Day 4 – Exploring Greenhouse Spa on Noordam

Day 4 – Exploring Greenhouse Spa on Noordam

Gail Jessen, Live Voyage Reports

Cagliari, Sardinia is the port which replaced Tunisia (cancelled due to security concerns). Rather than going ashore to explore the city, I explored the Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa. One of my all-time favorite indulgences on land or sea is spa day. I travel far, I travel wide, I spa often. Pro Tip: One can make a reasonable judgement about a spa based on their product alone, assessing if the experience will be high-end, mid-range, or a recent massage school graduate will listlessly rub hotel-grade lotion on your back for an hour. The Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa utilizes primarily Elemis, but also La Therapie and Bliss. If you don’t speak spa, those words mean you’re in good hands. After six hours of thoroughly relaxing investigation (all for you, Dear Reader, for you), I can report with some measure of authority that the Noordam’s Greenhouse Spa is top notch.

The changing room at the Greenhouse Spa. Though unconfirmed, I assume the men's changing room is just as lovely. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The changing room at the Greenhouse Spa. Though unconfirmed, I assume the men’s changing room is just as lovely. © 2014 Gail Jessen

I selected a bamboo massage, a treatment I’ve never received or frankly heard of before now. It sounded quite similar to hot stone massage, which is a long time favorite. As the Greenhouse Spa describes: “Imagine warm bamboo shoots of various sizes soaked in essential oil rolling, sliding, and tapping your muscles. This gorgeously indulgent massage will revive your senses in a new innovative way, inspiring the most relaxed state. Customized to your preference, our therapist will use deep tissue techniques or gentle strokes to melt away your tension and soothe your muscles into sweet oblivion.” If you successfully wade through the pretension and run-on sentences, you’re left with: Warm bamboo, essential oil, deep tissue. In other words, this is the ideal treatment to detox the knots left from 15 hours of flying, three days hiking around ancient port cities, and sleeping in unfamiliar beds. My therapist was the consummate professional. The essential oils were warm. The bamboo was smooth and dug deep. The massage was, in fact, sweet oblivion. I dare say better than hot stone, which is saying something. Carmelita went in between my toes with tiny bamboo shoots. She slid a large bamboo pole under my neck (I was on my back) and proceeded to paddle it up and down and side to side as though she were piloting a kayak. My head and shoulders rolled and flopped side to side beyond my control, I may have moaned at one point. It felt as though the bamboo shafts were secured to hand paddles for the leg and back massage, but I was too blissed out to investigate further. My apologies for being a derelict journalist.

The posh products continue into the showers in the Greenhouse Spa. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The posh products continue into the showers in the Greenhouse Spa. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The waiting lounge, where your therapist will meet you for your treatment, is cool and comfortable...and you can't beat the view. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The waiting lounge, where your therapist will meet you for your treatment, is cool and comfortable…and you can’t beat the view. © 2014 Gail Jessen

The most notable innovation of the Greenhouse Spa is the Thermal Suite & Hydropool. Usually I’m annoyed with attempts to constantly “upgrade” and manipulate another $20 out of your wallet here and there and everywhere, many times in exchange for experiences that are so basic they really shouldn’t be marketed as upgrades at all. While you do pay more to access the thermal suite, I can tell you without hesitation to do it. Do it now. You’ll pay $20 to use it on the day you have a spa treatment. If you either don’t have a spa treatment or you want to access the suite on a different day, it’s $40. If you want to go all out and book your spot for all 11 days of the cruise, it’s $279 for a couple and $179 for a single user. What are you paying for and why would you do this, you ask? Allow me to break it down for you.

The Thermal Suite is a maze of grottos with the intended ambiance of a Turkish bath. Dry heat, hot steam, aromatherapy, cold washcloths, it’s all part of the experience. The coup de gras is the heated ceramic lounge chairs facing floor to ceiling windows. The chairs are designed in a horizontal S-shape, matching the curvature of your spine and allowing for a zero gravity nap. For my money, it’s all about the Hydropool. Imagine the horizontally S-shaped lounge chairs situated in a gigantic mineral pool, this time made of a series of metal tubes. Coming from below and behind you, the mineral water is bubbling and bubbling and bubbling all your aches away as you lay back sans gravity. The mineral pool is heated only to body temperature, so it’s like a jetted hot tub, but with the sensation of a warm bath. Translation: You can cat nap on the lounges for hours at a time and never get overheated. The minerals in the water are magical. You can feel your circulation improving and your muscles loosening. Every spa on Planet Earth needs to replicate this amenity. They limit the capacity of the Hydropool to 14, though it’s far larger than that. It was most crowded for the 90 minutes after the ship loaded her passengers and began to sail away; but other than that, I basically had it all to myself.

It's difficult to see, but the bubble at the back of the mineral pool are coming up from under lounges that allow you to relax your spine in a zero-gravity curvature. Magical. © 2014 Gail Jessen
It’s difficult to see, but the bubbles at the back of the mineral pool are coming up from under lounges that allow you to relax your spine in a zero-gravity curvature. Magical. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The mineral pool has a central space where the jets come from the floor at the walls, making an extra intense experience and extra effective muscle relaxation. © 2014 Gail Jessen
The mineral pool has a central circular space where the jets come from the floor at the walls of the container, creating an extra intense experience and extra effective muscle relaxation. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Tomorrow we are at sea, heading toward Livorno, the gateway to Tuscany. Many excursions are headed to Florence, Sienna, or other hill towns. I’ve traveled through Tuscany before so I’m skipping all those sights, but never did make it to Pisa on previous trips. I’ll remedy that oversight tomorrow. Stay tuned for photos of poor construction.

I hope you’re enjoying your virtual vacation. Until tomorrow…bon voyage,

gail

Holland America Line Noordam, Mediterranean Explorer

DAYPORTACTIVITIES
Day 1 – Exploring Rome, Italy on ms NoordamCivitavecchia (Rome), ItalyStep off the cruise ship, linger at a sidewalk café in the early evening, and take in the pageantry: The taste of cappuccino, the kiss of warm air, the immaculately attired locals getting their evenings started. Rome is nicknamed the Eternal City for the array of icons (Colosseum, Pantheon, Castel Sant'Angelo, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica), and for the role it played shaping the Western world. There is perhaps a less-recognized genius in the way the city embraces the sensual side of life, as if to acknowledge there's no eternity like the present.
Day 2 – Exploring Capri, Italy on NoordamCapri, ItalyThe docile bay, the peaceful, cypress-tufted islands of Ischia, Procida, and Capri, and the muscular city of Naples itself. Over it all looms Mount Vesuvius: A volcano, national park, and persistent corrective to hubris. Cruise to see the only active volcano on the European mainland, which blew in A.D. 79 and buried the city of Pompeii. Naples itself is mere enduring greatness. One of the chief commercial cities of Europe, highlights include Castel dell'Ovo, Castelnuovo, and national museums dedicated to art and archaeology. The city center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the surrounding area is dotted with cultural and historical treasures, not least them the restored ruins of Pompeii.
Day 3 – Exploring Palermo, Sicily on NoordamPalermo, Sicily, ItalyTraces of Roman, Arab, and Norman influences mix in Palermo. The highlight of the city is the Norman Palace with golden Byzantine mosaics.
Day 4 – Exploring Greenhouse Spa on NoordamLa Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia - CANCELLED DUE TO SECURITY CONCERNSThe stop in Tunisia was cancelled due to security concerns. The ship rerouted to Cagliari, Sardinia.
At Sea
Day 6 – Exploring Pisa, Italy on NoordamLivorno (Florence/Pisa), ItalyIf one mistakes Livorno for another city across the Italian peninsula, all is be forgiven. The Venice District of town is a tangle of streets crisscrossed by canals. A beautiful Renaissance city in its own right, Livorno is also the gateway to Pisa (north) and Florence (west). Pisa is home to beautiful cathedrals, palaces, and bridges over the Arno River, as well as an infamous monument to faulty engineering. Florence represents so much of what is vital to human expression in commerce, politics, and the arts.
Day 7 – Exploring Calvi, France on NoordamCalvi, Corsica, FranceRumored to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Calvi is a small, stunningly beautiful beach resort town on the Island of Corsica (known to be the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte). Visit Notre Dame de la Serra Chapel and take in 360° views of the bay and surrounding mountains, explore the centuries-old fortress Citadel of Calvi, a remarkable example of Genoese architecture, and relish time relaxing on one of Corsica's secluded white sand beaches.
Day 8 – Exploring Nice and Eze, France on NoordamMonte Carlo (Nice & Eze), MonacoThe principality of Monaco is the essence of the Riviera: couture fashion, grand yachts, and nightlife centered around its famed Casino.
Day 9 – Exploring Provence, France on NoordamMarseille (Provence), FranceA salty city with a feel and culture all its own. Try the renowned bouillabaisse or tour the lovely towns and vineyards of Provence.
At Sea
Day 11 – Exploring Barcelona, Spain on NoordamBarcelona, Spain (overnight)Barcelona effuses the ancient, the modernist, and the Gaudi. Legend has it the city was founded by Hercules 400 years before the founding of Rome. Whatever the truth, the city today is a global capital of commerce, fashion, culture, and sunshine (300 days a year). Enjoy a walk down Las Ramblas, the glorious tree-shaded thoroughfare at the heart of the city. Claim a patch of sand on one of the city beaches. Do not miss the creations of visionary architect Antoni Gaudi. Seven of his creations are honored as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Mila.
Barcelona, SpainItinerary ends with a 6:00 am disembarkation.
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