Spa of the Month: The On-Ship Spa


So, here I am, having searched fruitlessly for a couple of years now for a spa that specialises in sleep (did you know that more than a third of people in the UK suffer from insomnia?) and I may have found the answer completely by chance.

OK, so this particular result is not even intentional on the part of the spa in question. It’s just about where it happens to be. And this is on the Fred Olsen ship, Boudicca,where I’m en route to Iceland and Greenland. Now I think it’s quite possible that a cruise is the ultimate antidote to stress. On a cruise like this that entails long days at sea before you reach your destination, the gentle movement of the ship lulls you into a state of tranquillity.

On this cruise, there were three days after leaving Dover simply to cover the more than 1000 miles to get to Iceland. And sitting on the top deck watching the waves and the sea birds skimming over them, I started to feel like I was approaching some kind of hypnotic trance. I’m sure my blood pressure was lowering and, according to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate has already dropped by 5 beats per minute.

And then this ship – along with its sister ships, Black Watch, Balmoral and Braemar– has a spa, too. Ship spas have plenty of treatments – facials, massages, wraps and more general beauty treatments (manicures, waxing, hairdressing etc). Being at sea, though, I thought I’d go for something that was suitably marine. I could have had a Micronized Marine Algae Body Wrap or an Aromaceane Wrap with essential oils and sea mud. However, on the facials front, they were using Thalgo and that was very tempting.

Thalgo is a French brand inspired by thalassotherapy (sea water therapy) to produce what they describe as “marine cosmetics”. Their products are based on marine muds and algae which, they say, are assimilated more easily and effectively by our skin than “terrestrial” plant products. The promise is that they are packed with minerals that promote cell growth and restore the skin’s vitality. Sounds good to me.

So my first visit was for a Thalgo “Ultimate Time Solution” ritual – 75 mins with beauty therapist Nanya who started by wrapping my hair first in a headband and then a towelling turban. On top of these, she massaged my head. Through the layers, it resembles the sound ofke the sea on the shore.

Then there are – as it were – waves of products applied. Cleansers (the eyes have a special one) removed by hot wet towels. Sprays of infused mineral water, cooling toners, deep exfoliators, a serum that is massaged in for ages with much pattering of the finger tips and an almost suction like move – how does anyone do that with their fingers? Plus a mask of wet muslin that lies over the mouth and the eyes. I feel almost mummified. While that’s working Nanya gives me a hand and arm massage. Then she applies more creams and eye creams and sprays, and finishes with a scalp and shoulder massage.

During all this, the captain’s noontime PA announcement comes on and he’s talking about the tides and the depth of the water and its temperature. He talks of whirlpools and riptides and I fall ever deeper into the arms of the sea.

I come out glowing (I think) and ask my husband what he thinks. “You look shiny,” he tells me. Hmm. But over the next few days, I think I see a real improvement in my skin (I’m using another of their products nightly).

So by the end of the trip I’m still feeling glowing (as opposed to shiny) and head back to the spa the day before we disembark for a second Thalgo facial but this time their “hyaluronic facial” – one that uses hyaluronic acid, the main ingredient in fillers. Now fillers are obviously injected into the skin, so could just having this as an active ingredient possibly work?

Hyaluronic acid is essentially a kind of sugar (a polysaccharide) that naturally occurs in the body but its production slows down as part of the ageing process. As part of a serum, cream or mask (and there were all three in this facial) it acts as a sponge to hold much more water in the skin, effectively plumping it out.

Verdict? I thought it looked like a pretty good result. Watch this space for Thalgo spas in the UK – though, sadly, I can’t expect the same sleep benefits…

For more information about Fred Olsen cruises, including details of their onboard wellness facilities, visit