Wellness-themed cruises: The cruises that will help you find that mind and body balance

Do you go on a cruise with the aim of coming home not only refreshed and relaxed but fitter than when you embarked? If so, you're in good company. Wellness-themed cruises are becoming increasingly popular and American expedition cruise line UnCruise Adventures is the latest company to bring a special wellness element on board.

UnCruise Adventures, a small-ship company that's been operating for 20 years, is best known for its off the-beaten-track ecotourism cruises in Alaska and Hawaii. In 2017, it will offer three wellness itineraries in Alaska and one in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. Each will have two experts on board offering a week of special programs focused on fitness, nutrition and overall wellbeing. Classes might include hands-on cooking and core strengthening. In Alaska, the wellness cruises will depart on April 17, 22 and 29, on board either Wilderness Explorer or Wilderness Adventurer. In the Sea of Cortez, Safari Endeavour will host a wellness cruise on its December 2 sailing.

Seabourn's newest ship, Seabourn Encore – which arrived in Australia on January 22 on its post-christening cruise – is the first of the four-ship fleet to feature the new Mind and Body Wellness Program. Seabourn launched the program in partnership with American celebrity doctor Andrew Weil, who is a well-known integrative medicine expert. The program focuses on a holistic experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual wellbeing, and includes daily yoga and meditation sessions.

Over the past couple of years, tall-ship line Star Clippers has offered guests free yoga and meditation classes on selected yoga-themed sailings and more are in store in 2017. Royal Clipper offers two yoga-themed cruises in the Mediterranean in May and two in the Caribbean in December; Star Clipper will do two in Thailand and Indonesia in April and July respectively; and Star Flyer will do one in the Mediterranean in October. Yoga classes are held on deck, beneath the billowing sails – the ideal environment for relaxation. Pilates classes will also feature on Royal Clipper's May 13 Mediterranean sailing.

MSC Cruises is launching its Wellness Experience Powered by Technogym this year. This involves passengers filling out an online questionnaire pre-cruise followed by consultations with a doctor and senior trainer once you're on board the ship. A personal wellness program is tailored for your fitness levels, using the ship's pool, gym and running track. You can join exercise classes using Technogym's ARKE equipment and take group classes such as Bella Barre and Hula Fit; all will be coded in the timetable so you can take one that's appropriate to your personal program.

MEET THE CREW

NAME Tim Amm, from South Africa

POSITION Expedition staff, Silversea's Silver Explorer

MY JOB My position consists of organising on-board functions and expedition activities aboard Silver Explorer. These incredible experiences range from: hikes and Zodiac cruises in Antarctica to diving operations off a coral atoll in the South Pacific, whale watching and scheduling lectures for our guests.

A TYPICAL DAY … starts early with a visit to the bridge to check on the weather conditions, the progress the ship has made to our destination, and making a wake-up announcement for our guests. This is normally followed by a quick breakfast in order to get ready for the morning's outdoor activities. I drive one of our Zodiacs ashore and ensure everything shore-side is ready for the arrival of our guests and the activities to follow. Lunch is normally a short affair as this is a great time to start planning the following day's adventures before heading out for the afternoon's activities. Our early evening serves as an opportunity to recap the day with the expedition staff, and a chance for me to brief the guests on what to expect for the following day. The evenings are left for a lovely relaxed dinner with good company, laughs and always impressive cuisine.

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FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT Sailing into Cape Town after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, having visited some of the most amazing islands this planet has to offer, including the Falklands, South Georgia and the Tristan da Cunha group. The feeling of arriving into one of the most beautiful port cities in the world, against the backdrop of Table Mountain and knowing that you are home, is truly special.

FAVOURITE CRUISE PORT Anchoring in Koolama Bay, then heading out on a pre-sunrise Zodiac cruise up the King George Gorge in the Kimberley, Western Australia.

INSIDER TIPS Always be prepared for the weather to change, as nothing can ruin an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience like not being properly dressed.

TIP

When you've booked and paid for your cruise, check what activities, meals at specialty restaurants, spa treatments and shore excursions you can pre-book online to save queuing on board.

NEWS

Oceans ahead

Viking Ocean Cruises has announced 13 new itineraries for 2017, 2018 and 2019. By 2019, Viking will be the world's largest small-ship ocean cruise line, with six 930-passenger ocean ships. It will offer cruises in Alaska, Australia, Asia and the Caribbean. Viking is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and will be adding Viking Sky and Viking Sun to the fleet; Viking Spirit will be delivered in 2018. "We are super excited to be bringing the Viking Ocean experience to Australian and New Zealand shores," says Michelle Black, Viking's managing director, Australia and New Zealand. "Our ships are like no other, contemporary yet classic, spacious yet intimate. They certainly boast more than their share of wow factors. We're thrilled to have Viking Spirit based here for summer 2018-19." See vikingcruises.com.au.

Kimberley calling

Ponant's L'Austral is cruising the Kimberley for the first time in July this year and the luxury expedition line has just released details for its 2018 season. Four 10-night voyages in July and August 2018 include the must-see highlights as well as some lesser known destinations and experiences the expedition team have uncovered along this remarkable 13,000-kilometre coastline. Led by award-winning photographer and adventurer Mick Fogg, a veteran of more than 120 Kimberley expeditions, the 12-strong team includes marine biologists, naturalists and conservationists. A highlight of the voyages is meeting indigenous communities and taking part in traditional ceremonies such as "Welcome to country". L'Austral will be the youngest ship to operate in the Kimberley and was specifically designed to operate in environmentally sensitive regions. See au.ponant.com.

U by Uniworld

Luxury river cruise line Uniworld is launching a new offshoot designed to appeal to travellers aged between 18 and 40. Starting in 2018, river cruises with U BY UNIWORLD will focus on longer stays in port, more time ashore and more time to enjoy local nightlife in Europe. Uniworld will refurbish two of its classic, 116-passenger ships, River Ambassador and River Baroness, to give them a more contemporary look and features – Millennials and Gen-Xers can expect communal dining tables, a new culinary program, cocktail mixologists and international DJs. Uniworld, which is part of global company The Travel Corporation, has drawn on the expertise of its sister youth brands Contiki and Busabout for its new river venture. U BY UNIWORLD itineraries will on sale in March 2017. See uniworld.com/au.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Fly to Hawaii to board Celebrity Solstice for its repositioning voyage to Sydney in 2018 with ecruising.travel's new 20-night fly/stay/cruise package. Flights to Honolulu depart Australia on September 29, 2018, and after two nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village you'll set sail for French Polynesia. Ports of call include Papeete, Bora Bora, Moorea, Auckland and the Bay of Islands. Fares start from $5289; phone 1300 106 466, see ecruising.travel.

MORE DEALS

APT's 90th anniversary Celebration Sale includes free international flights, a free cabin upgrade and a complimentary two-night stopover in Singapore on selected Vietnam and Cambodia cruises and tours. For example, the 17-day Vietnam and Cambodia Discovery cruise and tour, which includes a seven-night Mekong cruise, a two-night Ha Long Bay cruise, three nights in Siem Reap and two nights in Ho Chi Minh City, starts at $8495. Phone 1300 196 420, see aptouring.com.au/celebrate.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN Book any international cruise departing after February 4 to save up to 30 per cent off each passenger's fares, receive up to $US400 ($530) to spend on board and pay a 50 per cent reduced deposit. This New Year special offer is valid until February 27, 2017 and does not apply to China cruises. Phone 1800 754 500, see www.royalcaribbean.com.au.

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