Taking a yoga class on a cruise ship was a whole new challenge, but I'd choose it over a regular studio in a heartbeat

·8 min read
Side-by-side images of the author, the Carnival Vista cruise ship, and the yoga instructor.
Side-by-side images of the author, the Carnival Vista cruise ship, and the yoga instructor. Monica Humphries/Insider

I spent a week in July aboard the Carnival Vista learning what cruising is like post-vaccination.

The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico.
The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Monica Humphries/Insider

Cruising is back, and on July 3, the Carnival Vista departed from Galveston, Texas, becoming the cruise line's first ship to set sail in the US in over 16 months.

I was aboard the 2,700-passenger ship to report on the experience for Insider.

From indulging in buffets to laughing at comedy shows, I explored the Carnival Vista and all it had to offer.

A selfie of the author onboard the Carnival Vista cruise ship.
The author aboard the Carnival Vista. Monica Humphries/Insider

I spent the week discovering every change Carnival Cruise lines implemented on its first ship back and whether the experience could compare to pre-pandemic cruising.

I tried everything from Guy Fieri's barbecue buffet to sleeping in a windowless tiny cabin. I also included explored Carnival Vista's gym and fitness classes.

I was curious if fitness classes were different on a cruise ship. So on the sixth day of the cruise, I ventured to the ship's spa for a yoga class.

The fitness studio and gym were located in the back of the spa.
The fitness studio and gym were located in the back of the spa. Monica Humphries/Insider

I navigated my way to deck 12, where the Cloud 9 Spa is located on the Carnival Vista.

At the very back of the spa is the ship's gym, which offers 180-degree views of the ocean, and a small fitness class filled with spin bikes for cycling and a handful of yoga mats.

I arrived for a "pathway to yoga" class, which was one of the paid fitness classes available to passengers and cost $17.25.

Since I last took a yoga class in pre-pandemic New York City - where you're forced to arrive early in order to snag a spot - I showed up 15 minutes before the session started.

A crowded yoga class in Brooklyn, New York. (Author not pictured.)
A crowded yoga class in Brooklyn, New York. (Author not pictured.) Cindy Ord/Getty Images/Tone It Up

When I lived in Brooklyn, New York, I remember racing across my neighborhood to different yoga studios to get there 15 or 20 minutes before the class had started to grab the ideal spot for my yoga mat.

With 2,700 people on board the ship, I guessed it would be a similar scramble for spots. So I turned up 15 minutes before the class... but I soon realized I didn't need to.

I was shocked - and a bit relieved - that I was the only one joining the class.

The yoga instructor, McWilliam, stands at the front of the fitness studio.
The small fitness room could hold eight people for yoga. Monica Humphries/Insider

The idea of being jam-packed in a gym with heaving strangers was a new fear unlocked during COVID. So for the last year, I've avoided in-person yoga classes and gyms at all costs.

But the Carnival Vista felt like a safer place to restart indoor fitness classes since the vast majority of people on the ship were vaccinated; Carnival Cruises has required its crew members to get the COVID vaccine, and 95% of guests on the ship were also vaccinated.

As I walked to the fitness studio, I mentally prepared to join a yoga class with strangers. But I was the only one who showed up.

Yoga instructor McWilliam wasn't surprised that I was the only one in the class.

The cruise was one of the first in-person yoga classes I attended in over a year.
The cruise was one of the first in-person yoga classes I attended in over a year. Monica Humphries/Insider

In the studio, I met one of the ship's two fitness instructors, McWilliam.

McWilliam said this was his second contract as a fitness instructor for cruise ships. So he's taught yoga, cycling, and pilates to hundreds of passengers and has learned the rhythm of cruise ships.

He said he wasn't a bit surprised that I was the only person joining his yoga class. Most people rush to the fitness classes the first few days of the cruise, but it peters out during the final days, he said.

I was joining McWilliam's yoga class on day six of the eight-day cruise. Plus, it was after a long day in Cozumel, Mexico.

"People are tired from exploring, and they want to take the evening off," he told Insider.

So we started the class, and immediately the ship started rocking.

The author and the yoga instructor in a warrior one pose.
The author and yoga instructor in a warrior one pose. Monica Humphries/Insider

Coincidentally, I signed up for a yoga class the only day the ship was rocking.

For the five days on the cruise, it was smooth sailing. There had been little movement, and at moments, I entirely forgot I was on an enormous ship.

But just a few hours before my yoga class, the ship hit rougher waters and started moving back and forth. For McWilliam, it wasn't anything out of the norm.

"There were some rocky ships in Australia," he said. "So rocky that we had to cancel the class because it was too dangerous."

People losing their balance could lead to injuries, so if the ship is moving too much, the class gets canceled.

What we experienced was minor, so we continued through our movements.

The rocking added a new challenging element to the typical yoga class.

An empty fitness studio with a mat for the author and a mat for the instructor.
The empty fitness studio. Monica Humphries/Insider

McWilliam instructed me through a basic yoga class. It was filled with lunging warrior poses, sun salutations, and some hip stretching.

I had done the majority of the poses before, so I didn't expect the class to be too challenging.

But the rocking ship added a completely unexpected dynamic to the class.

I tipped over during a yogi squat and lost my balance during a warrior two pose where you're in a lunge with your arms extended.

Fortunately, I was able to laugh over my lack of balance and continue through the poses unscathed.

As we moved through poses, I felt calmer and my balance strengthened.

The author and the yoga instructor in a triangle pose.
The author and the yoga instructor in a triangle pose. Monica Humphries/Insider

On the Carnival Cruise's HUB App, the yoga class is targeted at everyone "from the yoga newbies to the experienced yogi."

And the description felt accurate. As someone who has taken their fair share of yoga classes, the class wasn't too challenging, but there were still opportunities to push yourself.

Plus, a rocking ship would challenge any experienced yogi.

As the 45-minute class came to a close, the rocking ship made it even harder to fight off sleep in the final savasana pose.

A selfie of the author in the fitness class.
A selfie of the author in the fitness class. Monica Humphries/Insider

McWilliam ended the 45-minute class in savasana, which is the final resting pose where you lay on your back completely still.

After any yoga class, I can easily slip into sleep during the savasana pose. A rocking boat only tempted me more.

Compared to a pre-pandemic fitness class, I didn't notice any changes except that the instructor wore a mask.

An arrow points to the instructor's face mask.
An arrow points to the instructor's face mask. Monica Humphries/Insider

The most obvious change I noticed was that McWilliam wore a face mask throughout the entire class.

When the class ended, I went to roll up the yoga mat and store it away, but McWilliam asked me to leave it out so he could sanitize it once I left.

I'm not sure whether Carnival Cruise Lines sanitized mats prior to the pandemic, but this is a common practice for many yoga classes, so the request didn't faze me.

For $17, the private yoga class felt like a steal.

The entrance to the fitness studio.
The entrance to the fitness studio. Monica Humphries/Insider

In Brooklyn, I could easily spend $20 or $25 for a drop-in class at my local yoga studio.

There, I would share the space with 20 other people.

I felt like the $17.25 price tag was a fair price, and when I factored in that I received one-on-one instruction, it made the price feel like an even better deal.

McWilliam said at most, the fitness room fits eight people, so no matter what, the classes are small.

The price paired with the peacefulness of the class motivated me to wake up early the next morning and do it all again.

Another passenger showed up for the second yoga class I took.
Another passenger showed up for the second yoga class I took. Monica Humphries/Insider

The following morning, I joined another yoga class led by McWilliam.

This time, one other passenger joined the class, and the three of us went through a yoga practice that involved using a hand towel as a yoga strap.

The towel helped us get deeper stretches and wake up our bodies for the final day at sea.

When I left the second class, I knew I'd miss the added challenge and peacefulness the rocking ship created.

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