So far, if you have been reading about my experiences on board cruise ships, you may be forgiven for thinking it is just long days of excess, overeating and drinking – that there is no place for fitness and health on cruises. However, every ship I have ever been on, provided for those who wish to take better care of themselves. There is always a fully kitted out gym on board. This will have state of the art equipment, treadmills, rowing machines and weight lifting stations just like any expensive shore side gym. Back when I was fitter and lighter I made good use of the ships’ gyms to help offset my overindulgences.
Given that my preferred type of cruising is with people of my own age, the gyms never got too crowded but there were more OAPs working out than you might imagine. However, there were times when I might have overdone it. You just have to imagine: there I am in my late 60s, banging out the miles on one of the static running machines. I am happily trotting along at a steady 5MPH. Then on the machine alongside me, I am joined by one of the dancers from the show team, who is doing 6MPH. Male pride kicks in and I up my speed to match. I shouldn’t have bothered, she was just warming up, up goes her speed, I up mine, to keep up, she then accelerates and I collapse in a heap.
Believe it or not, the swimming pools on board are not only used by people crashed out on the sunbeds getting tanned, they are also used by proper, real swimmers. The pool may not be Olympic size but it will be just about big enough to get some lengths in before breakfast. Most of the serious swimmers do get up before the crowds get down there and as long as you are careful, then may be up to four or five swimmers at a time can get some exercise in.
If you are less energetic, but still want some of the healthy pampering on board, then no problem: just book yourself into the health spa and thermal suite. Here, you can relax in a steam room, Jacuzzi or on a heated ceramic relaxation bed. Any treatment available in a shore side Spa is also available on board. These beauty and relaxation treatments include massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and hairdressing. Up ’til now, I have not personally used the Spa on board but as my bones get older and my muscles stiffer then the idea of this relaxation area becomes more tempting.
Even if you do not fancy using the gym, there will be a morning walk/jog around the deck. Most ships have a route that tells you how many laps of the deck to the mile. When I was still running and walking long distances I would regularly do some early morning laps. Being a competitive sort, I took my GPS watch with me to check how far I had gone and how fast. However, when at sea I had overlooked one issue. Because the ship was travelling in one direction at 18MPH as I ran towards the stern the Watch recorded me as traveling backward at 13 MPH and as I turned the corner at the stern I was suddenly running at 23MPH. From the fitness aspect though, I had of course done my normal session.
For me though, going ashore, as soon as the gangway was cleared, getting into my running kit was magnificent. A new day in a new exotic place in the early morning sunshine, running out of town to explore while the world slowly came to life around me. One of my best memories was a 5 mile run out of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. I ran out of the harbour past the airport and slowly up on the coast road along some magnificent sea cliffs. The view was to die for and in some respects I was glad it was a steep upward run on the way out because it meant I had a good excuse to stop and just enjoy the view. Then of course I really enjoyed the fact that it was downhill all the way back to the ship.
Sometimes though not everything goes to plan. I went for a run along the harbour side in Funchal, the capital of Madeira It was great for the first couple of miles. I ran round the harbour past the famous statue of Ronaldo and heading towards the town centre. Just as I arrived at the part where they were building a new cruise terminal I failed to notice the pavement went up a 1 inch step, my toe hit the ridge and I nosedived into the concrete.
I was helped to my feet by a very nice German lady. I was bleeding and very sore but managed to stagger back to the ship where I showered and lay down to recover. I was able to get to the restaurant for lunch but as I sat there I stiffened up so much I was unable to walk. My wife was struggling to get me back to the cabin, so she decided to see if she could get me a wheelchair. She was told that we could not have one without a visit to the sick bay and the doctor. I knew from previous experience that as soon as the doctor looks at you the bills start coming in, and it is a £70.00 consultation fee. As my insurance excess was £100 and I am a tight git, I preferred to crawl back to the cabin. Luckily we had a couple of sea days after so I recovered before my next port.
So in conclusion, if you like to keep fit and stay trim then even though a cruise can be a gourmand’s delight, it can also suit those who like to have the best of both worlds.
Roger will continue to share his adventures at sea in this special cruise ship diaries series. These will be published here on the blog every Tuesday into the New Year.