Can a cruise ship -- with the incessant
bells and blips of its casino, smoky bars at every turn and excess
of unlimited eating options -- re-create a destination spa
betting it can, unveiled the largest spa at sea this summer: the
Samsara Spa on the 3,700-passenger Concordia. It is the first time
that a cruise ship has offered cabins and suites within the spa
The cruise line
is advertising spa packages to passengers who wish to immerse
themselves entirely in what it terms an "atmosphere of
I decided to stay
in a Samsara cabin and see if it would be akin to total immersion
at a shoreside spa. It's not.
At a land spa,
wafting smoke from bars doesn't linger in the atrium as you walk to
dinner at the wellness-themed restaurant. And pulsating sounds
don't emanate from a disco as you head to bed.
Samsara's Tridosha sanctuary, Tea Garden and Temple of Peace, as
well as its fitness facilities and classes, offer a unique luxury
spa experience for someone who wants to couple port calls with a
I was on a truncated sailing on the ship's inaugural and spent only
four days in the Samsara complex. In addition, the sailing offered
fewer fitness and meditation classes than it normally
1: I settled into my Samsara cabin on Deck 11. It was
similar to the Concordia's regular, non-spa cabins except for its
decor. Spa cabins have a Pan-Asian theme, with soft red, orange and
gold hues. All other rooms onboard are decorated with
European-style art and furnishings. Spa cabins, also have a small
selection of sample-size Elemis spa products: lip balm, face
refresher, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.
Spa cabins cost
20% more than regular cabins. Full access to the spa and some
treatments are included in the price.
My room had a
floor-to-ceiling window. The units vary from inside cabins to
suites with balconies.
20,500-square-foot Samsara Spa also has a Pan-Asian design and the
staff, almost entirely Asian, greets
guests with "Namaste," a Hindi salutation offered with hands in a
prayer position and a quick bow forward.
This greeting is
offered not only when guests first enter the spa, but whenever they
are spotted walking down halls, up steps -- or anywhere
I walked the 20
steps from my room to the spa in my robe, running into non-spa
guests waiting for the elevator. This uncomfortable encounter is
unlikely to happen to people staying in spa cabins on Deck 10;
those guests enter the spa via the spa's own elevator and
The spa is
extensive and impressive. A series of rooms offer myriad forms of
Sanctuary has several types of Turkish-style grottoes and chambers
that release varieties of heat: dry, steam or with aromatherapy
vapor. All have ceramic-tiled lounge chairs with large windows.
They're coed, so bathing suits are necessary. However, saunas in
the men's and women's bathrooms are single-sex.
2: Location, location, location. There's no excuse not
to get up and work out at 8 a.m. when I can set the alarm for 10
minutes before, change and be on an exercise machine before I even
open my eyes. Samsara's running and cycling machines look out over
the ocean, and there are many of them.
It was chilly and
rainy that day, and around 6 p.m., when I had a half-hour to kill
before getting ready for dinner, I spent it relaxing in the
3: That morning, I had an excuse not to go to the gym:
I was getting a Samsara Aroma Stone Therapy Polynesian treatment at
7 a.m. It was nice not needing a locker, walking right from my room
to the massage table.
at Samsara are Ayurvedic, meaning they're based on ancient,
holistic healing practices from India that aim to balance body and
soul. Every treatment begins on the room's indoor balcony with a
Shanti foot-cleansing ritual.
peace in Sanskrit, and the process is meant to bring guests "into
the present" by dipping their feet in a bowl of water and basalt
stones and scrubbing away the past.
treatments don't end with the usual "take a minute" on the table.
Before and after treatments, guests are encouraged to relax in the
Temple of Peace, a meditation room with canopied beds, a couch and
large floor cushions where guests can relax and meditate. The quiet
space is beautifully appointed in dark wood and leather.
Before I headed
to the Temple, my masseuse took me to the
Japanese Tea House and prepared a soothing cup of tea that I sipped
while looking out at the sea. (I would rethink the fake coals,
painted orange to look like they're lit, that lie in the middle of
the tea circle.)
The Tea House
extends off the Golden Sun Garden, a covered balcony with chaise
lounges that wraps around the spa.
4: Before going ashore to tour Rome, I took a 7 a.m.
stretching class. On another cruise, I would never have bothered if
I couldn't sleep until 6:55 a.m., take the 50-minute class and
still be ready to leave the ship by 8:30 a.m.
After a 90-degree
day spent in Rome, I felt a bit gritty. I decided to cleanse in the
spa's thalassotherapy bath, where the seawater jets supposedly have
healing properties that relieve arthritic pain and sore muscles and
reawake one's vital energy. True or not, it is relaxing and
rejuvenating. I avoided looking at the huge, scary dragons that
loom over the glass-enclosed pool.
Dinner that night
was in the Ristorante Samsara. This eatery is open to spa cabin
"molecular cuisine" chef Ettore Bocchia, the Ristorante Samsara's
lighter fare includes tomato and mozzarella salad, steamed sea
bass, roast duck and an exotic fruit dessert.
The best part
about staying in the Concordia's spa cabins was that I felt
compelled to take advantage of all the facility had to offer -- and
I left satisfied
that I had enjoyed the fun of a cruise but left invigorated and in
better shape than I had been at embarkation.
To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].