As part of the Mind, Body and Spirit theme cruise setting sail December 6 on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity, extreme runner Dane Rauschenberg will run what Crystal is billing as the first marathon at sea. The 14-day cruise sails from New Orleans to Miami and visits several ports in the Caribbean.
On December 11, Rauschenberg -- who gained acclaim in the grueling sport of ultra-marathon by completing 52 marathons on 52 consecutive weekends, finishing a 202-mile relay run as a solo participant and enduring a 350-mile run up the coast of Oregon -- will run his marathon on Crystal Serenity by making 97 laps around the luxury ship's Promenade Deck.
He actually knows what to expect. He's run the mileage before, on the very same ship, during Crystal's Mind, Body and Spirit theme cruise in early 2014. That run off the coast of Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, though, was an impromptu and unofficial marathon, which he wrote all about on his blog.
I gave him a call at his home in Texas, and he told me what he expects for this epic cruise ship run. Rauschenberg says he will make a couple tweaks to his game plan this time for the official clocking of the first marathon on a cruise ship, mainly starting the run about an hour earlier, at 6 a.m., to get more time in cooler conditions as he cruises in the Caribbean Sea. I asked him whether making almost 100 loops around such a tight track is a mind-numbing experience.
"The monotony never bothers me," he said. "I like loops. It definitely wasn't a boring thing at all. It was a challenge to pay attention to your footing and to be constantly paying attention to the other passengers.
"You can never really zone out."
This will be his second cruise, and he said he knows he'll have no problem finding good food on Crystal Serenity to fuel up for his run. I knew that would be the case, of course, but Rauschenberg gives especially rave reviews of this ship's cuisine.
"It's funny; I'm not a big foodie," he said. "But when people talk about cruises, they are like 'Oh, the food!'
"I'll tell you what. I might not be a foodie, but I can appreciate when the food is really amazing, and this cruise ship is mind-bogglingly good. I'm a big beef eater, and I like lean beef to fuel me up for my events. I think the 12 or 13 nights we were on this ship (in 2014), I think I ate steak on 10 of them."
Rauschenberg, a northwestern Pennsylvania native who ran those 52 marathons in 2006, is also an author and writer. He has written three books on running and contributes articles to Runner's World magazine.
While the extreme athlete's onboard marathon will be a highlight of the voyage, the Mind, Body and Spirit cruise features a full slate of fitness-based and wellness programming that cruisers will take part in as they sail to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Curacao, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy and Grand Turk.
"To have such a passionate athlete as Dane Rauschenberg aboard will certainly entertain but also inspire travelers, whether they, too, are avid runners or prefer sunset walks around the promenade," Crystal Cruises CEO and President Edie Rodriguez said. "The point is, there is always an option for those who seek health and wellness activities, even while traveling the world."
Meditation and yoga instructor Dina Michelle and lifestyle and wellness expert Barbara Udell will join Rauschenberg for the wellness-focused programming. Michelle will hold classes in the state-of-the-art fitness center, while Udell will share her experiences and research in the fields of lifestyle, longevity and behavioral health education. Rauschenberg is also a guest speaker on the cruise and will share stories of his experiences and travels as an extreme athlete.
"Travel is paramount to breaking down stereotypes, to breaking down racism, to breaking down everything with regards to small-mindedness. To get out there and experience different things, it breaks down all the prejudices.
"You realize how similar we are. To see the world and travel is 100 percent integral to becoming a better person."
The "race" on Crystal Serenity is open to any cruisers who want to join in for a few laps or several miles, and Rauschenberg said he enjoys it when his running can inspire people.
For Rauschenberg, this cruise is just another step -- or, more accurately, thousands of strides -- toward living life to its fullest.
"One of the goals I've had my entire life is to step foot in every single country," he said. "The only thing that I've ever been jealous of those who have wealth is they often waste it on cars or going to nightclubs . . . when they could see every corner of this planet.
"So, we're making eight stops . . . and it's tickling me to be able to just tick off a few more places of this planet, really trying to expand my mind. Hopefully, doing what I do will inspire other people to do whatever it is they want, too."
Beyond the specialized theme programming on board, cruisers take advantage of numerous amenities and activities for fitness and wellness. Recent upgrades to Crystal Serenity's fitness facilities include an outdoor "fitness garden," with equipment set up to allow a self-guided "movement journey," utilizing stainless-steel equipment.
The gym equipment offers adjustments for beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness levels with warm-up, circuit training and cool-down phases. Indoors, the fully equipped and spacious fitness center is staffed by personal trainers and outfitted with TechnoGym cardio equipment and TechnoGym's Kinesis resistance-training equipment. Fitness classes include Tour de Cycle, yoga and Pilates, while each of the ship's dining venues features fresh, healthy options for any dietary restrictions and needs.
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