Ritz-Carlton - Charlotte, NC

August 22, 2010

 

The 13,000-square-foot, bi-level penthouse Spa & Wellness Center of the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is the icing on the cake for this Uptown Queen City luxury hotel.

 

You can read in two prior reports in examiner.com about our surprise upgrade to the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton’s penthouse suite, and how this new hotel is the first Charlotte property and first in the chain to achieve LEED®-gold certification for environmental stewardship.

 

We can attest the design of this boutique facility is among the best of its size.

 

Green verses gigantic: that is the battle spas weigh when trying to gain recognition yet remain environmentally friendly. Most associate big with better when it comes to spas: the more square feet the better to build massive pools with waterfalls, dueling hot tubs, dozens of treatment rooms, full-service salons, and steam, sauna, and meditation rooms with fireplaces and napping rooms.

 

The Charlotte property is a bit small by Ritz standards at only 146 rooms (though still a striking 18 stories high), and that makes it even more impressive that they’ve devoted so much space and attention to their Spa, Fitness Center and Aqua Lounge.

 

Big or small, the spa experience is determined by how well the planned square footage is utilized. Does it give you enough room to prepare for your treatment? Does it help you relax before and after? Does it make you feel good about spending your time and money there? Does it meet your needs?

 

Much like what went into achieving the LEED®-gold certification, the spa was planned to accommodate what patrons associate with great spas, but in this case, also, with best green practices. Spas are notorious gobblers of resources – think about all that water and washing — so again, such an emphasis is impressive, as is the spa overall.

 

The Spa & Wellness Center at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte features treatments utilizing 100% organic products. It also features a bromine-treated swimming pool designed to avoid the effects of traditional harsh pool chemicals.

 

Signature spa experiences include the unique Green Your Body Eco-Treatment, using organic and vegan essential oils as well as environmentally-respectful scrubs and polishes.

 

In addition, there are personal training sessions, weekend yoga classes and wellness counseling that can incorporate the hotel’s complimentary cycling and organic cuisine as key components in a guest’s overall health planning.

 

Like all arriving guests, we were first are asked to select a slick black rock from a waiting bowl at spa reception and write our goal on it in silver marker pen. The therapists then try to incorporate the goal in the treatment.Fletcher’s goal for his “Drift to Sleep” treatment was simply: Relax and Sleep. My aim, however, was quite lofty for my “Intuitive Body Work” session: Tranquility + love + peace. (I’ve always been an overachiever).

 

Spa reception noted my intrigue with the rocks, incidentally, and allowed me to play with a second one the next day. This time my goal was to “Celebrate,” plus, as I departed, they presented me my own Happy Birthday rock keepsake. We keep them all in a silver bowl to remind us of our spa pampering Ritz-style.

 

This spa’s comfort level is terrific. The spa has a tranquil, sophisticated décor, clean lines and compatible colors from blonde and dark woods, to blue accents and taupe earth tones.

 

Large windows let in sunlight. Lounge areas are comfortable and well stocked with refreshments and reading materials. 

 

I was surprised to find a flatscreen TV in the ladies’ relaxation lounge, but I guess in the Queen City, it’s imperative to keep up with the Charlotte Panthers, the Bobcats basketball team (with Michael Jordan among the owners), and the minor league Charlotte Knights.

 

There are roomy showers, a sauna and all the toiletries you’d need pre- and post-treatment, including something I’ve not usually found in spas: electric rollers. Nice touch.

 

Similarly, Fletcher noted hot-lather machines for shaving, and locker rooms with enough room to sit in front of lockers big enough to hold all your clothes without jamming them in. There was also a multi-headed shower, and don’t be afraid to ask for help to get all the bells and whistles to work. It’s worth it.

 

The Ritz-Carlton opened in October 2009 and has earned the AAA Five-Diamond award in record time, no doubt in part because of the wellness complex.

 

From the spa area, you walk up a flight of stairs to the Fitness Center with state-of-the-art equipment – the treadmills overlook Uptown Charlotte skyscrapers — and that relaxation oasis, the pool area.

 

It’s here where we relaxed pre-treatment in our robes filling out our spa questionnaires and taking in that wonderful city view. I even took a quick dip in the separate whirlpool, while Fletcher braved the slight chill of the main pool. The spa attendant quickly arrived with a glass of welcome champagne and a small parfait sweet treat. Great start.

 

 We were soon called downstairs for the treatments.

 

As noted, Fletcher had selected that signature treatment “Drift to Sleep,” which he was quite excited about it. At 120 minutes, it was designed to “promote sleep at a deep level of sub-consciousness,” and help a person with an over-active mind (i.e., Fletcher) fall and stay asleep.

 

In the treatment room, the therapist Mark asked Fletcher if he had selected the treatment because he was having trouble falling asleep or if he was just interested in learning about sleep and relaxation. He answered “Yes” to both.

 

Mark described a few techniques to prepare for a good night’s quickly: avoid watching TV before bedtime or in the bedroom; don’t drink coffee or alcohol before bed; avoid strenuous activity before bedtime.

 

Mark said that the oft-suggested remedy of a glass of warm milk does help promote sleep because it containa chemicals that help achieve sleep.

 

Mark started with a foot wash for Fletcher using a lavender-scented soap, the herb associated with relaxation, and then proceeded to a light body scrub, followed by a warm shower, and finally a full-body massage.

 

Throughout, the therapist can manipulate the lights in the room, too, changing the brightness and the color. And soft music filled the room as well.

 

After the massage, Mark quietly exited the room so Fletcher could drift to sleep, and it almost worked. Fletcher reported his breathing settled into that early stage of sleep, yet the effects wore off in a couple of minutes. So he simply chose to rest on the massage table until he finally got up, showered and waited for the therapist  to return.

 

While the treatment didn’t achieve the “drift off” goal, Fletcher noted that it was a fine massage and very relaxing. He also noted that his therapist did not ask about the rock.

 

I, too, was disappointed when mine did not ask me about my rock, i.e., the goal written on it for the session. I thrust it out to her, though and she simply smiled.

 

We both loved the idea of putting the goal in writing so would like to see the practitioners involved in the concept.

 

I found my therapist’s approach to the signature Intuitive Bodywork about what I expected. Angela worked on my problem areas – neck and back, aggravated by too much time at a keyboard.

 

I especially liked how the treatment started with a nice foot soak allowing an adjustment mentally before hopping on the massage table. And her touch was a good one — just the right pressure.

 

It’s a good thing we got in that relaxation on Day 1, because the second day, we hit the ground running to check out some of the newest additions to Uptown, all easy walking distance from The Ritz-Carlton:

  • The new 145,000-square-foot Mint Museum (www.mintmuseum.org or 704-337-2000), greatly expanded from the old Mint Museum of Craft + Design on Tryon;

  • Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (www.ganttcenter.org or 704-547-3700);

  • The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (www.bechtler.org or 704-353-9200);

  • The multi-million-dollar refurbished Discovery Place kids’ museum with IMAX theater (www.discoveryplace.org or 704-372-6261);

  • Plus the long-awaited and much-touted NASCAR Hall of Fame (www.nascarhall.com or 704-654-4400). Be sure and set aside several hours for this one.

“That’s what’s so great in this city,” General Manager David Rothwell told us. “You can walk everywhere.”

 

We’d add that what’s also great is the new, award winning Ritz-Carlton and its chic spa.

 

If You’re Going: The Ritz-Carlton is located at the corner of North College Street and East Trade, at 201 East Trade Street, Charlotte, NC. For reservations, visit www.ritzcarlton.com, or call 800-241-3333 or 704-547.2244 or contact a travel professional.

 

For more on Charlotte: Go to www.charlottesgotalot.com. We found the Insiders' Guide to Charlotte by former Charlotte Observer journalist Craig Distl very helpful.

 

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