River Cruise Lines Shape Up Their Wellness Programs

River Cruise Lines Shape Up Their Wellness Programs

From onboard yoga to special diet options, river cruise lines are focusing on offering quality fitness and wellness programs By: Marilyn Green
<p>Uniworld passengers can enjoy onboard yoga classes. // © 2016 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection</p><p>Feature image (above): River cruise...

Uniworld passengers can enjoy onboard yoga classes. // © 2016 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Feature image (above): River cruise lines are increasingly providing wellness offerings. // © 2016 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

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Baby boomers are still the prime target market for river cruising, and companies are introducing more wellness and fitness elements to satisfy this group.

This is particularly challenging for lines cruising in Europe, where ship size is restricted by locks and bridges. But with dedicated onboard facilities and programs for wellness, shore excursions and healthful dining, river cruise lines are coming up with creative ways to help keep guests in top shape. And many treatments offered are designed to reduce stress — a primary goal for most vacationers.

Travelers who cruise the rivers will find companies bending over backward to meet dietary preferences and restrictions, from those with low-fat and gluten-free diets to those who are vegan. And most lines have layered shore excursions for various fitness levels, from demanding hiking and biking trips to relaxed walking tours led by naturalists.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s services include an onboard spa with menu options such as the Honey Body Beauty Treatment and Thai Foot and Hand Treatments, which combine elements of shiatsu, reflexology and Chinese massage. Exercise classes and a TRX suspension system enable serious workouts, and suite guests receive a complimentary training session with an onboard wellness coach. Some Uniworld ships also have heated swimming pools.

The line offers onshore biking and hiking, including Gentle Walking sessions for those who prefer a more relaxed pace. Guests can also strike off on their own with complimentary bicycles and Nordic walking sticks or stretch in yoga classes back onboard.

Tauck is also adding onboard yoga this year, and each vessel has a fitness center. In ports, guests can choose from a range of hiking trips, including challenging options such as the 45- to 60-minute hike up to Kuenringer Castle, outside Durnstein, Austria, which sits 719 feet above the Danube and features fabulous views. Tauck also maintains a fleet of bicycles onboard each ship for complimentary use, and the Tauck Cruise Director or Tauck Directors can help guests plan a route from ports.

On the Pacific Northwest’s rivers, Un-Cruise Adventures asks for guests’ dietary preferences before they embark and always has healthful choices on the menu (although it offers splurge dishes, as well). Un-Cruise focuses on using sustainable seafood and locally sourced, fresh ingredients. Guests on Legacy can partake in twice-daily yoga and stretching classes, along with a complimentary massage during each cruise. Additionally, the ship has bikes and elliptical training on the top deck under an awning, along with two large hot tubs.

Sister companies Scenic and Emerald Waterways feature top-deck running tracks, fitness rooms and bikes that can be checked out in port. Emerald also offers a dedicated biking tour on each cruise. Scenic’s 2015 ships, Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper, have vitality pools; one side is for relaxation, and the other is an infinity pool suited for water workouts.

Viking River Cruises provides healthful dining options, from freshly made muesli to multiple salads and designated heart-healthy meals. The culinary staff will meet with guests at the beginning of a cruise to discuss any special dietary requirements and can easily accommodate vegetarians and vegans, gluten-free diets and more. Onboard concierges help guests with fitness options in ports with walking and jogging maps, bicycle rentals and even guest passes at local health clubs.

Like many lines, AmaWaterways also provides complimentary bikes for passengers. Last year, in partnership with Backroads, it introduced a bike-themed cruise itinerary on the Danube on 20 sailings between Budapest, Hungary, and Amsterdam, with titanium bikes, support vans and dedicated tour leaders. This year, the program will extend to other parts of Europe and Asia. Additionally, Adventures by Disney’s six family-oriented Danube cruises (exclusive sailings with Ama) will include a biking excursion in every port. Ama also has a dedicated menu for vegans and an onboard kinesiology wall.

This year, Avalon Waterways will offer optional guided biking excursions in select European destinations, partnering with knowledgeable bike companies. Depending on the cruise, riders can pedal in the Netherlands’ Waterland nature reserve, Austria’s Wachau Valley, the Kaiserstuhl region in southern Germany or along the Moselle River in western Germany. Last year, the company launched a 13-day wellness cruise on the Danube, hosted by fitness guru Suzanne Florence, and a second sailing will be offered in July.

On China’s Yangtze River, under the leadership of chef Walter Staib — who has won Emmy Awards for his PBS cooking program “A Taste of History” — Victoria Cruises caters to all kinds of diets, including vegan, lacto-vegetarian and ova-lacto vegetarian. The line also offers daily tai chi, as well as lectures by onboard doctors (versed in both Eastern and Western medicine) on alternative Eastern practices. The line has received positive feedback from passengers who had previously suffered from chronic conditions and said their lives were changed thanks to advice they received onboard.

River cruises are responding to the demands of an expanding pool of customers with a wide range of wellness and fitness options. Now, agents can confidently tell clients that the image of sedentary “oldies” filling the riverboats is as passe as black-and-white television.