A dream cruise is synonymous with relaxation and rejuvenation, experiences enhanced not only by sailing without a care across vast, tranquil seas but also by a trip now and then to the onboard spa. What began as a few massage tables folded into a windowless annex on many a large cruise vessel blossomed into a state-of-the-art, full-service spa facility. Cruise ships steadily expanded their range of hands-on treatments to the point that, for some passengers, a cruise is less about calling on exotic ports and more about immersing oneself in an extended spa experience.
Chances are the operator of that spa at sea is Steiner Leisure, which began as a family-run salon in 1920s London and established its first seagoing services on the Cunard Line in the 1940s. Today Steiner runs the spa and salon business on more than 150 ships, including virtually all the large and premium cruise lines, from Carnival and Crystal to Seabourn and Silversea. Steiner’s nautical staff numbers well over 2,500 — each week providing 30,000 massages; 15,000 facials; and 6,000 manicures to keep passengers shipshape. The main competition to Steiner is Canyon Ranch SpaClub, which owns and operates the spas on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and, debuting this month, on Celebrity Cruises.
While various massages — from Swedish to Thai, with plenty of exotic variations in between — are by far the most popular treatments at sea, followed by cosmetic procedures such as facials, medical spa treatments are on the rise. The leading medi-spa choices are ionithermie cellulite reduction, which employs an algae wrap and electrical stimuli to detoxify and lose inches; dermal filler injections to restore youth to skin; whitening treatments for tooth enamel; and Botox, the popular treatment that promises to smooth the waves. Such anti-aging wonders are a regular feature of many spas at sea, administered by medical professionals.
Other new trends include a boom in side-by-side massages for couples, the proliferation of private spa villas for rent by the hour, and the introduction of both staterooms and menus that are custom-tailored for spa-struck passengers.
Both of Azamara Club Cruises’ ships, the Journey and the Quest, responded to these trends with spas that offer a wide range of traditional and exotic treatments, from aroma stone therapy and lime and ginger salt glows to tri-enzyme resurfacing facials. Azamara’s Journey for Two program for couples combines tooth whitening, microdermabrasion and Swedish massage. There’s also an independently run acupuncture clinic aboard Azamara, and passengers can opt for massages in their staterooms.
Norwegian Cruise Lines augmented its Mandara Spa offerings with a spa-user’s menu devised by Cooking Light Magazine. Health-oriented passengers will find low-calorie items among dining options as well as low-sodium, low-cholesterol and vegetarian entrées. Desserts come in sugar-free and fat-free versions, all the better to keep passengers trim at sea.
Few ships offer quite as complete a spa package as Costa Cruises’ Luminosa, Pacifica and Serena, where the two-story Samsara Spa leans toward Asia in its offerings and décor. Ayurvedic treatments using oils and herbs are a hallmark spa treatment; a Japanese tea ritual concludes each session; and Ristorante Samsara serves healthful dishes created by Ettore Bocchia, the founder of molecular cuisine.
Costa was the first major cruise line to make a big splash with its “destination spa” facilities. Spa enthusiasts could book spa-oriented staterooms for the entire voyage, eat three meals a day in spa restaurants, enjoy in-cabin massages, try out a medi-spa procedure, secure priority appointments and barely have time to enjoy a port of call.
Other cruise lines followed in Costa’s wake, notably Celebrity Cruises with its AquaSpa and AquaClass spa cabins. As Celebrity transforms its current spas to new Canyon Ranch SpaClubs offering spa, beauty salon, wellness and fitness amenities, AquaClass spa-inspired staterooms continue to provide unlimited access to the Persian Garden and priority seating in the exclusive and chic restaurant Blu, so passengers can eat, sleep and dream while enwrapped in a spa-at-sea nirvana. AquaClass staterooms offer multistreaming showerheads, herb teas and health-oriented cabin menus. A spa concierge does the bookings, and passengers have complimentary access to the sauna, steam room, tropical rain shower and heated ceramic lounges of the ocean-view Persian Garden. The Persian Garden is also the setting for two special spa events, a Couples Night and a Girlz Night, each featuring hand, foot and scalp massages; a visit to the scrub bar; and a mini-facial.
While smaller premium cruise lines such as Seabourn have less space to devote to spas than today’s mega-ships, they offer up a variety of fine services. The Seabourn Odyssey, for example, devotes two decks to spa facilities that include a thermal suite with two herbal saunas, a large hydrotherapy pool and even a waterfall. To bolster the experience, the ship also offers Spa Villas that passengers can secure for a few hours, an afternoon or the day. Spa Villas feature a bathtub, a daybed, living space and a balcony, and include a 150-minute spa treatment.
Not everyone takes the full plunge into myriad treatments available on a “destination spa” cruise ship, but a special indulgence or two can work wonders. After all, from head to toe, even the tiniest spa treatment adds a certain glow to a cruise.
When American travelers make plans to visit Portugal, Lisbon is usually their first stop.
Escape to Italy’s Gavi region and settle in for one of the new experiential summer stay offerings within the peaceful setting of Locanda La Raia. The intimately proportioned, 12-room boutique mansion hotel is located between the cities of Milan and Genoa. The setting? A 180-hectare estate comprised of vineyards, meadows and forests of chestnut trees, elderflower and acacia, all of which provide a habitat for birds and wildlife.
The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua recently announced the final phase of a $100 million resort-wide transformation, set to be unveiled by the end of 2022. Located across 54 acres of pristine, wide-open space overlooking Honokahua Bay, The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua is a sanctuary for guests seeking a luxurious escape.
There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*
Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.
The best food tours go beyond reliving a newly arrived traveler of having to figure out which restaurant or bar to hit first. They also provide context in explaining how a destination’s crops and cuisine tie in with a place’s historical events and different populations. During a vacation in Iceland, 20-year veteran tour guide and proud Madeira native Jaqueline Freitas was reminded of this when she put herself in the hands of a savvy Reykjavik guide leading a street food tour.