Royal Caribbean's 5K Race: Work of Genius or Too Much Work?

October 15, 2010
running-woman-beach-Royal-Caribbean (3:20 p.m. EDT) -- With onboard rock-climbing, surfing and ice-skating among its offerings, Royal Caribbean prides itself on its active vibe. But a recent announcement touting the line's newest calorie-burning activity -- a 5K race in St. Maarten, sold as a shore excursion on Allure of the Seas' December 12 sailing -- gave us pause. Wondering whether cruisers would pay $50 to work up a sweat on their vacation, we asked Cruise Critic's Facebook fans what they thought of Royal Caribbean's latest announcement.

Responses ran the gamut from Kathleen Hamilton's "I would sign up in a heart beat.... I would love the chance to race on an island" to Allan Medin's "I volunteer to stay behind and keep an eye on the ship while reclining on deck with a Corona or two." Clearly, some of you cruise to run -- and others run far away from the idea of exercising on vacation.

The biggest complaint we heard on Facebook (and on the Cruise Critic Message Boards) was the price. Susan Domanick DiLena posts, "$50 seems a bit steep unless 100 percent is going to charity. Otherwise Google maps can figure out a nice route." However, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Christina Morales explained to us that, while the Royal 5K race does not benefit any charity, the $50 fee covers not only the race administration and a souvenir T-shirt, but gives participants access to an entire week's worth of exclusive seminars and workshops with high-profile athletes (including Olympic medalists), other in-port fun runs, and a post-race reception and awards ceremony.

For running enthusiasts, $50 could be a good deal for what is essentially a mini running theme cruise. If you're curious about what a full-fledged running cruise might look like, read our feature about taking our first "Cruise to Run" on Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess. But, for all you non-runners out there, we got to thinking that Allure of the Seas offers plenty of alternatives for burning calories while having fun. With the help of our Facebook fans, we've come up with a few heartbeat-increasing activities that don't involve even the tiniest of jogs:

"How about walking the cruise ship for a week?" suggests Jennifer Napier. Having just been onboard Allure for a shipyard tour, we can guarantee that you'll exert some energy simply getting from your cabin to the pool and from the pool to the dining room on this humongous ship -- especially if you avoid the elevators and take the stairs. Get lost, and you'll burn even more calories.

Get off that lounge chair. On Allure of the Seas, you can play mini-golf, try surfing or boogie-boarding, climb a rock wall, ice skate, or take classes in yoga, Pilates and kickboxing. Compared with sitting at your office desk all day, you'll get a pretty good workout just having fun.

"Try a Pub Crawl rather than a Fun Run," quips Norman Box, but he makes a good point. Even if you'd rather lift a cocktail than a set of weights, you can get moving while pursuing your favorite activity. Start at Jazz on 4 on Deck 4, visit Vintages wine bar on Deck 8, make your way to the pool bar on Deck 15 and then finish up at the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 17. If you've walked the whole way, you probably negated the caloric intake of at least one beer (one can hope).

Dance the night away. Who says sweating is best by day? You can shake and shimmy into the wee hours at Blaze, the onboard disco; swing your salsa hips at Boleros, a Latin bar; and boogie at musically themed evenings at Dazzles, a club that showcases the sounds of 1940's big band, disco, ballroom and more.

Get wet. With four pools onboard, you can burn off last night's dessert with some laps or water aerobics.

Bring the whole family. Just chasing your kids around the ship and keeping up with them as they race from the Adventure Ocean youth center or a Dreamworks show to the sports court will leave you begging for your own afternoon nap.

So, now that you've heard our ideas, we want to know your thoughts. Do you prefer to run or hit the gym for fun on your cruise vacation, or do you like to burn calories through our alternative gut-busters? Tell us in our poll.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor