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6 of the ultimate spa experiences on cruise ships

Sailing away to the horizon, surrounded by water and deeply inhaling that salty air is inherently calming, so cruise aficionados want more than the average relaxation offerings. Increasingly, people are looking for inner and outer healing with medi-spa treatments, wellness workshops and therapeutic indulgences. 

Cruise ship spas provide a greater range and quality of services than ever before, but each concept is different. Here’s a mid-pandemic peek at the pampering offered by cruise lines around the world. 

Viking 

Viking offers a traditional Norwegian-style spa experience – completely free of charge. On every ocean ship you’ll find LivNordic Spa & Fitness, a space designed for guests to experience the benefits of contrasting temperatures in a room filled with snow, saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and icy pools.

Viking operations director Nora Forsberg recommends “mindfully using the steam room and snow room before having a massage or going from the dry sauna to the cold plunge pool after a long day of exploring”. Unlike other cruise lines, Viking’s thermal area is complimentary, whether a passenger has booked a treatment or not. “Guests who have cruised with a variety of companies will also note that LivNordic is service-orientated,” said Forsberg. “There is no hard sell at the end of a service or promotions placed around the ship. We want guests to feel relaxed, calm and at peace when they leave the spa.”

The most booked treatment is an 80-minute Swedish deep tissue massage, but people are requesting many other services that they have neglected recently. “We can see that our guests are longing to take care of themselves,” said Forsberg. “Many have not been to the hairdresser or had a proper massage for a long time, and the feedback we receive is that it is both a physical and mental recovery.”

Regent Seven Seas Cruises 

Regent’s thermal suite has an infinity pool, cold room, sauna and luxurious relaxation area. “Guests are looking to improve their lifestyle and wellness experiences, and this is the complete package,” said Keon Brown, manager of Serene Spa & Wellness on the Seven Seas Splendor.

“There are a couple of changes we’ve noticed in the last year. Firstly, guests have become more open to trying self-care at home, using products designed to enhance and improve their skin, body and mental wellness. They also want to feel comfortable during their treatments, so it’s important to them that the therapist is wearing a face covering and demonstrates to the guest that they are sanitising and washing hands before and after treatments.”

While massage remains very popular, acupuncture has overtaken it. “Acupuncture is much more requested in Serene Spa & Wellness, along with natural herbs for anxiety and immune strengthening,” said Brown. “Facials also do well – guests want to have smooth, even and decongested skin. Our Biotec facials use technology equipment for faster results.” 

Holland America Line

For many Holland America Line passengers, the Greenhouse Spa & Salon has become a destination in itself. “As we welcome guests back on board, we are witnessing historic participation at the spa,” said Farah Barhorst, manager of spa operations.

“These recent times have cast a light on health and wellness. Self-care is more prevalent these days. Massage has been incredibly popular, with the aroma stone therapy and the aroma spa seaweed massage providing a release from nearly two years of pent-up tension. Many guests are choosing extended service times of 75 or 100 minutes versus the traditional 50-minute time frame.”

Other services have also seen a dramatic increase in bookings, rapidly catching up to massage and body beautifying treatments.

“Acupuncture has impressively piqued the interest of our guests, demonstrating a demand for alternative therapies. Also to be noted is a rise in facial and medi-spa services for guests seeking a refreshed and rejuvenated appearance,” Barhorst said.

“We have also noticed an uptick in hairdressing and barbering services, with more guests electing to look as good as they feel. Hair colouring and men’s shaves are at the top of the request list. Our pro-collagen grooming treatment with shave is a firm guest favourite.”

Port days have never been busier in the Greenhouse. Upon return to service, HAL launched half-day and full-day spa experiences for guests who wish to stay on board and relax in a tranquil setting instead of going ashore.

“The thermal suite and hydropool pass offers cruise-long relaxation, and more guests are taking full advantage of our oasis
to destress. These indulgences offer great value for money to experience a range of spa services, leaving you feeling truly revitalised,” said Barhorst.

HAL prides itself on the friendly, nurturing and gentle approach provided by its team, particularly at a time when many people crave personal touch and social interaction. Barhorst said: “Our best asset, by far, is the incredible staff who provide a first-rate experience through personalised level of service and gracious hospitality.”

Cunard

Found aboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, Cunard’s Mareel Spa has a new operator, OneSpaWorld, for its beauty rooms and Aqua Therapy Centre. Pilates, yoga, hair, skin, lash extensions and back pain treatments can be covered in one visit.

“From gentle rippling waves that soothe and lull, to invigorating surf that sculpts and purifies, Mareel takes inspiration from the oceans on which our ships sail to indulge your senses,” said Angie Garrod, director of spa operations.

Hours can be spent in the jet-massage pool and the thermal suite’s sauna, steam room and sensory showers. “For thousands of years, people have found that moving water and temperature variations provide relief for muscle and joint issues, release toxins from the body and promote deep relaxation – perfect before or after a spa service,” said Garrod.

The Elemis Bio Tec Firm-a-Lift facial is a popular treatment, often booked alongside a consultation with the medi-spa doctor to discuss longer-lasting options. “When it comes to massage, the Aroma Stone Therapy wins every time,” said Garrod. “People have really missed the pampering and social connection. There is definitely a desire to switch off the mind and relax with massage and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and cupping therapy.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises

Acupuncture also tops Royal Caribbean’s list of most requested treatments to help alleviate aches and pains from sitting in front of screens. Busy workers want a cure for Zoom fatigue,
said Boris Nikolic, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class spa manager. “Stress and long hours working from home have certainly translated to more visits to the onboard aesthetic physician and resulted in an increase in medi-spa services.” 

Another rising trend is for passengers to customise their massage booking with add-ons such as eye treatments or body exfoliation. Couples massages, deep tissue massage, the thermal suite and hair appointments are also in demand.

“In our salon, we have noticed hair colouring requests are at a record high, not only due to maintenance but because guests are seeking a change,” said Nikolic. “Men have also embraced hair tinting and, after a shave, are increasingly being found in a manicure or pedicure chair after their salon visit.”

The line’s extra-large ships have vast areas for gyms, cycling studios, fitness classes, thermal suites, beauty rooms, hair and nail salons, and even a separate venue for teenagers called YSpa. Unlike other spas where silence is a requirement, Royal Caribbean’s Vitality Spa is “an approachable, feelgood space to centre and care for yourself by yourself or in the company of others”, Nikolic said.

Norwegian Cruise Line

While you’ll find a Mandara Spa on each ship in Norwegian’s fleet, the spa on Norwegian Spirit has actually doubled in size after the ship was completely revitalised in 2020. And like the other ships in the fleet, Norwegian Spirit’s Mandara Spa features a Thermal Suite with a steam room, sauna and scented shower experience.

Ben Angell, Norwegian’s vice-president and managing director, Asia-Pacific region, said: “As our guests look to make up for lost time on their long-awaited cruise, we’re seeing growing interest in onboard wellness activities, such as our sought-after Thermal Suites, where guests can unwind with a steam or scented shower, then enjoy the spectacular passing scenery from the warm bliss of a heated ceramic lounger.”

The most popular treatment at the Mandara Spa is the 75-minute Hot Stone Heaven Massage, during which you’ll have heated basalt stones (volcanic rocks with heat-retaining properties) applied to key points of your body, followed by a massage using warmed aromatherapy oils. 

It’s not all about indulgent pampering, though: there’s a remodelled fitness centre on board the Spirit as well. “Following Norwegian Spirit’s bow-to-stern revitalisation, we’ve expanded the Pulse Fitness Centre, which appeals to our health-conscious Australian guests,” Angell said.