Courtesy of Silversea
Recently, after an invigorating mid-morning massage, I was led into a dimly lit relaxation area to lounge for a bit — nothing unusual in the standard order of spa operations. Imagine my surprise, then, when an attendant showed me over to the dessert cart.
Though I'm sure I could have asked for an herbal tea without batting any eyes, I opted instead to retreat to my daybed with a truffle and a cocktail. Looking around the room, I took in the trompe-l'œil "mosaics" on the walls, reminiscent of Roman thermae, and clocked a few expressions of reverie on the faces of my fellow spa-goers as they bit into their own petits fours.
Somehow, several minutes went by before I noticed the fountain at the center of the room. It was filled not with flowing water, but with a pyramid of ice — to cool the bottles of Champagne someone had nestled there in anticipation of our arrival.
Courtesy of Silversea Silver Dawn's Otium Spa is a modern take on a Roman bathhouse.
The Champagne-filled fountain isn't a permanent fixture (yet). But it's part of the vibe that Silversea is trying to capture aboard their 10th ship, Silver Dawn, which I boarded in Lisbon for its debut this spring. The 596-passenger Dawn is a fraternal twin to the year-old Silver Moon, and Silversea devotees will find everything they've come to expect from the ultra-luxury cruise line: roomy bathtubs, walk-in closets, butler service, and Silversea's unique culinary program S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste). But with Dawn also dawns a new, somewhat unusual wellness philosophy: Otium.
"We don't want to make you eat 1,200 calories a day," said CEO Roberto Martinoli, who, with chief commercial officer Barbara Muckermann, sat down with me during Silver Dawn's inaugural sailing. "You don't come on a ship to do that. I think Otium is completely the opposite of what people are expecting from a wellness program."
Martinoli explained that "otium" is a Latin word that translates roughly to "leisure" — a key concept in elite Roman life that, millennia later, still resonated with the Italian-founded company. Roman politicians and scholars believed there was value, even enlightenment, in retreating from their duties to be a little indulgent every once in a while. For Silversea, the concept inspired some questioning of the health-hedonism dichotomy.
"The typical framework of wellness and fitness is very often based on prohibition, limitation, suffering," Muckermann added. "There's no reason for that."
Courtesy of Silversea The 596-passenger Silver Dawn is the 10th ship from ultra-luxury line Silversea.
Aboard Silver Dawn, wellness can look like caviar. Take the "Comfort Food Experience," the in-room dining extension of the Otium program: the name belies the ingredients you'll find here, which are far from down-home — or from your typical idea of "spa food." (When's the last time you were served a foie gras burger at a spa?) "Traditionally, food and beverage service never enters the spa," Muckermann said. "But if you can have Champagne and high-end caviar, why not while doing your nails?"
Passengers will find a new menu of spa treatments in the Otium spa, which was specially designed for the ship with subtle nods to Roman interior design. But a cornerstone of the program is the idea that wellness is often achieved outside the treatment room or gym. (Of course, there is a gym — with ocean views, naturally.) Otium products and services are woven into many onboard spaces, and passengers have many opportunities to order them into their suite. You might find yourself eating caviar-cream spaghetti from the Otium menu before calling your butler to draw an Otium bath, complete with a spread of infused bath salts and a curated playlist to accompany your soaking. Fall asleep on your Otium mattress — every bed has one — made up with Rivolta Carmignani linens and whatever pillow you choose from Silversea's sizable list of options.
"We want to break this typical barrier that exists, with ships or resorts, between wellness areas and the rest of the space," Muckermann said. "The idea of having chocolate after a spa treatment shouldn't be controversial."
Courtesy of Silversea Among the Otium offerings is a "bathing experience," which includes infused soaking salts and plenty of champagne.
Otium will be a key part of future Silversea ships — Silver Nova, launching in mid-2023, will have a 1,300-square-foot Otium Suite — and expanded programming is in the works. But the foundational idea is one that's already gaining traction around the wellness world: healthy living doesn't look like depriving oneself, and the line between self-care and indulgence can be a little blurry (in a good way). Ultimately, we can stop using the word "guilty" when talking about things that give us pleasure — at least for the duration of the cruise.
"We have been trying to strip the product of all those promises that this will make you younger, thinner, more beautiful, erase your cellulite," Muckermann said. "That's not going to happen. What we want is for you to get fantastic treatment and relaxation. Why? Because it feels good. It's no more complicated than that."
Silver Dawn will spend its first season in the Mediterranean before sailing to Central America and the Caribbean this winter. For more information, visit silversea.com.