By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor
Luxurious spas are de rigueur at any high end resort. However, the Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort takes the integrative spa and fitness experience to an impressive level. Arizona's stark beauty provides a stunning backdrop for this revered retreat—a behemoth 65-acre sanctuary neighboring the Sonoran Desert with the McDowell Mountains in view beyond.
The initial approach to this property, which is Arizona's longest running AAA Five Diamond hotel—24 years to date, is like happening upon a desert oasis replete with picturesque palm trees, lush landscaping and cascading fountain beckoning guests into the resort's front entrance. Mere milliseconds after I drove into the covered valet I was greeted by the property’s resident “cowboy,” offering me and my guests cold water and a warm welcome. No surprise given the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort is well-known for its award-winning service.
On this aspect of the experience Pam Gilbert, the property’s Director of Sales and Marketing, underscores an impressive point that most of Guest Services/Bell Stand team has been at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for at least 10 years, if not 20 or more and prides themselves on offering personalized service—often getting to know returning guests by name. She cites that the resort’s Director of Guest Services, Thomas Williams, was named "Outstanding Manager of the Year" by the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association and went on to win the national award from the American Hotel & Lodging Association in Washington, D.C.
And so my vacation began. After regarding the resort's gorgeous Spanish architecture from the outside, now a neutral beige versus the princess pink exterior of yore, it was time to settle in to my accommodations. There are ten different types of room options at this property that start with the simple yet meticulously detailed 525-square foot Fairmont room appropriately decorated in Southwestern décor. On the high end, the property boasts a 2,100-square foot Presidential suite complete with a living/parlor area that seats six, two bathrooms, a 600-square foot bedroom and a covered patio among other inducements. Also available are stand-alone Casita Suites, 850-square foot versions of beautifully appointed Spanish Colonial estates. The separate living and sleeping areas are a boon for families or those on a working vacation, and the gas fireplace sets a more romantic mood for couples in the winter months. The wet bar with Nespresso machine and the 42" LG flat screen television are crowd pleasers for all. The Casita area of the resort features its own private pool area with Jacuzzi, which makes staying in these detached dwellings perfect for those who truly want to get away from it all.
But, no matter where on the property guests stay, beauty abounds. According to Gilbert, the resort grounds are one of the hallmarks that set this property apart. Sonoran Desert cactus blends with lily pad lagoons, a fragrance garden and a "living wall" of flowers. With the desert flora comes local fauna, the most popular of which is Cecil—a desert tortoise with his own habitat where guests can feed, touch and otherwise ogle this gentle creature. Bunnies, blue heron, ducks, fish and water turtles are other on-site inhabitants that guests will likely see during their visit. For youngsters, the resort offers a Trailblazers Kids Club where children will meet the mascot, a bearded dragon named Skittles, plus see spiders and snakes kept in aquariums.
With bags unpacked and having soaked in my surroundings, it was time to focus on what I really wanted to do at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: hit the spa! Well & Being is an expansive on-site destination spa that bills itself as one that “embraces a foundation of whole health, inspiring guests to be healthy, balanced and a more energetic version of themselves,” which is achieved by delivering a “personal and sustainable wellness program to guests who wish to incorporate optimal health and lifestyle choices with guidance before, during and long after they leave the resort setting.” I aimed to see for myself how these laudable yet lofty goals would be achieved.
It turns out that Well & Being fuses health, wellness, nutrition, integrative medicine, cutting edge fitness classes, advanced skincare and personal care to offer an exceedingly broad range of innovative spa experiences that suit any guest’s needs or wants.
For those seeking to get, or stay, in shape while in Scottsdale, one great option is the individualized “Fitness Prescription” program. It starts with a consultation with the resort's resident exercise physiologist who performs a fitness assessment and risk analysis and discusses fitness goals, lifestyle and exercise preferences. The assessment includes three diagnostics: the BodPod, the Body Gem and the Fit Mate Pro. Quite notably, the BodPod measures body composition of fat versus lean muscle tissue while the Body Gem measures resting metabolic rate. The Fit Mate Pro is also extremely comprehensive, measuring maximum oxygen uptake, anaerobic uptake, anaerobic threshold predictions, individual training zones, strength and stamina. Wellness Coaching and Nutrition Consultation services are also available.
When you’re ready to sweat, there are any number of compelling options: Aerial Hammock Yoga, Pilates, spinning, body sculpting, Zumba, TRX and CrossFit to name a few. There is also themed programming by SICFIT and Krank Fusion. Of course, there is a fully stocked fitness center with all of the free weights, Nautilus and cardio equipment one would need to achieve health goals, whether that be to build strength and stamina or slim down. Staff fitness pros are readily available for group or one-on-one instruction.
After the fitness and nutrition endeavors, it’s a must to indulge in some relaxing spa therapy. The facilities and services offered at Well & Being are truly world class, comprehensive and rife with creature comforts that include an open air rooftop adult pool with private cabanas, co-ed grotto waterfall for the ultimate natural massage, Health Spa Cuisine and beverage services available inside the garden atrium or poolside, a wet steam room, eucalyptus inhalation room, Swedish dry sauna, hot therapeutic whirlpool, cold plunge pool and a Swiss shower. In addition to the full range of traditional spa services you would expect, such as massage, salon services, skin care, and body wraps, the resort also offers acupuncture and acupressure.
If outdoor activity is more your thing, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort also boasts a famed TPC Scottsdale Stadium Golf Course, which is home to the Annual PGA Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open (closed for renovations until November 2014), and the Champions Course. Or, the concierge can arrange any kind of excursion to get your adrenaline flowing, including bike riding, rock climbing, hiking and more.
Of course, no spa-driven sabbatical is complete without some nutritious and delicious eats. Luckily, the resort features a Healthy Cuisine menu that serves up fitness-driven fare both day and night. Offerings include made-to-order smoothies, breakfast items like house-made granola, and lunch and dinner dishes like Grilled Shrimp & Edamame Succotash, Black Bean & Quinoa Burger, and Poached Atlantic Salmon. Healthy eating options are offered at the spa café, at any of the property’s pools, or for in-room dining so there’s no excuse not to stay the dietary course. When you are ready to indulge a bit, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort does offer some incredible dining options.
Gilbert notes, "Bourbon Steak, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant, has a cellar with over 3,000 bottles, a sommelier and a Bar Commander who teaches cocktail classes twice a month. La Hacienda, named #1 Best Mexican Food by Arizona Business Magazine for three consecutive years, has a ‘Tequila Goddess’ who is one of few in the country who traveled to Mexico to be certified as a tequila expert by the Tequila Regulatory Council. La Hacienda also has more than 240 tequilas, including their own private barrels from Herradura.”
Also according to Gilbert, coming this fall the property is introducing and operating a new restaurant concept in conjunction with celebrity chef Richard Sandoval. The restaurant, which will be named Toro, will reside at the TPC Scottsdale, and its launch will coincide with the re-opening.
Having sweat it out on the fitness front, gratified myself on a range of healthy grub, and basked in more than my fair share of spa services, it was time to bid the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort adieu. Sad though that was, I left the property invigorated and ready to get back to the grind of everyday life. With my proverbial batteries recharged, I waved goodbye to that ever-present Guest Services cowboy and rode off into the Scottsdale sunset.
"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***