Expert answers to your spa questions
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By Susie Ellis
January / February 2006
Q: Are there spas that accept insurance to cover the costs of a weight loss program?
A: Structure House in Durham, North Carolina; Bridge Health Recovery Center in Rockville, Utah; Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida; Cooper Wellness Center in Dallas; WellMax Center for Preventive Medicine in La Quinta, California; the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California; and Canyon Ranch in Tucson and Lenox, Massachusetts, are among the spas that will provide receipts that you can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. Insurance providers are much more likely to pay if you have a doctor's diagnosis of a medical condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. In addition, a 2002 IRS ruling allows you to deduct weight loss programs as a medical expense if you meet certain criteria, such as being obese. Also note that some insurance carriers cover treatments by credentialed complementary-care practitioners (massage therapists, nutritionists, yoga teachers) if the service contributes to weight loss.
Q: Please recommend a decent Russian bath in the New York area.
A: I have hilarious memories of my husband and me at the Tenth Street Russian Bath House in New York, dousing ourselves with cold water in the incredibly hot schvitz (Yiddish for "sweat"). Russian-style steam baths (banyas), while not luxurious, seem to be experiencing a revival. Newer, cleaner, and more female-friendly ones have opened, among them Okeanos in midtown Manhattan, Great Jones Spa downtown, and the Sandoony USA in Brooklyn. For Russian baths elsewhere, search the Internet using the terms Russian bath and banya, schvitz, or platza (a massage with a "broom" made of steam-soaked leaves).
Q: The vegetarian spa list on Spafinder.com includes places that serve vegetarian and vegan options. But I'm looking for a spa where there's no meat or fish on the menu.
A: The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa, and Sanoviv on the Baja coast of Mexico both fit the bill. Just be aware that the former is Ayurvedic (see Luxury SpaFinder November-December 2005 issue for a report) and the latter is part of a medical institute. Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, and Sanivan in Hurleyville, New York, come close, offering mostly vegetarian food with just a few fish options.
I've just visited...
What I loved
The over-water villas, some accessible only by boat, and the gorgeous turquoise water. Treatment rooms with glass floors so that you watch fish among the coral while being massaged. The two-bedroom Private Reserve villa, even at $10,000 a night: It has a private spa and gym, plenty of space for entertaining, a congenial Mr. and Mrs. Friday, and a water slide from the third floor into the luminescent sea. Magical.
That luxury goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability. Having the Maldivian Sand Massage under the beach palms. Flexible dining hours and New York-quality cuisine.
What I didn't love
The lack of air-conditioning in the indoor-outdoor bathrooms in many suites. My much anticipated ruby massage, despite the ruby floating in the massage oil. Getting to shore from the over-water villas at low tide.
Make sure you...
Don't overpack. Believe the resort motto: "No news, no shoes." And if you're traveling to other Maldives resorts by seaplane, you're limited to 55 pounds of luggage anyway.
011-960-664-0304 or www.sixsenses.com