One of the more overlooked additions to
cruise ships in recent years has been the spa's thermal suite: a
collection of sauna, steam, shower and aromatherapy rooms that are
generally grouped around a grotto of heated, tiled loungers -- all
of it attractively designed and appropriately relaxing.
During a cruise on
the Queen Mary 2 this year, I talked myself into an hour in the
ship's version of the thermal suite, the AquaTherapy Center. After
spending most of the day trying, and often failing, to connect to
the Internet on the ship, I needed a break before the big, formal
Guests pay by the
day for unlimited use of the AquaTherapy Center: It's $35 for one
day, $55 for three days and $85 for five days. It's complimentary
if you've already booked certain spa treatments that
The center's main
event is the thalassotherapy pool. It kind of looks like an
enormous, bubbling hot tub, with a large waterfall at the far end
and two powerful water spouts. (A regular hot tub is located in a
Most thermal suites
feature soothing, new age music, but here the noisy, falling water
is the soundtrack. It drowns out most conversations, too, which is
So, to the pool: I
climbed in and was immediately pushed off to the side by an
underwater jet of water. The pool is pretty deep; the water came up
to my shoulders.
I tried to walk to
the underwater loungers, but the force of the bubbly water was too
strong. I figured a full-out, freestyle stroke was out of place in
a glorified hot tub, so I ended up doing a sideways doggy- paddle
to move around. After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the
loungers. This pool is obviously not for the faint of (swimming)
But it was
All my energy,
physical and mental, was concentrated on paddling and being
pummeled by the jets, bubbles and waterfall, which pounded away at
my tense shoulder muscles (the water from the spout was so powerful
it practically pushed me underwater). I wasn't thinking about the
Internet or whether I was eating too much during the cruise. The
formal dinner seemed miles away.
After I dragged
myself out of the pool, I tried the reflexology basins on my feet,
which were tired from walking the 963-foot-long QM2.
Another nice thing
about thermal spas in general: choice. I tried the steam room, then
the aromatherapy room. Once I got bored, I tried the rain forest
shower and the cold mist (yikes!) shower. Then I sat in the regular
sauna for awhile and tried the cold mist again (yikes again!). The
thermal rooms are coed, so bathing suits are a must.
Bonus: You can
practically have these places to yourself if you go late in the day
when most passengers are getting ready for dinner.
easily costing more than $100 an hour, ponying up $35 or so for the
thermal suite is a good spa substitute if you want to pamper
yourself without breaking the bank. In the QM2's case, I might take
the waterfall over a masseuse.
contact Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print edition of
Travel Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].