From the private deck of my penthouse on the sumptuous, 6-star Crystal Symphony, I gaze out over the surface of the ocean. We’re west of Cuba, sailing toward the Panama Canal en route from Miami to Los Angeles; and I’ve become completely fascinated by how the water seems, impossibly, to be blue, gray and green all at the same time.
For the last couple of decades, I’ve explored the world’s ancient healing traditions in their original settings, and my thoughts turn automatically toward the myriad coastal cultures that have embraced the ocean for beauty and wellness rituals. It seems only natural to delve into the concept further by going straight to the source — enjoying a luxury spa experience while floating above the blue and briny deep.
I make my way leisurely up the stairs to Deck 12, the Sun Deck. Below, the vast, sparkling sea sweeps toward every horizon, and the ship rolls rhythmically as she makes her way through the calm waters. The spa shares the aft area of this deck with the fitness center, aerobics studio, steam rooms and a full-service salon. I’m escorted to the changing area, where I don slippers and a soft robe before settling into a comfy seat in the sunny lounge, where my therapist will greet me.
The spa — including the lounge, changing areas and all treatment rooms — was designed according to the principles of feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of creating balance and harmony through the deliberate placement of objects and the intentional use of color, texture and spatial elements. Here soothing earth tones, rich fabrics and muted lighting within each space help form a tranquil environment conducive to the creation of a healing experience.
Around the globe, beauty and health-enhancing customs have entailed long soaks in ocean waters, the use of sea salt as an exfoliant and the topical application of seaweeds and sea algae to revitalize and beautify skin. All of these practices have found their way into modern spa treatments. Afloat as I am, it seems only appropriate to choose from one of the spa menu’s marine-based therapies, so I’ve settled on the Elemis Musclease Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage.
As my therapist, Jessica, escorts me down a door-lined hallway, I notice that each of the 10 treatment rooms (plus an extra room dedicated to acupuncture sessions) is named for an intention, such as Longevity, Love, Prosperity and Harmony. We enter Longevity, replete with bamboo colors and candlelight. Jessica applies a warm seaweed masque to my entire body, then envelopes me in a foil blanket to help facilitate full penetration of the seaweed’s nutrients into my skin, muscles and tissues. Though the masque carries the usually invigorating scents of rosemary and pine oils, the effect on me is enormously relaxing, and in no time at all I’m drifting in and out of a light sleep. Jessica stays nearby, lightly massaging my scalp.
As Jessica unwraps me about 20 minutes later, I stretch and prepare for the second phase of the treatment, a full body massage. She quickly locates the deeply embedded knots I habitually carry behind each shoulder blade — the result of endless running through airports carrying a too-heavy bag — and sets to work releasing the tightness. By the time the 120-minute treatment concludes, my skin is velvety and supple, and my shoulders feel more liberated and pain-free than they have in ages.
Inexplicably, snippets of Gilbert & Sullivan à la The Pirates of Penzance slip in and out of my mind as I make my way, humming, back to the changing area to enjoy the steam and sauna. The steam bath is satisfyingly hot; and by the time I reach my seaside lounge chair, a tall glass of minted water in hand, I’m calm, loose and completely relaxed.
By 3 o’clock, I’ve dressed and found my way past the Seahorse and Neptune pools on the Lido Deck and into Palm Court for formal afternoon tea. Located in the ship’s forward section, it’s fashioned with enormous windows overlooking the bow and the sea below. Feeling like an honorary mermaid following my seaweed treatment, I allow the smiling, white-cloved waiter to bring me a silver pot of black tea and a small serving of pineapple cake. Always adept at rationalizing any sweet indulgence, I tell myself that when embarking on a dedicated spa journey, it’s essential to keep one’s energy at an appropriate level.
A few days later, as we begin our transit through the Panama Canal, I head back to the spa for a Japanese shiatsu treatment. Jessica once again greets me — the spa staff makes every effort to pair guests with the same therapist for the duration of their voyage. The room today is a blend of greens, browns and creams, and I immediately feel comfortable. Once I’ve disrobed and made myself cozy on the massage table, Jessica begins my treatment with a welcoming ceremony that consists of a gentle foot massage. Next, she brushes my body from head to toe with a dry brush, intended to remove dry skin and stimulate my body’s lymphatic system, encouraging its natural detoxification process by enhancing my circulation.
After the dry brushing, Jessica begins the actual shiatsu. Instead of using oil, she applies finger and palm pressure to my dry skin. Shiatsu targets classic acupressure points along the meridian channels recognized by Traditional Chinese Medicine to help release any blocked areas of energy, or chi, that may subtly be affecting overall health. The experience and overall benefits are similar to acupuncture, sans the needles. At the end of my hour-long session, I feel markedly less stressed — and as though my persistent shoulder knots have finally been vanquished.
On my way back to my penthouse, where I’ve planned a long, fragrant soak in the whirlpool tub before dinner, I happen to pass the room used for facials. This room, proclaims a sign on the door, is called Karma. I can’t help smiling, thinking of that old adage that says we all eventually wind up with exactly the face we deserve. Karma, it appears, is one of those inescapable things, regardless of how far from home you sail.
2049 Century Park E.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
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