Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tending Mind, Body and Spirit in the City of Sin

Awash in neon lights, topless reviews and casinos, you might think Las Vegas an odd destination for someone in search of rejuvenation, but you’d be wrong.  Its decadence extends not just to more prurient pursuits but to its lavish spas.  

Midweek hotel rates are remarkably inexpensive, and we landed a nearly 800 square foot suite at the Luxor for only $125 a night (regular rooms are only $60 a night). The Luxor, mind you, is old by strip standards, having been open since 1993, so you’ll find nicks in your coffee table and hallway carpets that have seen better days.  But what our suite lacked for in pristine newness it more than made up for with its spaciousness and the Jacuzzi tub positioned right next to the angled window of our pyramid room.  The Luxor also benefits from being a walkway away from the lower end Excalibur hotel and the higher end Mandalay Bay/THEhotel complex, providing dining and entertainment options at all ends of the spectrum.  Our deal also included a $25 spa credit and a $20 meal credit.   


Luxor Hotel Pyramid Spa Suite

If you’re looking for something less spacious but more ritzy at around the same price, you can get a smaller 500 square foot room at the Four Seasons hotel (located on the top floor of Mandalay Bay).   While your room will be smaller, you’ll be treated to poolside service that includes hovering “attendants nearby with an Evian spritz, fresh fruit, and chilled water.”  As a gaming-free hotel, it’s ideal for families and those of us who don’t like to gamble.  Plus, by staying at the Four Seasons, you’ll also have access to Mandalay Bay’s pool complex which includes wave pools and lazy rivers.

On previous trips I’d experienced the spas at Mandalay Bay, THEhotel, Luxor, and Red Rock, so this time I wanted to try something different.  On our first day, my husband dropped me off at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian/Palazzo hotel (he took my daughter for a visit to Circus Circus while I luxuriated).  I was lured by online descriptions of Canyon Ranch, which listed the following features:


  • Conservatory - Intimate seating, music, fresh fruit and hot and cold beverages. A gracious gathering space for relaxation
  • Salt Grotto - Bracing sea air washes over heated benches and intimate seating niches surrounding a fountain bubbling over natural salt rocks
  • Wave Room - A multi-sensory experience simulating the look, smell and feel of breaking waves under a domed canopy
  • Crystal Steam Room - Cleansing aromatic steam environment with a large central crystal to inspire and focus meditation
  • Experiential Rains - Invigorating, multi-sensory cooling showers. Select Polar Mist, Atlantic Storm or Caribbean Monsoon (with thunder and lightning effects.)
  • Finnish Sauna - A classic Finnish dry-heat sauna environment lit by colored light refracted by crystals
  • Herbal Laconium - A beautiful environment provides gentle warming of the body through warm, herbal infused steam
  • HydroSpa - A variety of massage fountains provide gentle massage. Radiant lounge chairs designed for relaxation surround the fountains
  • Igloo - Cool air and three Arctic mist experiences enhanced by twinkling fiber optics
A spa day pass, without any services, cost me $40.   There was plenty to keep me occupied and soothed for my five hour visit, but I must admit that several of the features didn’t live up to what I’d imagined them to be based on their descriptions.  The HydroSpa was nothing more than an average Jacuzzi,  I didn’t feel any “bracing sea breezes” in the Salt Grotto, and I certainly didn’t smell any herbal infusions in the steam of the Herbal Laconium.  One feature was, at first, the most disappointing, but then oddly won me over.  I’d imagined the Wave Room to have an actual wave pool, but in actuality it was a dark indoor room with waves projected onto the ceiling while (mostly) soothing music played.   I sat in comfy reclining chairs while looking upward and soon found myself fully immersed in the experience.  In all, I went back to the Wave Room three times that day.  I only left when the musical tracks cycled around each time to a song that sounded like a symphony of lawnmowers conducted by a barking Chihuahua.  Not soothing.  In all, the gimmicky Canyon Ranch SpaClub felt a bit like an amusement park for stressed out adults – definitely worth experiencing once, but next time I’ll return to my favorite, the Mandalay Bay Spa where I feel like a noble luxuriating in an ancient Roman bathhouse (or at least what I imagine that might have been like).  


Spa Mandalay


On my second day in Vegas, I’d scheduled an appointment for a Coconut Sugar Scrub at the Luxor’s Nurture Spa (formerly the Oasis Spa – it’s the same in every way except the name).   We had that $25 spa credit after all, and that would be applied to their already discounted price for the 50 minute service, $80.00.  Even without the credit, it was much less than what it would cost for a similar service at Canyon Ranch or Mandalay Bay.   I arrived a bit early to enjoy Nurture’s Jacuzzi and steam room (which unlike the Herbal Laconium, did have a strong eucalyptus scent), but without a cold plunge or “Polar Mist” to cool me down, there wasn’t a great likelihood I’d be able to kill 5 hours there.   At my appointed time, I was escorted to a separate waiting area where my therapist would retrieve me.  Fifteen minutes passed, then 30 before I ventured out to inquire.  Another ten minutes passed before I was informed by the spa manager that my therapist had disappeared without telling anyone.  Eager to make amends, she offered me the same service the next morning for 50% off – with my $25 credit, that would bring my service down to $15 plus tip.   I thanked the manager, silently adding thanks to my therapist for being a flake, and returned the next morning for more soaking, steaming and the long awaited coconut scrub before our drive home.  

On the way into and out of town, we stopped by the vegan and mostly raw Go Raw CafĂ©, located in a strip mall a few miles from the strip.   Each time, I ate a meal there and took one with me to eat later, sampling their Enchilada plate, Mediterranean Pizza, Vegi-cotti, and Kookies and Kream smoothie (which featured raw cacao nibs in a banana/coconut blend).   Of these meals, the Mediterranean Pizza was the only one I wasn’t thrilled with – it was good, but would more accurately be described as salad on a cracker.  The Enchilada plate, which I ordered twice, was by far my favorite, consisting of "soft tortilla enchiladas topped with salsa, sour dream, guacamole, & spicy red sauce.  Served with yam rice, ‘beans,’ guacamole, & flax crackers." If I had a restaurant like this one near me, I’d be in heaven.  This place would draw me back to Vegas even without the spas.

Upon returning to Pomona, I found that somewhere amidst all that public soaking, steaming and healthy living, I had picked up a rather nasty cold.   Turns out what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas after all, so spa with caution.

1 comment:

  1. The Burke-Williams near us has a "quiet" room, which I refer to as the "womb room" because the darkness, coziness and heartbeat-like sound they pump in there makes it Very Calming(tm). The wave room sounds similar. I also expected actual waves based on the description.

    Spa=good. Discounted spa=even better. Spa cold= :(