Spa Cruises Going on a Spa Cruise

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'Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts or happenings,' commented Mark Twain. 'Life consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever blowing through one's head.' Such might be the motto (or perhaps more accurately, mantra) of spa cruises. Spas are an ideal way to calm a storm, and are one of the features which have appeared on cruise lines as a result of their largely successful reinvention as luxury experiences in the face of the proliferation of cheap flights and Eurotunnel tickets. All but the most basic and/or smallest vessels will now have a spa of some form. Conversely, the larger and/or more expensive the ship, the more elaborate the spa.

Cruises can be frenetic experiences if you want them to be, but then, so can any holiday. Spa cruises epitomise something special that this form of travel has to offer measured calm and mental space. Ideally. If the quality of the spa factors in your choice of ship, make sure (insofar as you can) that it doesn't disappoint. Ask when you're booking about its size, design and placing on the ship, prices and skills of the staff. This is one instance when you will more or less get what you pay for the back to basics ships which are such good value in other ways are good value because they don't feature things like spas. Many liners have granted concessions to well known health and beauty practitioners such as Holmes Place (Island Cruises, which is in fact marketed as a budget option) and Steiner, which runs the concession on several lines including Carnival, Fred Olsen, Royal Caribbean, Crystal and Holland America. The Harding Brothers also operate on several cruise lines (including, for energetic older people, the Saga Rose). Hapag Lloyd's ultra luxurious Europa liner features the very comprehensive Futuresse spa run by Fribad Cosmetics.

What should you expect from your spa? First, unless the cruise is totally all inclusive, expect to pay a reasonably large sum for treatments at least £20 £30 per throw for half hour or hour sessions. Second, bear in mind that large ships with small spas are likely to be well frequented and possibly not as relaxing as you would like. If you are afflicted with this problem, find out what the peak times are (hopefully it will not be all the time) and avoid them remember to book early. Alternatively, pick another ship. Third, there are the treatments themselves. What do spa cruises offer? Aside from sauna and steam rooms, the linking factor is generally Swedish massage. But there has also been a rise in treatments of Far Eastern and Indian origin for example shiatsu (from Japan) and chakra massage (inspired by Hindu ayurvedic philosophy). Body wraps, hot stone treatments and reflexology are also popular, and there are usually various exercise options. If you're really keen, you can even enlist a personal trainer on some ships.

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