Ritz-Carlton New Orleans takes wraps off refurbished spa

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The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans has dotted the i's and crossed the t's of its $105 million, post-Hurricane Katrina reinvention with the reopening of its spa complex. The expanded and renovated facility is now known as the Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans and is the city's newest hotel day spa.

"The total square footage of the spa was enhanced to 25,000 square feet, making it the largest in the city and the only full-service spa that is open seven days a week," said hotel spokeswoman Char Schroeder.

The two-floor spa, which reopened last month, sports 22 treatment rooms, a gym, a cafe, a shop and a reception area. A menu of about 100 services has been updated to "meet the needs of today's spa-goers," Schroeder said.

The spa, like other Ritz-Carlton spas, uses Prada beauty and skin-care products.

The range of menu selections encompasses prenatal and men's services, scrubs and massages, hydrotherapies and salon services. In addition to weight-lifting and cardiovascular equipment, the gym has a small resistance pool.

The plush facility, decorated to evoke 19th century New Orleans, specializes in treatments that incorporate local products or traditions. The Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Massage, for example, combines a hydrotherapy bath and Swedish massage with application of a love potion. The Cafe Au Lait Detoxifying Treatment involves a coffee scrub and a milk compress.

Male spa-goers, meanwhile, can choose from massages, facials, salt scrubs, hot-towel shaves and manicures/pedicures.

The new spa is the last piece of the post-Katrina rehabilitation puzzle to fall into place at the Ritz-Carlton, which reopened in December after 15 months of flood repairs and top-to-bottom renovations.

"The reopening of the city's premier luxury hotel is yet another sign that New Orleans is open for business," said Schroeder. 

Urgently required repairs and renovations to its 489 guest rooms and 38 suites were taken a step further, with upgraded linens, soft goods, bath amenities and showerheads.

The hotel's former formal dining restaurant, Victor's, was replaced with a new signature eatery, Melange, which was redecorated in a more casual bistro style.

As its name implies, Melange offers a mix of classic New Orleans cuisine. The menu lists 30 dishes from 20 of the city's restaurants, including Arnaud's, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, Mosca's and Cuvee.

"Instead of trying to duplicate New Orleans' most famous dishes, we contacted the city's top chefs and asked if we could learn how to prepare their signature dish for our menu," said Schroeder. "We have their logo and a bio on the restaurant as part of the menu. We are celebrating the best and most renowned cuisine of the Crescent City."

Recently sampled and recommended: alligator sausage and shrimp cheese pie, an appetizer from Jacque-Imo's.

Thursdays through Saturdays, Melange transforms each evening into performance space for local entertainer Jeremy Davenport.

On Sunday mornings, the space breaks ranks with the jazz brunch crowd to offer a zydeco brunch, to the tune of that particular brand of Cajun country music.

Among the hotel's lounge spaces, the Library Lounge is reopening as a piano bar and will eventually become a members-only cigar club. The Lobby Lounge, meanwhile, added themed afternoon teas to its classic daily High Tea. The monthly Voodoo Tea serves up items named for New Orleans' occult heritage, with a tarot card reader on hand to deliver fortunes.

The Maison Orleans component of the hotel now serves as the Ritz-Carlton Club level, with separate registration, lobby and lounge (with five free daily food and beverage presentations). A new, separate Ritz-Carlton Club Level entrance has opened on Iberville Street.

The former galleria of retail shops on the hotel's first floor has been converted into 8,000 square feet of function and meetings rooms. The hotel now has 35,000 square feet of meetings space.

Hotel staff, now outfitted in seersucker and linen uniforms, offer a host of new services. In the Library Lounge, mixologist Chris McMillian concocts cocktails nightly and, once a month, gives lessons on how to whip up classic Big Easy libations such as the Sazerac and Hurricane.

The outdoor courtyard, the only part of the hotel where smoking is permitted, is the venue for a year's worth of outdoor culinary events each Saturday afternoon.

From February through the end of May, the Ritz-Carlton's "crawfish concierge" holds court in the yard, offering lessons on peeling and eating this Cajun staple.

Come June, a "snowball sommelier" takes over, crafting Louisiana-style snowcones through August. From October to January, an "oyster butler" will give lessons on shucking and seasoning shellfish.

"We wanted to teach people about New Orleans culture and incorporate some of the services that are associated with the Ritz-Carlton," said Schroeder.

A number of packages are being offered on an ongoing basis.

The Night of Jazz in New Orleans package, priced at $519, includes Club level accommodations for one night, dinner for two in Melange, a Jeremy Davenport CD, two free cocktails and free parking.

Other packages include the three-night Suite Dreams Honeymoon, from $2,400; the one-night French Quarter Escape, from $265; and the two-night Sportsman's Paradise fishing package, from $18,000 with Presidential Suite accommodations, roundtrip air transportation to the fishing site, a chartered fishing excursion and lunch and dinner for two.

Visitors buying packages can also arrange to pitch in with post-Katrina rehabilitation efforts, according to Schroeder.

To contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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