Fitness/Exercise Aboard the Viking Helgrim


So you’re a fitness buff, booked for an eight-day cruise on a European riverboat – say in Portugal, for example, making your way up the beautiful Douro River to the Spanish border and back to Porto. You’re on the diminutive “Helgrim,” a smaller version of the usual-sized Viking longboats, with no fitness center or running track aboard. What do you do to stay in shape?

That’s the situation my husband and I found ourselves in on that very cruise up that very river.

image from Julie HatfieldUnlike most ocean liners, which are fitted out with all the accouterments and facilities of fitness — running tracks, stationary bikes, Nautilus weight machines, large swimming pools, etc. — many riverboats do not have the space for those facilities. Our baby longboat Helgrim was one of them. With the enormous buffets and extra snacks offered to us from morning to night, we wondered what we could do to work off some of the calories that come with cruising. And we discovered that the crew had the same concerns.

A riverboat full of passengers lazing on the deck looks like a gathering of couch potatoes, (or in this case, deck potatoes), but we found many of our fellow travelers were very resourceful in their solutions to getting exercise while cruising.

There was the lawyer who took off from the ship as soon as it docked every evening and went on a two- mile run. There was the computer techie from Dallas who shot out of the door of the boat every morning and went on a power walk. Other passengers — given the choice of taking a bus tour or hiking the hilly terrain — chose the hike to get moving after an enormous breakfast. And many couples took advantage of after-dinner strolls.

There’s no telling how many passengers were doing their pushups and leg lifts alone in their cabins. But on these scorching hot days it is the wave pool on the top deck that is getting the most use. It kills two birds with one stone: It allows you to cool off in the water while at the same time providing great cardio exercise swimming against the manufactured current.

image from Julie HatfieldOther riverboat cruises offer the use of onboard bicycles. You can take them down the gangplank whenever docked, and pedal leisurely through the countryside for both sightseeing and enjoyable exercise. There were no bikes on the Helgrim but Viking said it would arrange to have rentals waiting in the towns where we docked if given advanced notice.

The crew of the Helgrim has their own ways of keeping in shape. Executive Chef Peter Benko is a former kick boxer and looks as if he is still working out to keep slim and fit. And Steward Attilla Borhi, 39, of Hungary is the real deal. He is the current Phuket Thai kickboxing champion, and works out whenever he is off duty. When he goes on vacation in February 2020, Borhi plans to return to Thailand to defend his title. Meanwhile, Program Director Sam Corbin can be found four days a week practicing his yoga asanas somewhere out of sight.

Story courtesy of Julie Hatfield. Photos courtesy of Timothy Leland.

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