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Around the World on a Cruise to...

What vacation would be complete without relaxation? And what type of relaxation is so total, so satisfying, so indulgent as that found in a spa? It wasn't until I took a cruise that I became a spa goddess. Sure, I'd used saunas and steam rooms in fitness centers, but nothing compares to a real spa experience.

Spa MirageVegas Spas
Nearly every resort has one and the Spa Mirage certainly lived up to my expectations and then some. For a modest $20 daily fee, hotel guests can use the facilities: a robe, slippers, and locker are provided; juices, water, and other refreshments are served in the relaxation area; and Aveda products are featured in the showers. As I lazed in the whirlpool, an attendant brought me an icy cloth for my face. The pièce de résistance, though, was the eucalyptus steam room where I was offered cucumber slices to soothe my eyes and served a cranberry cocktail. Not the newest, or the trendiest, an afternoon in the Spa Mirage facilities is totally satisfying. The staff goes out of their way to assure it.

Elegant and simple, bathhouse spa at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay is truly unique. Minimalist dark slate walls punctuated by ultra-modern suede covered seating alcoves lead to the Feng Shui-inspired spa. Guests are invited to relax in the steam room or sauna or take a plunge in one of the hot tubs, which are heated to different temperatures, before indulging in a treatment (or just use the facilities: $30 for hotel guests, $35 for non-hotel guests). My 'renovateur' hydrator facial was a blissful 50 minutes of pleasure and intense hydration--a real necessity in the hot, dry Vegas atmosphere--not to mention the soothing neck and shoulder massage. Luxurious Carita products heighten the sensation. Should you find yourself overdoing it a bit on the club scene, bathhouse spa offers a "hangover recovery" treatment--three hours of services including a bindi detox body treatment, back, neck, and shoulder massage, and a pure oxygen facial. (Remember, what happens in Vegas...)

Small and intimate, The Spa at Monte Carlo offers an interesting twist on the Swedish massage--an aromatherapy Swedish. A special blend of herbs, flowers, and spices is steeped in hot water and placed in a linen bag, which is then pressed on various parts of the body to induce relaxation and well-being during the stimulating massage. I've never experienced any sensation quite like it and the treatment certainly lived up to my expectations--it was one of the best I've ever had. A nice touch upon completion of my spa visit was when one of the attendants spread a small towel in front of my locker and sprinkled it with powder so my feet wouldn't have to touch the floor. Simple, but thoughtful. Use of the basic facilities, which include cold plunges, hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas, is $22 for hotel guests, $25 for non-hotel guests.

How do cruise ship spas stack up? Pretty well, actually. While the facilities are smaller on ships, more emphasis is being placed these days on fancy hydrotherapy pools and thermal suites. Ships' spa treatment menus are equal to or even exceed those I checked out in Las Vegas. In terms of expertise, the therapists vary in ability, which is true at any spa. Most cruise ship spas come under the management of Steiner Leisure, including Greenhouse and Mandara spas, but the Carita of Paris spa featured on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises ships is a cut above. 

No matter where you are, spa treatments should be tranquil experiences; unfortunately, some ship spas also use the time at the end of a treatment when their clients are most vulnerable to sell products. Speaking of products, the Vegas spas really shine when it comes to the amenities available in terms of toiletries in the bath area. While ships have shampoo, shower gel, body lotion, and hairdryers, look for their land-bound counterparts to have those and more, such as hairspray, mousse, deodorants, powders, even mouthwash and sterilized combs and hairbrushes. Refreshments in cruise ship relaxation rooms are almost unheard of, although chilled water and fresh fruit might be offered. And I was once served herbal tea after a treatment in Princess' Lotus Spa.

The Venetian at NightNightlife
The club scene in Las Vegas is nearly as electrifying as the infamous neon-lit Strip. It's also as eclectic, with a watering hole to suit every taste. Most clubs are pretty casual, although you'll want to find out the dress code before you begin bar-hopping. You should also know there are cover charges for many and all cover charges aren't created equal. To get past the velvet rope a bit faster, a VIP pass is necessary. In some cases, it's essential unless you consider waiting in line a high point of your evening. To avoid cooling your heels, go to for all the insider information. Figure on an average of $10-15 for general admission and $20-30 for VIP access to clubs.

This is where cruise ships have a distinct advantage... never a cover charge, no lines, and less expensive drinks. Plus, many clubs at sea have that Vegas scene "what-happens-here..." vibe.

While I knew the $2 prime rib buffets were a thing of the past, I'm not sure exactly what I thought I'd find in Las Vegas. What is it that attracts almost four times as many visitors to the resorts in the desert than passengers to cruise ships? Could it be capacity? I think so. 

Build more ships and they will go to sea!

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