FOR THOSE OF US PASSIONATE about wellness pursuits and who feel most at peace close to the sea, there’s nothing quite like the synergy offered by a floating spa integrated into the setting of a luxurious cruise ship. I’m sailing through the Mediterranean from Rome to Barcelona, discovering along the way that the Crystal Life Spa & Beauty Salon on board the Crystal Serenity provides not only the element of high-end indulgence but also the cruise line’s signature commitment to attention and service.
One of the defining structural characteristics of a crystal is its symmetry — a kind of harmony of composition that lies beneath the surface, providing a foundational framework for its beauty. Crystal Serenity’s spa carries that concept even further with respect to space. The spa itself was designed to incorporate the guiding principles of Chinese feng shui, with the careful placement of furniture and objects helping to establish an optimal flow of positive energy that greets and surrounds each guest who enters.
I’ve left my husband to oversee the chilling of a bottle of Prosecco while I make my way to the Sun Deck, the location of the spa. At the reception desk, Spa & Salon manager Sarah Armstrong tells me most of the treatment rooms have water views, designed to enhance the sense of place.
Beyond the windows of the relaxation area, a wide deck filled with a sort of beach comprising softly rounded stones enhances the connection to nature. The choice of artwork and sculpture on display makes the spa space even more peaceful: a water feature by English artist Allison Armour-Wilson, a lovely reproduction of an Asian chest, and a series of gold wood panels by John Newman of South Africa.
Armstrong seats me in the lounge with a fruited herbal tisane to sip while I peruse the menu of available treatment choices. I’m pleased to see Chinese herbal medicine consultations and acupuncture on offer, as I have regular treatments at home to deal with a difficult knee. But I’m on the Mediterranean, and the only sensible choice is an ELEMIS Aroma Spa Seaweed Wrap with Massage.
The detoxifying treatment begins with a heated seaweed mask applied from my neck down. Though I’d secretly worried there might be a fishy scent to deal with, I needn’t have wasted my energy. The ELEMIS scent is delicate and pleasant, and the wrap that follows the application of the seaweed and essential oil blend is warm and com- forting. I drift in and out of half-dreams until it’s time to rinse off and surrender to a full-body massage.
Inspired by the artwork in the spa — and with some time on my hands before pre-dinner drinks — I embark on a meditative solo walkabout to explore the ship’s art collection, concentrating on the displays arranged at stairwell landings and in the public spaces near the restaurants, cafés and bars on lower decks. The collection is enormous, and by the time I’ve arrived back in my penthouse suite to join my husband on our veranda for a glass of perfectly chilled Prosecco, my head is dangerously filled with home redecorating ideas.
The following day, I arrive early at the spa for a workout in the Techno Gym then enjoy a relaxing session in the steam and sauna baths and beneath the shower area’s mist and rain features. Access to both the fitness area and heat cabins is complimentary to all guests, with separate steam and sauna facilities for men and women, with swimsuits optional. The spa area also encompasses a full-service salon and barbershop, with four stylists ready to trim, style, shave and blow-dry. Teeth whitening is even offered, while the extensive options at the Medi-Spa include DYSPORT wrinkle treatments; Restylane dermal filler treatments; and non-invasive Thermage skin-tightening treatments for face, neck and tummy.
I’ve booked a Freestyle Deep Tissue Massage. After making my aromatic oil selection from choices that include muscle pain relief, relaxation, emotional balance and stress relief, my therapist does a light dry brushing, explain- ing this will prepare my skin for the most advantageous absorption of the oil’s healing botanical components. For the better part of an hour, I’m bliss- fully adrift as she kneads, stretches and works the tight muscles of my shoulders and hamstrings. By the end of the treatment, I feel delightfully loose and slightly floppy, and I lie with my eyes closed until I hear the music of tinkling chimes sounding the end of the massage.
I sense the therapist stepping away, and though I can’t detect the sound of the door closing, I’m suddenly aware I’m alone. The vibration from the chimes lingers, briefly, in my muscles and tissues. I stretch beneath the blanket: first one arm, then the other, and come gently to a sitting position. The room is warm and sweetly scented. I sense the subtle movement of the ship as it glides through the Mediterranean toward Cannes and our next port of call, everything, including me, perfectly in balance.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
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