By Erica Colmenares
If you’re a veteran of the Disney Spa World, I suggest you skip down to the next article. Right now. This is an account for the newbie, the person who’s always wanted to book a Disney massage, but never dared.
Like me. I mean, until this October, when I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a massage. I figured it would be pretty safe to have my first massage at Walt Disney World. They do things well- bet they throw a great massage, too!
Before I could book, I had to decide where I wanted to be pampered and prodded. Should I go to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa for the ultimate in all that’s high-class? Or would the oh-so-new Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (SSR) be a better fit for a Midwestern gal? I could also book a massage at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Yacht Club or Coronado Springs. These latter resort-massages don’t come with steam rooms and chilled hand towels, but they were options to consider. The Palace Spa at Buena Vista Palace is at one of the Downtown Disney “Good Neighbor” hotels, so we’ll call it a Disney spa as well. And the Dolphin Hotel just made spa decisions even tougher by opening the Asian-inspired Mandara Spa. I asked around, and got lots of advice. SSR’s spa offers DVC discounts, and was convenient to our Pleasure Island plans for later on. So it came out on top, and I booked my Mystical Forest Therapies treatment for mid-way through my Disney vacation.
Not that it was easy to decide which treatment to go for. Early on in my decision process, I called the Grand Floridian Spa. The reservationist referred me to their website for detailed descriptions of my options: http://www.relaxedyet.com. This website has information for both the GF and SSR spas. Massage therapies, facials, body treatments, hydro massage therapies, hand and foot treatments, and spa packages (combining elements of many of the above). Treatments range from 25 minutes for a manicure or pedicure, to 80 minutes for an aromatherapy massage. As I was a beginner, I went simple. The Mystical Forest Therapies treatment starts with a 25-minute Swedish massage (think relaxing relief of muscle soreness) and then 25 minutes of reflexology (think Egyptian technique for improving circulation and inducing relaxation through pressure points on your feet- yeah, your feet). I have to admit that I partly picked this combo because it was offered at $25 off to Disney Vacation Club members ($100, versus the $125 price tag).
A quick aside about that discount. If you are a DVC member, you can get 10% off of select spa treatments at the Saratoga Springs Spa. You need to have your DVC membership card with you, but it’s not necessary to be staying on points. At least, that’s what I was told, because I was staying at Pop Century during this trip, and I’m not much for bucking the system. There are also annual passholder discounts through 2005 – AP holders may save 10% on one spa treatment per visit at the Grand Floridian Spa and at the Saratoga Spa.
OK, so I got to Disney and exhausted myself at the parks in preparation for my massage treatment. Then I drove to the Saratoga Springs Spa. There’s a parking lot conveniently located past the main pool and the Spa, near the DVC Welcome Center. It’s also easy to get to SSR, or the other onsite spas, using Disney transportation, although you will have to transfer buses. Go to the mid-way point of your choice (a theme park or Downtown Disney) then transfer to a SSR bus. It is possible to walk from Downtown Disney’s marketplace, or you can take the resort boat to SSR, also from Downtown Disney.
When I arrived at the Saratoga Spring Spa reception desk, a friendly cast member greeted me, requested my room key (which they hold during your time at the spa) then gave me a brief tour of the facilities. He explained where the women’s lounge and lockers were (and that each locker holds spa sandals and a bathrobe). After making sure I had what I needed, he (gently) reminded me to check that my cell phone was turned off, and departed.
I found my locker (the locker number is on the key!). I found my sandals (too small- a locker attendant quickly gave me a less petite size). I found I had a couple of questions. So I proceed back upstairs to the reception desk, blushing a little bit. First I want to know: what am I supposed to wear under the nice robe they’ve provided? The staff member smiles and says “Wear what you are comfortable with, although we suggest that women not wear bras during massage treatments, for comfort.” Then I have to ask, ehrm, what about appropriate garb in the sex-segregated lounge areas? Her answer: clothing optional. I head off to put on my swim suit.
So, back to that massage. The appointed hour comes, and I’ve already been at the spa for a few hours. You are requested to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your treatment, to allow a bit of time to relax in the Jacuzzi, the steam room, or the sauna. Guests with treatments booked at the Disney spas may use any spa facility during the day of the treatment, including the fitness center. It added to the experience, for me, to have time to eat a piece of fruit, drink some green tea, and use one of those chilled towels. Plus the steam room was heavenly.
Then it’s off to the waiting area. More tea, a lemon drop, and my masseuse, Jason, comes to get me. Wait, JASON?!?! A guy’s gonna do my first massage? Breathe, breathe. OK, this is going to be fine. For the record, you may request that your masseuse be of a certain gender, but the Disney spas do not guarantee your request.
Jason was very calm and reassuring. He explained where I should hang my robe and such (code for everything else!) and that I should make myself comfortable, lying face-down on the massage table. He gave me plenty of time to make myself presentable before returning for the treatment.
Now, I am someone who is always doing something, so lying still for almost an hour isn’t habitual for me. I chose not to chat, although I’m sure some guests feel more comfortable talking. Jason definitely took his cues from me. The calming space-age music played, the massage went to work on my frazzled nerves and aching back, and I finally relaxed. So this is what everyone’s raving about!
For the reflexology portion of my treatment, it basically felt like Jason was stroking my feet. My sister also got the package with reflexology, and she described her reflexology treatment as foot poking. Either way, neither of us were overly wowed by it, but it’s probably ‘cause we’re from Wisconsin. And it probably didn’t help that I keep worrying that the soles of my feet hadn’t seen a pumice stone in far, far too long. With hindsight, I probably should have booked a straight massage and skipped the discounted DVC offer. But it was fun to try something new.
If you are thinking about booking at the Grand Floridian instead of Saratoga Springs, I did find someone to share their GF experience. Jill in KC booked a one-hour massage in March of 2004. Here’s her story: “It was heavenly. First, the GF is beautiful. Once you check in at the desk you are escorted to the locker room where you are given a wrap, a robe, and slippers. You are provided a free locker to store your valuables. There is a beautiful lounge area with free water and coffee. The therapist will call you and take you to the treatment room. Before the massage begins you will be asked if there are any specific concerns you have. This is the time to discuss any modesty concerns you have, and what you are expecting from the massage. A full body massage involves turning over once during the massage. Most massages start with you face up but some therapists prefer to start face down. When you turn (I called it the beaching of the whale.) the therapist will hold the sheets in order to protect your modesty. When the massage is finished, your therapist will usually bring you water and give you a chance to lay there for a few minutes to enjoy the post-massage enjoyment. I loved my massage and am planning on getting another treatment when I go back in December, 2005.”
If you choose to go:
For the Saratoga Springs Spa
Sample treatments include a 50-minute Swedish Massage for $110, 50-minute Aromatherapy Facial for $115, 50-minute “Sleeping Beauty” Body Masque & Wrap for $120, or a Spa Manicure or Pedicure ($50 minutes for $65); “My First Manicure” or My First Pedicure” offers a first experience for guests 4-12 (25 minutes for $30).
For the Grand Floridian Spa
Sample treatments include a “Head, Shoulder and Back Massage” for 25 minutes ($65), the Grand Floridian Deluxe Facial, which also includes a hand and foot massage, for 75 minutes ($155), and “My First Facial” for guests 4-12 (25 minutes for $65).
For the Mandara Spa in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
12,000 sq. ft ancient Asian-inspired spa including: 13 treatment rooms; a steam room in designated male and female locker areas; a tea garden; and a meditation garden.
For the Palace Spa at Buena Vista Palace
This European-style Spa offers over 60 services, including massage, body treatments, facials and salon services. Their signature treatment is the Theme Park Leg Relief Wrap, which uses mud to help relieve your Epcot-weary toes. Guests at any of the seven Downtown Disney hotels are eligible for a 10% discount at the Palace Spa with a “Passport to Savings,” available at hotel front desks.
Spa Front Desk 407-827-3200