AS I head to a spa retreat this week, and with summer on the horizon, like many people I am contemplating the prospect of climbing back into a bathing suit.
If you're planning a cruise this summer there's no longer any reason to cut back on a healthy lifestyle; some ships and cruises specifically focus on lifestyle choices to help guests keep in shape.
SeaDream Yacht Club went extreme recently by introducing a raw-food program on its two ships, which the company says has been a major success. The program offers meals with no fish, meat, eggs or dairy, and nothing is heated beyond 48C.
For a more holistic experience, Crystal Cruises has a Mind, Body & Spirit-themed cruise early next year, a 12-night voyage from Melbourne to Brisbane departing on January 5.
Timed to tap into the potential for making New Year's resolutions, it will feature complimentary wellness seminars and lectures by inspiring achievers, including the yoga instructor Lisa Goodwin (wiltrans.com.au).
Exclusive to Tickled Pink Travel (tickledpinktravel.com.au), Australia's first fitness cruise will depart from Sydney on April 2 on Carnival Spirit, heading for the South Pacific Islands of Noumea and Vanuatu.
The cruise features unlimited access to fitness classes including spin, Pilates and yoga, your choice of a personal training session or four bootcamp classes, healthy dining options and health and nutrition seminars.
And for something a little different, with Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas debut in Sydney next month, guests can strut their stuff with complimentary ice-skating in the ice rink complex, Studio B, including a free 45-minute learn-to-skate lesson.
Package of the week
Calling all jazz and Elvis fans! A 20-day package is available from Cruise Express combining a coach tour exploring the US's musical heritage, with a cruise on the new American Queen.
Departing from Australia on May 16, the tour begins with a flight to Nashville and a one-night stay, then you embark on a 10-day land trip visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, Sun Studios and Elvis's Graceland mansion.
Next you join the American Queen for a six-day cruise of the Mississippi River, calling at destinations including Francisville, Natchez and Vicksburg.
The package is priced from $7990 a person, twin share, including flights, land touring with accommodation and the cruise. 1300 766 537, cruiseexpress.com.au.
Dover is the latest new hot port of call. Located on the southern coast of England, the coastal city will welcome 148 cruise calls and eight new cruise ships starting in March. Ships making maiden calls include AIDA's new AIDAstella, Hapag Lloyd's Christopher Columbus 2 and NCL's Norwegian Star.
Australia's first National Cruise Week has been declared a major success. The event, which took place early last month, resulted in a significant sales boom for both the 29 cruise lines and 1000-plus travel agents across the country. It will run again next year in early September.
Princess Cruises has revealed more details about the design of its new ship, Royal Princess. Currently under construction, a major emphasis is being placed on outdoor entertainment options, with freshwater pools featuring palm trees, a huge Movies Under the Stars poolside theatre and a daily evening light show.
LAUNCHED 2003 PASSENGERS 134 REGULAR HAUNTS The Rhine, Main and Danube rivers BEST FOR Couples THE DETAILSA 13-day Splendours of Italy cruise and tour is priced from $6365 a person, twin share, including two nights in Florence and three nights in Rome. Book and pay in full by October 31 to save up to $700 a person, or pay your deposit by January 15 to save $600 a couple. (02) 9028 5199, uniworldcruises.com.au.
1 River Countess was named in Conde Nast Traveller's 2012 readers' poll of the world's top-40 river cruise ships. Although it cruises the heart of Europe, it is relocating to Venice and the Po River from next year.
2 Before its relocation, the ship has been refurbished to capture the sophistication and classical styling of Italy. Public areas have been refreshed with cream, taupe, turquoise and white colours, with signature touches including original artwork and classical furnishings.
3 Its 63 lavishly appointed staterooms all have river views. Amenities include large cupboards, flat-screen TVs, complimentary movies and L'Occitane bath and body products. Suites also have iPod docking stations and Nespresso machines.
4 Uniworld is one of only three cruise lines to earn the Top Dining award from the Zagat Cruise Lines Survey. The Savoy restaurant handles all meals on an open-seating basis.
5 Facilities include three lounges, one with a dance floor, oversized chess and shuffleboard on the open deck, a fitness centre with sauna, and a Serenity River Spa. Use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks is also available, and there's free internet with wi-fi access.
Port Watch: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Need to know The capital and largest city of Vanuatu, Port Vila sits on the southern coast of the island of Efate. A major trading centre, it overlooks a natural harbour surrounded by lush vegetation and sandy beaches. Ships dock at the commercial pier, five kilometres from the town centre, and there are plenty of taxis available.
Do not miss If you don't feel energetic, Vila has plenty of restaurants, shopping and duty-free to enjoy. If you want to explore alone, opt for a snorkelling trip or helicopter flight, which can be booked easily in the city. If you want to venture further afield, the Ekasup Cultural Village gives an insight into the culture of Melanesia. Cascade Waterfalls also makes for a cooling excursion; set in jungle-like rainforest, it's an accessible, 50-metre-high waterfall with naturally eroded rock swimming pools.
I'm thinking of taking a cruise from Dubai, but am worried it will be very hot for touring.
- A. Afridi, Campbelltown
If you're planning to visit the United Arab Emirates and Oman during the official cruise season, it runs for around three to four months between December and March. This is the northern hemisphere winter, which means the weather is at its coolest for the Arabian peninsula, yet it's still very pleasant for cruising and land touring. You'll find most days will tend to be warm and dry, without being oppressive as in summer, and daytime temperatures will range from around 18 degrees to a comfortable 25 degrees.