Are health-conscious cruises all the rage?

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012

A new wave of cruises focuses on getting buff instead of getting to the buffet. The real question is—just how popular are they?

In the span of four months, three health-conscious cruises offering everything from yoga to healthy eating seminars will set sail.

On October 21, Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels is setting sail aboard the Norwegian Star on her Ultimate Wellness Cruise 2010. Guests will journey from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, while engaging in wellness seminars, exercise classes, and healthy eating. Royal Caribbean is on their heels and set to launch the Allure of the Seas Royal 5K cruise on December 12. Passengers can socialize with fellow runners and receive expert training tips while cruising the Caribbean. A five-kilometer jaunt through St. Maarten will be the highpoint of a week dedicated to running enthusiasts. A healthy sailing veteran, The Holistic Holiday at Sea embarks on their eighth voyage on February 27. They combine vegetarian cuisine and daily yoga classes in order to guide guests on a "voyage to well being."

Richard Simmons' Cruise to Lose set the precedent for cruises like these back in 1992. With twenty-nine trips under his belt, he continues to sellout each time. Even though the Carnival ships he sails on have a capacity of 2,000–3,000 people, cruise coordinator Linda Williams says that he caps it at 275 so that "every person in the group can attend every class." The Holistic Holiday at Sea has also received a huge response. "The feedback has been beyond excellent, and people have really loved the whole experience," cruise director and creator Sandy Pukel wrote in an email. "Except for one year, we have experienced double digit growth the entire time. My latest trip had approximately one thousand participants!" Both of these cruises are especially proud of their high rate of repeat clientele. Jillian Michael's Ultimate Wellness Cruise 2010 has also been inciting excitement and, with less that a week left until go time, they have close to 2,000 guests booked with room for 300 more.

I recently caught up with Sixthman CEO Andy Levine—who organized Michaels' cruise—for advice about keeping our health afloat at sea.

How is our health consciousness changing the way we cruise?

The perception is that cruises are just for people who like to eat. I don't think that's accurate from what we've seen, but I think that people are very aware of putting themselves in situations that can be perceived as unhealthy.

What tips do you have for staying in shape while cruising?

Every ship has healthy items on their menu and they usually have a nutritionist on board that you can talk to. Cruising today is not what it used to be. But, whatever you do, stay away from the 24-hour pizza, because that will kill you.

Why did Jillian decide to create this cruise?

Cruises are known to be such a pork-fest, where people just eat and binge. Jillian wanted the challenge of putting together a program that would be a vacation with a focus on wellness. She went through the menu, found all the landmines and took them out. She created alternatives so that people will leave the vacation feeling better than they normally do.

What will guests get out of this experience?

First and foremost, this is a vacation. Guests will be traveling with like-minded people who want to focus on wellness. They can expect to get educated, to get their sweat on, and to let loose and have some fun.

Can we expect healthy cruising to become a trend?

I see healthy alternatives being something we incorporate into cruises at first, before health-focused cruises become their own trend.

What about you? Would you book a healthy cruise?

—Jessica Campbell

Check out this article on how to stay healthy at sea.

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A new way to get to the airport…but is it worth it?

Travelers in New York City have historically had several options to get from town to the three major airports—cab, train or subway. Soon there will be a new way—one-way car rentals—but we're not sure it's such a bargain. First, a look at the existing options (each has its own drawback): Cabs are expensive–a taxi from my house in Brooklyn to Newark can be as high as $100. Fast train service is limited–JFK is accessible by Long Island Rail Road and Newark is accessible by New Jersey Transit, but if you're heading to LaGuardia, you're out of luck. Subways are slow and crowded–not only that, you can't get to Newark or LaGuardia by subway. There is a local bus to LGA, but you'll risk missing your flight. According to a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, visitors will have a new, potentially appealing alternative come December: one-way car rentals from Hertz. People who are already members of "Connect by Hertz", the company's car-sharing program, will be able to pick up wheels at the 55th street location in Manhattan—and Manhattan only to start. (If you're not a member yet, the annual fee to join Connect by Hertz is $50.) While normally Hertz' car-sharers pay by the hour, in this case, it'll be a flat fee on par with cab fare. The company plans to roll out more cars over time, ultimately introducing 250 vehicles across 100 locations. All that said, it's unclear what the draw really is. Driving yourself to the airport, dodging traffic, and nervously watching the clock adds a layer of stress to the travel experience. Add to that the fact that once you get to the airport, you have to return the car (and then either take a bus or jump on the AirTrain to get to the terminal). So you're effectively paying the same price as a cab to add stress and more time to your trip? Personally, I applaud Hertz's effort to add another consumer choice to the mix, but I'm not sure THIS consumer would bite. Would you? EARLIER Planning a trip to New York City? Here's the scientific low-down on how to get a taxi in a jiff. Should one of New York's major airports be torn down? The city mayor (and the pilots) say YES!


Neighborhood watch: Monti, Rome

Tucked between the Roman Forum and the Quirinale Palace, Monti housed the poorest locals back in ancient Roman times, when it was called Suburra ("sub urbis"), Latin for "under city." In recent years, this neighborhood has morphed into the place to see and be seen, especially for bohemian thirty-somethings. Its winding, well-kept cobblestone streets are home to some of Rome's best locali (hangouts) as well as eclectic shops and piazzas for observing everyday life. La Bottega del Caffe should be your first stop.You can't miss this bar since it literally overflows with patrons, who spill out from under its awning and into the neighborhood's main square, Piazza Madonna dei Monti. La Bottega del Caffe is at its best during the early evening aperitivo, when you can people watch over platters of cheeses and cold cuts. You can always just grab a drink and look cool outside and sit by the fountain. Piazza Madonna dei Monti, 5. Just around the corner, Urbana 47 specializes in organic, seasonal fare like vegetable polpette with sweet pecorino, sheep's milk yogurt, and ravioli with pumpkin and amaretto. The decor is warmly retro and includes playful, knitted works by local artist Alessandra Roveda, who can easily cover any piece of furniture with colorful yarn. Brunch from 9 a.m. on Sundays, daily aperitivo from at 6 p.m. The restaurant stays open for dinner until after midnight. Via Urbana, 47. On the opposite side of Monti is Ristorante La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, which my friends call Dustin Hoffman's because they once spotted the actor eating there. The owner and chef Alessio Liberatore's family has been in the restaurant business for over a century. His wife Maria Grazia heads up the staff, and their two children Claudia and Aldo rattle off more specials than you can keep track of! The pappardelle al ragu di vitello tartufo e verdure, a regular menu fixture, is sublime. Last time I went there, I spent less than $50 for a dinner that included generous amounts of wine, antipasti, heaping courses, dessert, and coffee. Seating is limited, so it's best to reserve in advance. 011-39/066-798-643, Via della Madonna dei Monti, 9. Abito is one of my favorite places to shop because most of the clothes are made in the back room by the owner herself, Wilma Silvestri. She has a knack for contemporary designs and for resurrecting vintage men's and women's clothes and turning them into something off the runway. Via Panisperna 61. Are we in Notting Hill or are we in Rome? That's what you might ask yourself when you step into Pulp, the eclectic second-hand store that carries everything from old Fendi bags to your next punky costume-party outfit. The store prides itself on its vintage designer clothing and all around funky stuff. 011-39/0648-5511, Via del Boschetto 140. Want more insider recommendations? Read up on five quintessential trattorias in Eat Like a Local: Rome and check out our complete Rome coverage.

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How a Kindle can help you travel

One day recently I landed on the shores of the Italian island of Ischia without a guidebook or a paperback novel. I was forced to depend on my Kindle for reading on the beaches, the ferry rides, and around town. Our editors have road-tested Apple's rival device, the iPad, before, and the iPad is certainly a cool tool. But the Kindle is now less expensive. In the past year and a half, Amazon has dropped the price of its e-reader by 63 percent to a reasonable $139. The two e-readers have different personalities. Amazon's Kindle is like the Mitt Romney of e-readers (dull and bookish, but also reliable and high class), while the iPad is more like Sarah Palin (playful, populist, and the one you would feel more comfortable asking for directions when you get lost). THE VERDICT I'd give the Kindle a B- when it comes to travel friendliness. The latest Kindle with built-in Wi-Fi ($139, $189 for 3G) is quite handy for travelers. But it still has several flaws to fix. If you're like me, which no doubt you are, you do not like the idea of having to carry huge piles of guidebooks, beach reads, and magazines with you on your trip. When you set out to pack your bags, you want to travel light. The latest Kindle is a neat solution to the weight problem for sure. It weighs a mere 8.5 ounces, or roughly the same as an in-flight magazine. KINDLE PROS AND CONS Pro: You can store up to 3,500 books and documents on it. You no longer have to decide which guidebook to bring with you, the city one or the country one or the restaurants-only guide. Take them all! Con: Amazon delivers the Kindle to you naked. Travelers will want to buy a cover for protection during a journey, and that cover will add a ridiculous $30 to the cost. Pro: Screen is easy to read both indoors and out in the bright sun. It's not reflective. Con: The affordable version lacks color for photos and maps, and it doesn't reproduce maps well. 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Ever wonder what kind of weird stuff gets confiscated at JFK airport?

A new photo exhibit in New York City shows exactly what gets confiscated: Cuban cigars, pirated DVDs, heroin, animal parts, hand grenades, bongs, and more. Now through the end of 2010, the Lever House Art Collection (on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, free) features the photographs of Taryn Simon. Last November, Simon spent five full days (24/7) at New York's JFK airport, where she photographed more than 1,000 items seized from airline passengers and mail packages entering the U.S. The resulting images are shown in a Lever House exhibition simply called "Contraband." The exhibit is an extension of the work Simon is probably best known for, "An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar," in which she documented spots few people ever have a prayer of seeing in person -- CIA headquarters, inside a fully-armed nuclear submarine, and so forth. The "American Index," shown at the Whitney Museum in 2007, is now a book. So what's the strangest thing in Simon's new "Contraband" show? Hard to say, but the horse sausage and cow manure tooth powder have to be up at the top of the list. RELATED STORIES: Bizarre Traveler Behavior: Security officials at borders and airports sure see some strange things What the Beagle Knows: Why man's best friend is the smuggler's worst enemy