Spa at sea: soaking up the good life

Photo of Leyanne Baillie

Need to unwind? There's some serious pampering on offer aboard P&O Pacific Aria.

There are two phrases my dad is renowned for. The first is his philosophy on life — it’s nice to be nice — and the second, a sentence my brother and I heard each time we went on holiday as kids — this is the life.

I am lying on a sun bed in the Elemis relaxation room aboard P&O’s Pacific Aria, watching the world go by, looking through strings of crystal beads, out of floor-to-ceiling windows, at miles and miles of ocean. I’ve just enjoyed a ridiculously relaxing massage plus a stress-releasing hour-long stint in the thermal suites. Seriously, this is the life.

As luck would have it, my mum and dad have come from Scotland to visit us for a month and my husband Andrew and I have the opportunity to be on Aria’s inaugural voyage as part of P&O’s fleet, which we join in Cairns as part of its eight-day round trip from Brisbane. This means we have live-in babysitters back in Perth, so can relax knowing that our children’s needs are being taken care of while we enjoy our first child-free break in 11 years.

Taking advantage of some me time, I start the day with a Pure-Form yoga class. It could be the draw of the all-you-can eat breakfast at The Pantry next door or the race for the best shady spot by the pool but I am the only one in the class so have the instructor to myself.

I would class myself as an intermediate yogi but as trainer Matteo puts me through my paces, I feel my internal temperature rise — the class is pretty vigorous. As the ship gently sways, my core is tested as I try to stay steady in my warrior one and strong in my downward dog. This is tougher than doing it on land but the grip of the yoga mat ensures I keep my balance.

Matteo has worked me harder than my land-based instructor does, so I’d say I’m more invigorated than zen-like but I leave the gym feeling good and ready to tuck into breakfast.

We have the option to place an order to have our first meal of the day served in our cabin suite but I haven’t been that organised. I head to The Pantry, gather some muesli, fresh fruit and toast to take back to my cabin and enjoy it on my balcony, serenely watching the clouds go by.

Andrew has already finished breakfast and is enjoying a Spindoor class with Matteo, again having one-to-one instruction. I arrange to meet him for a brisk stroll around the outdoor promenade on deck six when he finishes.

Our wander isn’t as brisk as I’d like because Andrew’s legs have started to seize up after his session in the gym. It seems Matteo works all his clients pretty hard. I’m almost sympathetic enough to give up my massage but I have a stubborn knot in my shoulder that needs dealing with, so I tell Andrew to toughen up as we climb the five flights of stairs to take me into the Elemis Spa and him to a sun bed alongside one of the two outdoor pools.

I’m guided to a treatment room and before my therapist leaves to give me some privacy she tells me to disrobe and lie face down on the bed. I’m a modest kinda gal and it feels strange stripping off in front of a floor-to-ceiling window. I remind myself there’s nothing between the ship and New Caledonia, so I’m sure my modesty will remain intact.

I do love a massage but never fully zone out because I’m always anticipating when it will end. Not so with this one. 

The movement of the ship almost sends me to sleep and as my therapist starts kneading out my knots with organic rice bran oil and batons of warmed bamboo, I feel the tension melting away. I do feel a bit like a piece of pastry being rolled out but these bamboo rolling pins are taking out the knots in my muscles like no other massage has. Once the rolling has stopped, my therapist uses the rounded end of the bamboo pole along pressure points in my hands and feet, which she later tells me stimulates internal organs such as the heart, stomach and kidneys.

There is one knot that refuses to budge so she applies a gel containing collagen, arnica and menthol. This helps to cool and soothe the muscle and I float out of the room on a cloud of calm.

I head along to the ship’s thermal suites and try out the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and one of five curvy, concrete, mosaic-tiled heated loungers. I was intrigued by a fellow passenger’s description of these seats and couldn’t imagine what she was making such a fuss about. That was until I lowered myself back on to the ergonomically designed chair. Whoa, THIS is the life.

The seat is almost too hard, almost too hot and almost too curved but once I lie back and the heat spreads through my body and into my muscles, I discover it’s just right. My bliss-like state continues. So much so that the next thing I know I’m woken by someone snoring. Who, me? No, it couldn’t have been me, I don’t snore.

I step into the shower and refresh myself under a delicate spray of lavender-scented water. Time to head back to the cabin so I don’t miss the afternoon tea we’ve ordered to our suite. As I’m about to leave the spa, I notice the relaxation room and decide there’s time for 10 more minutes of pampering. There is nothing more calming than looking out on the sea from a moving ship.

I move from one view of the ocean to another. If you can’t decide whether the price of a balcony on a cruise is worth it, let me tell you, it’s worth every penny — especially on sea days. We are particularly lucky because the balcony on our suite is double the width of an ordinary sea-view cabin and is kitted out with two sun beds and a dining table and two chairs.

Perfect for the afternoon tea which our cabin attendant Marianne has just delivered: dainty sandwiches, delicate strawberry meringue, decadent chocolate truffle ganache, buttery almond cake and a luscious white chocolate mousse cake served with a selection of tea. All that’s missing is some fizz but that is easily remedied when Andrew pops up to the Lido bar and returns with two glasses of Moet.

Does it get any better than this? Sure does. I settle into my sun bed, ready for an hour or so of reading before getting ready for dinner. Half an hour in and there’s a knock at the door. Another perk of suite life is a surprise delivery of pre-dinner canapes and a very nice glass of red. As Andrew and I tuck into a smoked salmon and caper crostini, we decide being on the ocean waves definitely is the life.

Fact File


Leyanne Baillie was a guest of P&O Cruises.


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