Turning Wellness Into Opportunity

Given the stresses of today's world, a cruise can be a great escape. Increasingly, cruise lines are offering new health, fitness and wellness options at sea—including yoga. Some cruise lines even offer yoga-themed cruises, so agents might consider pitching a group cruise to yoga clubs, health facilities with yoga classes and wellness-minded clients. Following are a sampling of cruise line offerings.A yogi and yoga lovers aboard a Carnival cruise

Consumers might sail in search of a mind-and-body overhaul with the "Holistic Holiday at Sea" aboard Costa Cruise Lines' Costa Fortuna (www.costacruise.com), departing March 1, 2009, from Port Everglades, FL. This week-long, health-inspired cruise includes stops in Key West, Grand Cayman, Roatán and Cozumel.

"People are always looking for ways to enrich their lives, and spending seven days at sea on a program completely devoted to health and wellness is one of the best ways they can do this," says Linda Parrotta, Costa's vice president of marketing. Experts and authors will put on 50-plus workshops focused on vegan and macrobiotic cooking, yoga, shiatsu massage, meditation, cancer prevention, heart disease and more.Guests enjoy the aft deck pool and whirlpool on Holland America Line's Zuiderdam

More than 3,200 people have participated in the Holistic Holiday at Sea over the years. "Guests who take part in this program are from around the country and have come to it from travel agents who pointed out the cruise based on what they knew about their clients' lifestyles," says Parrotta. "We've also seen agents marketing this cruise to clients by picking up on trends such as 'New Year, New You' health kick-starts or even pointing it out to their clients who have recently been through life changes. There are so many options when it comes to health, given the various mind and body aspects that speak to people." Rates begin at $1,195 per person double, excluding taxes.

Alternatively, agents might book a yoga-focused group into one of two Crystal Cruises' (www.crystalcruises.com) "Mind, Body & Spirit" cruises this year. These include Crystal Symphony's December 7 South America voyage from Los Angeles to Valparaiso, Chile, and Crystal Serenity's December 12 Panama Canal cruise from Caldera, Costa Rica, to Miami. Next year, the Mind, Body and Spirit cruises are scheduled for March 27 and May 7. On these cruises, Crystal puts on an additional yoga instructor. On the December 12 voyage, Sandra Shaner, certified by the Yoga Institute and a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance, will be aboard.

Cruise Lines Offer Guidance

On all Crystal cruises, a fitness director usually provides complimentary yoga classes, generally offered every other day. Crystal stresses that yoga is appropriate for all ages and all fitness levels. "Our guests are active and inquisitive individuals looking to continue their healthy lifestyles while on vacation," says Thomas Mazloum, Crystal's vice president, hotel operations.

One tip Crystal offers: Tell your clients on a group cruise that because yoga is user-friendly, it can be modified to be more or less intensive. Thus, it even has appeal for the spouse or partner of someone who is an avid practitioner. For example, a yogi's partner can opt to be introduced to yoga during the cruise or simply enjoy the cruise experience while the yogi maintains her/his daily practice.

If a travel professional wishes to put together a group of yoga enthusiasts, Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) says its group sales department can help make all the arrangements. Such a group can employ the line's onboard yoga instructors, working in conjunction with the Greenhouse Spa & Salon; or they may invite outside yogis (male instructors) or yoginis (female instructors). Additionally, a group can devote an entire cruise to the practice of yoga in all its forms—Raja, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, Samadhi and Hatha, to name a few.

In short, just about anything that the group organizer wishes to do, including yoga guest speakers and mystics, is achievable, says a Holland America spokesman. The sponsor of the yoga group would use his/her Group Advantage Program (GAP) points and Tour Conductor points to set up meetings or obtain complimentary cabins for leaders and classes. For more details, visit www.hollandamerica.com and click on the Travel Agent Headquarters link.

Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) will be the first to introduce yoga to kids and teens with a new complimentary fleetwide program for guests aged three to 17. Parents are welcome to participate. Classes are 30 minutes to one hour. The yoga program promotes coordination, breathing, balance and emotional strength with an element of play incorporating music, chants and singing. Yoga mats are provided. Kids can learn such yoga animal poses as Downward Dog and Cat and Mouse.

Many lines, including Seabourn (www.seabourn.com), Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com) and a long list of others, offer yoga classes throughout the schedule of a regular cruise. For example, Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com) offers a 45-minute yoga class called "Pathway to Yoga" on Wind Surf. Windstar's yoga classes practice basic hatha yoga. The classes are conducted once daily, designed for all levels, and fill up quickly. Cost is $10 per class, per person. Classes are held once per day in the morning. Azamara Cruises (www.azamaracruises.com) will soothe your clients' spirits via sunset yoga classes.

Most lines say they'll assist groups by setting up private yoga events in rooms, the exercise facility, poolside or ashore. So if yoga is of interest, you'll find plenty of options to assist you in booking a group cruise for your clients.

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