As you lie on a massage table, legs tucked into a soft sheet, hot stones soothing the tired muscles of your back and arms, you will most certainly not be thinking about cruise ship spa ratings. And while you relax on a heated tile lounger or in a steamy sauna, eyes drooping, thoughts of work and bills scurrying far away, you're probably not wondering about your cruise line's philosophy on its spa product.
But when you sit down at your computer to research your next cruise vacation, you might very well want to know where to find the best spas at sea -- and we'll be there to help.
- Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Celebrity's Solstice-Class Ships
- Greenhouse Spa on Holland America's Pinnacle-Class Ships
- Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Cunard's Queen Mary 2
- Crystal Life Spa and Salon on Crystal's Symphony & Serenity
- LivNordic Spa on Viking's Ocean Vessels
- Aurea Spa on MSC's Meraviglia-Class Ships
- Vitality Spa on Royal Caribbean's Oasis-Class Ships
- Canyon Ranch Spa on Regent's Seven Seas Explorer
1. Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Celebrity's Solstice-Class Ships
The Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Celebrity's Solstice-class ships (Celebrity Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection) is a superb complex that extends beyond the physical spa to include AquaClass spa cabins, as well as the AquaSpa Cafe and Blu (two dining venues dedicated to healthy fare like smoothies, salads, lean meats and fish). You can truly have a spa-focused getaway onboard one of these cruise ships by eating, sleeping and relaxing in spa-associated locales.
The AquaClass cabins come with spa-oriented bath products and multiheaded spa showers; upgraded linens and a choose-your-own-pillow menu; an aromatherapy diffuser; complimentary bottled water and flavored teas; and access to an upgraded room service menu of salads, whole grains and otherwise healthy dining choices.
Plus, these passengers get exclusive access to the specialty restaurant, Blu; complimentary use of the spa's relaxation room and Persian Garden sauna and steam room; and the use of a "spa concierge" to book treatments, as well.
The spa itself boasts a robust menu of massage, skincare, body wrap, acupuncture and aesthetic (including nonsurgical facial treatments like Botox) services. Sign up for Canyon Ranch signature treatments like the Enhancing Vitamin Therapy facial, which is a powerful treatment created to purify, micro-exfoliate and rehydrate your skin, or the Canyon Stone Massage, which integrates pressure point treatment with the application of warm, smooth basalt stones.
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The Persian Garden is a coed sauna and steam room, with a tropical rain shower and heated relaxation chairs that offer views of the ocean. The spa's Solarium is among the most gorgeous at sea, with two pools and whirlpools, soaring glass ceilings and whimsical light and water shows.
There's a salon offering hair, makeup and nail services, while the fully stocked and staffed gym sports floor-to-ceiling windows with ocean views and all the newest fitness machines. A full line of group fitness classes includes yoga, Pilates and Zumba, and there are private personal training sessions, too.
2. Greenhouse Spa on Holland America's Pinnacle-Class Ships
Aboard Pinnacle-class ships Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, Holland America seriously steps up its spa offerings with its expanded, bi-level Greenhouse Spa, the fleet's biggest and most luxurious spa offering. The enhanced spa contains 17 treatment rooms for standout treatment options supported by Elemis products, like the Thai Herbal Poultice Massage or Biotec antiaging facial.
The exceptional thermal suite area features a relaxation room with heated ceramic loungers proposing ocean views, saunas for both men and women, aromatherapy steam rooms, horizontal rain showers (which you lay down for) and a bubbling hydrotherapy seawater pool.
Look out, too, for the line's only medi-spa (set on a private deck atop the main spa), offering acupuncture treatments and cosmetic services like Botox, dermal fillers or Thermage. There's also a full-service salon (with a separate barber shop just for men) and an expanded fitness center equipped with the line's only TRX Suspension Training and RYDE Indoor Cycling classes -- each of which unfold in their own dedicated rooms.
For spa devotees, the two ships also offer 55 dedicated spa staterooms apiece, situated near the spa with perks like a special spa menu, use of pedometers and yoga mats, and a stocked in-room supply of premium waters.
3. Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Cunard's Queen Mary 2
As a result of its affiliation with Canyon Ranch, the spa on Queen Mary 2 genuinely feels like a land-based destination in terms of knowledge and expertise. Some of the treatments are quite distinctive compared to the usual cruise ship offerings. The Rasul Ceremony, for instance, proposes thermal therapy as administered via muds and herbal steams in a tiled steam chamber.
Another surprising favorite is the Thai massage: It's basically a series of stretches (you wear loose-fitting clothing) and it is completely relaxing. In addition, they have options like acupuncture, Ayurvedic treatments and chiropractic care.
The facility itself is huge but well laid out. A boutique sells Canyon Ranch products, and the thermal suite Aqua Therapy Centre, featuring thalassotherapy/steam room/sauna areas, as well as sensory showers and a "reflexology basin," is the ultimate in peaceful relaxation.
A dedicated waiting room has big, cushy lounge chairs that face floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a promenade and the seascape. It's so comfortable that passengers have been known to fall asleep there. In the salon, you can also get manicures, pedicures, and haircuts and styling.
We also like that the fitness facility is completely separate; working out and going to the spa have two entirely different vibes. The fitness center is outfitted with ample equipment from Technogym, fitness classes (like Pilate, yoga and spinning) and personal training are also available.
Look out, too, for Canyon Ranch-branded spa cuisine featured on the restaurant menus at Britannia, Queens Grill and Princess Grill.
4. Crystal Life Spa and Salon on Crystal's Symphony & Serenity
The spas on both of Crystal Cruises' traditional ships -- Crystal Symphony and Serenity -- were designed with the feng shui (balance and harmony) philosophy in mind, and the Zen theme works to create a calming atmosphere.
Treatments, which range from salt scrubs to a couples' massage and acupuncture, are outstanding; one treatment room features a crystal quartz bed that helps release muscle tension and increase relaxation during special massages. Medi-spa cosmetic treatments (like wrinkle treatments or dermal fillers) can also be booked.
The salon, touting ocean views, offers the full gamut of services: haircuts (including barber services for men), styling, pedicures and manicures.
5. LivNordic Spa on Viking's Ocean Vessels
LivNordic Spa, operated by Stockholm-based Raison d'Etre, is among the most gorgeous and serene spas we've seen at sea. The spa -- found aboard all of Viking's oceangoing vessels -- is inspired by Nordic traditions, which offer a balance between hot and cold therapies that are said to stimulate the circulatory system.
The pretty thermal suite features a beautifully designed thalassotherapy pool with an adjacent hot tub. They're backed by a fireplace, which uses flame-like water vapor and is the first we've seen in a cruise ship spa. In keeping with hot and cold traditions, other features include warmed tile loungers, a rustic Norwegian-style shower that features a bucket that dumps cold water on your head, a steamy sauna and a snow grotto.
Men's and women's locker rooms abut the thermal suite and they're well thought out, with cold plunge pools, a dry sauna and a relaxation area contained within. Best of all: Counter to tradition on most cruise ship spas, the thermal suite areas are free to use by all passengers at all times.
LivNordic features facials and massages, but keeps choices fairly simple. For instance, among the range of treatments, there are just three types of Swedish massage (mindful, detox and deep tissue), and two facials, the idea being to reduce complexity and enhance performance.
Adjacent to the spa, a dedicated salon space offers services like haircuts and styling, men's barber services, manicures and pedicures. The fitness center comes equipped with some 20 machines and ocean-facing windows; personal training sessions are also available.
6. Aurea Spa on MSC's Meraviglia-Class Ships
While MSC Cruises' Aurea Spa is a fleetwide concept -- the only Balinese-styled spa at sea -- its iteration aboard the line's two Seaside-class ships (MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview) is especially noteworthy as the line's largest. Spa-goers even get access to an exclusive sun deck with a whirlpool and outdoor cabanas in which massages can be booked.
Seaside and Seaview also offer -- as do the Meraviglia-class vessels (MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima, launching in March 2019) -- an impressive thermal suite area, equipped with elements like Finnish saunas, a thalassotherapy pool, whirlpools, steam baths, a snow grotto, salt rooms, aromatic showers and a relaxation room overlooking the sea.
The serene spa space, incorporating some two dozen treatment rooms, comes trimmed with natural materials like stone and wood, as well as mosaic accents. Treatment options cover numerous facials, body treatments (like thalassotherapy and aromatherapy body exfoliation) and massages (including options like Balinese, Thai, hot stone and Himalayan sea salt).
Plus, there's a menu of aromatherapy, couples' rituals and Turkish bath treatments, while exclusively on MSC Seaside, more unique vinotherapy offerings, too, in partnership with Bocelli Wines. Medi-spa therapy options include Botox, derma fillers or Q-Frequency, a radio frequency skin-tightening treatment. Got teens in tow? There's a menu of teen-exclusive, reduced-rate spa treatments, as well.
Instead of a traditional all-in-one salon, the spa maintains four separate spaces, including a nail salon, makeup room, Jean Louis David hair salon and barber shop for men. The gym, in partnership with Technogym, comes jam-packed with state-of-the-art machines and fitness class options like spinning, yoga and Thai boxing; personal training is also available, as are men's and women's locker rooms.
For a fully immersive spa experience, the four ships come with a generous selection of spa staterooms (numbering 154 to 220 units, and spanning balcony cabins to suites). Passengers in these cabins get perks like half-price fitness classes and personal training, an included spa package and, aboard Seaside-class ships, access to the exclusive spa sun deck.
7. Vitality Spa on Royal Caribbean's Oasis-Class Ships
Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) stand out for their spacious spa and fitness complexes. The Asian-inspired spa features some two dozen rooms, including a handful of couples' suites. There are relaxation rooms and a modest thermal suite area, outfitted with heated tile loungers, saunas and steam rooms.
The spa offers pretty much the usual range of Steiner Leisure treatments: massages (Swedish, hot stone and couples), reflexology, facials and body wraps. Acupuncture and medi-spa services like Botox are also available.
With the teen-geared YSpa, kids ages 13 to 17 can book services in three treatment rooms, such as the "Acne Attack" facial or "Beach Babe" deep conditioning hair treatment. More standard massages, facials, manicures and pedicures are also available for teens.
The salon features hair cutting and styling, manicures, pedicures and makeup. There's also the Vitality Enrichment Lounge where lectures on wellness topics are given, and the Vitality Cafe, serving health-conscious wraps, juices and smoothies.
The ships' workout areas feature a breathtaking range of machines and free weights, as well as the Omega Kinesis Wall for circuit-training; there's a separate room for fitness classes like yoga, Pilates, cycling and kickboxing, too.
8. Canyon Ranch Spa on Regent's Seven Seas Explorer
Seven Seas Explorer -- billed as "the most luxurious ship ever built" -- accordingly steps thing up a notch with posh enhancements like an infinity pool and cold room feature. The sophisticated space, finished in white marble and a butterfly motif, offers eight treatment rooms (including a couples' suite outfitted with a jetted Jacuzzi) for the requisite massages, facials and bodywork.
More unusual treatments include aromatherapy, seaweed and Ayurvedic offerings. Look out for some signature globally inspired bodywork rituals, too, including the Arctic Sea Nourishing Ritual, which follows up a hydrotherapy soak with a deep-tissue massage that incorporates Arctic berry and evergreen oils.
An infinity-edge plunge pool and lounge chairs set at the ship's stern ensures the ultimate pre- or post-treatment winddown. Ditto for the Aquavana Hydrothermal Experience, a thermal suite area equipped with men's and women's infrared saunas, cold rooms (where temps run between 50 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit), experiential showers employing varying pressures and temperatures, aromatic steam rooms and a relaxation area with heated ceramic loungers -- all of which are open to cruisers at no additional cost.
Step into the adjacent salon for hair and nail care and makeup services, while a two-room fitness center offers machines, free weights, an area for personal training and a fitness studio that puts on group glasses like Pilates, yoga and spinning. (Tip: Keep an eye out for Canyon Ranch-branded menu items at the Compass Rose restaurant, too.)