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Virtual Slideshow: Jillian Michaels Ultimate Wellness Cruise
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Virtual Slideshow: Jillian Michaels Ultimate Wellness Cruise

Most fitness cruisers feel refreshed and robust after a long weekend of good-for-you activities at sea. But on this particular sailing of Norwegian Star, I woke up on the morning of debarkation with crippled legs and burning arms, limping off the ship as if I'd been involved in a recent traffic accident.

The night before, I'd been working out with Jillian Michaels -- and I realized, as I desperately rifled through my bag looking for aspirin the morning after, that I'd pushed myself too hard. But with Jillian hollering profanity-laced demands ("When I say bend your [expletive] knee, bend your [expletive] knee!") and hundreds of fellow passengers watching as our group kicked and jumped like mad on the pool deck, the pressure was, to put it mildly, on.

The best-selling author, "Biggest Loser" trainer and star of "Losing It With Jillian" certainly packed a heck of a punch in person. Of course, not every wellness sailing is hosted by a television personality with a penchant for pain and profanity. But some do, at least, involve celebrities. There's the Richard Simmons Cruise to Lose!, a partially chartered sailing featuring workout classes hosted by the flamboyant fitness guru himself. (Something tells me Richard is more merciful in the gym than Jillian.) In 2011, the Cruise to Lose! will embark on its 30th sailing. (The Michaels cruise, however, was most likely a one-off event.)

If you want to get shipshape but you're not inclined to join Richard's group -- which will make up just 275 of the roughly 3,000 passengers onboard Carnival Splendor in October 2011 -- you can select from a spate of other upcoming fitness cruises, from the vegetarian Holistic Holiday at Sea on MSC Poesia in Febuary to the 2011 Runner's Cruise, which allows passengers to complete a marathon (26.2 miles) during port stops.

This healthy cruising fad appears to be gaining momentum, with more fitness charters hitting the seas and more cruise lines offering wellness packages, healthy spa cuisine and beefed-up gyms on regular sailings. Yet rarely is an entire ship -- menus, activities, entertainment -- completely transformed into a floating fitness retreat. So much of Norwegian Star was altered for the Jillian Michaels Ultimate Wellness Cruise that it became a different ship altogether. There was no soda. No white bread. No 24-hour restaurant. The helipad was turned into an outdoor spinning studio. The atrium became a yoga center. The buffet was changed into a paradigm of perfect nutrition -- each food hand-selected by Michaels.

To this day, when I'm gauging whether or not something I want to eat is really healthy, I ask myself, "Would this have been in the buffet on the Jillian Michaels cruise?"

So I learned a thing or two about nutrition, and I survived one of the most intense workouts of my life. But was it fun? Did it feel like a vacation? Did Jillian Michaels solve the wellness-cruise paradox, achieving that crucial balance between hedonistic and healthy? Join me on my four-night Jillian Michaels Ultimate Wellness Cruise to the Caribbean, and find out what it's like to cruise with America's toughest trainer.

--by Caroline Costello

Were you on this or another fitness cruise? Share your stories here!

Part 1: Cruising With Jillian Michaels
A week before boarding, an e-mail from theme-cruise company Sixthman (which partnered with Michaels) arrived, advising, "When you step on the ship, make sure your makeup is straight and your muscles are visible..."

Click to Launch Part 1's Slideshow.


Part 2: From Deck Wars to the Toughest Workouts at Sea
Deck Wars, brainchild of the Sixthman team, was a brilliant idea. Prior to sailing, passengers were divided into four teams and given color-coded bandanas: blue, green, red and yellow. (For the record, I was a member of the blue team.)...

Click to Launch Part 2's Slideshow.


Part 3: Bionic Women, Jillian Fanatics and Inspiring Survivors
Fitness cruisers come in all sizes. On the Jillian Michaels cruise, our singularity of purpose wasn't so much about who looked the best in spandex and tanning oil...

Click to Launch Part 3's Slideshow.



Part 4: What's on the Menu?
Twenty-four-hour pizza and all-you-can-eat buffets are pretty much synonymous with big-ship cruising, which is why a health-focused overhaul of a ship's entire array of dining options is, well, kind of a big deal...

Click to Launch Part 4's Slideshow.



--Top image appears courtesy of Will Byington

Related Links
Norwegian Star ship review
Norwegian Star Member reviews
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