Fitness Afloat

Day 88 – Indian Ocean en route to Madagascar – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper

This is Bill.

If you think fitness and cruising sound oxymoronic, Bill is the guy who will straighten you out. Bill is a hospice doctor from Southern California and a triathlete. He is currently training for a half-IRONMAN in Santa Cruz in September and a full IRONMAN in Sacramento in October. Bill will turn 75 between leaving the ship and the two competitions.

For the first three months of the cruise, Bill’s daily workout consisted of a daily half-hour run on the track and half-hour swim in the pool unless we were in port. When in port with a healthy (e.g., shark- and sewage-free) beach nearby, Bill instead swims for an hour in the ocean. As we turn the corner on the second half of the RTW voyage, Bill is increasing his runs to 45 minutes daily and adding in 45 minutes daily on one of the gym’s exercise bikes.

This is Bill on the track, which he hits at precisely 7 am, rain or shine.

This is Bill in the pool and, yes, that is a tether attached to Bill. He anchors one end of the tether to a bar on the pool’s side and then clips the other end to his waist. He is able to swim about a mile a day in this fashion.

There are two swimmers using the tether arrangement on Insignia to get in their laps. Some days, they swim side by side. The tethered swims may be one of the more novel workouts on board, but passengers working out are pretty much … everywhere.

Dif’rent Strokes

Not long after sunrise every morning, a group of Chinese-Americans gather near the ping pong table for an hour of an Asian exercise we do not recognize. Three hours later, here come the table tennis players banging up a sweat in heated contests for Big O Points, a prize that defies rational description but serves as a competitive incentive.

There are also the Crazy Golf Putting participants and other putters. Okay, putting is not exactly a workout, but it is a sport, and it keeps the golfers in practice for the greens on land. (Yes, some cruisers are traveling with their clubs and finding courses to play along the way.)

Indoors, there are the gym rats pumping iron, stair-stepping, elipticalling and otherwise working out individually or in a class. Though not a gym rat by any stretch, Doris thoroughly enjoyed burning calories on the recumbent bicycle when the Antarctic was unfolding beyond her toe tips and has kept up her rotator cuff PT exercises.

Doris tries to racewalk the track or cycle in the gym a few days a week, but – surprise! – she is nowhere as self-disciplined as Louis.

Louis can be found on his mat in the gym by 7 am every morning, without fail, either in a stretching class or doing his own personal stretching routine. He rarely has the gym floor to himself for long. With complimentary Pilates and yoga classes plus all the people doing their own personal workouts, the gym floor is prime real estate. 

When the gym was closed for a few days in March because of an intestinal bug working its way through the population, exercisers improvised, using the deck railings to execute standing pushups and hitching resistance bands to various pieces of ship hardware.

Always, the track is populated with joggers, walkers, jog/walkers, even a guest lapping the deck in this wheelchair. Some of them work out on a clock, others on distance (13 laps = 1 nautical mile = 6070 feet) but work out they do, many of them so predictably we could tell time by them.

Beyond Workouts

Beyond recognizable fitness activities, a ship proves to be surprisingly fitness-friendly in other ways.

Insignia is considered a mid-size ship, but it still has 10 decks, six of them accessible to passengers. All the decks are connected by elevators but also by stairways that Louis and Doris always use instead. Until it gave up the ghost in Côte d’Ivoire, Doris’s not-so-trusty Fitbit reported a personal best for stair-climbing of 266 floors on a day we were scrambling around Cabo Verde as well as the ship. On a sea day, she climbs an average of 80. Here, she demonstrates the descent because the lighting was better for the photo.

Speaking of lighting, it has been illuminating to see how being electronics-deprived keeps a body on its feet.

Except when we are in port, we have no text messaging or any way to communicate other than face to face. Thus, if Doris is in the stateroom and wants to, let’s say, find out what time Louis wants to go to dinner, she has to find Louis. Kind of like finding Snowy but in real time.

The search route is usually something like … stateroom on Deck 6 down one flight to Deck 5; exit deck onto port side, walk length of deck to see if Louis is reading there; re-enter Deck 5; cross ship indoors and exit on Deck 5 starboard side; walk length of deck to see if Louis is hanging out there; re-enter Deck 5. No luck? Then it’s up four flights to check the casual dining rooms on Deck 9, where Louis has been known to sneak an afternoon ice cream or read beside the pool, and then up another floor to the library on Deck 10. Still no Louis? Retrace every step back to the stateroom to find him sacked out “at home.” Personal best for steps in a day despite living on a ship: 21,702.

Says Bill, who has trained for other ultramarathons on cruises, “There’s no reason not to stay fit on a ship, but there are plenty of ways to talk yourself out of it. You just adjust to the whatever is available.”

Another Question Answered

Vicki asked, “Where does the crew (laundry cleaners, dish washers, engine room workers) relax in their hours off? Do they have their own deck for viewing with chaise lounges?”

The crew mostly occupies the two decks above the, yes, Vicki, we think it’s still called the engine room. Decks 2 and 3. That’s too close to water level for outside decks and lounge chairs, but crew members tell us they have other hangout space anyway: two dining rooms, a bar, a rec room of some sort and a gym (?).

Their whole lifestyle on and off the ship is a subject of huge curiosity to Partout; we ask questions of them constantly and will eventually blog about crew life. When we were in Antarctic, crew and passengers alike were on deck whenever possible. We loved watching their reaction to snow, the first some had ever seen.

Where’s Snowy?

Besides waiting in the Insignia Lounge to take off for a shore excursion.

Coming Soon!

3 Months Down, 3 to Go

4 thoughts on “Fitness Afloat

  1. What got me laughing tonight? This: ” if Doris is in the stateroom and wants to, let’s say, find out what time Louis wants to go to dinner, she has to find Louis. Kind of like finding Snowy but in real time.” Enjoyable read and great photos. Thank you for taking this effort and be glad you don’t have to use Pocketmail and search for a phone booth. Here, Jess has created a beautiful river of stones in your front yard. Looks amazing.


  2. I am loving your posts! Living vicariously; or today, exercisisng vicariously! I met Doris once in Sandpoint–I’m a friend of her from th e Writer’s Conference.
    Gayle Kaune


  3. Can you discuss how you pick your activities when you reach a port? Does the boat give you free rein to do whatever you want on land and just give you a time to return to the dock? Are there particular boat rules you have to follow when you are on land?


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