Norwegian Encore Mandara Spa: Wellness on the waves

European Spa boards the cruise liner Norwegian Encore on its maiden voyage to discover why sea wellness is riding the crest of a wave


By Sarah Camilleri

05 February 2020

Demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the last five years, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which estimates that 32 million passengers will opt to travel this way in 2020. This growth shows no signs of abating, with 19 new ships debuting this year from CLIA members alone.

In terms of economic impact, further research from the association reveals the industry generates $150 billion worldwide and has created more than 1.7 million jobs.

But what makes cruising so appealing is the drive by leading brands to appeal to a wider demographic. The focus is firmly on creating more memorable on-board experiences and itineraries for families as well as those seeking experiential travel and exploration. The trend for so-called ‘Skip Gen’ cruising – where grandparents and grandchildren travel together without their parents – is projected to grow, as is demand from passengers for on-board health and wellness services that go beyond pampering to embrace personalised fitness; stress, pain and weight management; and healthy living programmes.

Undoubtedly, one of the most impressive recent European debuts is Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) much anticipated Norwegian Encore, which slipped gracefully out of dock on a crisp winter’s day in 2019 to make her inaugural voyage from Germany to Southampton.

Encore is the 17th ship to join the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and the very last Breakaway-Plus class vessel. Its upscale, contemporary interior design delivers a luxurious ambience alongside a number of standout experiences, such as the world’s longest sea-bound racetrack, at 350m in length with four high-speed curves; the largest outdoor laser tag arena with augmented reality elements; and the Galaxy Pavilion, which offers a new, immersive escape room and other interactive theatre experiences. Guests can also enjoy 15 restaurants, a theatre, and time to escape and relax in a spacious Mandara Spa, located in a prime location at the stern of the ship.

Passengers relax on heated stone loungers in the ship’s Mandara Spa

Billion-dollar baby

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) operates three global cruise brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, and Norwegian Encore joins a combined fleet of 27 ships that offer 58,400 berths and travel between more than 450 destinations. Success across the group’s three distinctively different brands means it has plans to introduce 10 additional ships to its fleet by 2027.

Built at the Meyer Werft shipbuilding dock in Papenburg, Germany, Norwegian Encore boasts some significant statistics of its own. At 1,100 feet in length, it has 20 decks, 2,038 staterooms, a gross tonnage of almost 170,000 and a guest capacity of 3,998. More of a floating resort than a ship, this contemporary upscale vessel is also the proud home of the latest Mandara Spa, the 17th in NCL’s fleet.

The 2,176sqm spa commands 180-degree ocean views from its lofty vantage point on Deck 16 and is sited across the stern of the ship. Operated on behalf of NCL by OneSpaWorld, it offers a menu of 50 rejuvenating treatments, typically retailing between $159-340, which include a full range of services from Elemis, including ProCollagen and BIOTEC facials, as well as body treatments such as its Aromastone, Crystal Quartzbed and Bamboo massages. Acupuncture and Ionithermie Cellulite reduction programmes are also offered as well as a separate salon and barber, and SmileSpa services as well as CND, Kérastase, Restalyne, Thermage and TruSculpt treatments.

Beyond the spa’s reception area is an extensive thermal suite featuring a hydrotherapy courtyard, which has a central vitality pool as well as a sauna, a salt room, a laconium, a caldarium, experience showers and a Snow Paradise. A bank of heated stone relaxation loungers offers views of the ocean. The spa also benefits from 25 treatment rooms and a light and airy relaxation lounge, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and soothing projections on the walls of natural vistas from around the world.

One of the 25 treatment rooms on board

“Our goal is to give each guest the best spa experience at sea and to ensure they leave our spa relaxed, restored and rejuvenated.”

Natasha Spencer

Senior director, spa operations, OneSpaWorld

Jewel of the ocean

“Encore is one of the most beautiful spas at sea,” says Natasha Spencer, senior director of spa operations, who oversees guest satisfaction, revenue and staffing for all of NCLs Mandara Spas across the fleet. “As well as our extensive menu of spa, salon and medi-spa services, Mandara offers an amazing thermal suite experience, which helps the body to eliminate toxins and impurities, as well as encouraging relaxation. Our thermal area also has a hydrotherapy pool to soothe sore muscles and invigorate the senses.”

The spa team consists of 34 international staff, including a medi-spa doctor, an acupuncturist, two personal trainers, four hair stylists, two nail technicians and 21 therapists.

“Our goal is to give each guest the best spa experience at sea and to ensure they leave relaxed, restored and rejuvenated,” adds Spencer, who has worked for OneSpaWorld for 18 years. “All of our therapists come to us fully trained and then we advance their development through the latest on-board spa services, including signature massages such as our restorative salt stones massage and power poultice muscle release, as well as Elemis BIOTEC facials.”

Adjacent to Mandara Spa is the Technogym-equipped Pulse fitness centre where guests can book body composition analysis and a number of personalised training sessions and wellbeing classes, including: TRX Suspension training, HIIT, Row Club, Pure-form Yoga and Pilates, and RYDE Cycling.

According to Spencer, pain management services are a big focus for Mandara’s cruise-based spas. “This year we will be offering the latest pain management treatments, such as acupuncture, cupping, Elemis seaweed massage, meditation and functional stretch,” she states. “Our experts are available to address discomfort and concerns through drug-free, non-invasive on-board therapies and wellness classes.”

Sea views from the spa relaxation area

“In the development pipeline we have another six ships planned for construction in our new Leonardo Class.”

Eamonn Ferrin

Vice-president and managing director (regional), 
Norwegian Cruise Line

Global vision

Summing up a successful maiden voyage, Eamonn Ferrin, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice-president and managing director for the UK, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and Middle East markets, told European Spa: “Spa and wellbeing is increasingly important for us and that is why we have given over so much prime area on-board to spa services – they really dominate the ship.

“Relaxation and wellness is all part of our on-board experience. On this class of ship, we also have space for great fitness facilities, which most people use as they want to stay healthy. We even have a running track on deck!”

Ferrin explains that NCL has its ambitions set high and reveals that its fleet is set to expand further. “In the development pipeline we have another six ships planned for construction in our new Leonardo Class, which we will be announcing soon,” he says.

This burgeoning cruise ship industry promises numerous possibilities for the very best spa and wellness professionals who are open to a rewarding career at sea. As well as 67 land-based spas across 18 countries, OneSpaWorld, which currently employs around 5,000 spa professionals worldwide, already operates 20 cruise-ship brands and therefore is always recruiting across a variety of disciplines.

For now, though, the Norwegian Encore team is happy to celebrate the successful launch of its latest venture. “Our spa team did an amazing job putting together Encore’s Mandara Spa,” concludes Spencer. “This is certainly one of the most beautiful and impressive spas anywhere at sea.”

NB: This report was first published in European Spa magazine in Feb 2020, before the pandemic.

An exclusive private spa suite offers passengers added luxury
Water slides in the ship’s main pool offer fun for all ages

Spa statistics

Norwegian Encore Mandara Spa


Owner: Norwegian Cruise Line

Management company: OneSpaWorld

Brand president and CEO: Harry Sommer

Senior director of spa operations: Natasha Spencer

Design: OneSpaWorld

Spa size: 2,176sqm

Treatment rooms: 25

Spa team: 34 including 21 therapists, a medi-spa doctor, an acupuncturist, two personal trainers, four hair stylists, two nail technicians

Suppliers: Elemis, CND, Pulse Fitness, Technogym, TRX Suspension, RYDE Cycling

Treatment beds and loungers: Living Earth Crafts, Gharieni


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Living Earth Crafts

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