What do girls want when they travel together? A little pampering, a bit of enrichment, perhaps some adventure – and lots of time to laugh together. When girlfriends take their gatherings to the seas, they get all this and more in settings that are as personal, inspiring and beautiful as their friendships.
Like a good art museum? Then you’re really going to love Holland America Line, known for the extraordinary art collections that grace each of the 15 ships in its fleet. You could travel the world’s waterways drinking in splendor every step of the way – Ming Dynasty figures from 17th-century China; murals of angel portraits silkscreened with gold leaf; Venetian glass flowers; iron teapots from Japan that date from the end of the Edo period; a rare carved wooden figurehead of the Goddess Juno – and still not see the full scope of this cruise line’s breathtaking multimillion dollar art collection.
No matter which ship you’re on, girlfriends can take a 30- to 40-minute self-guided tour to spot the Waterford crystal world globe, Andy Warhol’s painting of Queen Beatrix, a pre-Colombian female figure or other sculptures, paintings, textiles, antique maps and cultural treasures.
To accompany the sumptuous art, Holland America offers wine tastings, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing classes, hands-on cooking classes, shopping and spa’ing. Girlfriends can also sign up for shore tours that tap their inner adventurer: a Chinese Acrobat Show in Shanghai, China; a Thai cooking class in Phuket, Thailand; Salsa & Salsa in Mexico with dancing chefs; and a “Circle of Fire” volcano helicopter experience in Hilo, Hawaii.
You don’t have to be seven years old to feel – or treat yourself – like a princess. Disney Cruise Line excels at making girlfriends, regardless of their age, feel like royalty. Three- and four-night escapes on the Disney Dream and seven-night retreats on the Disney Fantasy have the perfect mix of ingredients: adjoining staterooms simply made for late-into-the-night gab sessions, fine dining, deluxe spa, tranquil private pools, secluded sundecks, grown-up gathering places that seem designed with gal pals in mind. The result? A femme-centric vacation full of ways women can indulge, unwind, relax and rejuvenate themselves in exclusive areas.
Sink into Louis XIV-style chaise lounges in Ooh La La on the Disney Fantasy and order a round of girlie drinks. Part of Europa, a nighttime entertainment district that celebrates European travel, Ooh La La’s design was inspired by an elegant French boudoir. Aboard the Disney Dream, the place to sip champagne is Pink, an elegant, upscale cocktail bar where back-lit glass “bubbles” covering the walls mimic the effervescence taking place in your flute.
Of course pampering and relaxation are always on the agenda, and Senses Spa & Salon knows a thing or three about that. Women can spend a day getting buffed and polished in a place that is all about peace and tranquility. Even more extravagant, each girlfriend can slip into the private luxury of her own spa villa, complete with an indoor spa treatment suite connected to a private outdoor verandah with personal hot tub, open-air shower and plush double chaise lounge for lapping up those ocean views.
24 karat gold getaway
Celebrity Cruises offers a true no-boys-allowed experience aboard its newest ship, Celebrity Reflection. At Girlz Night at a Twilight Spa Party, girlfriends can giggle and socialize with their BFFs while having a hand, scalp and foot massage, mini facial and face mask. The parties are held in the AquaSpa’s expansive Persian Gardens with its relaxing grottos and chambers misted with aromatherapy-filled vapors.
This ship’s enhanced AquaSpa by Elemis offers an encyclopedic menu of treatments and therapies. Among the hot and cold sensory experiences there is one too decadent not to mention: The 24 Karat Gold Facial. This opulent 75-minute facial will take your face to its happy place through “an alchemy of expert touch, medicinal plants, Rose Quartz and a pure 24 Karat Gold Leaf mask.” This is restoring youthful glow with the Midas touch, and one that speeds up cell renewal and brings about brighter skin tone.
But that’s not all. You can get an acupuncture treatment, tooth whitening treatment, a BOTOX® Cosmetic and DYSPORT™ wrinkle treatment to soften any errant frown or forehead lines or crow’s feet and an Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction treatment to reduce the appearance of cellulite, firm and tone your skin, cleanse the body and promote inch loss. (You could chuck up to eight inches in just one session).
Throw in a St. Tropez Sunless Tanning session and an Ionithermie Cheek Lift (for your tushie not your face) and you’ll return home a new and, dare we say, improved woman. It’s like sneaking off for a nip and a tuck without the actual nip and tuck.
For wanderlusting women who pine for adventure among exotica, Paul Gauguin Cruises sets sail to Tahiti, French Polynesia and Bora Bora aboard the 332-passenger m/s Paul Gauguin. Having completed a $7 million spit shine in 2012, which encompassed everything from new furniture and window treatments to an expanded Le Casino to an integrated display case for books and art, the ships refreshed good looks complement the tropical beauty of the South Pacific.
Shore excursions provide a variety of different experiences: golfing, hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, shark and ray watching, dolphin watching, deep sea fishing. There are aqua bikes and ATVs, island waverunner tours and aquasafaris (underwater walks), glass bottom boat rides, jetboating and helicopter flightseeing. You can visit pearl farms, go on photo adventures or arrange yourself in lazy self-indulgence on the beach.
Adventure is no less diverse onboard. Girlfriends can learn countless creative ways to tie pareos (beach cover-ups) and create their own accessories at a shell bracelet making workshop. They can take classes in Tahitian language and Tahitian dance. Enrichment lectures on all facets of French Polynesia are offered, along with coconut demonstrations and how to turn fresh flowers into crowns via the Tahitian weaving technique. For girlfriends wanting to learn to dive, it is the only luxury ship in the French Polynesian islands to offer PADI certification onboard for novice divers.
Besides the casino, gal pals will find plenty of great gathering places, including a Fitness Center, a spa with Tahitian-inspired treatments, Le Salon with live piano music and Le Grand Salon, where nightly entertainment – everything from dancing to drums, rock bands to Broadway show tunes – takes place.