In the interest of this article's Spa Review, I wanted to have a Spa experience that preserved and uplifted the name Spa. Debating between a few different places, I made an appointment at a locally renowned Day Spa & Salon in downtown Sarasota's Saint Armand's Circle, The Met. It promised a “Sanctuary of impeccable service, unrivaled expertise and complete tranquility that will awaken your senses and renew your enthusiasm for life.” After perusing their online Spa Menu, which took me about a half-an-hour to decide on which treatments of utter luxury would entice me the most, I booked the Vichy shower/Hydro Cocoon, and Herbal Detox Body wrap. I felt good about making the appointment just by hearing the sound of the receptionist's voice, and looked forward to it all week. (Yes, the Spa experience really does start with the phone experience.)

The Met was located in a primarily upscale tourist area near the beach. When I entered the building, there was the 'Fashion House' clothing store part of The Met on the downstairs floor. The marble staircase led me upstairs to the Spa reception and a well-lit retail area. The front desk was essentially 'stocked' with 3 front desk employees (and their flat panel computers) greeting me with smiles and welcoming me by name. There was no waiting, as the front desk personnel immediately took me into the Spa.

Inside the Spa treatment area was visibly differentiating in ambiance and mood, suggestive of a womb-like environment. It was dark or dimly lit, and felt oval-esque in the shape of the building. The music was consistent in every area we moved through. The walk took me through dark hallways past quiet treatment rooms, then through a sun-lit open relaxation room with cucumber filled water jugs, and a modest couch/seating area. The walls curved round into a nail room (which was more box-like, and definitive of it's purpose from an architectural point of view), and then past 2 wet rooms, and finally, into the dressing room. It was conceivable that the dressing room was much closer to the front desk, but the walk through the Spa was an experience itself. I think the longer the journey takes to get into the spa, the more the client adjusts their outside mentality, and more into the Spa mentality. The front desk agent showed me the locker room. Each locker had fuzzy, tan robes, and very Tommy Bahama beach flip flops. Both of which, I simply couldn't wait to put on. The locker rooms were not connected immediately to the restrooms, which was kind of strange. There was only one (single) bathroom outside of the locker room, and I felt they should have been connected to the locker area so that when you walk out, you are fully ready.

Robed and slippered, I made my journey into the Spa Relaxation room, and was impressed that the seemingly “modest” looking couch was actually tempurpaedic. I literally sank into the couch, and was glad I showed up for my appointment on time (15-min before the treatment time) just so I could find out about that couch. But not much time was spent there before my Spa treatment Technician showed up. Her name was Kelly, a Brit from London, in a green Safari uniform. She had worked in Switzerland, Spain and Bermuda, where she had met her husband, and had been at The Met for two years.

My "Met" Therapist led me into a granite walled wet room for a Vichy Shower. The treatment began with an invigorating Lavender Salt Scrub, each body area gently washed off with warm water, (which if you have never experienced... divine!) and then the Vichy shower. Kelly left the room, while warm water pummeled along my spine for about 15-minutes. Stimulating, invigorating and relaxing all at once, I still had to adjust my head into the face hole every once in awhile, as my face was swimming in it! And the water temperature seemed to waver cooler to lukewarm. I wondered when Kelly was coming back.

She helped me into a heated towel, and into the next room, where an herbal bath in a candle-lit room awaited me. I wasn't sure what the “hydro-cocoon” part was, so it was a nice surprise. Although a Vichy and then a bath didn't seem like necessarily the best combination (water and more water?). The bath had a combination of herbal teas, so it was like sitting in a big cup of tea, with added sea salts. A bowl of peppermint water with a washcloth (for over the eyes) sat alongside the tub. The tub was too big (long-legged) for me, and the bubbles were very loud. There was a bar for shorter people to put their feet up against, but it kept falling out of place and was a bit of a nuisance. But, how could the employee know about that unless they experience it themself? Though it sounds like a great idea, I wondered, how much can you really relax in someone else's bathtub?

Kelly escorted me back into the womb-area of the Spa, into a dark massage room for the Herbal Detox Wrap. I was comforted just to walk into the room. It was warm, feeling very safe, and contained. I got on the extra-wide massage table, where she put a warm sheet that had soaked in herbal waters (more peppermint), and wrapped me up in blankets. A few minutes of scalp work, and then left to relax for about 20-min, I really felt the deep relaxation sink in here. It must have taken me an hour of being at the Spa just to get into relaxing. I was nearly groggy by the time Kelly came back in. As it was nearing the end of the Spa hours, I could feel her “employee” wearing off a bit, by the way she unwrapped me and slapped on the Herbal Detox ointment. Perhaps she was merely pressed for time to get the treatment done in the two-hour time alloted. The scent of lemon and Thyme permeated, and stimulated me back into a bit more alertness. I was then escorted in my daze and fuzzy robe into the Relax area again onto a very comfortable chair, which Kelly lovingly covered me with a blanket, and poured me a glass of champagne, and a glass of cucumber water. This was a very nice touch, to not be hurriedly pushed back into the brightly lit reception area and pushed out the door, like most spas do. I felt they had given me permission to hibernate a little bit.

Eventually, I found my way back to the dressing room. Taking off the robe and putting on street clothes again was a bit of a downer! I wanted to leave my old shoes there and bring my Tommy Bahama slippers with me, just to bring The Met home with me. The front desk check-out agent was very friendly, and accommodating to my post-treatment mode. It made the experience seamless even at check-out. The entire experience was more than just a set of treatments, but a true Spa experience from the initial call to the checking out at the front desk.

Much of what people look for in a Spa experience is the way they are cared for like a beloved child. A Spa needs to go through every detail of guest flow moment by moment in order to do that. To create this experience, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have got to be wall-to-wall thick with detail. There needs to befeedback and much creativity to get the experience right. Someone needs to tell those therapists not to walk past the Relaxation area so fast because the stomping-around energy isn't consistent with the dazed, fuzzy robe, post-massage vibe.

Spa etiquette needs to be well versed in the psychology of hypnotic states, and the sensitivity involved in dealing with them. While the Spa itself can provide some training for the employees on this, it is really up to the Technician to carry out what a Luxury Spa actually promises. The technician provides the “Spa” experience. He or She can be trained and entrenched in SOPs designed to give the client that 'legendary service' that we all look for in a Spa. But He or She can also squelch it.

When a Spa creates the ambiance, and the Spa Technician brings you deep into that trance relaxation state, it is the responsibility of the therapist to preserve and cater to the client's state of relaxation with care and sensitivity. He or she must protect the client from the harshness of bright light, sharp sounds, quick temperature changes, all sorts of environmental factors that will bring the client out of their state of relaxation. This allows the client to expand in their own skin, melt down their sensation of tension and resistance to the harshness of the outside world or in their life. In a spa, the last thing you want is to resist against the therapist or environmental factors that irritate the senses. The Spa leaves it to the technician to put her final touch, and trusts that the quality of her hands are what the Spa promises. In my case, Kelly's final touch was a bit abrupt for the hypnotic state she so gracefully led me into.

Perhaps this is a new definition of “Hospitality” that not everyone is on the same page about. It takes Hospitality to another level by adding awareness of environments and final touches that allows someone to meditate. What environment creates a space for an expansive mind vacation? It goes beyond just feeling pampered and “loved-on”.

Overall, The Met certainly did create a seamless, ruffle free experience, and occasionally surprised me with added comforts I wasn't expecting. It was an adventure I would go back to The Met for again and again!

Author's Bio: 

Stephanie Heidemann is an Edgar/Cayce Massotherapist and Reiki Master in Sarasota, Florida. She has been practicing and going to Spas for 7 years. Heidemann is an International traveler and enjoys writing Health, Travel & Spa Review articles.