The Rasul (Surial Bath) - Adults Only!

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So you've never been to a spa before, but you're booking on a cruise on the Disney Wonder or Magic, and you're tempted by all the stories you've heard about decadent, relaxing treatments that turn you into a limp noodle. You really want to try a massage, or maybe even something more exotic, like a seaweed wrap, but your enthusiasm is dampened by your modesty. You shudder as you picture yourself exposed to all the world, trying to cover all the vital areas with a towel the size of a postage stamp, while a ham-fisted Amazon subjects you to humiliating prodding and pounding.

Okay, all you spa virgins, I'm here to give you the naked truth! As a veteran of well over 30 Disney cruises and several more on Royal Caribbean, I have spent countless hours at the spa. In addition to having treatments on the ocean, I am also a regular at the local spas back home.

My typical treatment bill for the length of a cruise usually equals the gross national product of a typical developing nation. This means that I am familiar firsthand with most of the treatments offered by the Vista Spa, so here is my descriptions and some tips to make spa-going a smooth and pleasurable experience for even the timidest newbie.

(Government warning: Spa treatments can be addictive and should be scheduled responsibly.)

MASSAGES: Massages are the treatment most people readily think of when they picture a spa experience. Various types are offered, from scalp and foot to full body, with a variety of techniques such as Swedish and accupressure. If you want to get even more exotic and adventurous, there are subvarieties such as hot rock massages for your whole body and reflexology for your feet.

One of the most commonly asked questions is: "Do I have to get completely undressed for my massage?" Basically, the degree of undress required depends on the type of massage, as well as your own comfort level. Obviously, you should be suspicious if you are asked to disrobe completely for a scalp or foot treatment! An upper body massage requires the removal of your shirt and bra, or if you wear a swimsuit, you will need to roll down the top. Full body can be done naked or with your panties if you prefer. You could wear a swimsuit, but the more you disrobe for a full body massage, the easier it will be for the masseuse to work on you. The parts of your body that are not being treated will be draped with a sheet at all times. If you need to roll over, the therapist will hold up the sheet while you do so to protect your modesty.

The therapist will leave the room while you disrobe. There are hooks to hang your clothing, and you should also take off any jewelry like watches or bracelets that could be in the way during the treatment. Then, you climb onto the treatment bed, lying on your stomach, and cover yourself wth a sheet to await the therapist's return.

Disney's spa personnel are all very professional and will do their best to put you at ease. If it is your first spa treatment and you are uncomfortable, just tell them. They will be very understanding and will do their best to make it a pleasant experience. Disney used to have all female masseuses, but recently they have added some males to their staff. If you have a preference, be sure you make it known when you book your treatment. I didn't realize there were men at the Vista Spa now until I was asked while booking, "Do you mind a male doing the treatment?" I am so used to spa treatments that I don't have much modesty or shyness left in me, and I don't care what sex the therapist is. But if you have a preference, they will accommodate it.

The Absolute Face & Body is a variation on the massage that also includes a long, luxurious facial. It is pricey, but I highly recommend it if you really want to pamper yourself. The undressing requirements are the same as for the massage.

SEAWEED WRAP: This treatment is pricey, but in my view it's well worth it, and my husband is absolutely addicted to it. Your body is slathered with a warm seaweed mixture which varies, depending on what you choose. My favorite is the relaxation blend, which always puts me to sleep, but there is an invigorating muscle ease choice, as well as one to help with cellulite.

Next, you are saran-wrapped and tucked under a warm comforter while you get a scalp or foot massage. You shower off and are rewrapped without the seaweed, which gives you an opportunity to sweat out the toxins. The whole thing is topped off with a massage, and I guarantee you will feel absolutely blissful when it is done.

Obviously, you will need to undress completely for this one. You will be provided with paper panties to wear during the wraps and massage, and everything is very discreet. Your chest is bare but covered with a sheet. Seaweed will not be applied to your chest area unless you want it. If you are uncomfortable, just let the attendant know so they can help you to feel at ease.

THE RASUL (SURIAL BATH): This is an experience that I highly recommend to all couples, especially newlyweds. You can click here for all of the full, intimate details. You do this treatment in a private room with your partner, so you don't have to worry about shyness with strangers, as long as you are comfortable with your partner.

For the more faint-hearted:

THE TROPICAL RAINFOREST: This is just a large area with various aromatherapy showers, saunas, and steamrooms. Everyone wears swimwear (well, most time I actually did meet a naked woman!), and robes are also provided. It is relatively inexpensive and does not need to be sheduled in advance. This is a co-ed area.

REFLEXOLOGY OR A NECK AND BACK MASSAGE: If you want a hands-on treatment but are very uncomfortable with the idea of being undressed during the treatment, you still have some options. Reflexology is a type of foot massage that also has wellness benefits. Since this treatment is done to your feet, you don't have to worry about undressing or exposing anything other than your tootsies. You may also be able to book a neck and back massage that is done while you are fully clothed and seated in a massage chair.

The above is just a sampler of the many options offered at the Vista Spa. You can get anything from a simple manicure, pedicure, or hair styling all the way on up to a top-to-toe combo treatment. No matter what you choose, below are some tips to help make your spa experience a memorable and enjoyable one:

1) Book your treatments early. Check your navigator or the information sheet you are given at embarkation for the time, and be there 15 to 20 minutes early, especially if you want to book a popular treatment. The appointments for days at sea go especially fast. They will offer you a tour of the spa, but ask to bypass this if you already know what you want to book.

2) Be aware that a gratuity of up to 20 percent is customary, depending on how much you enjoyed your treatment and how much work the treatment person did. For example, a massage is a much more labor-intensive treatment than the rasul/surial.

3) Be aware that the attendant will try to sell you products when your treatment is over. This comes as a rude surprise to many first timers who are feeling all relaxed and are suddenly presented with a sales pitch. Know that it is coming, and if you are not interested, simply repond with a polite but firm "No thanks."

The products are quite expensive, but my husband swears by the bath salts and we both use the muscle ease gel, so who knows, you might find something you like and decide to splurge.

4) As I've mentioned several times before, if you are nervous, don't let that stop you from trying a spa treatment. Either pick something "tame" or let the spa personnel know that you are inexperienced so they can help put you at ease.

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