Some people dread cruises the way they dread the holidays. They assume they're going to gain 8 pounds by the time it's over.
It can be a challenge to resist the bountiful buffets, rich desserts and rum drinks with tiny umbrellas. But some people, such as Dawn Tracey of Los Angeles, embark on a cruise to stay in shape.
Tracey spent a week sailing in the Mediterranean two years ago on a yoga-fitness cruise that she loved so much that she did it again last summer and plans to set sail again this year.
"I'd heard most cruises were giant buffets, and I didn't want that," she said.
Tracey was on a Sun Fun You cruise, one of a growing number of travel groups now sponsoring health and fitness vacations. Her group of 16 people traveled on a gulet, a two-masted sailing vessel.
Participants board the ship to find an atmosphere that duplicates the organization's activities on land.
On a Weight Watchers cruise, for instance, guests weigh in, have discussions with counselors and choose from meals that are graded with the organization's point system.
It's just like being at home, except for the pools, rock-climbing walls and fitness centers.
Plus today's shipboard gyms are so high-tech they probably would put your local workout facility to shame.
"Fitness is definitely on the mind of most cruise lines," said Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor of AllThingsCruise.com.
"Almost every cruise line across the board has upgraded its fitness facilities. There are elaborate gyms with personal trainers and very high-end workout equipment."
Fitness centers are usually free, but you may incur a fee when you take a class or sign up for sessions with a personal trainer.
"Fitness on cruise ships tends to mirror the trends on land, meaning that workout you do at your hip fitness club will probably be available on a ship," said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of CruiseCritic.com.
"If you're totally devoted to classes, most big cruise ships will offer something every day — and likely at a discount if you book three or more," she said.
Small vessels and riverboats generally don't have extensive facilities, but even some of these are getting into the act. AmaWaterways has teamed up with the tour company Backroads to offer bike/boat touring in Europe, and Uniworld is partnering with the Butterfield & Robinson tour company to offer cycling and other excursions in Europe.
The company hopes to satisfy "the active traveler in search of more dynamic, adventurous and cultural experiences," said Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld president and chief executive.
McDaniel of CruiseCritic.com thinks one of the best ways to shape up on vacation is to look for a chartered cruise.
"The great thing about cruises like these is you participate as much — or as little — as you'd like," she said.
Here's a sampling:
"You don't have to be a member to go," said David Magaziner, one of the organizers of this weeklong Weight Watchers Caribbean cruise (www.weightwatcherscruises.com). "We had 600 people on the last one [earlier this month]; we'll have that many or more in November."
MSC Divina, seven nights, Nov. 8, Miami to Puerto Rico, rates start at $920 per person, double occupancy (single rate $1,495).
The Fitness Cruise
"We're going to have a fitness retreat every morning, then party and have a good time," Curlee said. "We're not going to judge you when you go to the buffet in the afternoon."
Carnival Vista, six nights, Nov. 12, Miami to the western Caribbean; rates start at $1,012, per person, double occupancy.
The running cruise
Marathon Expeditions (www.runningcruise.com) has been making runners happy for nearly a decade. Perhaps that's why the trips sell out so quickly.
Its three 2017 trips (Hawaii, Alaska and Caribbean) are sold out, and so is the 2018 Hawaii trip.
If you're looking for a particular type of themed cruise, such as fitness or running, check out ThemeCruiseFinder.com, which lets you locate specialized cruises.