It’s 7 a.m. on the Crystal Symphony and a perfect time to go for a run. The rising sun in still low on the horizon, the sea air is fresh and invigorating, and the cooling breeze is so loud as it whips around the Forward of the ship that, thru my earphones, I can hardly hear Tina Turner belting out the words of Rollin’ on the River. 

Joining me this morning on Deck 7 is a handful of cruise guests participating in the daily Walk on Water class. Three point seven times around the deck of this luxury ship is about a mile, and the springboard, wooden track (less pressure on the knees) makes it a great place to run.

This is Crystal’s 10-day Mind, Body Soul-themed cruise out of San Pedro, California (about a 40- minute drive from Los Angeles) sailing south to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. The luxury vessel, operated by Crystal Cruises, completed an extreme makeover in 2012. One of the things that makes the ultra-luxury liner special is the crew - an international staff representing about 45 different countries. On this particular cruise there are 570 crew members to about 800 guests – that’s about 1 crew member to 1.65 guests. When it comes to wellness vacations, it never hurts to feel a wee bit pampered.

Fitness classes on the ship begin early each morning as they might at any wellness resort or health spa. Sprinkled throughout each day there are various guided sessions including a morning fitness walk around the deck, Nordic Walking, Yoga, Tai Chi, Spin, Zumba and Stretch.

Simply walking up, down and around this luxury, mid-sized ship with its many features and amenities - like the well-stocked library, its many new upgraded restaurants and lounges, plus swank entertainment show rooms, gym, casino and spa - is a workout. Or you can raise your cardio on the newly resurfaced paddle tennis court. 

Along with the many fitness options, one of the things I applaud Crystal for is the quality and variety of their educational lectures and workshops led by wellness experts, medical professionals and authors from various health and wellness-focused walks of life.

LIKE A CRADLE ON THE WAVES

Every luxury cruise ship has a spa these days, and a treatment table sometimes feels like a cradle on the waves. Very nurturing.

Crystal Symphony’s Crystal Spa is a Feng Shui-inspired space washed in earthy colors and natural light. There’s a full menu of treatments and services including Thai Poultice Massage Acupuncture and teeth whitening. There’s also a small hair salon and an adjacent mani/pedi area both overlooking the ship’s top deck and blessed with a partial ocean view. With 10 treatment rooms, the spa is a good size for a ship with just 500 plus staterooms and suites, but demand is high, so staff usually recommends you book a treatment as soon as you board.

Port Days - the days that a ship is “in port” - are generally the “best value days” at most onboard spas. Today, the Port Day Indulgence offers two of any four selected 25-minute treatments for $109. I choose the Deep Tissue Muscle Massage (50 minutes for $141) and, as it turns out, it was just what I needed after running around the ship and working on my abs in one of the many fitness classes.

There’s a small refreshment area where guests can help themselves to tea and water - no snacks but one certainly has ample access to all the snacks one could ever want from various outlets throughout the ship - around the clock.

NOT THE CRUISE BUFFET OF OLD

Since food is the foundation of wellness, I was delighted to learn that ninety-five per cent of food served onboard is made from scratch. Today, food service on most cruises is different than it was years ago. Portions are smaller, there is more fish offered, more fruit, more greens, and in the case of Crystal 100 per cent no trans fats. Special dietary needs - gluten free, sugar free, micro-biotic and South Beach, for instance – are all catered to but when it comes to counting calories – that’s left to the individual guest.

All restaurants on board offer healthy choices including veggie wraps at the pool deck bar, and vegetarian and lighter side options in the dining room.

In the indoor/outdoor Lido restaurant, a self-serve salad bar compares with salad bars I’ve seen at destination spas – right down to the nuts and seeds.

And for those who need and want a bit more downtime between participating in the many onboard activities, the recent make-over included a new electronic “do not disturb” doorbell system added to all rooms. From the quiet escape that is my stateroom balcony - as far as the eye can see – there is water. For many, cruising can be the ultimate hydro-therapy - so don’t overlook it when planning your next wellness vacation.

If you go:

Crystal Cruises typically offer their Body, Mind & Spirit themed cruises in the early part of the year. www.crystalcruises.com

For more info on wellness vacations check out www.traveltowellness.com

Written by Anne Dimon

First published in World Traveler Spring/Summer 2014

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