If you're a fitness fanatic, it's unlikely that you'd consider pairing CrossFit's strict exercise and nutrition regimen with a cruise, a type of travel known for inducing laziness and sparking overindulgence. But when it comes to fitness vacations, you'd be hard-pressed to find one more intense or more fun than WOD on the Waves.
From Jan. 21–25, 2019, CrossFit enthusiasts set sail on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas to enjoy the first-ever sailing of WOD on the Waves. On this unofficial CrossFit cruise, the ship's sports court, sun deck, mini-golf course and helipad were converted into gyms, and passengers rubbed elbows with CrossFit Games athletes who coached workouts, hosted happy hours and led game shows onboard.
So, what made the experience a win? Healthy (and tasty) food, free product giveaways, theme parties, fitness seminars and multiple daily workouts are a few of the highlights. Check out our photos to see just how well CrossFit, cruise ships and camaraderie do go together.
The next WOD on the Waves cruise was supposed to take place April 16 to 20, 2020, onboard Celebrity Infinity, sailing from Miami to Nassau and Perfect Day at Cococay. All-star athletes and trainers on the lineup included Chris Hinshaw, Rich Froning and Brooke Wells. This cruise was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 2021 sail dates have not yet been announced.
As the ship left port to begin its four-night Bahamas sailing, crew members poured free glasses of sparkling wine while the voyage's organizers introduced the CrossFit Games competitors who served as coaches during the voyage's many workouts. Well-known athletes included Brooke Wells, Chyna Cho, Kari Pearce, Margaux Alvarez, Mary Beth Prodromides, Annie Sakamoto, Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Spencer Hendel, Austin Malleolo, Pat Vellner, Josh Bridges and Conor Murphy (who was in charge of programming for the sailing), among others.
From elevator skins to coasters at the onboard bars and branded promo segments on in-cabin TVs, WOD on the Waves' logo was everywhere, including this Reebok pop-up shop, which was set up onboard. Passengers were able to purchase CrossFit-branded Reebok merchandise and shoes, as well as tees, tanks and hoodies bearing the WOD on the Waves logo. In line with the ship's cashless system, cruisers were able to charge the items to their onboard accounts, which greatly simplified the transactions.
WOD on the Waves partnered with several brands, including C4 energy drinks, LifeAid recovery beverages, Treign apparel and TRIIB gym management software, to host the sailing. All of the brands offered small giveaways (complimentary drinks and free branded tanks, T-shirts and shorts) throughout the cruise, and LifeAid partnered with the onboard bars to sell themed alcoholic beverages, such as the "Flu Shot," pictured here, which used various types of LifeAid as mixers. (To be honest, the drinks weren't great, but it was all part of the experience.)
Our first workout of the voyage took place ashore at Happy Hour CrossFit in Nassau, the first of the sailing's two scheduled port stops. After signing up in advance through TRIIB's WOD on the Waves app, cruisers met at the pier to make their way to the box, which was about a 15-minute walk from the ship. Our session, an outdoor double Grace partner workout (60 alternating clean and jerks at double the usual weight) preceded by a warmup and included in the price of the cruise fare, was taught by Spencer Hendel and took less than 15 minutes.
One of the best parts of being so up close and personal with the athletes is that they were able to offer guidance. Throughout the experience, Hendel walked around to each passenger's station to provide suggestions on form and technique.
After our morning land-based workout, we joined a sandbag session, taught by CrossFit Games Masters athlete Mary Beth Prodromides. Held on the ship's helipad, the class grouped participants into threes and saw them switching between sandbag cleans, planks and hollow rock holds for about 20 minutes. A group cooldown and stretching session followed. Prodromides asked everyone what was hurting them and recommended stretches to specifically target muscle tension in those areas.
One of the things that intrigued us before sailing was how workouts would be adapted for such a large number of people, particularly when equipment was required. In addition to TrueForm Runners, echo bikes, SkiErgs, rowers, boxes, medicine balls, Surge water stability bars and two pull-up rigs, organizers also brought stall mats onboard and used them to pad the ship's sports court, which functioned as the hub for workouts using dumbbells and kettlebells.
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Mariner of the Seas looks shiny and new docked in Nassau because it underwent a refurbishment just a few months prior. The overhaul added several active amenities, including a Sky Pad virtual-reality bungee trampoline, a FlowRider surf simulator and the Perfect Storm, dual water slides that jut out over the side of the ship. These provided perfect between-workout activities for the themed sailing's energetic passengers.
Food onboard was fantastic. We expected it to be healthy, but what we didn't expect was for it to not taste like cardboard -- a pleasant surprise. Although less healthy fare -- pizza, hot dogs, burgers, soft serve ice cream -- could still be found for those who wanted it, the overall menu featured fewer fried items and heavy sauces, and more lean protein and veggies. Gluten-free stations were expanded in the Windjammer buffet, and special healthier menus were created for the main dining room, which was entirely casual and operated on a My Time Dining schedule for the duration of the cruise.
Water and smoothies were staples; although soda packages were available, alcohol could only be purchased on a per-drink basis. (Organizers didn't think the healthy lifestyles of the clientele would lead to enough sales to make alcohol packages worth offering.)
Each day, regular cruise shenanigans were scheduled between workouts. Think dance lessons, bingo, trivia, art auctions, spa seminars, Wii tournaments, live music, military and LGBT get-togethers and, of course, poolside fun, including the men's belly flop contest. Many tried their luck Boogie boarding on Mariner of the Seas' new FlowRider surf simulator.
In addition to coaching classes, athletes also hosted nonfitness-related onboard events, including casino tournaments and the Quest adult scavenger hunt game show, where teams competed to find weird items and complete wacky feats. Here, athletes Chyna Cho and Spencer Hendel toast during a happy hour they hosted at the new Playmakers Sports Bar on the first night of the sailing.
Due to rough seas that made tendering unsafe, our call on CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island, was scrapped, also forcing the cancellation of an on-shore 5K that was scheduled for WOD on the Waves cruisers. Instead, we spent a day at sea, and athletes organized a "Fireball 10K," which involved teams of four passengers completing a 10K (or calorie equivalent) on rowers, SkiErgs and echo bikes. They also had the option to complete 1,000 burpees.
Every time a team reached 500 meters (or the calorie equivalent), they were encouraged to take a shot of Fireball (at their own expense). We didn't see many people participating in that last part of the challenge.
If there's one thing you should know about CrossFitters, it's that they party as hard as they hit the gym. Fun shipwide bashes were scheduled on each night of the sailing and included an athlete-hosted happy hour, a toga party, "Red: The Ultimate Nightclub Experience" and, on the final night, an '80s theme party.
For that last one, passengers donned neon tracksuits, crimped hair and lots of spandex, while members of the entertainment staff showed up to perform above the Royal Promenade in off-the-shoulder shirts, side ponytails and petticoat skirts. Even Pac-Man made an appearance. Although the '80s soiree ended early in an effort to get passengers back to their cabins and ready for disembarkation the next morning, a small number of hardy cruisers wound up cutting a rug at Ellington's in the Viking Crown Lounge until late.
Want to read more? Check out our pre-cruise interview with Cho and Hendel and our post-cruise list of 10 things you should know about the WOD on the Waves cruise.
For more information on future WOD on the Waves cruises, visit the theme cruise's website.
Updated November 21, 2019