By Mary Alice kellogg
Sometimes SpaWatcher yearns for a simpler, time-warp era, when not every treatment had deep psychological/spiritual meaning and homework. A time when a massage didn’t necessarily thrash your innards for your own good, even if those pressure points needed a jackhammer to release tension. Something nice would be just fine, thank you. And sometimes what one is looking for can be found in an unexpected place.
Normally SpaWatcher doesn’t cover time share or shared ownership resorts, but a quick getaway to Morritt’s Resort on Grand Cayman proved surprising, indeed. First, the location: the 184-unit property with three swimming pools and an expansive white sand beach hugs the shore on the island’s Eastern Districts, blissfully rural and undeveloped. The 45-minute taxi ride from the cruise ship/resort strip hubbub of Grand Cayman’s usual suspects proved worth it. The hook was the opening of The Londoner, a 20-unit luxury building, on the occasion of the resort’s 25th anniversary. Happily – for them – the resort was fully booked, with couples and families kicking back with a plethora of activities from diving to fishing to boating, windsurfing, jet-skiing and sunning. And happily – for me – everything was so spread out in individual building enclaves set in lushly landscaped grounds, the resort seemed practically empty. Hello relaxation!
The second surprise was the food. With three restaurants – informal over-the-water Mimi’s for lunch, the Carribbean-blue David’s for dinner and an Italian restaurant across the road – I was concerned that this would be yet another case of average island industrial feeding. Nope. From the first blackened mahi-mahi sandwich at Mimi’s lunch to blowout dinners (an all you can eat Lobster Night, an evening of haute cuisine with one of the best tenderloins I’ve ever had), the food was topnotch. And then there was the key lime pie, which, by the end of my stay had become an obsession. So much that I had a slice at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day.
Of course such indulgence – it was made today! It was fluffy and tart, with the graham cracker crust of my dreams! – meant that a spa visit was imperative. Hence the third and most pleasant surprise. The tiny and unprepossessing La Mer Spa has but two massage rooms, a couples massage wet room suite with shower, a mani-pedi station and a tiny sauna. That’s it. But in Spa World, it’s not the size of the facility but the heart and execution behind it. La Mer’s ambitious menu of massage, facial and body treatments, using top shelf French YonKa products, would stack up to a spa three times its size.
A SpaWatch digression here. When asked, and I am frequently, what my favorite spas are, I throw out a couple of the biggies like destination spas, five-star hotel or resort standouts. And then my curve ball: a three-room spa in Bora Bora, two of the treatment rooms located 30 feet up in treetops. Small can be memorable.
Not that La Mer in Grand Cayman has Bora Bora’s exotic locale – although the water is a similar brilliant blue. It’s the treatment. I chose the 75-minute Phyto Marine Algae and Mud Body Wrap. In the new couples room replete with shower, my savvy technician Jennifer first did a full body exfoliation with an essential oil/sea salt combo. (Gently, thank you. Having been subjected to numerous salt scrubs in my line of work — administered by technicians hellbent on removing all skin, not just the dead cell part — this one was pleasant yet got the job done.) A quick shower to remove the product, then I was slathered with body-temperature soothing mud and wrapped in blankets for a 15-minute scalp massage and 15 minutes more to just … be. Another shower, then a half-hour full-body massage with moisturizer. The massage, wonderfully, was gentle, too, without pain or pummelling. Bliss.
While this kind of body scrub/wrap is supposed to tone and firm (among other things), I never expected the result to banish any signs of thrice-a-day key lime pie, nor the effects of pina coladas past. Still, my skin was glowing happy instead of besieged, muscles relaxed and spirit as calm as the resort’s laid back ambiance. Simple is good. Simple works.
And yes, you don’t have to own a unit to stay therre. The luxe new Londoner has a special going from $250 a night until the end of October; the older units, all with throwback Caribbean charm, can also be had for less. Happy birthday, Morritt’s! Thanks for the great spa experience. And the pie.
Mary Alice Kellogg, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.Visit MaryAlicekellogg.com