Sunday, April 13, 2008

spa schma

The massage I thought I'd get...

Five months after being giving a day spa experience for my 40th birthday, I finally got the chance to enjoy it.
You’ll remember, the spa had to cancel my original booking, and it was a few weeks before I was able to plan another escape.
So finally the day arrived, and I found myself doing battle with Brisbane traffic on my way into the Marriott.
I needed a massage by the time I got there! I live in the western suburbs of Brisbane, and rarely have the need to drive in the city so I was feeling a big stressed. And if I do, my husband Kyle usually does the honours. Yes, I’m a girl when it comes to city driving, and after years of living in Brisbane, I still get lost! (Even with a GPS!)
It was at the Brisbane Marriott Dome Spa, the city’s first luxury spa, so I was expecting a treat.
The Marriott is special to Kyle and I. We spent our wedding night there in a massive suite overlooking the river. The comfy king-sized bed had been sprinkled with rose petals in a heart-shape, a massive bubble bath had been drawn, and there was a champagne bucket, strawberries and chocolates beside it. Perfect!
From then on, we’d spend our anniversary there each year – at least until the Little Princess came along and family finances meant we had to spend the money on far more important things like groceries and medical bills.
So it was a long time since I’d been to the Marriott, and my first visit to the Dome.
I always feel a bit uncomfortable in a spa. Perhaps it’s the enforced nakedness; perhaps it’s because I never really get a chance to pamper myself. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never really paid for the visit myself. I’ve always been lucky enough to score a voucher as a present, or through my work as a journalist (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it)!
But the staff were friendly, and soon I was ensconced in my robe and slippers. I was supposed to be offered a cup of herbal tea, but there was no one there to offer me one. Instead, I sipped on cold water and lemon until it was time for my hot stone massage.
I undressed and climbed on the table – strangely, I wasn’t offered any privacy while I did this – and began blissing out. The massage wasn’t any better or worse than any I’ve had before, but I’d never had a hot stone massage before, and I kept wondering when the stones would go on.
They didn’t. My massage was over before I even had the chance to ask! You know how you lose track of time when you’re having a massage … and being a Hot Stone Virgin, I thought maybe they give you a normal massage first before placing the stones.
Now, it was a nice massage, and my therapist was fine, so I didn’t like to complain. But I still felt let down that I didn’t get the massage I’d booked in for. And also – and this is the kicker – I didn’t go to sleep during it, which is usually my measure of a good massage.
I mentioned the mix-up to my next therapist (I’d been lucky enough to get a facial too), and she just said: “Oh, but was it a nice massage?”
Well, yes, it was, but my mother-in-law had paid $105 for that massage, so I was expecting something fabulous. Not just okay. And certainly not different to the one I’d booked.
Anyway, onto the facial which was fine. Afterwards, I finally got my tea, but before I got to drink it, I was told the Champagne Tea my nice Mum-in-law had also treated me to, was ready.
Set up beside the pool, was a small table with a three-tier layer of goodies. It comprised of:
Four sandwich triangles (ie - two pieces of white bread), crust still on, each containing processed meat, cheese, tomato and lettuce,
A tiny pink lamington square,
A slice of banana cake which had seen better days,
A small crème caramel, which I didn’t touch (don’t like them),
Two small scones, one with sultanas, one luckily without (I hate sultanas!),
Apricot jam and cream,
A coffee pot,
A stainless steel jug of hot water,
One cup with two teabags in it,
A plastic flute of champagne.
Now maybe I’m spoilt, but this wasn’t the high tea experience I expected at a five-star hotel.
I thought high tea meant dainty sandwiches with a selection of fillings using a variety of bread. A selection of jam (I don’t like apricot jam – I know I’m fussy!). And at least a real teapot with real tea, and maybe a selection of teas to choose from. And a choice of coffees too.
No one appeared to ask if I’d like anything else. I didn’t, but there was a lovely old lady who joined me who would have ordered one for her daughter and herself too if there had been a staff member around to ask.
Later, I was going to have a shower, but when I got there, there were no towels, and no toiletries (just a body wash dispenser in the shower itself). I would have had to go back to the pool area to get a towel, so I couldn’t be bothered.
So although I did have a nice day, it was just that. Nice. Not five-star and not good value for what my mother-in-law had paid.
I was sad I couldn’t honestly rave to her about it afterwards, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to others.
To be honest, there’s a spa down the road from where I live. They do a $99 special, which includes 2 ½ hours of pampering and is actually much nicer. It’s just that the surrounds are not quite as salubrious as the Marriott, and they don’t do a High Tea, but let’s face it, I can do without that!
Maybe the hotel’s standards have slipped since I last visited, or maybe I was just unlucky.
Anyone else had any less-than-five-star experiences lately? Or am I the only one who thinks you should get what you (or your nice mother-in-law) paid for?

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