Peel me a grape! Or more likely these days, pour me a glass of Champagne -- and keep it coming, along with salted caramel chocolate and truffled popcorn. That kind of Roman indulgence is the inspiration behind Silversea Cruises' new spa concept, Otium.
Silversea has some clear momentum among luxury cruise lines. That's partially due to the investment that the line has received from parent company Royal Caribbean Group; line president Roberto Martinoli said as much when the newest cruise ship, Silver Dawn, was christened in Lisbon, Portugal on March 31, 2022.
But beyond investment, Silversea taking an innovative lens to its onboard and shoreside experience. The changes started in 2019, before the pandemic, when Silversea trialed its S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) culinary concept. What's cool about S.A.L.T., which made its full debut on Silver Moon last year, is that it put local flavors of the destination forward, not only through special curated shore excursions, but also on the ship, through classes, lectures and a restaurant where the menu changes from port to port.
The Otium spa concept is similar in ambition, in that it aims to bring wellness beyond the spa and into your suite. Silver Dawn's cabins start at 334 square feet, and with their sumptuous furnishings and large bathrooms, they can be a welcome haven at the end of the day. The Otium program recognizes this, with a series of experiences designed to bring pampering directly to you.
How does this all work in practice? We found out in late March during a weeklong "shakedown" cruise on Silver Dawn where we squeezed in as many Otium spa offerings as we could. (Hey, someone has to do it.) Here's what we discovered.
Our sailing took place from Lisbon, where temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit; the wind from the Atlantic Ocean meant there was always a slight chill in the air, even if it was sunny out.
All Silversea suites come with a butler and mine, Oleto, was eager to show me all that Otium had to offer. (Otium, btw, is supposed to be pronounced AUGHT-ziem, according to Martinoli. But we also heard AUGHT-ee-um from Chief Commercial Officer Barbara Muckermann, as well as OH-tee-um from various staff. The line would like to avoid the latter).
With an inviting view of Lisbon during a port day, my balcony called to me -- and I could not resist an outdoor snooze. I called Oleto to set up the Otium balcony experience.
Otium has two flavors of balcony benefits, one for warm weather and one for cold. The chill in the air prompted Oleto to ask me for my hot chocolate preferences -- milk, dark or white? Milk. A dollop of liqueur such as Bailey's or no? Not today. House-made marshmallows? Yes, please, lots.
Oleto arrived with the modern version of hot chocolate, the balls that dissolve in the hot milk. After putting down a white tablecloth on our balcony table, he had us sit and stir with the tiniest of whisks as he poured. A cashmere blanket for our lounger accompanied the ritual.
Once he left, I stretched out on my balcony lounger, my yet-unopened book beside me, blanket on my lap, hot chocolate close at hand, the sun on my face. It was a moment of Zen in an otherwise busy cruise -- and I didn't know I needed it until that very minute.
Likewise, a bath is never on my "must do" list, for reasons that have everything to do with maximizing my time and the fact that a long, hot shower usually seems much more appealing. But the combination of the deep bathtubs on Silver Dawn -- in all suites, except those that are accessible -- and Oleto's quiet persistence encouraged me to succumb to the new Otium bath experience.
The ritual is slightly more elaborate than what you find on the balcony. Oleto entered the suite with a choice of three types of bath salts. I made my selection of figs and cedar scented salts after breathing deep, and off he went into the bathroom to set things up.
A few minutes later, I was called back in, to a transformed room. Faux candles surrounded the frothy tub. A wooden bath tray spanned the width, with a strategically placed glass of Champagne on one side and a pistachio macaron on the other. The room smelled divine.
The bath experience comes with its own Otium soundtrack, but the portable speakers weren't working, an apologetic Oleto told me. He was able to turn the music on from my bedroom TV, for that background ambiance.
Once Oleto left, I stepped in, carefully using the strategically placed grab bars. I found myself able to maneuver despite the width of the tub, although I can see why a shorter journalist, mindful of falling, chose just to dip her feet in. I turned on the tub jets, put my head back on the bathtub pillow and waited for the Otium of it all to take over.
And it did. Again, this was an indulgence I didn't know I needed. In an onboard presentation, Muckermann told us that the bath experience was perhaps best deployed after a long day exploring on shore. In my opinion, it's well worth doing any time on your cruise.
It can take time to get used to having a butler -- at first you don't want to ask for too much. But emboldened by how well things had gone so far, I asked Oleto if he could bring me the new Otium pillow menu, as I found the default feather version to be a little limp for my tastes.
Oleto came with a box of pillow choices, selected by firmness. I also learned that the Otium sleeping experience goes beyond your pillow to the bed itself. Silversea teamed up with the Italian company Rivolta Carmignani for its 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and remade the mattress. The Soft Touch design has 11 layers and 400 springs per square meter, along with a hypoallergenic topper. You can even add a night scent if you want.
I didn't need all that. My new firm pillow kept me snoozing through the night, usually until Oleto rang with room service breakfast in the morning. For someone who normally needs a weighted blanket and the moon in the exact position to really get a good night sleep, that was perfect.
As a luxury line, Silversea maintains a certain onboard atmosphere. People dress for dinner and even "casual" nights are a far cry from the leggings and sweaters that so many of us have been used to wearing during the pandemic.
Based on a 2018 sailing on Silver Muse, I already knew that Silversea offered one of the best room service set ups at sea, with white tablecloths and course-by-course service -- not to mention the caviar on demand. With Otium, the line decided to add its own spin on "comfort food," with a special menu of small luxurious bites.
I never had a chance or stomach space to try the Otium menu's star, the foie gras burger -- although reports from others proclaimed it as decadent as you'd think. A snack of truffled popcorn hit the spot one afternoon, however. And we couldn't stop eating the truffled Otium-branded cashews, placed in our cabin and refilled every night by Oleto.
My only complaint? The Otium menu is currently only offered during dinner hours, when I was busy trying other restaurants. On the longer cruises that Silversea specializes in, however, I can see where dinner in your cabin would hit the spot.
On my last day onboard, I emerged from my Otium in-room cocoon and ventured down to the heart of the revamp, the spa itself.
Silver Dawn's Otium spa is different from what you find on sister ship Silver Moon; the line is not going to retrofit older ships, Martinoli said. On Dawn, the line got rid of the for-fee thalassotherapy pool to make the thermal relaxation space bigger.
We're not going to lie, we miss having a pool of some sort in our thermal ministrations, especially since the original brochure and video ad for Otium showed a woman coming out of a pool. The thalassotherapy concept will be revisited on Silversea's next new ship, the larger Silver Nova, which debuts in 2023, Martinoli said.
What is nice about Silver Dawn's Thermal Suite is that it's complimentary to all guests during certain hours. There are two sets of steam rooms and sauna, separated by gender, with showers available for both. Pro tip: Look at the murals on the walls to know which one is for you -- the male god signifies men, while the goddess side is for women.
We also loved the scrubs and loofahs that we could choose as we entered. Again here, we had a choice of scents, depending on our mood. We also liked the explanation we received from the therapist on how to use them -- a personal touch that was lacking in larger, more elaborate thermal suites we have seen on mainstream cruise lines.
Also new and key to the Otium concept -- a selection of snacks, cocktails, mocktails and Champagne to enjoy while you relax. During our morning time here, we went the mocktail route, particularly because it's not necessarily a good idea to drink too much before going into such a warm environment. The salted caramels, though: That was a welcome indulgence.
I'm saving the best for last, as it's hard to get more indulgent than a 100-minute massage.
Do you need 100 minutes? Perhaps not. But would you fully relax and let go, allowing the therapist to pummel out all that stress that you've been storing up this past year? Yes. Yes, you would.
More cruise passengers have been choosing longer 75- and 90-minute massages since service has resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Susan Bonner, chief commercial officer of OneSpaWorld, the company that oversees spa services not just on Silversea but on 19 other cruise lines. "We've seen an increase in 100 minutes," she told us at a news conference. "That's what guests are migrating toward."
When Silversea asked her to company come up with the Otium concept, it came as a welcome challenge, Bonner said. "My favorite is the ultra-luxury guest," she told us. "It sounded like a magical opportunity. It sounded like what the world needed."
The four 100-minute treatments are decadent in their description, and the one I tried, the signature Otium, was a cross between a hot stone massage and a regular deep tissue. While I could hear a presentation going on from the theater below, I still had no trouble being lulled to a near catatonic state.
And don't worry, if you don't want 100 minutes and the accompanying $399 price tag (gratuities included), shorter are treatments available. Bonner also said that her company was "very data driven organization." Once the company is able to see Otium in action, she said, adjustments would be made.
Whatever tweaks are made, the main purpose of Otium is geared around "the ease of spending a day" with spa treatments. "We were trying to infuse that idea of pleasure," Bonner said.
And we did find that with all of the concepts that Otium provides, you really could build a full day around the spa, from putting on your special robe that the spa delivers to your suite the night before to the Thermal Suite to all of the in-room amenities that we mentioned already. After all that we've been through these past few years, we deserve it.