Updated June 6, 2019
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. In recent years, nearly every new midsize to mammoth cruise ship introduced has come with a fitness center that's well stocked with the equipment you'd find in your neighborhood gym: treadmills, ellipticals, steppers, bikes, medicine and fitness balls, and free weights. Group classes in yoga, Pilates and spinning are offered on numerous lines, as well.
Many lines offer much more. Royal Caribbean's Vitality at Sea Spa and fitness centers are more like fitness palaces, offering gravity trainers, stationary bikes with monitors that mimic more than 30 riding environments, and an Omega Kinesis Wall -- a panel of grips, cables and weights that enable hundreds of circuit training exercises. (Kinesis walls are available on Oceania and Celebrity ships, as well.) Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway-class ships have outdoor sports complexes (in addition to large gyms), offering everything from multilevel ropes courses to rock climbing.
One Cruise Critic reader summed up the changing fitness-at-sea perception well, saying: "Wow when I think of cruises, I think of drinking and lots and lots of eating. This is a whole new way to look at ... working fitness into a vacation."
If you're looking to stay fit onboard, here are 10 unique workouts you can find onboard 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.
Workout 1: 5K Run on Royal Caribbean
Why It's Great: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and new ship Harmony of the Seas, set to debut in April 2016, have a 0.43-mile jogging track, nearly twice as long as standard land-based tracks. Better still, the track's Deck 5 location means there's no need to dodge sunbathers around a pool deck or smokers playing shuffleboard. The tracks have well-marked lanes -- in the shade! -- 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 newer ships 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. Route maps are available at guest services, or you can join cruise staff and fellow cruisers for a casual (not timed) run. In 2015, Disney launched its inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge, a 5k event hosted by runDisney, with timed running and decent runner swag. (Check Disney Cruise Line's website for upcoming race dates.) Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay, has a 5k route, as well.
Workout 2: Zumba on Celebrity Cruises
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 AquaZumba's 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. 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: Flywheel Cycling Class on Norwegian Cruise Line
Why It's Great: The hot spinning class trend, Flywheel, available in select U.S. cities (and Dubai) can be found on Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway. Flywheel classes aboard NCL's ships mimic the land-based experience with Flywheel instructors who are specially trained to push you to your potential. Music created by the company's in-house DJs and friendly competition with fellow cyclists thanks to the "TorqBoard" -- a giant screen that tracks and shows each cyclist's progress -- keep you motivated. Weight bars attached to the bikes make it a full-body workout. Instructors suggest RPMs and resistance levels to strive for, but you can adjust the bike's setting to what works best for you and access your stats for each ride (i.e. torq, speed, distance and estimated calories) in a personal account on Flywheel's website.
Also Consider: Royal Caribbean's Quantum- and Oasis-class ships and Celebrity Reflection have FlyWheel studios, 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. In 2016, Carnival's new ship, Vista, takes cycling to new heights -- literally. The ship's SkyRide will be the industry's first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction. Riders cycle around a suspended 800-foot track on hanging recumbent-like bikes 150 feet above the sea.
Workout 4: 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: Norwegian's and Royal Caribbean's fitness centers offer similar TRX Suspension Training that leverages gravity and your own body weight to complete hundreds of possible exercises.
Workout 5: Basketball on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships
Why It's Great: All Royal Caribbean cruise ships have some sort of basketball, but on Quantum-class ships, you can play indoors, outdoors and in the water. The SeaPlex -- found only on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem 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 and even a 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 and Disney cruise ships also have outdoor multipurpose sports courts where you can play soccer, volleyball, basketball and more.
Workout 6: 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: Royal Caribbean's Freedom- and Oasis-class ships have full-size boxing rings, complete with heavy bags, speed bags and jump ropes for use in half-hour or hourlong training sessions with experienced trainers (fee applies).
Workout 7: Water Sports on Windstar
Why It's Great: Paddleboarding, waterskiing, wakeboarding and kayaking are available via a water sports platform on all six 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, of course.
Also Consider: Seabourn and Star Clippers also have retractable water sports platforms with similar options.
Workout 8: Ballroom Dancing on Cunard
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 that has give, making 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: Holland America brought the spirit of the uber-popular "Dancing with the Stars" show to sea and even invited some of the DWTS pros for select sailings. Through mid-January 2016, passengers can take complimentary dance classes with the ship's pro dancers and learn DWTS routines on every sailing. You can also compete in the "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" contest and become cruise champion. Best part about that: At the end of the year, the winner with the highest score from each ship in the fleet receives a free ocean-view stateroom on the Champions Cruise (January 10, 2016) and an opportunity to compete for the Holland America Line Mirror Ball trophy. The DWTS partnership ends after the Champions cruise, but Holland America's ships will still have dance classes led by the ship dancers.
Workout 9: Surfing on Royal Caribbean's FlowRider
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? Private coaching 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 Sky Fitness, home to rowing machines, elliptical trainers, punching bags and more. It's available on Carnival Magic, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine.