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Discovering Spa Country

Spa goers are becoming more finicky, and operators are responding by raising the bar on luxury. Here, some new and noteworthy entries.

Heaven on the 35th Floor

NEW YORK — The Mandarin Oriental spa at 80 Columbus Circle may rival Central Park as Manhattan’s best place to escape from real life.

What makes the $15 million, 14,500-square-foot space so different right off the bat is its location “in the sky” on the 35th floor. Architect Brennan Beer Gorman made sure to capitalize on this feature by having a window in each of the spa’s eight treatment rooms, which, on a clear night, overlook a dazzling cityscape with views of the Hudson River.

But not all of the spa’s beauty comes from outside. Take the silver leaf ceilings, “sharkskin” textured walls and Japanese rice paper-lined glass shower doors designed by Hirsch Bedner & Associates.

Clients are encouraged to arrive 40 minutes before their treatment time to take advantage of various amenities, such as the “experience shower,” which simulates different climates, such as fog (a cold mist), land rain (a tepid water shower) and tropical rain (a hot firm shower).

The Heat Experience room (there are two, one for men and one for women) is not to be missed. Here, in addition to the experience shower, is one of the world’s most innovative pools. Heated to a balmy 98 degrees, the slightly salted water is jetted through perforated metal cylinders that run the width of the pool — quite a take on how to make bubbles.

There are nearly 100 treatments to choose from. Kadir Marrero, the spa’s training supervisor, explained that among the most popular are their four signature services, including the Lomi Lomi, a spiritual Hawaiian treatment combining rhythmic and deep tissue massage.

Thai massage — all new and serious spas offer this service —is so popular it commands its own 650-square-foot Spa Suite, appointed with a specially made kang treatment bed.

Upstairs, on the 36th floor, there’s a 75-foot lap pool, again with city views, as well as a gym. Just one note to new spa visitors: Don’t bother reaching for the complimentary slippers to walk across the changing room floor — the tiles are heated.

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Ritz-Carlton Delivers South Beach a Spa

NEW YORK — After three years of teasing eager residents and tourists with “Coming Soon!” signs, The Ritz-Carlton South Beach on Dec. 31 finally opened its doors in Miami Beach, Fla. This week, the hotel’s 16,000-square-foot spa made its debut, and it is, oddly enough, the first of its kind in an area hopelessly dedicated to outer beauty.

The spa, which is managed and branded by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., tapped French beauty sanctuary La Maison Beauté Carita to help carry its five-star, five-diamond experience through to the spa. The 50-year-old beauty innovator, which is considered top-notch for hair, face and body treatments, worked with The Ritz-Carlton to create several signature services, such as the Avant SoBe. The five-and-a-half hour beauty bombardment — carefully crafted to prepare mere mortals for a night on the town — includes a body polish, a Carita facial, foot and hand treatments, a blow-dry and a makeup application.

A sleek and modern decor graces the spa’s eight massage rooms, three deluxe skin care rooms and two couples suites. Several whimsical designs accent the gold and cream color scheme: metal starfish, gold sunbursts on antique mirrors and wallpaper designed to appear as drapes.

The Ritz-Carlton, which expects the South Beach spa to generate about $2 million in services each year, is in negotiations to expand Carita’s presence to several other locations, but details are still being hammered out.

Enterprisers Tap Spa Market

NEW YORK — The spa industry isn’t short of entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of a growth market.

Take Ramy Gafni, heralded eyebrow king, who currently plucks and primps arches from his makeup counter at Bergdorf Goodman and, most recently, sells his cosmetics line on QVC.

Gafni is opening Ramyspa, an 1,800-square-foot beauty studio in time for Valentine’s Day, located at 39 East 31st Street. The front of the studio will offer brow services where Ramy will pluck away. Two treatment rooms — one for massage and one for waxing and nonextraction facials — make up the spa’s main area. Some facials will promote Ramy’s extensive product line, such as the Youth Facial, which uses a firming mask from his line.

While new spas like Gafni’s seem to pop up every day, existing spas, such as SoHo’s Korean import Amore Pacific, aim to keep things fresh by launching new products. In March, Amore Pacific will roll out Contour Lift Eye Crème, an antiaging potion featuring a patent-pending botanical complex. The spa will offer a $65, 30-minute eye and reflexology treatment to promote the product, which will retail there and at Bergdorf Goodman for $125 per 1-oz. bottle.

While many beauty luxuries can only be found in a spa, Judy Day, a registered nurse, believes products for the home should also aim to provide rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Dream Time, the company she established in 1993 after studying Eastern medicine in Japan, has recently entered the mass market with Spa Comforts, an array of body care products and microwaveable softlines. Spa Comforts retails from $8.99 for bath salts to $29.99 for a microwaveable teddy bear, and is sold at Linens-n-Things and Elder-Beerman.

But spas reach beyond products and treatments.

In photographer Linda Troeller’s new book, “Spa Journeys,” Troeller reveals the culture and essence of 26 spas around the world, from Austria to Brazil to West Virginia. With text by Annette Foglino, “Spa Journeys” not only provides activities, food, accommodations, treatments and a price guide for each location, but also an at-a-glance footnote explaining who would — and would not — enjoy each spa. Published by New York-based powerHouse Books, the 192-page book with 164 color photos will be available at bookstores nationwide in February for $29.95.

Beyond Bed and Bath

BATH, England — The theme at The Bath House, located at The Royal Crescent Hotel here, is all about getting wet.

And thankfully their 39-foot relaxation pool is at center stage. The Bath House is a place where submerging and emerging from water is key to experiencing its benefits.

The Roman-inspired stone house encompasses the pool, twin teak tubs — one filled with hot water, the other with cold —hot and cold showers, a sauna and a eucalyptus-infused steam room, all of which are meant to be used in tandem.

While visitors can pick the order in which they experience each amenity, going from hot to cold water, and then to the warm pool, can bring on “a tingling sensation throughout the body,” according to one guest.

Six treatment rooms offer everything from massages to facials, including the Turkish Hamam Experience, a 90-minute service that combines several visits to the steam room, a sequence of exfoliations using a strawberry and milk protein scrub, and drinking Moroccan mint tea.

Last month, The Bath House began retailing its own products, including bath salts, face creams and essential oils, priced from $25. In March, the five-and-a-half-year-old spa will get a makeover. Among the changes will be an expanded reception area overlooking the hotel’s courtyard, as well as a relaxation area where guests can order lunch from the new Bath House menu.