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Tai chi on Deck C: A relaxing way to a more shipshape you

Special to The Times

ALL cruise vacations aren’t sedentary, eat-cake-at-midnight affairs. These days, most major lines offer fitness-themed sailings that suggest ways to stay active while providing you with information to improve your body and soul.

Lines are offering more fitness-oriented sailings partly because briefer, seven-day cruises tend to attract younger, more active passengers who can’t manage more time off, says Bruce Good, a spokesman for Seabourn Cruise Line.

But many older passengers also are taking more health and fitness-oriented cruises, if the clientele of Fun & Fitness Travel Club (www.fun-fitness.com) is any indication. The McLean, Va.-based company arranges fitness cruises on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity lines. Its typical customer is 50 to 70 years old, says Cynthia Neu, the company’s co-founder. Guests are asked to commit to at least one workout a day while on board, she says.

Cruise lines are also partnering with high-profile medical facilities and fitness publications to offer special programs.

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Physicians from the Cleveland Clinic will be aboard the Crystal Cruise Serenity’s 10-day Caribbean Health & Fitness cruise, sailing on Dec. 5. Doctors and other healthcare professionals will present seminars on complementary and alternative medicine, and nutrition and lifestyle modification.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Glory will host its third annual Mind/Body cruise in conjunction with Shape and Men’s Fitness magazines. The cruise will depart Dec. 2 from Port Canaveral, Fla. Fitness and nutrition seminars are scheduled during the seven-day Caribbean sailing, says Carnival spokeswoman Aly Bello-Cabreriza.

Fitness is often bundled with other health techniques to improve well-being. On three upcoming MSC Cruises, fitness classes will be supplemented by instruction in aromatherapy and reflexology, says MSC spokeswoman Cheryl Fenske.

And Costa Cruise Lines’ Holistic Holiday at Sea IV, which departs March 4 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., includes information about diet, nutrition and lifestyle, as well as yoga and other fitness classes.

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Not all workouts are confined to the ship. Shore excursions are often activity-packed too. Seabourn, for instance, includes bicycling in Athens; Florence, Italy; and other destinations, and guided walking tours in about 20 ports of call, Good says.

Near Nice, France, and the Alcantara Gorge in Sicily, the line offers “canyoning,” an activity in which participants swim, jump, climb, rappel and float down scenic river canyons.

If you’re considering a fitness cruise, here is some advice:

* Before booking, “look for activities you like or would like to try,” says Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist in Fairlawn, N.J.

* “Look at your fitness personality,” says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. “If you like things more on the adventurous side, rock climbing might be something for you. If you want that more relaxed holistic mind-body program, look for a cruise with yoga, Pilates and tai chi.”

* Ask some of the same questions you would ask before joining a health club, Bryant says. If you need personal attention, ask how many staff members are around to help. Ask about procedures in case you have a medical emergency, he says.

* Once you’re back home, it may be hard to stick to a workout routine, so try to mimic the ship environment as much as you can, Pire says.

* If you like the pampered-at-sea feeling, shop for a health club at home that offers multiple services, including spa and massage. Do it before you leave on the cruise, if possible, so you can get back into the routine quickly once you get home, Pire says.

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* Consider hiring a personal trainer, at least temporarily, Bryant says, to smooth the sea-to-home transition.

kathleendoheny@earthlink.net


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