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Fight Klub cardio kickboxing on Norwegian Cruise Line (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

10 Best Cruise Ship Workouts

Fight Klub cardio kickboxing on Norwegian Cruise Line (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Christine Koubek

Nov 26, 2019

Read time
7 min read

You don't have to leave your fitness regime or favorite workout behind when you set sail, and you might even discover a new favorite. Nearly every midsize to mammoth cruise ship has a fitness center that's well stocked with the equipment you'd find in your neighborhood gym: treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, climbers, bikes, medicine and fitness balls, and free weights. Group classes in yoga, Pilates and spinning are offered on numerous lines, as well.

If you're looking to stay fit onboard, here are 10 unique workouts you can find aboard cruise ships. The list is a mix of favorites and cutting-edge routines that will test your mettle and work your muscles in new ways. You might just find that working out at sea is even more fun than doing it at home.

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Workout 1: 5K Run on Royal Caribbean

Jogging Track on Oasis of the Seas

Why it's great: Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships each have a 0.43-mile jogging track, nearly twice as long as standard land-based tracks. Better still, the tracks' Deck 5 location means there's no need to dodge sunbathers around a pool deck or smokers playing shuffleboard. The tracks have well-marked and shaded lanes, ocean views, zen-like quiet and require a mere 7.5 laps for a 5k -- far fewer than on most other ships. Motivational stanzas hang from the ceiling to keep you moving. Our favorite: "One lap to go / Or maybe three / Tonight's dessert / Can be guilt free."

Also consider: Disney's ship tracks are pretty sweet, too. All are decently wide and shaded, thanks to their Deck 4 location. Tracks on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream are 0.4-mile per lap -- just eight laps for a 5k. In addition, you can run a 5k on land on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.

We also give kudos to the track on Celebrity Edge. Although it takes about 14 laps to complete 5k, runners seeking a challenge and a change of scenery while jogging will appreciate the sloping downhill and gradual incline as the route winds through the Resort Deck, Rooftop Garden and The Retreat, providing partial shade along the way.

Workout 2: Zumba on Celebrity Cruises

Aerobics & Pilates on Celebrity Eclipse

Why it's great: You can dance to a mix of upbeat world rhythms for a total-body workout in a class that matches your ability, from high-intensity regular classes to specialty ones like Zumba Gold, which offers easy-to-learn choreography geared to active older adults. Zumbatomic classes are tailor-made for kids, and Aqua Zumba is available if you want to minimize impact and dance in water. There's even a Zumba-themed fitness party once per sailing in each ship's nightclub. (Specialty classes vary by ship and come with a fee. Zumba is not available on Celebrity Xpedition.)

Also consider: Princess ships offer complimentary 30- to 45-minute classes poolside (by Movies Under the Stars) or in one of the dance clubs. All are taught by licensed Zumba instructors.

Workout 3: Cardio Boxing on Norwegian Cruise Line

Why it's great: Norwegian's cardio boxing Fight Klub classes incorporate both bag work and combinations of punches and kicks for a challenging cardio workout. All of the combinations are done with heavy boxing bags in a group setting. Each Norwegian ship offers, on average, four classes a week (for a fee). Instructors are qualified personal trainers. There are no sparring or boxing matches.

Also consider: Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady boasts a boxing ring, where passengers can pay for training sessions, and select Celebrity ships feature cardio boxing classes for a fee.

Workout 4: Cycling Classes on Celebrity Cruises

Motion Studios on Celebrity Edge

Why it's great: If cycling is up your alley, Celebrity Cruises offers for-fee RYDE classes, which are taught by specially trained instructors. The boutique experience combines music and challenging workouts that are tailored to participants' needs. The line's newest vessels, including Celebrity Edge, are also outfitted with Peloton equipment, which allows passengers to access virtual instructor-led classes.

Also consider: Many other cruise lines -- including Royal Caribbean, MSC and Crystal -- have spin classes, as well. For those who prefer to bike on land, Windstar carries bikes onboard -- road bikes on its power yachts and beach cruisers on its sailing ships -- and rents them to passengers for a small fee. River cruise lines also store bikes onboard for cruisers to use ashore.

Workout 5: Rip Training by TRX on Carnival Cruise Ships

Why it's great: Developed by a Navy SEAL, the instructor-led TRX Rip Training uses a series of tethered ropes to lead participants in a wide variety of movements that increase range of motion, enhance fluidity and sculpt muscles. While the Rip Trainer is a popular workout tool for elite athletes and fitness buffs, the training can be geared to newbies, too.

Also consider: Many of fitness centers in Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Seabourn offer similar TRX-type suspension training that leverages gravity and your own body weight to complete hundreds of possible exercises.

Workout 6: Basketball on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Basketball Court on Carnival Splendor

Why it's great: All Royal Caribbean cruise ships have some sort of basketball court, but on Quantum-class ships, you can play indoors, outdoors and in the water. The SeaPlex -- found only on Quantum, Anthem, Ovation and Spectrum of the Seas -- is the largest indoor space at sea dedicated to active pursuits, and it includes an indoor basketball court (as well as roller skating rink and circus school). On the ships' upper decks, you can shoot hoops or play a game of three-on-three on a full outdoor court, or opt for team water basketball in the Sports Pool.

Also consider: Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America, Princess and Disney cruise ships also have outdoor multipurpose sports courts where you can play soccer, volleyball, basketball and more.

Workout 7: Water Sports on Windstar

Why it's great: Paddle-boarding, water skiing, wakeboarding and kayaking are available via a water sports platform on all Windstar ships. The platform and its various (complimentary) equipment are used frequently on Caribbean sailings, and they're typically available at least two days on each Mediterranean voyage, weather permitting.

Also consider: Seabourn, SeaDream, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Star Clippers also have retractable water sports platforms with similar options.

Workout 8: Ballroom Dancing on Cunard

Dancing in the Queens Room on Queen Victoria

Why it's great: Cunard's ballroom dancing has attracted dancers from around the world for good reason. Queen Mary 2's elegant Queens Room is the biggest and best ballroom at sea. It spans the full width of the ship and has a wooden floor, which makes it easier to dance for hours.

If you're new to ballroom dancing, lessons taught by acclaimed professional dancers are available daily in a wide variety. They also offer other genres (cha-cha, waltz, foxtrot, rumba, country and western line dancing, and '70s style). No partner, no problem. Cunard's gentleman hosts are on hand during lessons.

Also consider: Looking to do some good while donning your dancing shoes for a workout? For a small donation to the St. Jude Children's Hospital, you can take part in Carnival Cruise Line's Groove for St. Jude. You'll learn one of several popular line dances under the tutelage of a member of the entertainment staff, and you'll earn some fun swag while you burn off those calories. Crystal also offers a stellar ballroom dance program, featuring dedicated classrooms, instructors and gentleman hosts to dance with women traveling alone (or with those whose significant others don't wish to participate).

Workout 9: Surfing on Royal Caribbean's FlowRider

FlowRider on Independence of the Seas

Why it's great: Available on Freedom-, Oasis- and Quantum-class ships, as well as Navigator of the Seas, the FlowRider is the only place at sea where you can hang ten on a 40-foot-long surf simulator. Friends and families can take photos and watch your progress from the aptly named Wipe Out Bar. FlowRider is included in your cruise fare, and no reservations required, but you'll have to sign a waiver before you're allowed to give it a go. Never tried surfing? You can stick with less risky "bodyboarding," or opt for private coaching, which is available to help refine your skills for a charge.

Also consider: Instead of surfing on top of a current, swim against one for a good cardio workout on Princess's larger ships. The swim-against-the-current spa pool gives you a workout that can equal many laps in a traditional pool.

Workout 10: Circuit Training in Crystal Cruises' Outdoor Fitness Garden

Why it's Great: The multilevel outdoor "garden" consists of more than a dozen glass-blasted, stainless steel fitness stations crafted by Danish company Norwell Outdoor Fitness. The company's equipment can be found in parks in Europe and a few U.S. states, as well. The pieces are simply designed and intuitive so that you can step on, and the machine will guide your movement using your body weight as resistance -- no adjustments or weights required. A Norwell Fitness app is available if you'd like more guidance and a way to track your progress.

Also consider: Carnival's SportSquare's top-deck fitness options include a six-station Vita exercise course and SkyFitness, home to rowing machines, elliptical trainers, punching bags and more. It's available on select Carnival ships, typically the fleet's newest additions and rec

Updated November 26, 2019
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