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Here's the Rub: Steiner Leisure Strengthens Its Grip on Cruise Ship Spas

December 15, 2010
(11:55 a.m. EST) -- Spa giant Steiner Leisure Ltd, which operates the spas on 139 ships, announced today that it has acquired the assets of its U.K.-based rival, the OnboardSpa Company.

Most cruise passengers are familiar with Steiner's spas, which include the Elemis, Mandara and Bliss brand names and appear on such lines as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and NCL, as well as upscale operators Silversea and Seabourn. The spas, which are not owned by the cruise lines, are run as concessions by Steiner.

OnboardSpa is less of a household name; until now it was the spa provider to P&O Cruises, Cunard Line (apart from Queen Mary 2), Windstar Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Thomson, Saga, Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic. The company was formed as a joint venture between Harding Brothers Spa Division, which operates many of the shops onboard U.K.-based lines, and Multitrax Maritime.

While details of the deal have not been disclosed, there may be implications for cruise passengers, particularly those who might classify themselves as spa connoisseurs. Steiner now has a virtual monopoly of cruise ship spas, and although prices and treatment menus vary from ship to ship, the products used are essentially the same.

The only significant exception to Steiner's grip on cruise lines is Queen Mary 2, the ships of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and the fleet of Oceania Cruises, all of which have a Canyon Ranch SpaClub onboard.

Steiner has already taken over the spas on P&O Cruises' ships, while a statement from the company says that negotiations are continuing with Onboard SpaCompany's other cruise customers.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor

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