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Best Fitness Cruises

If your image of a cruise involves dining round-the-clock, sipping frothy pink cocktails adorned with paper umbrellas and reclining for hours in a deck chair only to return home in a muumuu because you couldn't zip up your shorts, well, you're missing the boat. Click here and save up to 60% on your next cruise.

CruiseDirect - Find the Perfect CruisePeople who cruise today are younger and more active. They grew up with a focus on health and fitness. Cruises cater to them with light cuisine, spas that rival anything on land and gyms that probably beat the one you go to at home.

Not only will you be able to stick to whatever workout routine you already have, but you may find that a cruise is a great place to start -- or discover -- a new one. The large ships boast colossal fitness centers, complete with top-of-the-line equipment, personal trainers and scads of classes. Another bonus to being on a boat: Without the distraction of your daily grind, you actually can find time to hit the gym. And after several hours of vigorous activity, you can soothe those aching muscles with a massage, wrap or fragrant soak in a hot tub.

Prefer to play outside? Depending on the ship, you may find jogging tracks, volleyball courts, rock-climbing walls or inline skating rinks on deck When the boat docks, you can burn calories on mountain-biking, hiking, kayaking or snorkeling excursions that combine sightseeing, adventure and exercise. Bottom line: You definitely won't need to shop for larger-size clothes to wear home. But carve out some time to hit the onboard or on-shore shops anyway: You may want to buy a bikini!

Here's a rundown of the best health, fitness and spa programs offered by major cruise lines, plus four custom cruises focusing on fitness, yoga, wellness or running.

1. Royal Caribbean International

Featuring 16 ships -- with two more debuting this fall and winter -- Royal Caribbean carries 1,600-3,114 passengers aboard each and has ports of call in Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, New England and the South Pacific.

Burn calories at sea. These ships feature enormous -- up to 15,000-square-foot -- health and fitness complexes, complete with rock-climbing wall, basketball and volleyball court, jogging track and nine- or 18-hole minigolf course. The line's Voyager-class ships -- the largest in the world -- have inline- and ice-skating rinks. Many ships feature an additional 10,000-square-foot adults-only solarium with swimming pool. Classes range from the gentle "Sunrise Stretch' to aerobic kickboxing and the ab-focused "Gutbuster." But getting fit isn't your only reward: Workouts earn you "ShipShape Dollars," which can be redeemed for T-shirts, water bottles, even "wet bag" backpacks -- perfect for soggy swimsuits or worko ut wear. Blast fat on land. Try heli-hiking (part helicopter ride, part hike) in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, or rock climb and rappel in the Klondike. Prefer warm-weather adventures? Caribbean cruises take you kayaking and snorkeling in the marine sanctuary of the Virgin Islands, hiking through a tropical rain forest on St. Thomas or mountain biking through the Pinones Reserve in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Feast on lowfat gourmet cuisine. Vegetarian, vegan, and lowfat, low-cholesterol choices are available in cafes and restaurants throughout the ship. Two deliciously light choices: chilled papaya bisque soup sprinkled with cashews and lowfat blueberry-custard pie.

Get totally pampered. The onboard spa has steam, sauna, whirlpools and a quiet indoor pool in the solarium. The most popular treatment is the 90-minute "Absolute Face & Body," which combines Eastern and Western massage techniques, deep-cleansing facial, Japanese scalp massage, and pressure-point facial massage. Click here and save up to 60% on your next cruise.

2. Windstar Cruises

Small but mighty, Windstar's three sailing yachts each hold 148-308 passengers (tiny by cruise-ship standards); they cruise to 47 countries throughout the Caribbean, Europe and Tahiti. The largest ship, the Wind Surf, has a full-service spa and fitness center.

Burn calories at sea. Enjoy the view from the Wind Surf's glass-walled fitness center on the top deck. It features topnotch equipment, fitness classes from Tae Bo to Pilates, personal trainers and a water-aerobics pool. Or lounge inside the egg-shaped "chakra-balancing capsule," which soothes with music and aromatherapy while vibrating rollers massage your back. But while at sea, you must get a wet workout. Water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, sail boating and snorkeling are complimentary on the entire Windstar line. So are those silly but hilariously fun "banana boat" inflated tubes that fly along the waves, pulled by a speedboat. Scuba classes and gear are offered for a fee.

Blast fat on land. Hike or horseback ride through rain forests and national parks or bike or walk through medieval European cities. If your cruise brings you to St. Martin, you can participate in a race aboard America's Cup sailboats. Or venture out on your own -- just ask for a walking, jogging or hiking map of the ports of call.

Feast on lowfat gourmet cuisine. Chef Jeanne Jones, who developed spa menus for Canyon Ranch Health Resort and Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, created the healthy menus on the Windstar ships; all list calories, fat grams and other nutrition information. Don't miss the pear-and-gorgonzola pizza with walnuts (203 calories per slice, 6 grams of fat).

Get totally pampered. The Wind Surf's 10,000-square-foot WindSpa specializes in aromatic sea-themed treatments, such as the "Aromaspa Ocean Wrap," which includes a warm seaweed-sage body mask. The "lonithermie Algae Detox" promises to reduce the appearance of cellulite -- important on a boat where you're baring much of your bod! The "Aromapure Facial" includes a pressure-point massage, aromatherapy, herbal mask and rich aromatic cream to make your skin glow. Click here and save up to 60% on your next cruise.

3. Celebrity Cruises

With nine ships that accomodate 1,375-1,950 passengers each, Celebrity travels to Alaska, Bermuda, California, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Mexican Riviera, the Panama Canal and South America.

Burn calories at sea. The fitness area on Celebrity Cruises boasts the latest cardio and weight machines, plus gobs of classes. Two to try: "Metabolism Booster," an aerobic-strength-training combo, and "Work That Body," a high-energy cardio-weight workout. Never lifted anything heavier than your cat? Ask a personal trainer for guidance or join the "Help! I Don't Belong to a Gym" class for weight-training virgins. At day's end, climb to the top deck for a sunset yoga or Pilates session. Later, dance off dinner with a salsa or merengue lesson.

Blast fat on land. In Alaska, for example, sign up for the "Glacier View Bike & Brew." After docking at Juneau, you'll cycle along scenic Fritz Cove Road, past stunning glacier views and tiny blue Auke Lake, which borders the majestic Mendenhall Glacier. End your ride with a pale ale or amber beer at the Alaskan Brewing Co. Or go eco-kayaking in Bermuda. After a quick paddling lesson, you'll glide past blue lagoons, crystal beaches and rock formations.

Feast on lowfat gourmet cuisine. The AquaSpa Cafe serves exotic fruits and whole-grain breads and cereal for breakfast. Master Chef Michel Roux, who owns and operates the renowned Waterside Inn in Bray, England, has developed an array of imaginative, low-fat lunch entrees: Try cashew chicken with cashew vinaigrette and Oriental rice salad; grilled aubergine (eggplant) and roasted bell pepper with yogurt-mint dressing; or white tuna with spiced plum tomato, marinated black olives, rosemary and lemon zest. Belly up to the juice bar for a strawberry-pineapple-grape concoction called Passion Cocktail -- you won't even miss that Bahama Mama!

Get totally pampered. The fleetwide AquaSpa features exotic treatments derived from worldwide traditions. For complete indulgence, sign up for the amazing five-hour "Tahitian Ceremony of Flowers." It begins with a fragrant jasmine flower bath, followed by a frangipani body wrap and Japanese silk facial and, finally, a Hawaiian four-hand lomi-lomi massage. Click here and save up to 60% on your next cruise.

4. Princess

This line's fleet of 12 ships carry from 688-2,600 passengers each and sail to all seven continents, with itineraries ranging from seven to 72 days. Destinations include Africa, Alaska, Asia, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Holy Land, India, the Mexican Riviera, the Panama Canal, South America, the South Pacific, and Tahiti and French Polynesia.

Burn calories at sea. The glass-walled Lotus Fitness Centers feature state-of-the-art machines, personal trainers, fitness testing, health and nutrition seminars and a slew of exercise classes, such as sunrise walk-a-mile, aqua aerobics, cycling and kickboxing. The explosive "Xpress Circuit" combines aerobic and resistance training, while the meditative "Lotus Fusion" blends Pilates, yoga, stretching and relaxation. A jogging track, four swimming pools, lap pools and basketball and volleyball courts make it easy to burn calories and have fun outdoors.

Blast fat on land. Shore excursions include hiking in an Alaskan rain forest, cycling in New England and kayaking in the Caribbean. "The Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float Adventure in Alaska and British Columbia" includes a trek through Klondike Gold Rush towns and a raft down the Taiya River, while the "Grand Cayman Wetlands Kayak Safari" takes you past Caribbean coral reefs, secluded shorelines and bird-nesting areas in a two-person kayak.

Feast on lowfat gourmet cuisine. Every menu features lowfat, low-sodium, low-cholesterol and vegetarian options. Some favorites: Moroccan vegetable ragout with pita bread, Swiss chard and baby turnip puree with golden cheese croutons, and ginger fruit salad with lime. Craving carbs? Order a side of crusty new potatoes. Yes, they're healthy.

Get totally pampered. The Asian-themed Lotus Spa has the usual facilities plus thermal suites that feature heated tile couches and rain-forest showers. Treatments range from the "Lime and Ginger Salt Glow," a fragrant, total-body salt scrub, to the "Wild-Strawberry Back Cleanse," which feels and smells yummy. Before your treatment, soak in a "Bath of Sweet Surrender," infused with juniper, lemon, and sea-fennel essential oils. Click here and save up to 60% on your next cruise.