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Credit: Virgin Voyages/Viking/Fred. Olsen

Adult playgrounds and snow grottos - bizarre ways to stay healthy on a cruise

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Cruise holidays are often all about trying something new - but not all weird and wonderful experiences need to take place during shore excursions.

Cruise ship activities vary enormously from ship to ship but there's nearly always something for everyone.

Whether you like high flying adventures that get the blood flowing or low-key relaxing pursuits, there's a cruise line that will match your desires.

Some brands offer some truly unique activities, particularly for those keen on sport and wellbeing.

Here we look at just three fantastic cruise pastimes you can take part in at sea.

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Ice Ice Baby

Diving through the ice into the Arctic sea may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect way to relax, but cold-water bathing is hot right now.

"Ask anyone who regularly goes wild swimming in winter and they’ll wax lyrical about its therapeutic benefits for both mind and body.

- READ MORE: Best cruise ships for sports fans & thrill-seekers -

These days there are cold-water swimming associations in many countries, all advocating the healing power of a chilly plunge.

"Cold is your warm friend," says Wim Hof, a Dutch motivational speaker and extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures.

"We have become alienated from nature, but cold is capable of bringing us back to what we have lost."

Viking spa: "Guests are often surprised to find a snow grotto onboard our ships." Credit: Viking Cruises

Its worldwide popularity may be new but cold body therapy has been enjoyed for centuries throughout Scandinavia. Cruisers can tap into this tradition by sailing with Viking, where a Nordic bathing ritual is included in the onboard spa menus.

The idea is that you alternate at least three times between the intense heat of the sauna and a cold plunge, taking some deep breaths in the Snow Grotto before relaxing in the hot tub.

"Guests are often surprised to find a snow grotto onboard our ships," says Wendy Atkin-Smith, Managing Director at Viking UK.

- READ MORE: Viking cruise line EVP on best cruises for 2022 -

"Our Snow Grotto is a cold room kept at minus 10 degrees where real snowflakes fall gently from the ceiling. Alternating between the heat of the sauna and the ice-cold of the snow grotto awakens the senses, eases the muscles and revives the skin.

"This type of bathing ritual has been popular for many generations and runs deep in Nordic culture. It’s an exhilarating experience that bathers are encouraged to repeat as many times as they like – or as many times as they can bear!"

Cruise activities: An adult playground is pretty much what Virgin Voyages have come up with on their two new ships. Credit: Virgin Voyages

Workout and play

Who says playgrounds are just for children? OK, we’re not suggesting that grown-ups start hogging the slide, but an adult playground is pretty much what Virgin Voyages have come up with on their two new ships, Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady.

Inspired by 1920s New York sports clubs, The Athletic Club includes a training camp room, boxing classes, a basketball court, a trampoline and – wait for it – adult-sized see-saws (or teeter-totters, as they are called Stateside).

- READ MORE: Inside Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cabins -

Elsewhere onboard, there’s the Crow’s Nest for sunrise and sunset yoga, plus The Runway – a red running track – and all the classes you could ever dream of (we love the VHS 80s workout, complete with nostalgic songs, neon leg warmers and shake sticks).

So if the idea of going to a regular gym brings you out in a sweat, Virgin might just have you reaching for your trainers.

Made for Life Touch Therapy treatments are tailored for those living with cancer. Credit: Fred. Olsen

Golden Touch

Fred. Olsen has partnered with wellbeing company Made for Life Organics to offer inclusive spa experiences for people with life-long health conditions.

- READ MORE: Your foolproof guide to visiting spas at sea -

Made for Life Touch Therapy treatments are tailored to provide meditative back, body and scalp treatment and facials suitable for those who are living with cancer.

They have been developed by Made for Life using Cancer Touch Therapy training, are now available aboard Fred Olsen’s ships Bolette and Borealis, and will be introduced on Balmoral and Braemar once they resume sailing.

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