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Encore, Las Vegas, NV

Photo: Russel MacMasters

Stunning describes the Moroccan-inspired spa at the newly opened Encore all-suites hotel in steamy Las Vegas. And no surprise. Encore - an all-suites, high-rise, is from the creators of the fabulous Wynn Las Vegas.

When possible, always ask about a spa’s signature treatments, and then, if your time and budget allow, go for one.

I'm so glad I followed my own advice with the amazing 75-minute Lavender Hot Stone Ritual, a signature treatment featuring a salt-scrub and a yummy hot stone massage.

A spa's signature treatments means the spa has especially trained the personnel, or they've purposely included some indigenous product (say for instance sea salt in ocean spas), or a combination of both. 'Signature' also means they've put some thought, time and training into it, and they want to be known for it.

I chose not only a great treatment, but received it from therapist Tatiana Sosnina, who delivered it perfectly from start to finish. Happily, I was a mushy pool of relaxation.

To start, she explained the treatment — first I’d have a salt scrub, next I’d shower off in the adjacent room, and finally, I’d have the lavender hot stone massage. She asked if I had any area of injury or sensitive places to avoid. “Are there any areas you want me to stay away from with the scrub.”

“None in particular,” I responded, quickly adding, “but I like gentle pressure, especially with a scrub because I don't like it too rough.” (One of my main complaints with scrubs are those where they try to sand-blast you right out of the gate).

Tatiana smiled and nodded her understanding before instructing me to start face down in the cradle for the scrub portion.

She stepped from the room, and I took a peek into the shower room to see where I would rinse off between scrub and massage, and found more beautiful design — an oversized shower area with a Moroccan ceiling fixture.

As you check out these spa photos, you can only get a very basic feel for how absolutely gorgeous and relaxing this spa is (not to mention the beautiful hotel). You'll thank me if you do check it out in person, so follow my advice: "Go!"

I had quizzed Tatiana before she left the treatment room on how the stones would be placed. She said for the massage, she'd start me out face down with key placement of stones along my back. Then when I’d turn over, face up: “We will place stones on the throat, the heart, the solar plexus or third chakra.”

Afterward, I had to tape my recollection of it all because, I was simply too relaxed to do something so arduous as write notes.

Here's what I said just coming out of my lavender hot-stone-induced fog: “I've just had the most amazing treatment. Really, really wonderful.”

I did recall ‘fessing up to my therapist as she started the salt scrub on my legs: “Sorry, but I haven’t shaved.”

She immediately dismissed my concern as “no problem,” adding that with a scrub, it is best not to shave your legs first because it can sometimes burn.

I also recall being aware that the water was left running in the accompanying shower room for what seemed a long time, maybe 15 or 20 minutes, while she did the salt scrub. I am super self-conscious of water waste having just gone through a couple of drought periods back here in my home in North Carolina, so I did ask Tatiana about it.

She explained it took a long time for the temperature to heat up. Is that typical for new spas? I'm not sure.

But more importantly, Tatiana is a wizard with stones.

I tend to think hot stone massage can run hot or cold, no pun intended. As readers here know, my very first hot stone massage was a fiasco because the therapist placed one stone on my back and banged it with another, then repeated often until I said no more. Since then, I've shied away from stone massage until the last year or so when I decided to try them again. I’ve had some since that I liked more than others (but fortunately none others that were horrid). But I’m especially glad I stepped into the ‘try it again’ mind frame at the Encore spa.

When Tatiana finished my back (so I thought), she placed a hot compress there, which felt great, then she moved on to my legs. I immediately thought, "Oh, I should have just told her to spend all the time on my back."

As she finished my legs, she placed warm stones between each of my toes, which proved very relaxing but then - joy, joy, be still my heart - she returned her focus to my always-in-need back and did a lot more work with her stones.

She checked with me, too, quietly, on the stone temperature and her pressure several times.

And the whole time I was face down, she kept that one chakra stone atop my tailbone. It had a grounding effect, seeming to keep me focused on relaxing and letting my body fall into the table as masseuses are always instructing us to do.

When massaging my neck, arm and legs, Tatiana used one stone in just one hand, followed by a long stroke with her other hand. Doing my back, she used stones in both hands, which was heavenly - the combination of the heat, the flat feel of the stones and the exact pressure she instinctively knew how to assert all combined in perfect union.

I loved the small touches throughout Tatiana's massage, as well. She did my face first with a stone, then applied a hot towel around my face, barber-shop style, which I find so relaxing. And after the hot stone massage, she used a heated towel on my feet, which is always a nice way to remove the oil.

I also especially liked the heated neck pillow, too, but what I absolutely loved most of all was discovering a very talented masseuse in a truly lovely, tranquil spa.

Walking along the treatment hall, you'd never guess there can be up to 50 other guests, each ensconced in his/her own treatment room. That’s because it's so quiet.

Stones, says Tatiano, can be especially beneficial to people who don't like deep tissue massage. The heat of the stones can help loosen those muscles without the therapist having to work so deeply, so you can really relax more and relax better without worrying.

I left Tatiana's treatment room without a worry in the world.

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