Otium offers a new, bacchanalian take on the cruise ship spa, says Jane Archer
I’m in the relaxation room on Silversea Cruises’ new Silver Dawn sipping lemongrass rum and munching chocolates after a tough 100 minutes of being oiled, massaged and generally pampered by therapist Sandra.
I know, I know, it’s not the usual wellness gig you’d expect in a spa. I’m trying out Otium, a new way of spa-ing unveiled during the ship’s christening cruise in Portugal in April. It swaps celery juice and self-denial for the ancient Romans’ belief that living well and being well are one and the same.
“Sweating and hard work don’t sit well with Silversea, so we’ve taken a fresh look at the objective of the spa,” Barbara Muckermann, the line’s chief commercial officer, tells me. “We have stopped pretending. It’s not to improve health. It should deliver pleasure and indulgence.
Wellness should be enjoyable. Otium is a work in progress but we are going in the right direction.” She expects more passengers to use the spa now the whole experience is about enjoyment rather than abstinence.
You still have to tick boxes that ask about stress, aches and pains on that mildly irritating form that all spa companies use (just how do you measure stress?) But it was delivered to my suite the day before my treatment, along with a plush Otium-branded bathrobe, so at least I could fill it in at leisure.
I opted for The Otium massage, a treatment that involves being rubbed with an oil of my choice (the calming one, since you ask) and pummelled with bamboo, salt stones and a wooden pestle. Maybe it’s the oil’s aroma, but I soon drift off to another world.
I unwind with the rum and choccies to the music of Mozart and Vivaldi
The spa has created several signature treatments for Otium, including The Apollonian Spirit massage, in a nod to Apollo, the god of healing, and a manicure and pedicure ascribed to Hedone, the goddess of pleasure. They are respectively 100 minutes and 105 minutes and cost $399 and $168.
I also spot a Vulcano Island mud pedicure that uses thermal mud from the Sicilian island named after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire (60 minutes, $89). Men are not forgotten either, with the shave of all shaves promised in the Emperor’s Chair (55 minutes, $129), which includes a double‑close shave, a scalp, face and hand massage, an eyebrow trim and a warm neck wrap.
A gong sounds when my massage is over, but instead of being brought back to reality with news that my body is full of toxins and I must drink lots of water, I am escorted to the relaxation room where I unwind with the rum and choccies to the music of Mozart and Vivaldi.
It’s a nice change from the ubiquitous whale sounds. The relaxation room, which fittingly has a bit of Roman theming, is included in the cost of the treatment, along with a salt scrub (mine has a gentle lemongrass scent to match the rum) to use between cooking yourself in the steam room and sauna.
Or you can just do nothing, which is roughly what the Latin word Otium means. Muckermann confirms Otium will be on Silversea’s new ship Silver Nova when it launches next summer, and retrofitted to the rest of the fleet over time. She says creating Otium gave the line the opportunity to look at its suite offerings.
The result is more ancient Roman‑style indulgence in your room, this time courtesy of the butler that comes with every suite, whether it’s a top‑of‑the‑range Grand or entry‑level Vista. For starters, there’s a butler‑drawn candle‑lit bath (choose between orange blossom, amber and patchouli, and fig and cedar scents) accompanied with champagne, caviar or macaroons. Or how about rum and chocolate served on the balcony while swaddled – if it’s a bit chilly – in a cashmere blanket?
Passengers can also give the restaurants a miss one evening and take their pick from a comfort food menu (lobster roll or truffle fries, anyone?) in their suite. That’s if you can resist slipping into your bed, which is made with 400 thread Egyptian cotton and your pick of feather, foam or down pillows. Gosh, life on Silver Dawn is tough.
On board Silver Dawn
The 10th ship to join the Silversea fleet, Silver Dawn was delivered in 2021 and hosted its first paying guests in April this year. The vessel holds just 596 passengers in all-suite staterooms, most of which have balconies. Eight restaurants serve everything from Japanese teppanyaki to Argentine steaks and home-made pasta.
As well as being the launch ship for Otium, Silver Dawn features Silversea’s new Sea and Land Taste (SALT) programme, which uses local foods to help connect passengers with the places they are visiting.
The door-to-door fare for a seven-day cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona on Silver Dawn departing October 19, 2022, costs from £4,400 per person. That includes home-to-airport transfers in the UK, business-class flights, overseas transfers, drinks, a choice of shore excursions at each port, tips and Wi-Fi. The 100-minute Otium massage costs $399.
PICTURES: Filippo Vinardi