This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver takes a humorous look at the battle between the eating and exercising on board today's cruise ships.
Fit v Fat
There is a paradox on board every modern mega-cruise ship. Half of the public rooms and facilities are dedicated to providing food and drink, while other half are aimed at fitness, exercise and beauty treatments.
Now, they do say that the average cruise passenger gains one pound per day in weight, although personally I am very sceptical of this statistic. I believe that the salt content in the sea air simply make ones clothes shrink a size or two.
There is little doubt that the consumption of food on board a cruise ship has moved well beyond the act of purely providing nutrition. The food punctuates the days. The evening meal, in particular can be the highlight of each day. Even on the budget cruise, the cruise lines aim to provide a worthy evening meal, although they do not always succeed, of course. The chefs have the power to surprise, impress or disappoint. Likewise the wait staff have the unparalleled ability to pamper or frustrate.
Food has actually become a form of entertainment. Cookery demonstrations, vegetable carving and even napkin folding lessons are commonplace on cruise ships. Onboard the Cunard's Queen Mary 2, for example, you can actually pay to watch the chef prepare your chosen meal in an open kitchen, before consumption.
The 'Gala' midnight buffets on any ship tend to be are works of art and guests are invited to their own photo-call before the food is actually eaten. The Norwegian Cruise Lines Chocoholic midnight-buffet deserves a special mention. Everything presented is made of chocolate, and this includes a fountain and a giant ship model. It is possible to actually gain weight just by viewing the buffet. I think this strange phenomenon must be due to the inhalation of the high calorie chocolate vapour within the air.
Unfortunately the traditional midnight buffets seem to be fading away and they are being replaced by 24 hour Pizza. I understand that on occasions it can taste like it's been cooked for 24 hours, too.
Then we have the vast gymnasiums with a multitude of machines of torture. In addition, there can be up to 20,000 square feet of Beauty Therapy and spa facilities on available on some modern ships. Unfortunately the prices are as extensive as the facilities. They offer massage and beauty treatments utilizing mud, seaweed, and essential oils. (They never used to be essential, did they?) There are also hot-tubs, spa pools where you can bath in a cocktail of minerals. Most cruise lines now offer yoga, aerobics, tai chi and pilates. For the uninitiated, these are not 'dishes of the day' but apparently forms of exercise.
Once again we can see the lines between entertainment and sport becoming blurred. There are deck games such as jogging, paddle tennis, basketball, shuffleboard, coits, and table tennis. Royal Caribbean's fleet, for example, offer in-line skating, miniature-golf, an ice rink, surfing simulator (with real water), bungi-trampolines, boxing and a climbing walls.
Personally I'm not convinced about the merits of 'boxing' at sea but it may yet prove to be the ideal method for resolving customer complaints. You could simply challenger one of the managers to a few rounds.
Fortunately Food and Fitness are not completely at odds with each other. Modern cruise ship menu's always contain 'Healthy' options - some low in fat and others sugar free. Some ships even have dedicated 'Juice-Bars' offering natural blended drinks made from fresh fruit.
Mind you, putting a chocolate on your pillow each night is a clear indication that the culture of 'fat' still has the lead over that of 'fit'. Maybe they should also leave a fresh pair of sweat pants on your pillow, too?
A cruise industry survey carried out in 2004 revealed that the top three reasons people liked to cruises were 1) pampering 2) multiple destinations 3) and dining. The gymnasium was way down the list.
Carnival Cruise Line recently offered sessions called: "Detox for Weight Loss" and "Secrets to a Flatter Stomach." Personally, I would suggest the secret of a 'flatter stomach' is to not book a cruise in the first place.