There are a few reasons why this is interesting. First, the announcement was made last week just 10 days after Cunard issued a press release celebrating its five-year anniversary with Canyon Ranch -- stating that the contract had just been extended and new treatments and services, such as organic seaweed detoxification, were being added.
U.K.-based travel writer and occasional Cruise Critic contributor Jane Archer proposes on her blog that Cunard mightn't be too thrilled about Oceania's get -- because "they make a big deal of the fact that Queen Mary 2 has the only Canyon Ranch spa at sea" -- but that Oceania's passengers should be. Archer writes, "I used the spa when I was on QM2 this month and once I had got over the cost of the treatments, I really enjoyed the experience."
Second -- and more importantly -- it's a marked step away from an industry-wide monopoly held by Steiner Leisure, which operates facilitates on over 100 ships sailing for just about every major cruise line, with only a few exceptions. For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Fred. Olsen's spas are run by Carita and Harding Brothers, respectively, while SeaDream and Star Clipper utilize in-house operations. Indeed, Oceania previously contracted with Mandara, an offshoot of Steiner, for its spa services.
Because Steiner has such a stronghold in the at-sea spa world, it controls pricing (which seems to be trending higher and higher). Also, Steiner employees are famous for conducting a hard and sometimes tacky or bullying sales pitch to buy spa products -- even on luxury lines like Crystal Cruises -- hitting you in the treatment room before you've barely gotten your robe back on. At best, this is uncomfortable, and at worst, the hard sell defeats the purpose of going to the spa.
Canyon Ranch spokeswoman Sheryl Press tells us that absolutely won't be the case in the spas onboard Oceania or any other cruise ship. "Canyon Ranch does not do a hard product sell in any of our outlets," she says. "There will absolutely not be [a hard sell] on the ships either. It's not part of our business practice."
Products will be available for sale, however, including the spa's age-fighting Your Transformation skin care line. The rest of the shops' inventory is yet to be determined. Also not finalized are treatment prices. Press says she expects they'll be close to those charged on the QM2, but it's too soon to say for sure as the partnership was just announced and the details are being worked out.
According to an Oceania press release, the SpaClub on Marina will be state of the art, with 16 massage, body and skin-care treatment rooms, a gym and weight room with more than 50 pieces of cardio and weight training equipment, a juice bar, men's and women's locker rooms, a thalassotherapy pool, two whirlpools and a thermal suite. Also, the entire fleet will offer Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine: healthy eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Grand Dining Room and the Terrace Cafe. Spa Cuisine will debut aboard Regatta, Insignia and Nautica in April and May, 2010 and aboard Marina in late 2010.
Will more cruise lines rebel against Steiner to sign with Canyon Ranch or other spa operators? That remains to be seen. But Press does say Canyon Ranch "will continue to seek out [cruise] business."
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor