Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea

Photo credit: Holly Reich

A spa treatment is usually blissful anywhere, but a spa treatment at sea adds an extra layer of enjoyment. As a guest on board the Celebrity cruise line, I was beyond pleased to experience the fruits of their partnership with Canyon Ranch SpaClub – a luxury spa with a wide array of treatments to help you fully relax. Here’s why you’ll want to book one of the 10 Celebrity ships with a Canyon Ranch Spa in operation.

It was one of the best massages of my life and I’ve had my share of them. And no, it didn’t happen in a teepee in Wyoming, a resort in Goa, India or a Yoga retreat in Utah.  This massage was on board a Celebrity Summit cruise to Bermuda with Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea.

Blanka, my massage therapist from Croatia, was adorning me with aromatherapy oils and gently working out my kinks with her healing hands. (I was on a week-long cruise with my girlfriend and noted cruise critic, Fran Golden, who took me along as her guest.)

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea, a floating version of the famed health spa, is now operating on 10 Celebrity Cruise ships.

Canyon Ranch at Sea

Sandra Foyil, vice president of Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea, explained that Canyon Ranch is well versed in spa-at-sea programs. Its first partnership was with Cunard’s Queen Mary II 10 years ago. Since then, it has also started programs on board the Oceania and Regent cruise lines. But now you don’t have to sail on uber exclusive ships to experience Canyon Ranch at Sea.  In fact, the recent collaboration with Celebrity is Canyon Ranch’s largest partnership to date.

“We are passionate about providing our guests with unforgettable experiences, and this collaboration with Canyon Ranch is an important milestone in our drive to elevating guests’ modern luxury vacations,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises.

On each ship there are 32 team members who are trained in wellness and fitness programs with special treatments exclusive to Celebrity. The program covers everything from Zumba to acupuncture, massage therapy, facials and chiropractors. All services are delivered by Canyon Ranch employees who trained on land at the Las Vegas spa club. Each ship also has a trainer from Canyon Ranch on board.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea

Photo credit: Holly Reich

“We had to hire new people for our program,” Foyil said. “However, we try to infuse two or three of our Canyon Ranch staff so we could retain some sense of DNA.”

By Sea and By Land

Sure, it’s different attending a spa on a ship rather than on land. But that’s a good thing. For instance, one day, after taking a Pilates class in the gym, I went to the swimming pool with a bottle of water and grabbed a chair looking out to the sea. I was sitting next to a vivacious woman who was drinking a large tropical rum concoction with a flower in it. Here I was languishing in the wellness after having the best massage of my life and here she was with a lesson to be learned: On her wrist, a henna tattoo written in Hebrew, translated to, Be Still and Listen.

I was blissed out on the serenity of the sea and she was equally blissed out with a little help from two cocktails.

The Joys of Being On board

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea

Photo credit: Holly Reich

So, when you finish a treatment you can relax by taking a chair inside. Or you can head outside to one of the many nooks on the Celebrity, staring at the sea, sipping a martini and carving your initials into the ice-topped bar surrounded by electronic mood music, or you can listen to a lecture on the history of Faberge eggs, attend a screening of “Philomena,” or do one of the many other activities available onboard a Celebrity ship.

But then again, I have always treated ships as my own personal spa. Several years ago while training for a 60-mile Avon Breast Cancer walk, I did many miles at sea by simply walking around the deck – there’s a track that circles the top deck — taking stairs instead of elevators and eating healthy but not restraining myself from ice cream, desserts or pizza. And, just like this year, I gained a pound, which dropped off the day I got home.

Healthier Cruising with Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea

Of course, having Canyon Ranch SpaClub onboard makes it one step easier. You can simply fall into this all-new state-of-the-art gym in the mornings, sign up for classes (a nominal additional fee) which range from Pilates to aqua fitness to boot camp, or attend a seminar on secrets to a flatter stomach.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea

Another reason for bliss: the beautiful Bermuda. Photo credit: Holly Reich

I asked Foyil, how she could interpret the totality of Canyon Ranch on board a ship that was so diversified in offerings,

“We are constrained by the design and the flavor, we merely put our ethos on the ship and that is much different than on land. The challenge is how to transfer that experience. We are going into Phase 2, where one page of the dining room menu will be Canyon Ranch offerings.”

If you choose to upgrade to the AquaClass program, your stateroom is outfitted with spa-like elements and guests also get unlimited access to the Persian Garden, a calming retreat with heated mosaic lounge chairs and grottos that release a variety of dry heat, aromatherapy-infused steam and mists into the air. AquaClass members also can dine exclusively in the spa-inspired restaurant, Blu, which features a luscious list of cleaner cuisine.

“What’s different about being a spa at sea?” I asked Spa Director Ana from Slovenia, who had managed the biggest spa in Slovenia and had been on board for five months.  “I couldn’t compare being on land or at sea; but a spa on a cruise ship offers so many diverse activities.”

There are other factors that differentiate an on-board spa from a land spa. There are people from 69 different countries working onboard Celebrity. So, you may have Liviu, a gymnast from Romania, teaching a Pilates class or a massage therapist from Thailand doing your treatment. Plus, the gym is open to the dancers from the shows and the captain and officers so you can train with ship celebrities!

Beyond the state-of-the art gym, the healthy food choices on Celebrity make it easier to stay healthy than the days of midnight feasts. For instance, the buffet—the one where people used to fill up on huge amounts of food—is a different experience these days. Entrees include Indian chicken and quinoa salads in their own containers or baskets. There’s even gluten-free pizza.

Best Massage Experience

Now, back to my aromatherapy massage. It was the best because I felt true bliss under her healing hands. It could have been the combination of the ship, the rolling seas, and the oils. Nevertheless, when I came out of my coma, there was NO SALES PITCH FOR PRODUCT. You know that kind that has you charging up hundreds of dollars on potions that you never use? Well, that just doesn’t happen on Celebrity’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea.

Why? Because, Foyil said, Canyon Ranch wants its guests to come back for the services and NOT FEEL OBLIGED TO BUY THE products.

Holly Reich is a lifestyle, automotive and travel writer based in New York City. Although her kids are now young adults, they still love to travel with the family.