How to Shop for Spa Gifts
By Bernard Burt
Give the gift of a spa escape
But before purchasing a gift certificate, we discovered four things spas generally don't tell you.
1. The brochure rate is just an opening bid. Hidden extra costs, service charges, and taxes can jack up your bill fast, even at a reasonably priced spa. The biggest culprit: gratuities. Ask what's included in gift spa packages.
2. Some treatments are silly. Fads come and go, but massage is still the favorite spa experience for both men and women. Men are also into facials at guy-only grooming salons. Forget the trendy Chocolate Bath unless you're heading to the Hershey Resort in Pennsylvania.
3. What's the difference at a resort spa? Resorts near your gift recipient's home can add a special experience. Arizonans can give the gift of a day at JW Marriott Camelback Inn or Hyatt's new Gainey Ranch Spa; both resorts are located in Scottsdale. And Fairmont Willow Stream spas offer gift-wrapped certificates personalized in any amount.
4. Can I get my money back? Gift certificates often have an expiration date. Advise the recipient to use it or risk losing it. Or shop for a spa gift plan that has no time limit or one that can be used for skincare products as well as services.
Here are a few of the ultimate gifts:
Couples Suite Journey at Mandarin Oriental Hotels
A private suite for two at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental in New York, Miami, or Washington, D.C., comes with three hours of treatments, a rose petal foot wash, and a romantic aromatherapy whirlpool bath. Order a bento box lunch from room service and enjoy it while overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan, Biscayne Bay in Miami or the Washington monuments and the Potomac River in D.C. These exclusive suites feature Oriental art and furniture. Your gift certificate comes boxed and wrapped with ribbons. Packages range from $973 to $1,240 with lunch. Contact (800) 526-6566 or visit www.mandarinoriental.com
Canyon Ranch SpaClub Aboard the Queen Mary 2
Cruise aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and pre-book appointments at the ship's Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Call no less than three weeks prior to sailing for choice of appointments. Their treatment menu is available online at www.canyonranch.com/spaclubs/queenmary2. The QM2 cruises from Fort Lauderdale this winter; Atlantic crossings from New York to Southampton and Hamburg will occur next summer. Contact (800) 528-6273
Bet on Bellagio's New Spa Tower in Las Vegas
Getting a room at Bellagio's new Spa Tower in Las Vegas is like a crap shoot. Reservationists take requests only. The 928-room Spa Tower is a resort within a resort, with direct access to the spa, salon, and Sensi restaurant. Busy at all hours, the window-walled fitness center overlooks Mediterranean gardens and the heated swimming pool. Hotel guests can stay all day by charging the daily admission fee ($25) to their room account; treatments are a la carte and are only available to hotel guests. Gift certificates are personalized for any amount and can be used for spa services, dining, as well as the Spa Tower room from $259 per night. Order in increments of $25, $50, or $100 by calling (702) 693-7070; delivery by UPS costs $22. While you're there, don't miss Cirque du Soleil's splashy show in the Bellagio theater. In a city that excels at excess, Bellagio is over the top. Contact (888) 987-6667 or visit www.bellagio.com
Discover Shangri-la at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
Fresh from a multi-year makeover, guest rooms at this California classic golf resort enjoy the view of mountains that served as the setting for Frank Capra's 1937 movie Lost Horizon. But only tower suites at the spa enjoy private elevator access. Staying in a luxurious penthouse suite, you can have therapists sent up for a massage in a private treatment room. There's a sauna, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and whirlpools. The terrace is ideal for viewing sunsets, when the pink-tinged mountains look like the legendary Shangri-la where time stands still. Purchase a gift certificate tailored to romance or a family spa experience: $7,353 per couple includes a two-bedroom penthouse suite for two nights, one dinner for two, a picnic basket delivered to the herb garden gazebo, two spa services per day, gratuities, and taxes. Contact (888) 697-8780 or visit www.ojairesort.com.