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.
Celebrity Cruises takes pains to be on the cutting edge of wellness trends and offerings. So it makes sense that the line’s Edge-class ships – Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond and (coming in 2023) Celebrity Ascent – have spas that mimic what you’d find on land.
On its Edge-class ships, Celebrity has continued to extend its wellness offerings 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. Actress and lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow has signed on as the line’s wellness ambassador and you’ll find goop products in AquaClass.
Plus, these passengers get exclusive access to the specialty restaurant, Blu, as well as complimentary use of the spa’s relaxation room and sauna and steam room complex (known as the SEA Thermal Spa on the Edge-class ships and Persian Garden on others). You also have the use of a "spa concierge" to book treatments, as well. On Celebrity Beyond and Celebrity Ascent, AquaClass Sky Suites combine the spa amenities of AquaClass with the perks of the Retreat
The spa itself boasts a robust menu of massage, skincare, body wrap, acupuncture and aesthetic (including nonsurgical facial treatments like Botox) services. Look for cutting edge treatments like massages that incorporate a zero gravity bed and an Iyashi dome.
The thermal suite, on all ships, is a coed sauna and steam room, with a variety of options and heated relaxation chairs that offer views of the ocean. On Celebrity Beyond, you’ll find. No matter what ship you’re on, 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. On many ships, you’ll find Peloton bikes and Celebrity Beyond has F45 HITT classes.
Aboard Pinnacle-class ships Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam, 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.
The spa on Cunard’s ocean line 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. Look for the Ocean Odyssey treatments, which use seaweed and marine salts as a basis for facials and massages.
The facility itself is huge but well laid out. 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. You can buy a pass for two-hour slots for a day or the entire week of your voyage.
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.
The Otium wellness concept, which debuted on Silversea’s ship Silver Dawn and will expand to new class Silver Nova in 2023, aims to be holistic and encompass more than the spa itself. Inspired by the Romans, Otium aims to make wellness all about indulgence.
To that end, the relaxation area in the spa's Thermal Suite offers a decadent collection of nibbles, Champagne and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to get you in a celebratory mood. While there’s no thalassotherapy pool, the Thermal Suite gives all guests access to its two sets of steam rooms and sauna, separated by gender, with showers available for both. Make sure you pick up your choice of scrub and loofah before you enter.
The indulgence doesn’t stop when you leave the spa, however. Once you’re in your sumptuous suite, there are a choice of Otium offerings unique to Silversea. Otium has two flavors of balcony benefits, one for warm weather and one for cold. If you’re in a warm climate, your butler will set you up with suncream and drinks. Chill in the air? Receive a warm blanket and made-to-order hot chocolate.
The in-room Otium bathtub experience also relies on your butler’s expertise. He or she will draw the bath with your choice of scent, set up the mood lighting and music and then leave you to your relaxing soak. Afterward, order truffled popcorn or a foie gras burger from the special Otium room service menu to cap off your day of decadence.
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.
While MSC Cruises' Aurea Spa is a fleetwide concept -- the only Balinese-styled spa at sea -- its iteration has reached new heights on the line’s newest ships, particularly on the most recent classes.
The Seaside EVO-class ships -- MSC Seashore and MSC Seascape – are noteworthy for having the line’s largest thermal suite. The expansive space boasts a chromotherapy shower circuits, multiple types of saunas, a huge hot tub, aromatherapy rain showers and arctic showers, Himalayan salt room, a snow room, a dark steam room and a light steam room and relaxation areas.
MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview also have impressive thermal suite areas, 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. Medi-spa therapy options include Botox, derma fillers or Q-Frequency, a radio frequency skin-tightening treatment. Got teens in tow? There's a bevy 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.
To take full advantage of the ships’ spa offerings, you’ll want to book Aurea class, which gives you complimentary access to the Thermal Suite (guests in the Yacht Club also enjoy this benefit). The ships also have an Aurea sun deck, where you can loll on fancy lounge chairs and outdoor cabanas.
“Detox, then retox” is one of the mottos on Virgin Voyages’ hip adult-only cruise ships – Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, as well as Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady (both coming in 2023). So it stands to reason that the Redemption Spa receives a fair amount of real estate.
The Thermal Suite is impressive with a variety of experiences, including a mud room; a steam room; a salt room; a sauna; two cold tubs and one hot tub and a pool; plus plenty of heated loungers with lovely views out of the porthole windows, almost at sea level. The space is a haven from the go-go-go vibe on the rest of the ship.
Spa treatments have names meant to soothe – the Deliverance hot mineral massage on a special amber and quartz bed, for example, makes you forget about how late you were out at the Manor, the ships’ nightclub.
You’ll also find modern beauty treatments in the salon. Think brow bars and lash extensions, as well as fun hair options such as rainbow tints and glittery beach braids. We also love that the mani-pedi bar is near the pool – right where you need it – as opposed to downstairs with the other services.
The twin Regent ships Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor (as well as Seven Seas Grandeur, coming in 2023) have been billed as "the most luxurious ships ever built." So you’d expect the spas on these ships to be outstanding.
Luckily, they are, with posh enhancements for a small ship 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. Treatments that we love include the Around the World Massage, which combines therapies and products from different corners of the globe: coconut poultice, bamboo, hot-stone and Swedish massage, along with various oils and scents.
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.