Visiting the cruise spa has become a standard offering on the menu of cruise activities on most ships. Make the most of your cruise spa experience with our set of 15 practical tips.
If one of your primary goals on your vacation is to relax, then you’ll want to be sure to check out the cruise spa. While cruise ship spas may vary in terms of size, price and luxuriousness, you will certainly find at least some basic standard services that can help you unwind and indulge your senses.
If you are inclined to maximize your relaxation opportunities by visiting the cruise spa, keep the following tips in mind so that you can make the most of the experience.
1. Visiting The Cruise Spa For An Open House Or Tour Is Actually Worth Your Time.
If you think you will be at all interested in getting spa services at some point during your cruise, you should make a point of visiting the spa on embarkation day. Usually there will be some type of open house or tours offered. This gives you a chance to see parts of the spa that otherwise require payment to access. And, it can give you a better idea of what services may actually be attractive.
Typically, you’ll find almost anything a spa-junkie’s heart could desire. Massages and facials of a wide variety. Some you will be familiar and some not. A variety of other body treatments (think seaweed and mud), thermal suites, different types of pools, ice rooms saunas, steam rooms, and more.
If your ship offers a thermal suite area, be sure to check it out. On newer ships with the more opulent spas, you will find thermal suites with heated ceramic loungers positioned before panoramic ocean views, tropical rain showers, thalassotherapy pool, whirlpools, saltwater hydrotherapy pools, salt rooms, snow grotto or ice room, and various aromatic experiences.
Often times the spa may be running specials that can only be purchased the first day. And, you won’t necessarily find out about these unless you visit the spa. So, for instance, on a recent sailing of Celebrity Edge there was a one day opportunity to purchase an all-cruise pass that allowed you full access to the premium areas of the spa for the entirety of the cruise. It was offered at a price substantially lower than what has previously been advertised online.
This also gives you the chance to assess the appointment situation. If you see services and times that you like available, you should go ahead and make a reservation. You will have a window to cancel or re-schedule without penalty.
2. The Onboard Cruise Spa Provides High Quality Services.
If you have never visited a cruise ship spa before, you might be skeptical as to the quality of service. But there’s no reason to worry. The spa has its own dedicated personnel. The companies that staff the cruise spa typically have training requirements that exceed those found in most state and local jurisdictions.
I have never been disappointed in a massage I received onboard.
3. Most Cruise Spa Services Are Strikingly Similar Across Cruise Lines.
Perhaps one reason you will find consistently good services is that most cruise ship spas are not actually run by the cruise lines. Rather, they are operated by companies that specialize in providing such services.
Although spa themes, decor and philosophy may differ across cruise lines, the menu of services and prices will be largely the same for many major lines because they are operated by the same company. Many cruise lines have all of their ship spas operated by Steiner Leisure (OneSpaWorld). Steiner works with more than 16 different cruise lines around the world, and operates spas on more than 130 different cruise ships. Some of its cruise partners include Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney.
Several other cruise lines feature Canyon Ranch spas. You can find a Canyon Ranch cruise ship spa on Cunard, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.
4. The Onboard Spa Offers High-Quality Products.
You will also find an abundance of spa products for purchase. Notably, Steiner has its own brands of high-quality beauty and spa products, such as Elemis and La Therapie. And Canyon Ranch sells its own line of products as well.
Generally, these products are quite good. Indeed, I found my all-time favorite body wash at a cruise spa. And, I make a point of stocking up whenever I am onboard a ship.
5. Onboard Spa Products Can Be Surprisingly Expensive.
But, be aware that these very fine products can also be quite expensive. In recent years when I have gotten a facial, most of the recommended products came with a price tag in the price range of $100 – $150 per item. And some items exceeded that price by a very large margin.
You should also know that all of the spa technicians have been trained to sell products at the end of every session. So don’t be surprised. Of course, you are not required to buy anything. And, if you know that you won’t be purchasing anything and aren’t interested in hearing about products or seeing products, you can say so at the beginning.
6. Appointments Book Very Quickly.
Due to high demand, popular spa appointments fill up quickly. For instance, passengers may snap up all sea day appointments before embarkation day.
7. Look For Port Day Discounts And Specials.
Prices for spa services will usually be lower on days that the ship is in port than on sea days. And, you will often find special port day promotions that can offer good deals as well. For instance, pre-defined combinations of services for a reduced fixed price.
Something to keep in mind about port day specials and discounts is that the pricing often runs for the entire day. So, you may have an opportunity to get a discount or promotional price before the ship arrives in port. Or, after it sails away. This can be particularly significant on days where you have an early departure or a short excursion planned. This is also a way to still get the services you want even if you were shut out for all of the sea days.
8. Pre-book Spa Appointments Online If Possible.
If you have the opportunity to book spa services in advance online, and you know you want them, you should go ahead and book them. You won’t necessarily save any money by doing so, but it allows you to lock down an appointment.
9. Confirm Any Pre-booked Appointments Once You Arrive Onboard.
If you made spa reservations before you boarded the ship, you should confirm with the actual personnel on board. Either call or stop by on your first day. There is a high likelihood that the spa will reach out to you to confirm, but either way make sure it happens.
Mistakes do happen. Sometimes time zone discrepancies can confuse people. Or, there may be technical difficulties that result in double booking or dropped appointments.
If a mistake has happened, it is fairly easy to sort it out on board. Just make sure you make time to do so.
10. A Missed Appointment Is Not Necessarily A Total Loss.
When you book an appointment, you will see a notation about the spa cancellation policy. For instance, failure to cancel at least 24 hours could result in a 50% or more charge. But, this policy is not necessarily strictly enforced. If something happens and you need to change an appointment once the deadline has passed, or even if you actually missed your appointment completely, the spa may still be willing to try and accommodate you.
Although you may not be able to get away with something like that on land, for whatever reason, the spa seems loathed to miss the opportunity to actually get you in there for your appointment. On more than one occasion, I have completely missed an appointment. Either because I was overly ambitious about an early morning start, or other plans ran over. In those instances, the spa folks graciously allowed me to reschedule after the fact without any penalizing fee.
So, if something unexpected happens, don’t be shy about calling to see if something can be worked out.
11. Your Bill Likely Already Includes Some Gratuity.
Most cruise ship spas will add an automatic 18% gratuity to your bill, so you should factor that in when reviewing your bill and deciding whether to leave anything additional. If you pre-booked online, you should note whether that price also included the automatic gratuity. (Most likely it did.)
12. You May Have Several Ways To Save Money On Cruise Spa Services.
If you have previously sailed on the same cruise line, you are likely a member of its loyalty program. Check and see whether your status entitles you to any kind of discount. Even the lowest tier membership may receive a discount or promotional pricing.
If you are sailing with someone else who is a loyalty program member, see if they plan to use their discount. If not, you can have them book an appointment for you. It will be charged to their cabin, but you can repay them in kind.
To date, I have not seen any restrictions on the ability to book appointments for other people and still receive the discount. And, I have personally done that for others as a gift (e.g., on Christmas cruises).
You should also check the daily newsletter for special promotions or freebies. Sometimes the spa will host demonstrations where one or more of the attendees may be able to get a mini-version of the featured service for free.
13. Some Cruise Ships Offer “Medi-spa” Services.
Do you know what a medi-spa is? It’s short for “medical spa” which is basically a hybrid between a traditional spa and a medical clinic. A medical spa will offer some specialized services that you would more typically find at a dermatologist’s office or the office of another medical professional.
You can now find Medi-Spas at sea. Some larger ships have medi-spas with certified staff trained to provide Botox injections, teeth-whitening, and acupuncture.
14. Your Older Kids May Be Able To Enjoy The Cruise Spa Too.
Most spas have age restrictions, but some have services for tweens/teens. For example, Royal Caribbean has its YSPA program for guests 13 to 17. Teens can choose from a curated menu of massages, facials, hair treatments, and fitness classes.
15. Know The Difference Between Spa Services and Salon Services.
On most ships, the Spa will include some type of salon area for hair and nail services. This will either be in the spa itself or adjacent to it. Usually, you will find a full array of mainstream services for hair and nails that you would find at a land-based salon. (You will often find a gym or fitness center adjacent to the spa area as well.)
Something to be mindful of, however, is that both the spa and the salon will likely offer their own version of manicures and pedicures. The spa versions of the manicures and pedicures will be much more elaborate and likewise more expensive. If all you really want is for your feet to look good by the pool, or you want to touch up some acrylics, be sure to specify that you want salon services.
Taking a relaxing break in the spa can be a great way to slow down a hectic itinerary filled with excursions and activities. Or, if your entire cruise vacation centers on rest and relaxation, it can be a nice change from lounging on the beach or by the pool. Either way, take some time to check out what the cruise spa has to offer.
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