Bath's Royal Crescent opens full spa

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Associate editor Caroline Scutt visited the Royal Crescent Hotel's new Bath House in Bath, England. Her report follows.

BATH, England -- Mention that you are staying at the Royal Crescent to anyone who lives here and you are showered with such comments as "Aren't you lucky." Even people who have never stepped over the threshold are impressed -- and rightly so.

This upscale town house hotel, whose facade is distinguished from its 28 other neighbors only by the address (15 and 16 Royal Crescent) and the porter often standing out front, lives up to its renowned reputation for luxurious accommodations and outstanding service.

And now the hotel has another compliment-drawing virtue: the Bath House, a full-service spa. Although Bath will finally see the unveiling of a new public spa in 2001, the Bath House at the Royal Crescent is one of the U.K.'s few full-service spa facilities.

All it took was $7 million to transform the interior of an existing coach house into this two-story facility. The materials and colors used in the facility's design evoke a strong sense of serenity, and the staff members were helpful in explaining the proper order of treatments.

The pool area is dimly lighted and appointed with natural materials, including bamboo, chestnut, Chinese slate, Cornish pebbles and Bath stone. The result is an interesting blend of Asian and Gothic styles.

Guests with little or no spa experience are advised to try the Bath House Treatment, a package created especially for novices.

Although the cost was slightly more than I usually spend on pampering (around $100), the 90-minute session includes time in the pool, sauna, steam room and whirlpool, followed by a cleansing exfoliation scrub, topped off by a 50-minute full-body massage. I was happily persuaded that the experience was worth the price, plus a 15% tip, as I floated back to my room for a nap.

Guests can choose from a full array of packages or individual treatments ranging from a 50-minute shiatsu massage for around $70 to a 90-minute algae body wrap for $100. The spa also offers a full-service beauty salon and weekly yoga and t'ai-chi classes.

Guests have complimentary use of the pool, sauna, whirlpool and steam room, but there are times set aside for men-only and women-only sessions, which are clothing-optional.

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