Spa Heaven

Our 10 top spas on the great charter routes.

October 4, 2007

AT LE FREGATE IN THE SEYCHELLES: 16 villas, six beaches and the rock spa, where Tom Cruise has been known to take the waters.

Spas and charter yachts already have well-being and water in common, but now they’re even more entwined as spas become waypoints on favorite cruises. We picked the top 10 by location first, with popular charter itineraries in mind. Also in play: all-around excellence, from spa service to architecture and ambiance; cultural fit, the ability to enhance your experience of the destination; and, finally, the recommendations of charter brokers and captains. Whether you fancy big or boutique, primitive or palatial, these 10 spas should banish your jet lag upon arrival or leave you in a limpid heap for the long flight home.

Caribbean St. Barts, Hotel St.-Barth Isle de France – On the palm-fringed expanse of Flamand Beach, this petite haven is quintessential St. Barts. Like a page out of Wide Sargasso Sea, the Jean Rhys novel of 19th-century plantation romance, French Creole grace notes set a hypnotic mood with the sweep of a ceiling fan, sprays of vivid bougainvillea and the shock of turquoise sea glimpsed through louvered doors. The spa in its magical garden setting couldn’t be better with a menu of Molton Brown treatments covering head to soles. So, too, the menu at La Case de L’Isle, the resort restaurant. Contact: (800) 890-4691 or (59) 95 90 27 61 81;; e-mail: [email protected]

Jamaica Strawberry Hill – “Would these books have ever been written if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday? I doubt it.” Such were the benefits Ian Fleming attributed to the bungalow named Goldeneye where James Bond was born. This resort where just four villas share the beaches, tropical forest and secluded nooks might be my number one if its promised Thalassotherapy spa were ready (winter, 2008). Until then, Strawberry Hill in the Jamaican Blue Mountains will still enchant with its shingled and gabled cottages, hammocked verandahs, colorful birds, 60-foot infinity pool and the Caribbean’s only Aveda Concept Spa. As one of the Island Outpost resorts created by Chris Blackwell, the storied record producer (who launched Bob Marley, U2, Steve Winwood), Strawberry Hill reflects his deeply rooted sensibility. Contact: (876) 944-8400;; e-mail: [email protected]


Pacific Mexico Punta Mita, Four Seasons – Punta Mita has everything I love about Four Seasons: A grandeur of scale taking in the Bahia de Banderas, yet details like an on-site museum, a signature refreshment of hibiscus juice, the flavor of local culture and amenities-such as a 55-foot Azimut for whale watching or fishing, the Jack Nicklaus course, cabanas with DVD players and huge flat LCDs, the staff spritzing you with cool Evian water and even cleaning your Ray Bans. The largesse continues in the spa, which borders on the exuberant. (Warm meringue of cactus blossom? Coconut crème pie bubble bath with a piña colada side?) All frills aside, the team of therapists send you into la-la land with dedication and skill. As the sun dips low, your server leads you down a candlelit path to your specially reserved beachside table, plies you with champagne, lobster and soft Mexican chocolate cake, and sets the bonfire blazing. Contact: +52 (329) 291-6000;

U.S. Florida Keys, Little Palm Island Resort and Spa – According to YachtShare CEO Bob Kyle, who sends clients here twice a week, this Little Torch Key hideaway is a yachtie favorite. The phone number, (800) 3-GetLost, says it all. With no TVs, room phones or cells (at least not in public), this spread of thatched-roofed bungalows reminiscent of Fijian bures is dedicated to rustic hedonism. The international Spa Terre offers its services in a choice of venues: Try the open-air bungalow beside the water on Palapa Point, loll in your private ocean-view hot tub, enjoy dinner served on the beach. Just passing through? Yachts at the marina are more than welcome to partake. Contact: (800) 343-8567;

Mediterranean Positano, Le Sireneuse – “Positively Positano describes the palazzo-turned-hotel of the Marchesi Sersale family, whose luminaries include ambassadors, cardinals and Positano mayors. With a new two-star Michelin chef and Aveda Concept spa, the alfresco tables command one of the most privileged views in Europe, overlooking the hotel’s namesake Siren Isles. Take a spin in the family’s classic Sant’ Antonio or laze on the sundeck of the Riva Aquarama Special. “Our family has a passion for boating, explains Antonio Sersale, whose father grew up messing about in the gozzi of Sorrento builder Fratelli Aprea. How does a 62-room hotel commission a spa by the designer of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris? “I convinced my father to call his good friend Gae Aulenti, Antonio says. If yoga, pilates and a high-tech gym don’t do it for you, “Let the staff take you up the stone stairway of 1,800 steps. I love it and often walk up as a workout. Even the hotel boutique, run by Carla Sersale, a superior helmswoman, is an experience-try the Eau d’Italie artisanal fragrances recently launched by Marina Sersale.


The spa with its all-glass walls is magnificent, but according to Antonio, was quite challenging to build. “Walls went up, walls were measured, walls came back down. The laser pointer being unknown to our charming builders, they measured with a water hose, just as in Roman times.

Don’t worry, they fit perfectly now. Contact: +39 089 875066;; e-mail: [email protected]

Spain, Read’s Hotel & Spa – Tuck this one away if you’re spectating the ’07 America’s Cup or chartering the Balearics anytime. British barrister Vivian Read converted a derelict Santa Maria estate into this discreetly luxurious spread 20 minutes distant yet worlds away from the madding Palma crowd. A working vineyard gives the hotel its rural charm, but there’s nothing trogolydite about the amenities: Your room might be furnished with a gold and mirrored four-poster bed from Harrods. The restaurant, presided over by chef Marc Fosh, is rated among Spain’s 10 best. The new Vespasian Spa will open early this year with all the goodies-ice fountain, thermal cabins, sensation shower, couples as well as single treatment suites and cardiovascular gym with on-demand personal trainer. Contact: +34 971 14 02 61;; e-mail: [email protected]


Santorini, Perivolas – In Greece, where things go better with local knowledge, Atalanta Golden Yachts CEO Michael Skoulikidis says, “Perivolas is the best. Located in the village of Oia on magical Santorini, secreted among vineyards, wild fig trees and its own vegetable and herb gardens, the compound of 17 whitewashed houses is the oeuvre of Costis and Nadia Psychas, who restored an ancient neighborhood of cave dwellings to the height of primitive luxury. You may have seen the Perivolas pool on newsstands, an ethereal experience as it seems to spill over a 1,000-foot cliff into the blue Aegean. From your private stone terrace above the volcanic caldera, mosey to the massage room carved into layers of earth where facial and body treatments are tailor-made for each guest. Contact: (30) 22860 71308;; e-mail: [email protected]

Worth noting: Also popular with Atalanta Golden guests, the Blue Palace Resort and Spa on Zeus’s birthplace of Crete offers a hillside villa with plunge pool beholding the shining Elounda Gulf. Contact: +30 28410 65500;; e-mail: [email protected]

Indian Ocean Seychelles, Le Fregate – The Rock Spa at this superlative resort takes its name from the smooth granite boulders that give the Seychelles Islands their otherworldly appearance. Here, 16 villas share the bay of Anse Bambou and six perfect beaches. A renovated colonial mansion serves Creole fare caught in local waters or resort-grown; a fleet of sail and power yachts awaits your whim. The spa with Zen garden and rock pools is literally a peak experience as you ascend to the pagoda-like massage house. Select vanilla orchid, ylang ylang or other botanicals that grow organically on the island; the apothecary prepares them with mortar and pestle. “All our ingredients are edible, management assures us, so leave room for dessert-a Belgian chocolate body wrap. Contact: +49 6102 5013 21;


Southeast Asia Bangkok, Mandarin Oriental – Guests of the megayacht Blue Gold, chartering in Thailand and the Andaman Isles, are sent here by Ocean Voyages broker Mary Crowley: “En route to the cruise, I would highly recommend the spa at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Newer and slicker there may be, but after 130 years and a multimillion-dollar refit, the Oriental has an architecture and attitude so Thai in spirit that non-guests visit it as a tourist attraction, especially the Author’s Wing where suites named for leading literary lights come with riverview balcony, grand sitting room and a butler. Even Crowley, a world traveler not easily impressed, was moved on her last visit when the hotel’s Maeyanang rice barge ferried her across the river, the golden teak Sala Rim Naam spa came into view, and the staff welcomed her with an iced flannel and glass of cardamom tea. Contact:; e-mail: [email protected]

South Pacific Tahiti, St. Regis Bora Bora – The blue lagoon-ringed wonder locals call Pora Pora hardly needs enhancement, but the St. Regis greeting with cold towels, ice water and chocolate cake is a nice start. Reportedly Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned here in a Royal Estate over-water villa with in-suite Jacuzzi, private swimming pool and 24-hour butler, but any room that lets me dive out of bed into the world’s silkiest water is fine by me. In a place where the rockingest thing to do is go pearl shopping in Viatape, the Miri Miri Spa facing Mt. Otemanu is a welcome and excellent diversion. The menu incorporates Polynesian specialties such as monoi oil, brown algae and mother-of-pearl. One signature treatment luminizes the body with natural pearl powder; another massages facial pressure points using warmed black pearls applied with a pure mother-of-pearl salve. Bora Bora being notoriously B-flat in the culinary sphere, you have two choices: the seven-table restaurant La Villa Mahana books two months in advance (689-67-50-63), or, as we say in our hemisphere, don’t worry, be happy-aita pe’ape’a. Contact: (689) 607888;


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