I’m a runner and there is nothing I love more than lacing up my trainers, pulling up my compression socks and pounding the pavements. Except, that is, for holidays. I’m a big believer that time spent at sea is time well spent but can you really sail the seas without piling on the pounds? I joined Princess Cruises in Southampton to find out, running kit and all.

As a cruiser and a runner with a half marathon on the horizon, I was intrigued. Is it really possible to train, maintain a healthy diet and look after your wellbeing at sea? I’d decided to focus on four important factors, the cornerstones of staying healthy at sea if you will; sleep, training, diet and taking time out.

I’d better start by mentioning that Sapphire Princess blew me away when I arrived. What a ship. The atrium elicits a ‘WOW’ as it greets you in all its glory and the ship is everything I know Princess Cruises to be: glamorous, elegant, tranquil even. I’d go so far as to say that there can’t possibly be a better place to spend a Tuesday morning testing your health and fitness resolve than here. Had it been possible to swap Southampton for St Maarten it would have been perfect in every possible way.

The Princess Luxury Bed

My first priority once on board was checking out the staterooms. Sleep is a huge and often overlooked factor in maintaining both our physical and mental health. I’d heard that Princess Cruises had recently rolled out more than 44,000 luxury beds in staterooms across the fleet and I wanted to see how serene a slumber they’d offer. One word: heaven.

The beds have been designed by ‘The Sleep Doctor’ exclusively for Princess Cruises. Each features a plush two-inch thick pillow top, a nine-inch-deep single-sided medium-firm mattress for enhanced support and, for less partner disturbance, individual wrapped coils. I’m sold!

Not only are the beds unbelievable but Princess Cruises have also introduced a sleep programme that is synced to the TV, designed to make it even easier for you to catch the perfect sleep. The programme serves up five sleep tips, as well as sharing what to look for in a mattress for your own humble abode, plus advice on how to gain more energy. There’s also a Princess Cruises ‘MusicCure’. Did you know that the sound of the ocean is one of the only noises known to help lull you into a blissful trance at bedtime? Prescribing music like medicine, the ‘MusicCure’ programme soothes you into a restful slumber. You can also purchase a Princess Cruises sleep kit, an addition to their sensory stateroom offerings that includes eye shades, aromatherapy scents, earplugs and even the Sleep Doctor’s ‘Good Night’ app.

The Princess Luxury Bed

Keeping Fit At Sea

Once convinced Princess Cruises could promise a great night’s sleep, it was time to see what the facilities are like when it comes to training, whether that means running a marathon or keeping fit at a more leisurely level. The personal trainers onboard knew their stuff and there were countless classes on offer, from spinning and Zumba to more sedate affairs like yoga. Body conditioning classes like the up-and-coming ‘Stretch and Release’ promised to stretch those aches and pains into submission without requiring you to do anything too strenuous; music to the ears of most of us on lazy days.

I’m more of an outdoorsy person, so I was happy to discover plenty of places on Sapphire Princess to get out and about in the fresh air. In fact, I tested out the promenade deck to its full potential by running a 10k. Nuts, I know, but all in the name of research.

It was roughly three laps to each mile and it turned out to be one of the best 10k runs I had ever done, both time wise and from a relaxation point of view. Running here is a great way to get some intensive training in but a lot of passengers were power walking and chatting their way around too, just generally loving the feeling of being outdoors in the fresh air. There are plenty of seating areas around the deck to rest or to stretch out on a sun lounger too. Princess Cruises also offer healthy smoothies and I decided it was the perfect way to reward myself after a run. I must admit it didn’t look too appetising, slightly more like mushy peas with a slice on the side than a delicious drink, but with spinach, ginger, mango, pineapple and herbs it was so luscious.

Keep fit at sea on the running track on Sapphire Princess

Healthy smoothies on Sapphire Princess

The Lotus Spa

Next up, did someone say spa? Could anything be more perfect after a workout than an hour or two of absolute rest and relaxation, soothing music and aromas hitting your senses and leaving you almost instantly rejuvenated? There are plenty of areas to relax and enjoy all the various saunas and steam rooms, as well as the outdoor Spa Pool (it’s adults only too), plus seating areas and thermal beds. There’s so much to do here that you could pass hour after indulgent hour, all from as little as $5 per person. You can also purchase an unlimited pass for your cruise, with the cost dependent on your cruise duration.

There are tons of treatments on offer but anyone who is in training or works out regularly can start with an Ocean Wrap to counteract a build-up of lactic acid. You’ll be wrapped in seaweed and left to float in a bath of various lotions and potions, cleansing the muscles and reducing acid build-up.

The Lotus Spa Sapphire Princess

The Sanctury pool Sapphire Princess

Eating Healthy at Sea

Finally, it was time to test the food. This is what cruising is really known for and there’s definitely a misconception out there that cruise ships are bursting at the seams with too much of a good thing, something that might be a nightmare for anyone who is easily tempted. This is totally not the case with Princess Cruises and proof came in the form of a Healthy Choice menu, the dishes on which we devoured in the International Dining Room having worked up quite the appetite. Starters included Chilled Avocado and Bay Shrimp or Kale Salad with Toasted Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds, followed by Poached Salmon or Beef Tenderloin for your main course. There are even desserts on offer, you’re on holiday after all, with a choice of simple fresh fruit salad or warm baked apple. Every dish was delicious and I’d have been more than happy to dine off the Healthy Choice menu day after day, albeit with some treats along the way.

For a lot of us, getting in ‘ship shape’ starts before we step aboard and resumes once we’re back on dry land. But we live healthier lives than ever on a day-to-day basis and so Princess Cruises are reversing the role, making becoming fitter and healthier at sea an effortless part of the experience of being on board the Princess Cruises fleet. So we can eat healthily and train and sleep to our heart’s content, with plenty of ice cream and great steaks thrown in for good measure.

Healthy choice on Sapphire Princess