Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pampered Spirit NJ & Other Good Reasons To Try A Mobile Spa

The Gift For The Man (or Woman or Couple) Who Has Everything – Last summer, my brother got married which presented me with a not so unique challenge—so what to get the man who has everything, including a lovely new wife?

My brother is like many men when it comes to his concept of “spa.” He would LOVE to try a massage because the idea of anything promoting stress reduction, serenity and relaxation is appealing to say the least. However, the thought of going to a spa to get a massage seems too “girlie,” too far “outside his comfort zone” or too {insert whatever understandable reason you can think of here} for him to give it a try.

My sister-in-law is a bit more adventurous when it comes to things spa. Before the wedding she mentioned she would love to try a spa, so for her bachelorette outing, I treated her to a wonderful spa experience at Ethereal Day Spa and Day Spa ( in Parsippany (don’t worry, the review is coming soon – I promise!). In fact, she was so open, she even let me pick her treatments!

So, when it came time to pick the perfect wedding gift, I decided to treat them both to a magical spa experience that would allow them both to enjoy their first professional massage, a romantic candlelit dinner, and soothing music all in the comfort and privacy of their own home.

Enter the mobile spa experience.

The Experience – I contacted Bridget Turnbach, founder of The Pampered Spirit Mobile Spa & Massage Co. ( who helped me design the perfect gift for my brother and his new bride. Since it was a surprise gift and my sister-in-law subscribes to my blog, I will not tell say how much it cost, but I arranged for what is now posted to her site as The Ultimate In Romance Dinner and Massage package.

Bridget and another skilled massage therapist met me at my brother’s home along with Chef Ted, proprietor of Ted Can Cook Personal Chef Service ( We knocked on the door and within minutes, the newlyweds’ living room was magically transformed into a serene spa, complete with candles, music and aromatherapy where my brother and sister-and-law received their side-by-side relaxation massages.

As the Pampered Spirit team worked its magic, Chef Ted prepared a gourmet meal, complete with an entrĂ©e of my choosing (I selected Chef Ted’s signature salmon dish) flowers (in colors to match their wedding colors), sparkling apple cider (they don’t drink alcohol) and a wonderful chocolate dessert of Chef Ted’s choosing. The beauty of that add on is that Chef Ted literally bought EVERYTHING from all the ingredients, to the cooking equipment and serving dishes. And when it was all said and done, the Pampered Spirit team, including Chef Ted, cleaned everything up, returning my bother’s apartment back to its original state – except of course for the relaxed, rejuvenated and transformed newlyweds left behind!

While I have yet to personally indulge in the privacy, comfort and convenience of the mobile spa, my brother and sister-in-law were BIG fans of their experience. And, for two people who had never had a massage before, I knew if they enjoyed it, there must be something to it.

Why Try It Yourself? – So, based on their feedback, and some research of my own, here are the top 5 reasons to consider a mobile spa experience, even though in some cases, it may be a bit more expensive than a more traditional spa.

1. It’s convenient – Mobile spa companies schedule appointments based on their availability and their client’s schedule. And many, such as Pampered Spirit, work on weekends, including Sundays!

2. It’s private – Mobile spa companies come to you – at work, at home, at a hotel or wherever you prefer. So, if you’re a little “spa shy,” what could be better than your place for a spa experience?

3. It’s customized – Mobile spa companies totally customize their services. And while you don’t have to have all the trimmings like the gift package I selected for my brother and his bride, you can often get the experience you want, when you want, where you want.

4. It’s great to try alone, with a friend or with a group – In addition to individual treatments, many mobile spa companies offer packages for two and “spa party” services for groups. While, I’ll cover spa parties in another post, mobile spas offer a great option to share a unique spa experience with your sweetie or with your best friends. They also make for unique fundraisers and special events.

5. The extras are limited only by your imagination (ok, and maybe your budget!) – From manicures, pedicures and facials to massages, personal chefs, psychics, martini bars, champagne, flowers and almost anything you can dream of (within your budget and that the space will allow), mobile spa companies can help deliver all the extras needs to bring your ultimate “in home” spa experience to life.

Ways To Spa On The Go – So, if you’re looking for a mobile spa service to try, listed below are a few sites for companies in the NJ/NY metropolitan area that I came across in my search for the perfect wedding gift for my brother and sister-in-law:

The Pampered Spirit NJ (
Earthtones Holistic Products and Services LLC (
obile Massage Spa, LLC (
Spa Chicks on The Go (
SpaLean Day & Mobile Spa (
Pampered Soul Mobile Massage & Spa (
SPArties (

Many of them offer gift certificates or special services for the office and/or corporate events, fundraisers, weddings and other special occasions. Please note, this list is by no means inclusive and The Pampered Spirit NJ is the only company whose services I’ve purchased to date. So if you’ve tried any of these mobile spas, or know of one that’s not listed, please let us know by posting your comment below.

Oh yes, before I forget, here’s one last – and perhaps the best – reason to try a mobile spa experience (or any spa experience!)….YOU DESERVE IT!

Wishing you good spa!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Balance Spa & Fitness at the Loews Philadelphia

1234 Market Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA


Visited: November 2007

Genre: Hotel Spa

The Scene: Chic, Art Deco, Modern Facility Where Fitness and Spa Meet

Spa Environment: In Transition When I Went, But Generally, Well-Appointed and Well Worth Another Visit Once Management Change Is Completed

The Damage: Reasonable For A Luxury Hotel Spa; I had the 80 minute East Meets West Combination massage for $140.

The Experience -- the Prelude: When my sweetie and I decided to go away Thanksgiving weekend, we were almost instantly drawn to the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. Like many other travelers,we researched our travel options online and armed with our AAA discount, we decided on the Loews--a luxurious, first class, affordable option for our holiday escape. In addition to a fantastic view, quality service and a great restaurant (The Loews is home to the very chic and very yummy Sole Food), The Loews had a spa that you KNOW I just had to try.

I admit I was a little nervous at first, when I had difficulty finding a price list or other details (aside from a few pictures) about the spa on the Loews Hotel web site. These fears were allayed some when we called the hotel and were immediately connected with the Balance Spa and Fitness center upon request.

When the gentleman who took my call asked what services I would like, I asked him what he would recommend since I couldn't get any ideas from the web site. He instantly suggested the spa's signature East Meets West Combination massage. He explained the treatment was a custom blend of Eastern Shiatsu and Thai massage with Western Swedish/Deep Muscle techniques. And, at only $100 for 50 minutes, I decided to treat myself to the 80 minute version for only a few dollars more at $140. Besides, I had always wanted to try Shiatsu and figured this might be a great entree into the Japanese art of applying pressure to various points on the body in order to relieve stress and tension.

The Arrival: When I arrived at Balance Spa & Fitness, I was immediately blown away by the size of the facility. With a 20 meter, two lane heated lap pool the immediate right and a spacious cardio and strength training area in front of me, it was easy to see why the space was called the Balance Spa AND FITNESS CENTER!

I later learned that hotel guests could use the pool for $10 per day and that the 15,000 foot spa encompassed the entire Fifth Floor of the Hotel. The latest hip hop and dance music piping in provided a very fitness-friendly atmosphere but begged the question in my mind, how is this going to translate into my spa experience?

The reception area was to the left, flanked on one side by a curiously almost empty beverage case stocked with only a few bottles of water. The friendly receptionist who checked me in made me raise an eyebrow when she explained she needed to find my massage therapist, who had yet to return from lunch. A rookie mistake perhaps, I thought as she handed me a robe and towel. Upon entering the women's locker room, it occurred to me, she hadn't offered me slippers, any refreshments or a tour of the facility--all of which I've come to expect from hotel spas.

Luckily, I always bring my own slippers and my spa robe was very roomy and comfortable. In fact, it was just like the cozy spa robes that were in our hotel room, so I was optimistic when I took a look around while waiting on my massage therapist.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had an assigned locker but no key! I quickly returned to the front desk, where the receptionist apologized for her mistake and again assured me she was still trying to locate my massage therapist, this time by placing a call to her cell phone. Fortunately, the spa was completely empty and my things were just where I left them when I returned to my locker.

The Tour: I quickly forgot about the receptionist's oversights when I saw a rather large sized sauna, across from which stood an equally roomy steam room. Both featured easy-to-understand instructions for setting the temperatures and timers to your likely. And, the steam room was equipped with my favorite eucalyptus spray, which beckoned me to indulge after my massage.

The showers and rest rooms were pristine, although I noticed that extra towels were not available anywhere aside from the front desk. I also noticed that the spa was strangely quiet, without any zen-like or yoga-friendly music that typically provides the soundtrack for a hotel spa experience. Beyond that, the spa was fairly well-appointed with cotton swabs, lotion, mouthwash, showers, a hair and makeup area and many of the other accouterments you would expect from a luxury hotel spa.

In the waiting room adjacent to the treatment areas, though, there was a bowl of apples and oranges, but no tea, water, juices or refreshments of other kinds that I could see. In fact, in the entire chic, modern, minimalistic, art-deco-meets-the-neon-50s-diner decorated spa, the only thing I could find to read while waiting was a back issue of Liberty Sports magazine.

This was another strange detail that seemed disjointed with the very chic but inviting, luxurious client experience promised by the Loews Hotel. But before I could ponder that disconnect any longer, Eloisa, my massage therapist arrived to take me to my treatment room.

The Treatment: In a word, my East Meets West Combination massage was fantastic. I mentioned to Eloisa that I had no idea what to expect from the Eastern portion of the treatment but was hoping that the Western portion would focus on my neck and upper back, since that's where I typically carry my stress.

I chose a lavender scented oil for the Swedish portion and Eloisa explained how she would go about employing the various techniques throughout the course of my treatment. The first half, she incorporated Eastern techniques, gently pulling, stretching and applying pressure at various points across my arms, legs, feet and face.

At first, I was a little tense since the movements were a bit reminiscent of some of the range of motion exercises I had in physical therapy when I hurt my knee many years ago. However, there was no pain this go round and when I finally relaxed, I was surprised of how quickly I started to feel "tension free" in the parts of my body the therapist was working on.

When I turned on my stomach for part two, Eloisa employed a familiar combination of Swedish and deep tissue massage. And, in spite of the fact that there was no background music and the massage table wasn't heated, I was so relaxed I nearly dozed off by the time she was done.

Insider Info.: On my way out, I grabbed a photocopied price list from the receptionist. It was then that I solved the mystery of the disconnects and rookie mistakes that had provided a curious undercurrent for my Balance Spa & Fitness spa experience. It seems that the Balance Spa & Fitness center's contract with the Loews Hotel was expiring and management of the spa, fitness center and pool would soon be switching hands in the months to come. That single fact explained so many of the minor disappointments I had experienced during my visit (all of which were made up for by my wonderful East Meets West massage) that I'm looking forward to returning to the spa to see if and how my escape might be different once the facility is under new management.