Ahhh.  That’s it.

These are the only words that usually escape my lips during a massage – as it should be. When on Maui, the main goal is to relax, and you just can’t do that with all your muscles still carrying the tension of the past year, or month, or week.  Whatever.  We make it a point to start off our vacations with a little body-work.

This year, Vlad and I elected to do an 80 minute couple’s massage at the Heavenly Spa at the Westin Maui Resort.  Before I get any angry emails from my readers, a couple’s massage is one room, two tables, and two therapists.   We chose it because we’re getting the same treatment, and going with the couple’s version saved us about $50.

I was highly disappointed they didn’t have the Island Body Butter treatment this year.  It was on their website, but when I called to book it they said they can’t get the product any more.  Rats – I was really looking forward to it.   My bank balance, however, was very happy with the situation.   Hmm – maybe I can get that extra pair of sandals after all…..

One of the things I usually like best about the Westin Spa is the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi in the Women’s locker room.   However, I was a bit disappointed this time.  The jacuzzi was only lukewarm, and the steam room had a moldy kind of smell in it instead of the usual eucalyptus.  It was very unusual, and it was strong enough for me to back out of there fast.  Pity – I really enjoy time in steam rooms.

This gave me more time to sit on the wonderful chaise, sip cold  cucumber-lemon water and watch the play on the ocean in front of the huge windows.   There was a pod of dolphins frolicking in the distance, followed by a bunch of tour boats.  I saw one punter in the biggest boat lean out for a photo and fall into the water.   I’m sure it didn’t do his or her camera any good, but that’s one way to swim with dolphins!  There was only one other lady in the quiet room (another unusual event – usually there are a lot of people at this spa!) and she and I enjoyed a quiet laugh at the sight.  Vlad and Alexei missed it – they came into the quiet room a minute later .  For a look at the spa, click here.

Alexei had the hot stone massage because he tweaked his swing a while ago, and it was bothering his back.   A few sessions with his favorite pro cured the tweak, and Alexei hoped the massage would bring him back to fighting form.  After all, he would be playing two rounds with his uncle in a few days, and he wanted to be in good enough shape to beat the tar out of him.  He really enjoyed the massage, but his uncle was still able to keep up with him on the golf course – but that’s a different story!

Vlad and I went in for our massages, and it was as good as always.   They’ve done some funky stuff with the aromatherapy choices (can hardly smell them!) but the massage itself was just what we needed.   Be sure to ask for Diana or Jeff (our two therapists) when you make an appointment.  They were both pretty awesome.

Back we went to the car, missing most of our brains, but with very happy muscles.    Hmm – nap or dinner?   Nap or dinner?   Which would you do?

(Yeah – we chose dinner too….)

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer slings and arrows of cruel breakout sessions or recline on a chaise with cucumbers over the eyes and chilled lemon water.  Ok, Shakespeare it’s not.  What IS pure poetry is the Spa at Mandalay Bay.

I’m not a gambler.  Blackjack, slot machines, roulette and poker hold no attractions for me.   I just don’t see the point.  If I’m going to plunk money down on a table, I want to receive something tangible in exchange – like top-of-the-line spa treatments.  I hit the jackpot at this place.

My colleague Stefanie and I used the time left open when a Las Vegas client canceled a meeting before our conference was slated to begin.  We had arranged our flights around this meeting, and we would be at loose ends for a few hours.   We could join in one of the pre-conference sessions, or we could duck into the spa.   It took us about 2 minutes to pull up the spa menu on the hotel website and book two hours of pure bliss.

After a light lunch at the Raffles Restaurant at the hotel, we sauntered down to the spa.  Clad in our robes and with spa sandals that fit, Stef and I gratefully sank into the hot pool.  Travel tension and stress melted away while we gazed at the carved pillars and golden ambiance.  The waterfalls that fuel each of the 4 pools (two hot, one warm and one cold) provided a melodious and relaxing sound.  Padded chaises were all around the pool, occupied by ladies in various stages of unconsciousness.  We resolved to be just as relaxed in the next couple of hours.

We were soon called for our treatments.   I had a coconut milk scrub first up on my dance card, followed by an aromatherapy massage and a Moroccan Oil scalp massage.   Stefanie had her massage and scalp treatment up first, followed by a cocoa butter hydration wrap that she hoped would help get rid of the dry skin and hair caused by the New Jersey winter.

The scrub and massage were superb.  I had a therapist named Sharon as my guide to relaxation, and she’s great.  If you’re reading this blog post and thinking of making a reservation on your upcoming trip, be sure to ask for Sharon.  She had a knack of  figuring out exactly what needed work during my treatment, and she didn’t break my meditation by talking too much.

The best part of the treatment was the 25 minute scalp massage and hair treatment with Moroccan Oil.  I have hair like that found on a buffalo, or perhaps Medusa, and I use that stuff every day – it’s the only thing that tames the snakes that spring from my head.  I hoped it would help with hydration and make my hair something approaching shiny.   What I ended up with was a brain that had ceased all cognitive function and hair that rivaled the Luxor Hotel for shine.  It was THAT good.

I practically crawled to the steam room after the treatment was over, and inhaled hot steam and drank cold lemon-water in about equal amounts.  When I emerged, the oil had been completely absorbed by my hair and skin and Stef said I looked 10 years younger.   An hour on the chaise with cold cucumbers on my eyes listening to the waterfalls completed the experience.   Soon we were ready to face the rigors of the next two days.

We both agreed it was one fantastic way to start the trip.  And yes, I DID look 10 years younger.  Amazing what stress relief does for a person – inside and out.

I need to do this more often.

I just returned a few hours ago from my company’s annual conference, held this year in America’s Adult Playground, Las Vegas.   250+ people who love to party, gambling, clubs, gorgeous weather, spas and work don’t always mix, but we did what we could to not work too much.   The rest, well….    Our conference organizers did their very best to maintain order – and they succeeded, pretty much.

The conference was held at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.   It’s theme is Singapore, Raffles, Southeast Asia, and I’m not really sure what else.   Having been to Singapore and the Raffles Hotel several times, I can say they didn’t really capture the theme all that well.  But, since the chances of the average punter in Vegas actually having been to Singapore are pretty microscopic, I’m sure the hotel designers were pretty pleased with themselves.

It’s at the very end of the famed Vegas Strip, and is shaped in a three-pronged format that gives every room a different view.  Some get a view of the mountains, some the strip, and for those not favored by the Travel Gods, McCarran International Airport.   Guess where I ended up…

The rooms are pretty nice, for Las Vegas.  They’re relatively large, clean and nicely decorated.   The bed is VERY comfortable, which brought this hotel up immensely in my estimation.   There is also a nice little divan next to the window that invites reading a book or sipping something while looking at the view .   That is, if you can get the funky tube-light thing to work.   I never did.  It was OK – they kept us so busy, I didn’t have much time to relax in my room anyway.

The bathroom is quite nice.  It’s decently large, with a nice shower, a deep tub that fills up very fast (kudos to Mandalay Bay!), dual sinks, and a separate toilet closet.   There are two smallish closets on either side of the bathroom door, which I really like.  This way I can keep my suitcase in one closet and hang my clothes in the other.   My own iron and board was a huge plus.  I hate having to call housekeeping and wait for someone to bring one up to me.

The only thing I didn’t like about this hotel was the noise.  The rent-a-helicopters circle over the hotel all night and the airport noise adds to the din.  The hotel did make an effort at noise-dampeners, but it still was enough to be annoying.   A couple of ear plugs took care of that problem, but unfortunately did nothing to drown out the noise of my neighbors.  Not quite sure what was going on each night, but they certainly seemed to have a jolly time doing it.  The hotel security folks were kept pretty busy.  I retaliated by taking down the “Recuperating” door sign and sliding it back under their door each morning.  I hope the maids woke them up very early…

The staff at this hotel are helpful and nice, which is key.  We didn’t encounter a single snarky person working at this hotel.  Wish I could have said the same thing about the restaurants, but that’s another story.   The people in the conference portion of the hotel were just as nice and friendly, and they really worked hard to make us comfortable and on time.   I was most impressed.  Of course, a lot of that can be the people who organized the conference from our company – they’re a really top-flight bunch of guys and gals that really know how to keep such a large group running in the right direction.    The fact that I didn’t see any of them arguing with the Mandalay Bay help (as they have in other years and other hotels) showed that in this venue, our people had a good team assigned to them.

The other item I was most impressed about was the relatively low amount of cigarette and cigar smoke that I had to wade through.  As someone with minor asthma, I’m usually very uncomfortable in Las Vegas.  You have to walk through the casino to get ANYWHERE in these hotels, and getting through usually means pushing blindly through a foggy haze of seriously nasty smoke.   Not this time, and I was pretty stoked to see that.

So to Meryl, Brittany, David, Ian, Dee and Michael – my very chic hat is off to you for putting together a really top-flight conference.  We learned a lot, and had a great time doing it.

The fun had just begun….  Stay tuned for the stories yet to come.  Gotta check with my attorney first to see just what I can tell.  Oh yeah – and take a nap – a looooong one.

I love the Spa Experience.  It’s more than just walking around in a fuzzy robe and rubber slippers 4 sizes too big, sipping cucumber-lemon water.   When traveling overseas, a massage can greatly reduce the physical effects of jet lag.  Body and facial treatments can keep you looking younger and healthier (Or so they say.  I’m not convinced).  A good massage therapist can help spread out the time in between chiropractic appointments, and that I can personally attest to.

Setting all the beneficial effects aside, there is something about the Experience you get at a Girl’s Day at the Spa.  My Sis-in-law and I took Mom for an afternoon of pampering while we were on Maui.  It was our best shot at a really good birthday present that we knew Mom would really enjoy.

We decided to make a day out of it.  First, we decided to do a beachfront lunch at a restaurant we weren’t planning on hitting for dinner during the trip.   We chose Leilani’s and Whaler’s Village for their very good salads and unbeatable view.   Then we strolled over to the Heavenly Spa at the Westin Ka’anapali for a few hours of luxury.

This is the best hotel spa in northwest Maui.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all.  They have good therapists and esteticians, many of whom have been there successfully for years, which is a good sign.  They use natural oils and scrubs, so I don’t have to worry about being allergic to anything.  In addition, they have the best quiet room in the world.  The view is incredible, and worth a trip just to experience it.

There is something very carefree about Spa-ing.  I’ve heard from some friends who were freaked-out by their first spa visits by the way none of the other guests acknowledge their presence.  I have to say, friendly as I usually am, when I get in a spa, I become a true xenophobe.  Don’t talk to me, don’t try to make eye contact, folks!  Everyone there is in their own world and they can’t see anyone.  The vision turns inward, trying to keep the Zen feeling going as long as possible.  Just go with it.

After soaking up hot steam and cold cucumber water in about equal amounts, we toddled in to the quiet room to enjoy the view and chill for a bit.  We were able to grab the three chaises that looked out over the ocean, and were rewarded by seeing a pod of dolphins frolic past the windows, trailed by about 15 tourist boats.  I can only imagine what those dolphins were thinking, but it was obvious they were having a very good time messing with the stupid humans as they doubled-back and caused an aquatic traffic jam.  Go Dolphins!

One of the things I usually do when traveling is experience the massage style of the country or region I’m visiting.  Styles are different everywhere, and Hawaii is no exception.  The Hawaiian massage style, lomi-lomi, is very relaxing and quite unique.  It should be experienced.  If that doesn’t do anything for you, there are sports-oriented massages, hot stone, aromatherapy, and pretty much everything you can imagine.  Their spa menu goes on for pages and pages…

After we were done with our lomi-lomi massage, it wasback to the quiet room for a few more minutes of watching the sun play on the ocean, and the clouds build over Lanai in the distance.   Sigh.   Next stop for us was  the Heavenly Body treatment.  This is one of the best treatments I’ve had anywhere in the world.  After a sugar scrub, the estetician slathers an incredible mixture of cocoa butter, something coconut, and I think shea butter all over you.  Then you’re wrapped in a series of blankets and enjoy a head massage.

When you’re done, you’re missing a lot of dead skin and most of your brain.   They practically have to guide you to a chaise for a nap afterward.  If you stay in the quiet room long enough and the sun starts to go down, the play of light on the whitecaps a mesmerizing sight.

Sadly, the time to leave comes all too soon.  If you’re lucky, the Zen feeling will stay with you for the rest of the day.

Ohmmm.   Ohmmmm.


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