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The 7 best cruise ship spas

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The best cruise ship spas are so tranquil and relaxing they may become not just your personal sanctuary at sea but also the “happy place” you visualize the next time you go to the dentist.

Like most onboard spas, these zen retreats typically feature a thermal suite with a sauna, steam room and maybe a hot tub; a menu of massages and facials; and a salon with hairdressers and manicurists. However, our favorites go above and beyond with spa-inspired shore excursions, calming accommodations and unique treatments and programs aimed at bolstering your mental and physical wellness.

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Here are our picks for the best cruise ship spas that are sure to wipe all your stress away.

LivNordic Spa, Viking Ocean Cruises

Lounge chairs and water therapy pool in the Viking Sea cruise ship spa
Viking Sea’s LivNordic Spa. VIKING

The thermal suite on Viking’s adults-only oceangoing ships is notable not only for its gorgeous design and unique hot and cold treatments but also because it’s complimentary for every passenger on the ship. You don’t need to book a spa treatment or buy a day pass to relax in the calming space, with its gray stone finishings and beautiful faux fireplace.

Viking’s coed spas are distinctly Scandinavian, and include a resistance pool, sauna, lounge chairs lined in heated tiles, steam room, bucket-style ice shower and a snow grotto. The snow grotto is just what it sounds like — a snow-filled, neon-lit space designed to cool you off, therefore mimicking the Scandinavian tradition of rolling around in the fluffy white stuff after your time in the sauna.

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If you’re willing to open your wallet for additional pampering, you’ll find an impressive menu of spa treatments, including a Scandinavian spa night option and an array of hard-to-find Norwegian spa products that take advantage of regional ingredients, such as cloudberries.

The line’s two expedition ships have the added benefit of floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can watch whales breaching while you relax in the pool.

Cost to access the thermal suite: $0.

The Spa at Seabourn

Spa treatment room with sound bowl on Seabourn Encore cruise ship
Seabourn Encore’s spa. SEABOURN

Seabourn’s spa stands out from the crowd thanks to the line’s signature Mindful Living program, which was put together with famed integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil.

The program includes yoga, guided meditation, “earth grounding” massages, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine consultations and even crystal sound baths. Other lines also offer Eastern-inspired wellness lifestyle options, but the Dr. Weil branding on Seabourn’s ships provides an air of authenticity.

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The rest of the spa is also impressive. Seabourn’s newest ships offer spacious spa areas with fitness centers and salons, as well as thermal suites with steam rooms, monsoon showers and heated tiled chairs.

Even the line’s expedition ships, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit, have 3,700-square-foot Adam Tihany-designed spas. Each features an airy sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Cost of Mindful Living program: Some activities — such as seminars, meditation and yoga — are included in the cost of your cruise. Others — such as acupuncture ($29) and earth-grounding massage ($179) — require a surcharge.

AquaSpa, Celebrity Cruises

Blue and gold entrance to Blu restaurant on Celebrity Edge cruise ship
AquaClass guests get exclusive access to the restaurant Blu. CELEBRITY CRUISES

On Celebrity Cruises’ fabulous Edge-class ships – Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond and the soon-to-launch Celebrity Ascent — you’ll find everything you would imagine in a major city’s top spa and fitness center. Picture a stunning spa with cutting-edge treatments, such as an antigravity massage, and a thermal suite featuring an infrared sauna and a room designed for swinging meditation.

The salon area includes a teeth-whitening program and the first hair salon at sea branded by the Parisian Kerastase line. The 24-hour fitness center is also impressive — with Peloton bikes, barre and high-intensity interval training classes, and even bungee-based classes.

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Book an AquaClass category cabin, and you get amenities that take the experience to another level.

Expect complimentary fitness class and Sea Thermal Suite passes, access to a spa concierge, healthy room service options and a yoga mat to use on board. You’ll also find wellness offerings curated by Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand; she serves as a wellness advisor for the line), including a signature smoothie and in-room fitness menus.

Finally, AquaClass provides guests exclusive access to Blu — a restaurant focused on healthy “clean cuisine” options and vegan choices. Don’t miss the muesli, prepared tableside, which was the best I’ve ever had.

Cost of Sea Thermal Suite passes and fitness class passes: A one-week Sea Thermal Suite pass is $219; fitness class passes range in price depending on the types of classes included.

Serene Spa, Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Reception desk and serene sitting area at spa on Regent Seven Seas cruise ship
The reception area of the spa on Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer. REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES

The Serene Spas on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ newest ships are especially striking — picture plenty of marble flooring, a curved wooden desk and Swarovski crystal sculptures. You might never want to leave the stunning infinity-edge pool set on a teak deck at the back of the ship.

The spacious spas have all the usual fixins – yoga classes, sauna and steam rooms, a full roster of facials and massages, and nail and hair salons. The dual thermal suites are single-sex and bathing-suit-optional, with saunas, steam rooms, showers and a cold room.

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You could easily spend the entire day at the spa, but you can also take the pampering off the ship. Regent offers over-the-top wellness tours featuring relaxing experiences in the destinations its ships visit. Look for a visit to the Thermal Baths of the Popes in Viterbo, Italy — just outside of Rome — or a meditation class on the Mediterranean island of Palma de Mallorca.

Cost of wellness tours: Some tours are included in the cost of your cruise (such as sunset yoga in Tenerife and meditation in Mallorca). Others incur a surcharge, such as $139 for the thermal bath experience in Italy.

Senses Spa, Scenic Cruises

Heated loungers surrounded by gauzy curtains in spa relaxation room on Scenic Eclipse cruise ship
Spa relaxation room on Scenic Eclipse. SCENIC CRUISES

The spa on Scenic’s oceangoing expedition vessel, Scenic Eclipse, is a gorgeous place to retreat after a day of exploring on land — whether you’re in the Northwest Passage or Antarctica.

Hang your expedition attire up in the mud room (a place to take off muddy boots after a day of hiking in the tundra) and make your way to the thermal suite, with its gorgeous sauna, indoor Scandinavian plunge pool and outdoor pool, too. (We understand if you skip the outdoor pool in Alaska.)

The stunning slate-lined thermal suite is available to all passengers on board, free of charge, regardless of cabin category or whether they have booked treatments. The spa and salon menu includes facials, salt scrubs, manicures, blowouts and hot stone massages — which would be especially welcome after trudging through the snow to see penguins in Antarctica.

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Like the impressive onboard amenities — which include a submarine and a helicopter — the spa also goes above and beyond with its spa suites. The exquisite spa suites on decks 8 and 9 of Scenic Eclipse have Philippe Starck-designed bathrooms with mist showers that incorporate a range of color selections, giant Jacuzzi tubs that look out onto the sea through a private veranda and glass partitions to the main room that become opaque at the touch of a button. They, of course, offer special access to the spa.

Cost to access the thermal suite: $0.

Redemption Spa, Virgin Voyages

Two women in bathing suits chatting in sauna on Virgin Voyages cruise ship
Redemption Spa. VIRGIN VOYAGES

Virgin Voyages has worked hard to add playful experiences to its adults-only ships, and its spa is no different. In addition to spa treatments and a healthy juice and smoothie bar, the line’s “well-being” program touts the ship’s coolest, most-talked-about feature – the Squid Ink tattoo parlor. Because we all know that self-expression is another way to promote wellness.

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If the thought of needles makes you break out in a sweat, you can turn up the heat with Virgin’s free fitness classes and alfresco yoga instead. Or feel the temperatures rise in Virgin’s thermal suite, which beckons with heated lounge chairs, an indoor hydrotherapy pool, a hot tub, an unusually large sauna and a steam room.

Then cool off in two cold plunge pools, a mud room (as in a place to smear therapeutic mud all over your body) and a salt room. A three-hour pass to the spa is $39 per person on port days and $59 on sea days.

Another fun feature is a mini salon for men called Stubble & Groom, which features hot-lather shaves and pedicures. You’ll definitely want some manscaping to complement your new tattoo.

Cost of tattoos at Squid Ink: $150 (and up).

Otium, Silversea Cruises

Relaxation room of Silver Dawn's Otium Spa
Silver Dawn’s Otium Spa. SILVERSEA CRUISES

Silversea Cruises‘ new Otium (pronounced aught-zium) spa concept extends wellness and lavish living from the spa to your suite. The best part is that most of the experiences beyond the actual spa treatments are included in your fare.

The signature Otium Experiences are 100 minutes of heavenly indulgence, combining aromatherapy, massage and body treatments inspired by the gods. Your bliss doesn’t end with the conclusion of your massage. You will be escorted to a relaxation room with indoor and outdoor lounge chairs, access to a steam room and sauna, and decadent nibbles consisting of sparkling wine, cocktails and housemade truffles and marshmallows.

You can keep the hedonistic vibe going upon your return to your suite by requesting an aromatherapy bath with your choice of scents. Or, swaddle yourself in a cashmere blanket on your balcony and ring for lobster and caviar in brioche with lemony mayonnaise or potato fries with truffle oil and Parmesan, all from the Otium Comfort Food Dining menu.

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When you are ready to turn in for the night, you’ll find the spa’s reach has extended to your bed. The Otium Soft Touch mattress, with its 400-pocket spring system infused with essential oils and 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, by luxury Italian designer Rivolta Carmignani, will soothe your tired limbs and whisk away any residual stress you could possibly be feeling on vacation.

The Otium Spa can be found on Silversea’s Silver Dawn and soon-to-debut Silver Nova.

Cost of Otium in-suite spa amenities: $0

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