A marine theme of sea shells, sea horses and fish motifs captures the eye as I enter this haven of relaxation. The décor aesthetically done up in soft hues of brown, amber and beige and the soothing sound of flowing water, greet me as I step in. So serene is this exclusive space that I almost wanted to tip-toe over the pink slabs laid across softly lit waterways. It is indulgence extraordinaire and pampering of a very high order at the sprawling 25,000 sq ft Spa and Fitness centre at Dubai's uber-luxury beach resort Atlantis, The Palm.

I filled a form to tell the masseuse/therapist about nagging aches or an allergy, while sipping on a cup of organic ginger tea with honey and herbs. It is aromatic, refreshing and a treat to cherish.

Plush settings, exhaustive menu

The spa, the second largest in Dubai, has 27 treatment rooms and a large retail area selling beauty and wellness products. The massive 1,500-room luxury hotel is packed and so is the spa. “Once we are at 70 per cent occupancy, the spa is fully booked; today we have a waiting list which is wonderful,” smiles Neil Hewerdine, Vice President of Spa Services.

The spa menu is exhaustive and offers an array of treatments – anti-ageing, rejuvenating, detoxifying, purifying and radiating.

The spa is at two levels and the upper one has the male grooming area, the highlight of which is traditional shaving with the cut throat razor. Men are said to like it because it's a novelty and more than just a shave, more like a spa treatment with a scalp and shoulder massage.

A niche area is the manicure and pedicure treatment facility by Bastien Gonzalez, which is unique as they don't use any water since it's based on the philosophy that water is very drying for the skin.

For the Arab royalty and Sheiks and their equally prosperous equivalents across the world, the Atlantis spa offers the opulence of The Royal Spa Suite, where water cascades from a high ceiling in jets into an oval pedestal tub. Couples can indulge in the luxury of a private area as they are treated to a three-hour spa treatment.

Another treatment that caught my eye was the ‘marine body polish', where sea algae and ‘gentle buffing grains are blended with extracts of lemon verbena and blood orange to soften the skin.'

Lose inches in one session!

The spa also offers the detoxifying treatment called Ioniethermie from Paris where specialised machinery is used to cleanse and detoxify the body at a cellular level, thus relieving it of joint pains caused by injuries, arthritis or rheumatism.

This 90-minute anti-cellulite, detoxifying and firming treatment works by breaking down the body's fat cells and contracting the muscles. It costs AED 510 and firms and sculpts the muscles for a leaner appearance. The treatment is combined with a 60-minute personal training session in the gym at an additional fee.

“The results are immediate. There is a feeling of firmness and tautness on the skin, which is much smoother. You are measured in six different places before and after, in the midriff, navel, and the thigh region, and you can lose up to five to six inches in one session,” explained Hewerdine. To my visibly shocked expression he quickly adds: “But it's not in the same region; it is a combination of inches lost in different areas... around the stomach you could lose half an inch because of the firming and toning of the muscles.” The spa also recommends a 21-30 days home care regime to maintain the body weight post massage. This includes body brushing with a special brush to stimulate the cells which can be bought at the spa centre. Depending on what you choose, the cost varies from AED 1,000-5,000.

An enticing journey

The two-three hour long spa journeys have exotic offerings. Take for instance the Atlantis sunset ritual (140 minutes) that promises to wrap you in “calming herbs, rare flower essences, and the rejuvenating power of the ocean” as the sun goes down. It begins with a “toning, detoxifying avocado and aloe vera body exfoliation”, followed by a “purifying mineral-rich Mediterranean seaweed wrap to stimulate lymphatic circulation and eliminate toxins.” This is followed by a body massage with lavender and rosewood oils; the crowning glory is the “fragrant, rejuvenating jasmine facial therapy…allowing you to emerge relaxed, toned and rejuvenated.”

Going Swedish, on the table that is

I settle for the good old Swedish massage which promises an all-round treatment. The room is beautiful, the ambience great but my expectations are not sky-high; after all it is neither the sunset ritual nor the jasmine facial, and far away from the ‘fit-for-kings' royal spa suite!

But the tall and graceful Florece, my therapist from Kenya, is exceptionally good. Her voice is soft and gentle, but her expert fingers know where exactly to apply the pressure to coax out tiredness and pain from the body. “Any particular area of pain,” she enquired. Like most people pounding the keyboard I wearily point to my stiff right shoulder and upper arm. About 30 seconds of intense pressure on one spot and she said, “I've broken the node, you should feel better.”

Well, better I was and have remained till date. The pain and stiffness haven't disappeared but have eased considerably.

Teenage spa

In an effort to blend Eastern traditions with Western technology, what is also catching on is teenage spa. Hewerdine fills in, “We are seeing the trend in the last one year and this will catch up in the next 2-3 years,” adding that treatments for teenagers should be done with caution. There shouldn't be any manipulation of the bones “as they are still growing; many spa products are too aggressive on the skin of teenagers,” he adds. At the Atlantis spa, however, there are special products for youngsters and also occasions where they do teen facials and scrub massages with parents; so the father and son come together and it becomes a nice bonding time. Another advantage is that the teens get educated about the need to care for the skin and general wellbeing from a young age. And for the industry, of course, “we are already grooming our future clients!” he quips.

In the last 20 years the perception of a spa has changed from something superficial and a bit fluffy to that which can offer some serious therapy and at the same time also contribute to the business for a luxury hotel. Earlier clients looked at it as pure luxury but no more. That spa visits did not drop during the global recession or the economic meltdown in Dubai last year shows that “people consider it a need more than a want,” he sums up.

A walk through their serene settings and an indulging massage and you too will know why.

Keywords: AtlantisThe PalmDubai

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