinations such as Xian (China), Machu Picchu, the Galapagos and Ayers Rock (Australia).

Holland America's newest ship, the sleek Koningsdam, offers a full range of spa and fitness programs — the TRX Suspension classes are reported to be terrific. The ship's Greenhouse Spa ($40/day), with its 29-person staff, features a fitness center, Ryde Indoor Cycling room, saunas, massage rooms (for couples, too), dry float suite, thermal suites with hydro-therapy pool, steam & aromatic room, heated ceramic lounges, rain showers, Medi-Spa and more, many with great views. Pilates, spinning and yoga are offered for a fee, generally $12-$20.

Cruise fares begin at $349 per person, though the itineraries mentioned above cost more.



Dance the night away during your cruise vacation on Cunard.
Courtesy of Cunard LineDance the night away during your cruise vacation on Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 or Queen Victoria.

Cunard Line


Dance in a stylish ballroom or swing by Canyon Ranch SpaClub


If you want the royal treatment, go Cunard Line. Dance lessons are offered on every ship and the Queen Elizabeth — home to The Queens Room, the largest ballroom at sea — has a resident dance couple to help you master your footwork ahead of Royal Night Theme Balls, when you can foxtrot beneath crystal chandeliers to a live orchestra. The onboard golf simulator transports you to some of the world’s best courses; if you prefer working on your game in the open air, there’s shuffleboard, deck quoits and table tennis on deck. And once you’ve worked up a sweat, you can swing by the spa: at Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Queen Mary 2, guest favorites include the Ayurveda Abhyanga Massage and Ohana Circulation Polish, and unwinding in the single-sex, clothing-optional temperature-regulated steam room and Thalassotherapy pool.

Cruise fares begin at $1,399 per person.

In our series Wellness & Fitness

Gemma Z Price
Cruiseable team member Gemma Price left her native England over 10 years ago and has since lived in Japan, Australia and Vietnam, covering all things luxury travel and lifestyle for titles such as WWD, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, WSJ, Time and Departures.