The medical travel business world is debating the potential merits and problems of using cruise ships as a base for medical travel. The majority view seems to be that using ships in international waters for surgery has many practical and legal problems, and that with increased competition for medical travellers, as cost savings can be made in many countries, the risk to investors and patients far outweighs the rewards.
Meanwhile, although the travel trade has suffered greatly from the global economy in recent year, cruise travel has gone from strength to strength with a record 14 new ships launching last year. A specialist area that shows an increase in popularity is health cruises. Cruises used to be for older passengers seeking rest and relaxation, but modern cruise passengers are as likely to spend their time swimming and exercising. Whichever category they are in, on a two or three week cruise, even allowing for days at various port stops, there is a lot of time to fill. So the use of spa and beauty treatments of all types is a good way to fill the time. Unlike many holidays, passengers have every chance of leaving the ship lighter, fitter and younger looking than they did at the start of the trip.
Modern cruise ship spas are every drop as luxurious as you can find in the world’s premier hotel resorts. Costa cruise line recently introduced the spa cabin—a special class of cabin with easy access to the spa and amenities like special, high-end toiletries, yoga mats and Nintendo Wii machines with keep-fit programmes attached. Celebrity’s AquaSpas, offer thalassotherapy pools (treatment using seaweed and seawater minerals) and Rasul treatment, with quiet rooms, heated reclining chairs, fragrance rooms, robes and slippers and healthy snacks. These cruises are all about recharging mind, body and spirit. Cruises offer swimming pools, pilates, gyms with state-of-the-art equipment, tai-chi classes on deck and bamboo massage, to a younger clientele seeking activity holidays. For people not interested in the spa angle, Royal Caribbean International's Independence of the Seas offers an18-night Mediterranean cruise this winter with 15 decks of activities, including a Flowrider surf park at sea, an onboard ice-skating rink, rock climbing wall, a children's water park, a teen-only nightclub, basketball and volleyball courts and a miniature golf course. Celebrity Eclipse features a real grass lawn larger than eight tennis courts.
Jogging tracks and state-of-the-art fitness centres are standard on most big ships, but increasingly so are wellness education classes, metabolic testing and cutting edge fitness classes, from kettlebell workouts to TRX suspension training, which borrows technology from U.S. Navy Seals. The Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, has a Pulse Fitness Centre offering a seminar ‘Secrets to a Flatter Stomach. Princess Cruise Lines offer state of the art gyms where cruisers can play Wii Fit skiing and hula hooping games, or workout to exercise classes on stateroom TV. A new offering is Fit and Funny cruise seminars on selected Carnival Cruise Lines sailings from Galveston, Texas, aimed at developing healthy habits with a light hearted approach.
The new Norwegian Epic offers Botox treatments, acupuncture and shiatsu massage for couples, a hot stone massage, Rasul rooms (to cover yourself in mud and steam it off), a hydrotherapy courtyard and thermal suite. The 39 spa cabins include access to the hydrotherapy area and thermal rooms, and eight suites have their own in-room whirlpools. The Norwegian Epic has the largest spa at sea: 31,000sq ft with 24 treatment rooms. Similar facilities are available on P&O's new Azura, where the spa package includes treatments, events and gifts, plus a priority spa service. The Oasis Spa has a private outdoor terrace for alfresco massage, and all treatment rooms have balconies for outdoor pampering. On MSC's Magnifica, guests can enjoy a candle massage, or one using heated pink clamshells instead of hands and a facemask of scallop shells over the eyes to reap the benefits of colour through chromotherapy. On Carnival's Carnival Dream in the Cloud 9 Spa, warm bamboo shoots soaked in essential oils are combined with deep-tissue massage. Celebrity's newest ship, Eclipse, like her sister Equinox, has 130 AquaClass staterooms where guests receive a choice of aromatherapy scents and access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, the Persian Garden steam room and exclusive meals in healthy-eating restaurant Costa's new Deliziosa has 52 cabins and suites with direct access to the adult-only parts of the two-deck 11,480sq ft spa. The spa package includes two exercise classes and two treatments from a range of massages and facials, including with hot stones. As well as access to the thalassotherapy seawater pool, thermal area, relaxation area and the wellness restaurant, guests get a low-calorie room service and a shower that filters impurities for super-soft skin. Silversea’s latest ship, Silver Spirit offers Botox and other treatment to help take the years off.