Cagliari, Sardinia is the port which replaced Tunisia (cancelled due to security concerns). Rather than going ashore to explore the city, I explored the Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa. One of my all-time favorite indulgences on land or sea is spa day. I travel far, I travel wide, I spa often. Pro Tip: One can make a reasonable judgement about a spa based on their product alone, assessing if the experience will be high-end, mid-range, or a recent massage school graduate will listlessly rub hotel-grade lotion on your back for an hour. The Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa utilizes primarily Elemis, but also La Therapie and Bliss. If you don’t speak spa, those words mean you’re in good hands. After six hours of thoroughly relaxing investigation (all for you, Dear Reader, for you), I can report with some measure of authority that the Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa is top notch.
I selected a bamboo massage, a treatment I’ve never received or frankly heard of before now. It sounded quite similar to hot stone massage, which is a long time favorite. As the Greenhouse Spa describes: “Imagine warm bamboo shoots of various sizes soaked in essential oil rolling, sliding, and tapping your muscles. This gorgeously indulgent massage will revive your senses in a new innovative way, inspiring the most relaxed state. Customized to your preference, our therapist will use deep tissue techniques or gentle strokes to melt away your tension and soothe your muscles into sweet oblivion.” If you successfully wade through the pretension and run-on sentences, you’re left with: Warm bamboo, essential oil, deep tissue. In other words, this is the ideal treatment to detox the knots left from 15 hours of flying, three days hiking around ancient port cities, and sleeping in unfamiliar beds. My therapist was the consummate professional. The essential oils were warm. The bamboo was smooth and dug deep. The massage was, in fact, sweet oblivion. I dare say better than hot stone, which is saying something. Carmelita went in between my toes with tiny bamboo shoots. She slid a large bamboo pole under my neck (I was on my back) and proceeded to paddle it up and down and side to side as though she were piloting a kayak. My head and shoulders rolled and flopped side to side beyond my control, I may have moaned at one point. It felt as though the bamboo shafts were secured to hand paddles for the leg and back massage, but I was too blissed out to investigate further. My apologies for being a derelict journalist.
The most notable innovation of the Greenhouse Spa is the Thermal Suite & Hydropool. Usually I’m annoyed with attempts to constantly “upgrade” and manipulate another $20 out of your wallet here and there and everywhere, many times in exchange for experiences that are so basic they really shouldn’t be marketed as upgrades at all. While you do pay more to access the thermal suite, I can tell you without hesitation to do it. Do it now. You’ll pay $20 to use it on the day you have a spa treatment. If you either don’t have a spa treatment or you want to access the suite on a different day, it’s $40. If you want to go all out and book your spot for all 11 days of the cruise, it’s $279 for a couple and $179 for a single user. What are you paying for and why would you do this, you ask? Allow me to break it down for you.
The Thermal Suite is a maze of grottos with the intended ambiance of a Turkish bath. Dry heat, hot steam, aromatherapy, cold washcloths, it’s all part of the experience. The coup de gras is the heated ceramic lounge chairs facing floor to ceiling windows. The chairs are designed in a horizontal S-shape, matching the curvature of your spine and allowing for a zero gravity nap. For my money, it’s all about the Hydropool. Imagine the horizontally S-shaped lounge chairs situated in a gigantic mineral pool, this time made of a series of metal tubes. Coming from below and behind you, the mineral water is bubbling and bubbling and bubbling all your aches away as you lay back sans gravity. The mineral pool is heated only to body temperature, so it’s like a jetted hot tub, but with the sensation of a warm bath. Translation: You can cat nap on the lounges for hours at a time and never get overheated. The minerals in the water are magical. You can feel your circulation improving and your muscles loosening. Every spa on Planet Earth needs to replicate this amenity. They limit the capacity of the Hydropool to 14, though it’s far larger than that. It was most crowded for the 90 minutes after the ship loaded her passengers and began to sail away; but other than that, I basically had it all to myself.
Tomorrow we are at sea, heading toward Livorno, the gateway to Tuscany. Many excursions are headed to Florence, Sienna, or other hill towns. I’ve traveled through Tuscany before so I’m skipping all those sights, but never did make it to Pisa on previous trips. I’ll remedy that oversight tomorrow. Stay tuned for photos of poor construction. Also, be sure to follow along in real time on Instagram and Twitter @fourthirtyam, hashtag #livevoyagereport. The Noordam Mediterranean Explorer Live Voyage Report landing page leads you to each day’s post.
I hope you’re enjoying your virtual vacation. Until tomorrow…bon voyage,