River Cruising

River Cruising to Health

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A flute of sparkling wine or a glass of healing gemstone water, circuit training, yoga flow or afternoon tea? Tricky decisions. A fast-paced Vienna walking tour, a castle hill hike in Passau, an 18-mile bike tour to Durnstein, a gentle evening stroll with wine tasting in Krems or a Vilshofen Organ Concert & Beer Underworld Tour. These were the choices I faced on my first wellness river cruise through Germany and Austria on the AmaSonata, one of 19 ships belonging to AmaWaterways.

Wellness is the new wave in river cruising and floated into creative itineraries with a dedicated wellness host at the helm. The preconception of a sedate meander along the river has long passed by and washed ashore. Today, this trendy mode of holidaying involves daily visits to interesting places and cities interspersed with optional wellness activities onboard and indulging in fine wines and gourmet cuisine.

A Fortress Hike in Durnstein, a bike ride along the Danube, a resistance band or Zumba class. Active or gentle, competitive or a complete beginner, from early morning stretch, posture workout, to laps around the jogging track, activities have been designed for all age groups and fitness levels. If classes don’t appeal, there’s a gym, compact as it may be, Nordic sticks for hiking trails ashore, walking tours at paces to suit, a spa offering a handful of massage treatments and lectures on lifestyle wellness. But it was cycling that won the popular vote. Many of my fellow sailors chose rides along the Danube’s river paths,  the more adventurous cycling the cobbled streets and  narrow passageways on guided city tours while the longer rides haloed the fittest amongst us.

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Ashore, it was culture in abundance. History echoed through stone passageways, etched on walls, recalled in painful truths and humbling stories, crafted in statues, exposed in Baroque and Gothic architecture, shrouded in monasteries and celebrated in jaw-dropping cathedrals. Our route along the Danube cruised from Nuremberg to Vienna, each port of call having a narrative to tell. The Nuremberg trials and Courtroom, the countless listed buildings and commemorative stumbling stones in Regensburg, the world’s largest pipe organ in Passau’s St. Stephens Cathedral and Richard The Lionheart’s imprisonment in Durnstein.  We visited Mondsee, famous for its appearance in The Sound of Music, Linz, the UNESCO city of media arts, the awe-inspiring Benedictine Abbey in Melk ending in Vienna, the capital, personified by the Blue Danube waltz, gilded palaces and gold statue of Strauss, its state opera, rich chocolate Sachertorte, The Spanish Riding School and St. Stephens Cathedral cradled in its centre.

Quietening the mind is an easy pastime on a ship which glides along calm waters bordered by lush green river banks  – silent, still and serene. Relaxing on the sundeck, roads track us from the side, trains play hide and seek as they hiss between trees and hills, speed boats whizz pass and barges lug past dragging  their heavy cargo.  Pressures of everyday life drift downstream.

The scenery from a river cruise is just as one imagines and vibrant in sunlight.  Paths zig-zagging across the mountainside, boats moored onto private jetties, villages centred by steepled churches and families waving as they share picnics and homemade lemonade.

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The commentary along the Danube adds a historical date or two, dotted with colourful myths and fables. We see castles still standing, reminding us of Rapunzel-like fairy tales while others lie in ruins. Terraced grooves folded into the landscape define the Wachau Valley wine region complemented with a climate ripe for harvesting  apricots. The secluded inlets carved into the riverbed provide sanctuary for wildlife from river traffic while the locks and low bridges offer a different dimension to our voyage.

Dining is another attractive pursuit offering a good variety of fine dining menus for lunch and dinner with a guide to healthier options. Local and regional dishes are integrated into daily choices with some themed events to add a little theatre to the experience. The Chef’s Table boutique restaurant offers a taster menu, all complemented with wine recommendations. The waiters, as with most of the crew are eager to serve, some with distinguishable personalities, all with an appetite for high standards.  Post dinner, the entertainment takes to the floor with renditions from a West End singer, melodies on the piano, costumed operatta  and jiving into the early hours, offering music for all palettes.

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On board, the atmosphere is convivial and with 160 passengers it’s easy to forge friendships in a short time. Conversation centres around cultural experiences ashore while wellness activities draw individuals together, motivating and sharing achievements. Dotted with miniature orange trees and table orchids, the AmaSonata is tastefully decorated and contemporary in style.

Before disembarking, we are informed of the launch next year of the AmaMagna, a revolutionary new style double-width river ship, with a Zen Wellness Studio and water sports platform. So, with more wellness activities, more choices,  I decide to be better prepared for my next wellness cruise as I enjoy a farewell glass of healing gemstone water.

For more information about AmaWaterways or to book go to www.amawaterways.co.uk, call tel: 0800 320 2335 or visit your local travel agent.

About AmaWaterways:

Family-owned, AmaWaterways is headquartered in, California with offices in Switzerland and the U.K. It provides river cruise holidays on 19 ships, sailing along the waterways of Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Next year the company will launch three ships. The AmaMora, will offer a choice of itineraries on the Rhine, while the smaller, more intimate AmaDouro makes her debut on Portugal and Spain’s Douro River.The revolutionary AmaMagna will also enter service in May 2019. She will offer an unprecedented range of facilities including a choice of restaurants, Zen Wellness Studio and water sports platform as well as offering far more personal space than traditional river cruise ships.

From  Summer 2019, the Wellness Programme will be offered across the European fleet (excluding Douro).

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Cruising to Wellness

Wellness themed holidays can be experienced in many forms but if you like fresh air, open skies, and the sound of waves on rewind, then take to the ocean or to the myriad of river routes for your prescribed dose of wellness.

The Healthcare Holiday has been searching the waters to see what is on offer from the ever-growing number of cruises for today’s health conscious cruiser or those new to this style of holiday.

For many, cruises are synonymous with endless buffet tables and a more sedentary type of holiday experience. Not true. Cruises today offer an exhaustive range of activities, a programme of excursions to suit every age as well as a selection of creative and mouthwatering menus designed for most preferences.

Cruise packages have been crafted to attract niche interests, and, on trend, a growing number are now available to appeal specifically to the health & wellness traveller.

The luxury small-ship cruise line, Seabourn, is offering its first-ever holistic spa and wellness experience at sea. Onboard, each programme will be led by a wellness guide, a certified yoga and meditation practitioner. The daily practice of meditation and yoga is central to the programme through a selection of complimentary sessions. On-board seminars will cover subjects such as anti-inflammatory food, healthy aging and meditation. This new venture is in addition to existing onboard spa services which include massages, facials, fitness and beauty treatments.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ wellness offering includes its onboard SPA Fitness Center with its state-of-the-art Life Fitness equipment and classes in Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. These facilities are supplemented by fitness & beauty seminars, ranging from Detox for Health & Weight Loss, Powerful Posture, and when dining, menus are clearly marked with “Healthy Options.”

Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering voyages in Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific that provide health and wellness opportunities for fitness-minded travellers. Wellness comes in the form a retractable watersports marina from which guests can paddleboard, kayak and windsurf. Wellness also takes a cultural form, with traditional Polynesian dance classes and sunrise Polynesian-inspired Zumba classes. Relaxing overwater massages are available on Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ private islet paradise. For a revitalizing start, every morning, the Paul Gauguin’s La Palette offers a wellness bar with blended fresh fruit and vegetable juice drinks. Dr Sideroff, a healing, resilience and optimal performance expert, will offer insights into integrating the most advanced scientific and behavioural technologies with ancient traditions for optimal mind and body functioning aboard the Cook Islands & Society Islands sailing on 15th July 2017.

“Wellbeing on the Water” is offered by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise, promising to keep their guests fit and on track during their cruise. Staying active onshore includes excursions such as cycling and Nordic walking as well as gentle walking tours. Onboard a wellness coach will put them through their paces with exercise class or a relaxing yoga session. The Serenity River Spa offers the haven for wellness tailored treatments embracing the arts of Chinese massage, reflexology and shiatsu.

In January 2017, The Hungry Girl Cruises sails in the form of Holland America’s Eurodam, when Food Network’s Lisa Lillien (alias the Hungry Girl), hosts special activities such as a seminar on how to indulge on vacation without gaining weight, a “Swap Till You Drop” demo in which Lillien will exchange recipes and offer prizes, morning workouts by the pool and book signings.

Holistic Holiday at Sea will take sail away in March 2017. Experts in holistic living and natural health join together for the 14th annual Holistic Holiday at Sea on MSC Divina. Emmy Award-winning host of the TV series, “Christina Cooks,” Christina Pirello; pioneer of cardiovascular medicine and Olympic gold medalist, Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D. and nutritional leader and author, Neal Barnard, M.D. are among the special guests who will be presenting onboard during the seven night Miami roundtrip.

According to CruiseCritic.com, cruising has become creative and very competitive!. For three dates in 2016, Marathon Expeditions” Running Cruise hosted a series of week-long cruises featuring themed workouts and 5k runs unique to the destinations of the Caribbean: aboard the Royal Caribbean”s Vision of the Seas, Alaska on the Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas and on AmaWaterways’ AmaDagio in the South of France.

Facilities mentioned may not be available on all ships within the fleet. Please check the individual cruise itinerary and programme for the most uptodate details.