Body and Soul: Luxury Cruises Up the Wellness Ante

Aquamar Spa + Vitality CENTER on Oceania Cruises will offer a range of wellness programs and services, from refreshing body treatments to nourishing menu choices and enlightening adventures ashore. // Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Life today moves at breakneck speed as family and business responsibilities combine to create a fast-paced schedule with lots of stress and little “me time.” Not  surprisingly, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) cites “Total Restoration” as one of the cruise industry’s top travel trends this year. 

How many guests typically use the cruise line’s spa? Crystal Cruises tells Luxury Travel Advisor that nine to 12 percent of all oceangoing guests book a spa service while onboard, depending on the season and region. Many guests also head for the gym or participate in wellness activities. 

For many luxury travelers, wellness is a lifestyle. The good news is that several luxury cruise lines have just introduced totally new spa concepts, restorative spa treatments, plant-based dining options, wellness programs onboard and ashore, and fitness center updates. 

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New Spa Concepts 

Ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises has unveiled “Serene Spa & Wellness,” a new holistic concept for ship and shore. Originally targeted exclusively at the new 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, debuting in early 2020, the concept now is going fleet-wide. Replacing the line’s existing Canyon Ranch SpaClub concept, Serene Spa & Wellness will debut during these voyages: Seven Seas Explorer, December 7; Seven Seas Mariner, January 6; Seven Seas Voyager, January 7; Seven Seas Navigator, January 23; and Seven Seas Splendor, February 6.

One facet we find appealing is the coupling of new spa treatments with elements or ingredients that reflect the global destinations to which the line sails. For example, a new “Calming Rose Facial,” features hand-picked organic English roses from the United Kingdom. The signature “Regent Massage,” a full-body therapy, uses rosemary, sea fennel and sea Buckthorn from the Mediterranean Coast, while warm eucalyptus-infused paraffin mitts and boots enhance that experience.  

We can’t wait to try the “Around the World Massage,” which fuses multiple destination-focused treatment techniques. During this new treatment, guests will soak in scents of Indian cardamom, Egyptian coriander and eucalyptus, while a Swedish massage and bamboo stalks gliding over muscles will help release any tension. A soothing Moroccan argan oil will condition the scalp. 

The full range of spa treatments will include ELEMIS facial therapies, and many more body treatments, massages, manicures and pedicures. Check out the menu of treatments on Regent’s website. 

In addition, the new Serene Spa & Wellness concept will offer luxury Kerastase salon services and have a hefty wellness component, too. Guests can expect fitness classes and personal training, plus a series of wellness tours and nutritionally mindful cuisine in the ship’s onboard restaurants. In short, the services will extend far beyond just the physical spa venue. 

Guests can participate in exercise classes, Pilates, yoga and meditation. Fitness equipment will include spinning bikes, dumbbells, treadmills, Technogym strength machines, work-out mats and step benches. One-on-one training can be arranged with a fitness instructor. Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Explorer will also offer a hydrothermal suite, with a multi-sensory aromatherapy steam room, chill room, infrared sauna and experiential showers.

Examples of the shoreside wellness tours? They might include a tai chi class on a beach at Palma de Mallorca or a yoga session overlooking the seaside town of Taormina in Sicily.  

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’s new spa concept, Serene Spa & Wellness, will debut on Seven Seas Explorer on December 7. // Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

In early October, Oceania Cruises also announced that it has created a new spa brand concept, Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center. Look for it on all ships by late January. Replacing Canyon Ranch with a much more encompassing concept, the new offering was dreamed up, fine-tuned and launched by an internal team at Oceania who believed in going “beyond the traditional physical spa experience.” It will incorporate new rejuvenating treatments and healing therapies, gourmet Aquamar Vitality Cuisine and plant-based dishes, and Wellness Discovery Tours by Aquamar. 

How about a “Restorative Himalayan Salt Stone Massage,” in which warm salt stones are bathed in aromatics to diffuse negative energy, reduce stress and alleviate muscle tension? Or, going ashore in Bangkok, Thailand, guests might take a Wellness Discovery Tour by Aquamar. Guests will float along the Chao Phraya River on a historical wooden rice barge, while a traditional reflexologist applies gentle pressure during a foot therapy session; it’s designed to enhance relaxation and reduce pain. 

In terms of Aquamar Vitality Cuisine, in the Grand Dining Room, breakfast might offer a green apple muesli with pistachios, pecans and yellow raisins, with avocado toast on rustic farmer’s bread. Or, for dinner, one sample menu includes som tam green papaya kelp noodle salad and roasted butternut squash with arugula, mango, black radish and hearts of palm. 

For loyal Oceania guests wondering whether the onboard Aquamar Spa will still offer a spa terrace with pool, the answer is “Yes.” Guests in Concierge Level Staterooms and higher categories will still have complimentary access to that pool. Daily passes will be available for purchase too. Aquamar fitness centers will offer complimentary fitness classes, with one-on-one training and specialized group classes at an additional charge. 

Do Oceania Club benefits apply to Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center? Yes, they’ll be reinstated for each ship as the new spa concept debuts. That’s during the following voyages: December 5 on Riviera, December 7 for Nautica and Sirena, January 6 for Regatta, January 8 on Insignia and January 22 on Marina

A third new spa brand, the Mareel Wellness & Beauty spa concept, a holistic approach developed in partnership with Canyon Ranch, will debut on Cunard Line’s 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 (QM2) in November 2020. It’s already on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

Taken from the ancient Norse language, the word “mareel” means phosphorescence of the ocean and focuses on the sea’s unique qualities — illuminating light and healing energy for the spirit. So, luxury travelers entering the redesigned spa facilities will find new décor with hues of blue, green and pale coral, designed to create a sanctuary of calm.

A more extensive spa treatment menu includes mineral-rich seawater and marine-based experiences. We’d opt for the signature treatment, “Ocean Discovery,” with organic, marine-based products from VOYA (mostly harvested in western Ireland); it’s a great way to replenish and nourish the skin and body. Cruisers have a diverse range of new ocean-focused massage, body and alternative treatments — from an “Organic Seaweed Leaf Wrap” to the “Taste the Ocean Full Body Experience” to a “Luminescence Massage.” 

New offerings include a couple’s suite for seaweed bathing rituals; sound therapy facilities in every treatment room, and a meditation room with acoustic resonance loungers. The multi-functional fitness center and studio space is also redesigned. 

Mareel wellness experiences also are being added to QM2’s daily program. Guests can attend a wellness seminar, participate in outdoor yoga or dance classes, or simply check out the stretch and daily meditation videos on their suite’s TV. 

Spa Pampering on an Expedition  

Luxury Travel Advisor just returned from Antwerp, Belgium, late last month, where Hapag-Lloyd Cruises christened its new luxurious Hanseatic inspiration, an international-market ship with both English and German spoken onboard. It serves 230 guests and even fewer (199) in polar waters. While adventurous itineraries are on tap for this new expedition ship, so is the pampering “Inspired by Nature” wellness deck with full spa facilities that focus on sustainability. 

The ship’s 2,350-square-foot Ocean Spa offers stressed-out travelers an opportunity for massage and cosmetic treatments in light-filled rooms with sea views. Spa specialists use only sustainable products by Vinoble, Hyapur, John Masters Organics and Nailberry. The “Inspired by Nature” concept is also reflected in the spa’s vegan formulas and use of local produce with no chemicals or synthetic additives. The Finnish sauna features floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor area. Guests will also find a Finnish sauna, steam sauna, hydrotherapy shower and ice fountain. The spa also has a hairdressing salon and fitness areas with sea views. 

The Ocean Spa on Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic inspiration has 2,350 square feet of space and offers massage and cosmetic treatments in light-filled rooms with sea views. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Scenic’s first Discovery Yacht, the new 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse (fewer maximum passengers in polar regions) also began cruising the globe earlier this fall. It’s a sleek, contemporary beauty with spacious modern public spaces, multiple dining venues and lounges, and even two six-seat helicopters and one six-seat submarine for exploring in the sky and underwater.  

Luxury Travel Advisor walked through the spa during a ship visit, and this 5,920-square-foot space is quite large for a ship this size. It has a well-equipped gym and separate yoga and Pilates studio. All accommodations on Scenic Eclipse are spacious, too, from 344-square-foot Veranda Suites to the 2,659-square-foot, two-bedroom Penthouse Suite. We’d suggest spa enthusiasts consider Scenic Eclipse’s Spa Suites, which range from 538 square feet to 560 square feet. 

One Spa Suite perk is a large Philippe Starck-designed spa bath overlooking a private veranda. These spa suites also have a steam shower with oversized head and light therapy, dual vanity basins and separate lounge area with reading chair. Added perk? Spa suites offer a complimentary one-hour spa treatment per suite and complimentary laundry service.

Scenic Eclipse’s 5,920-square-foot spa has a separate yoga and Pilates studio. // Photo courtesy of Scenic Cruises

Also on the expedition side, the new Crystal Endeavor, a 200-passenger polar-class vessel, will launch next summer with plenty of creature comforts and high visibility amenities, including two helicopters and a seven-person submarine. Look for the ship’s Crystal Life Spa & Salon to feature a relaxation area, three treatment rooms, a salon for hair styling, manicures and pedicures, and both a men’s and women’s sauna and steam room.    

We’d splurge for a stay in the 1,290-square-foot Expedition Suite (ES category), largest and most lavish of all accommodations onboard. Located on Deck 7, this enclave combines an Expedition Penthouse and a Deluxe Suite, so it has two bedrooms, sumptuous living and dining areas, as well as a private veranda. 

To entice potential guests and Crystal Society members onboard all Crystal ships, this fall, Crystal debuted a new consumer-focused Crystal Living magazine. Spotlighting destinations and onboard experiences, it will have dedicated editorial sections including Wellness, highlighting Crystal’s activities to nourish mind, body and soul. 

Crystal Endeavor’s Crystal Life Spa & Salon will have a relaxation area (here), three treatment rooms, a salon and both a men’s and women’s sauna and steam rooms. // Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises 

Luxury small-ship Ponant recently announced that it was acquiring Paul Gauguin Cruises, expanding its small-ship luxury footprint across the globe; it plans to both expand the Paul Gauguin fleet and operate that as a separate brand. As for Ponant itself, two more 184-passenger Explorer-series ships will set sail in 2020 — Le Bellot in April and Le Jacques Cartier in July. 

Both feature the multi-sensory, underwater Blue Eye Lounge, which can do wonders for those seeking a fun spot to relax and soak in nature’s sounds. Have a cocktail here bathed in blue lighting, soak up whale sounds and view the underwater world outside via portholes shaped as cetaceans’ eyes.   

Looking ahead to 2021, Ponant’s new hybrid propulsion vessel, Le Commandant-Charcot, will be the first luxury ship to reach the true North Pole; it will be powered by LNG and electric generators. Equipped with just 135 staterooms, including 31 suites with balconies and outside views, this expedition vessel will offer an intimate, refined aura. 

Wellness-wise, it will have a fitness room with elliptic, running machines and bicycles, as well as a hair salon, massage rooms, a sauna, snow room and nail shop. We’d opt to relax in the indoor pool nestled within a “winter garden.”

Wellness Lifestyle 

Wellness is a lifestyle for many guests. This year, Seabourn Cruise Line added new Mindful Living shore excursions with a wellness bent. In addition, the line’s new “Wellness in the South Pacific” cruise on Seabourn Encore sets sail on February 8 from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia.  

The big draw is Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, as well as other wellness notables. The sailing will also feature the Ventures by Seabourn program of optional, for-charge expedition excursions. 

Ports of call include Tauranga (Rotorua), Picton, Wellington, Akaroa (Christchurch), Port Chalmers (Dunedin), Oban (Halfmoon Bay), a cruise around Fiordland National Park, and Milford Sound. Then it’s across the sea to Australia with calls at Melbourne, Phillip Island in Victoria, Eden in New South Wales, and finally Sydney. 

Wellness-wise, Windstar Cruises’ three Star-class vessels will emerge in 2020 with many new suites and spaces, as well as greatly enlarged fitness centers and a new world-class spa. It’s all part of the line’s $250 million Star Plus Initiative program. In what’s sure to be a dramatic scene, the line is adding a new mid-section in drydock to lengthen Star Legend, Star Breeze and Star Pride. Star Breeze will emerge first in February with the other two ships being completed in July and November. 

Overall Star-class ship capacity will increase to 312 guests and the vessels will gain 50 new suites, new suite categories and two-larger Owner’s Suites. The latter combines existing suites to create a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite, appealing for multigenerational families or couples traveling together.

Ancient Treatments

For those seeking something a bit different — perhaps a traditional treatment rooted in Chinese medicine — some lines, among them Silversea Cruises and Azamara, also bring licensed acupuncturists onboard to offer treatments using the ancient Chinese system of healing.  Acupuncture is said to strengthen the immune system, fight disease and control pain, as well as dissolve accumulated stress and restore the body’s natural balance. 

Acupuncture is also thought to help with smoking cessation and weight loss. One popular Azamara acupuncture specialty service is an hour-long nutritional consultation; guests come away with a personalized diet plan based on current nutritional research and a Chinese medicine diagnosis. Silversea, as well, offers an acupuncture seminar on certain sailings of Silver Muse and Silver Spirit.

A massage room on a Silversea Expedition-type ship. Silversea is among the few lines that also bring licensed acupuncturists onboard. Photo by Juan Pablo Merchan

On Global Rivers

River cruise lines are also offering wellness / fitness themed options. From January through March and September through October in 2020, Uniworld River Cruises will offer many departures of its new 12-day “ME to WE & the Sacred Ganges” itinerary, both on land and river, from New Delhi to Kolkata, India; the land portion includes many yoga sessions, while the river portion is an eight-day, wellness-themed cruise on Ganges Voyager II with a new “Nutrition and Wellness Food” menu at breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

This year, AmaWaterways expanded its wellness program fleetwide in Europe (except Portugal) and Southeast Asia. Now, professionally trained Wellness Hosts sail and offer guests group fitness classes — such as stretching, core strengthening and resistance band training — and lectures and discussions related to holistic wellness. For guests sailing on AmaDara on the Mekong River, depending on the wellness host’s expertise, the line also could include a traditional tea ceremony (so guests can learn about organic tea), meditation, yoga and tai chi.

This summer, the new 196-passenger AmaMagna, twice as wide as other Danube River vessels, launched with an aft Zen Wellness Studio, a fitness center with state-of-the-art machines (both inside and outdoors on the terrace), and a creative wellness bar relaxation area. We like that the wellness area had both inside and outside chairs and tables, scenic river views and a “detox water of the day.” One day we sampled the “Gemstone Water” with quartz and amethyst minerals.

AmaMagna’s Zen Wellness Studio has plenty of machines, including the four spin bikes for outdoor spinning classes. // Photo courtesy  of AmaWaterways

Wellness is certainly trending as a top desire of luxury cruisers this year. Thankfully, many upscale lines have creative new spa or wellness offerings; in some cases, these go far beyond the traditional physical spa experience of the past.

More Luxury Cruise Trends 

Greater Family & Skip-Gen Cruising: Multigenerational family travel is a hot trend. Tauck has expanded its line-up of family-dedicated Bridges river cruises. And luxury lines, including Ponant, are now seeing more “Skip-Gen” or “skipping-a-generation” cruising. In the Caribbean or Alaska, grandparents take their grandchildren on a cruise, but leave their adult children behind (for their own couple’s romantic trip, perhaps.) 

Delving More into Land: Cruise lines and luxury sellers alike continue to stress that “the destination” rules as the prime reason for cruising. That’s why cruise lines are infusing itineraries with more overnights in port, late nights in port and even overland journeys in the midst of a long cruise. Azamara recently dropped the “Club Cruises” from its name and added new curated pre- and post-cruise land adventures to showcase its even more extensive land focus.  

The Rise of Luxury Expedition: New luxury expedition ships just launched or on the horizon, from Scenic, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Ponant, Crystal, Silversea and others, are greatly broadening choices for luxury guests seeking off-the-beaten-path adventure, whether it’s to the Arctic, Antarctic or more tropical spots across the globe. See our main story for more about several new vessels. 

Ancestry & Genealogy: Genealogy is reportedly the second-most popular hobby in the U.S., only trailing gardening, as cited in a recent CruiseCompete.com study about the latest cruising trends. Studying family trees and finding out “where we came from” has become a reason for cruising to such countries or regions as Ireland, the U.K., France, Scandinavia, Italy, West Africa, Southeast Asia and beyond.  

Booking Farther Out & Closer In: Most cruise lines are pushing consumers to book further in advance (and giving them the best deals to do that), but this year, luxury lines including Crystal are seeing both, people booking further out and closer in. That may also show that luxury travelers are booking further out for the big vacation, but closer in for a second trip. 

Experiential Culinary: Guests don’t just want to watch celebrity chefs or sample high-brow cuisine. They want to delve into the local destinations via culinary. One good example is next year’s summer debut of Silversea Cruises’ S.A.L.T. program, which takes culinary immersion to a new level. For example, cruisers might meet with an organic pasta maker in Italy or hike along Balinese fields to a local resident’s home for a family meal.  

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