The calm of the sea.

The long pandemic has affected many people’s health and well-being. Could time on the ocean be a magic potion?

In light of the Covid-19 situation, the recommendations and activities mentioned in this article are for the purpose of possible future cruise holidays. Please always refer to local government health advisories for travel.

From trials, such as unemployment, illness and burnout, and challenges, such as social restrictions and financial strains, through to the everyday frustrations of lockdown, pandemic parenting, border closures and working from home, Covid-19 has been hard on the well-being of many Australians. The sheer speed and scale of change to working patterns and daily life has left many longing for a chance to escape, detox and recharge.

For people who have been grappling with the constraints of pandemic life, time at sea can provide a reset, a chance to tune into the rhythm of the waves, the changing colours of the water, and the soothing sounds of the ocean. While research into the mental health benefits of “blue space” is still in its infancy, certain studies suggest sea air can help some people living with health conditions to breathe more freely, while sunlight seems to boost levels of the “happiness chemical”, serotonin.

On a cruise, travellers can enjoy 360-degree ocean views, feel the gentle motion of the waves, and watch the sea glide by from their balcony, bringing with it a sense of serenity and peace. But the well-being benefits of a cruise extend beyond the ocean alone.

A digital detox with a difference.

With time spent out at sea, away from mobile signal, cruising presents a great opportunity for those who choose to opt out of on board WiFi and disconnect completely from email, social media and current affairs.

“There’s a huge amount of evidence around digital detox, as well as taking holiday and relaxation time to recharge,” says Aaron Jarden, an associate professor of applied positive psychology at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Wellbeing Science. “We can’t work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. We need time to sit down and focus our minds on other places, and recharge. A lot of ideas come when you’re not working, when you’re sitting down and relaxing.”

Well-cared for bodies can help yield happy minds as exercise releases endorphins. Travellers with Cunard can enjoy outdoor pools, a spacious deck for running, an on board gym with sweeping ocean views, and classes from yoga to fencing.

Guests can also unwind with a visit to the Mareel Spa, named after the phosphorescence that sometimes sparkles on the surface of the sea. Ocean-inspired wellness experiences include sea salt exfoliation, seaweed body treatments, salt stone massages and marine facials, as well as tension-targeting therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology. A dedicated Aqua Therapy Centre aims to relax, revitalise and renew through the magic of moving water.

Fresh air and space add to this sense of relaxation. Cunard ships offer more space per passenger than many large cruise ships, as well as dramatic double-height and triple-height public spaces and generous decks. Enhanced ventilation and filtration systems, not to mention vaccinated guests and crew members, make for peace of mind in the wake of the pandemic.

And, besides the physical, there are also opportunities to stimulate the mind. Guest speakers include the likes of cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber, award-winning author Bernardine Evaristo and mountaineer Kenton Cool. As well as theatres, the ships feature on board libraries, art galleries, and, in the case of Queen Mary 2, a planetarium.

Unwind as you explore the world.

With housekeeping, meals and complimentary room service all taken care of, a cruise is a remarkably easy way to travel, and one that suits Australians’ current weary mood. “I think there’s an underlying need for people to simplify their lives now, particularly with the Covid environment, and people are looking for simpler and easier options to relax, rather than having to book and organise different things,” Jarden says. “So cruising is seen as an easier option from that perspective.”

Covering destinations from Alaska to Australia, Cape Town to the Scandinavian fjords, cruising offers the chance to enjoy an array of new sights, unfamiliar cultures and exciting experiences – stimulation that can form an important part of building wellbeing. “One of the personality traits and character strengths we really note as being common to well-being is curiosity,” Jarden says. “If you’re curious, you attain goals more easily, you have higher well-being — people who are curious obviously end up travelling a little more than people who aren’t.”

Besides enabling uncomplicated time with loved ones and contributing to well-being, travel is, quite simply, a pleasurable experience, and Jarden recommends taking joy in it. “One of the skills in my area that’s really under-realised is this idea of savouring, of wringing the pleasure juices out of life,” he says.

Whether it’s a dazzling sunrise, a delicious dish or the first sight of a brand new city, he recommends pausing and taking the time to appreciate and absorb it with all your senses — because, after more than two years of the pandemic, pleasure is something that’s sorely needed.

This article was produced for Cunard by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.

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