Zen or No Zen: Looking for Peace on a Mind, Body & Spirit Cruise

February 5, 2013 | By | No Comments

I feel the ship rocking in the top-deck Palm Court, but I am “breathing, relaxing and feeling the floor” and, amazingly, remain sure-footed despite the swell.
I’m learning a movement called “Pay respect to Buddha” in my first ever Tai Chi class in a luxurious observation lounge on Crystal Symphony.

There are some 30 people in the class, all beginners I’d say; most of the other 860 passengers onboard for this Australian coastal sailing are eating breakfast or sleeping.
Our Tai Chi masters, Martin and Emily Lee, have everyone captivated. The pair, who have been guiding passengers through Tai Chi classes on Crystal ships for a decade, have such gentle natures that the class of newcomers has fallen under their mediative spell before we really learn any movements.
Martin Lee, a Stanford graduate, and wife, Emily, are walking testaments to the benefits of this ancient Chinese discipline. They both look lithe and young, although I guesstimate they are probably older than Crystal’s average passenger age (60+).
The classes take place each morning on sea days as part of the ship’s “Mind, Body & Spirit” theme during a 12-day jaunt around Australia’s southern capitals from Melbourne to Brisbane (via Adelaide, Hobart and Sydney).
We are just scratching the surface of Tai Chi — learning three of the art’s 64 movements — but I know the others in the group feel, as I do, that we have happened on something wonderful and hopefully can continue it on land.
Before the 9:05 a.m. Tai Chi class, there’s an 8 a.m. yoga option.
Instructor Lisa Goodwin is excellent, and the class size grows as people hear about it via word of mouth and reading the daily program. Encouraged by the turn-out, she asks the powers-that-be at Crystal to put on another class in the afternoon, on sea days. Thankfully, they do.
I also have a go at “Nordic Walking,” which is an odd pursuit, but easy enough to get the hang of. Walkers, equipped with what look like ski poles, traverse the Promenade Deck in the early morning and at sunset at their own pace for 30 minutes. Instruction is minimal. Brian, the ship’s fitness director, hands out the poles and tells walkers to keep them behind them at all times and just “stride out.” We set off and … well … keep walking until we’ve had enough. It’s fun but not very social, as everyone is off at their own pace.
I notice a few folk are wearing a “Walkvest”: a lightweight cotton vest with weight pockets around the midsection into which small weights are inserted. I read the vests, which can carry from 2 to 16 pounds of weights in half-pound increments, were tailor-made for Crystal.
While the yoga and Tai Chi classes were excellent (and there were stretch, cycle and Pilates classes as well), I didn’t think the offering constituted a Mind, Body & Spirit-themed cruise, especially when all these activities were also available on the following cruise that was actually themed, “Crystal Wine & Food Festival.” The Lees were staying on for more cruises, Goodwin was doing the next itinerary and the gym always offers stretch and cycle. The brochure also claimed that Mind, Body & Spirit activities would take place “on shore,” but there was never any mention of that in the program.
As a bit of a spiritual seeker, I was expecting more. I hoped for a program that linked together several aspects of the theme – yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Pilates and talks on myriad subjects from astrology to Reiki, personal development and feng shui. There are plenty of lovely spaces onboard the gorgeous ship (which has had a fantastic makeover) to hold small and large gatherings of this kind, without interrupting those who just want to relax away from group classes. My companion, for instance, chose to sleep in rather than do yoga or Tai Chi, and most people preferred to lie by the pool in delicious day beds and pods rather than stride out on the decks with Nordic poles.
I believe a more comprehensive Mind, Body & Spirit theme could have nicely fitted in with all the other activities.
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