Spa & Salon at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Spa & Salon at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City|Golden Nugget

There’s the rub: Our guy in Atlantic City has a spa-tacular day at the Golden Nugget, Caesars, and Hard Rock

Four treatments in one day? A dedicated reporter takes self-sacrifice to new heights on behalf of his Bettors Insider constituency.

Chuck Darrow

Chuck Darrow

When it comes to providing information and direction for my readers, no sacrifice is too great. Which is why, on a recent cool-and-foggy Tuesday, while most Americans were no doubt at work with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts, I undertook the selfless, somebody-has-to-do-it-task of availing myself of four--count ‘em, four--spa treatments at three different Atlantic City hotel-casinos.

The inspiration for this epic example of obligation fulfillment and self-sacrifice was the impending Atlantic City Spa Week observance, an annual citywide promotion of the town’s wellness-and-relaxation facilities that commences April 22.

Sure, I could have simply interviewed a couple of people involved in the AyCee spa realm--that’s what less-dedicated reporters would have done: Take the easy route. But as I saw it, the only way to do the story was to, um, put my body on the line, if you will, and undergo the four treatments.

And don’t think that massages are just frivolous indulgences for those who keep the lights on at casinos. The fact is, spending hours on the floor of your favorite gambling den can have a negative effect on various body parts.

Players, noted Christine Papastanos, supervisor at Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s Spa & Salon, patronize her facility because, “Their shoulders are next to their ears because it’s stressful being at the table or slot machine because you're seated in the same position for a long amount of time. So, they come to the spa and get stretched out, and then they feel like a million bucks.”

Thus, in the interest of the welfare of Atlantic City casino patrons, what follows is a recounting of my unyielding devotion to duty in their service:

After a breakfast of decadent cinnamon-and-vanilla French toast and chocolate milk at Michael Patrick's Brasserie inside the Nugget (I required carbs and sugar to ensure I had the energy to spend some three hours total having my flesh kneaded and my mind soothed), I was ready to go.

11 a.m., Spa & Salon (Golden Nugget):

The day started on a most pleasant note with a Sweet Honey Magnolia Massage ($75 Spa Week price). This is a standard Swedish massage using a thicker-than-normal, organically devised oil that, explained Papastanos, stimulates much-needed hydration in the body. “We ask that you don’t take a shower after the treatment so that the oil penetrates into your pores. The benefit is pure hydration--and it's not oily. It dissolves right into your skin, just like a lotion.”

I obviously couldn’t feel the effects of hydration, but it did feel like the tension in my muscles began to melt the moment my therapist, Kathy, applied the pungent-but-not-overly-sweet-smelling oil and began manipulating my flesh.

Kathy expertly focused on particular trouble spots I singled out as meriting attention (you’d be surprised how many times in the past my requests to zero in on specific points went unheeded, or, at best, resulted in one or two disinterested extra squeezes).

I also appreciated that the recorded music to which Kathy applied her ministrations was appropriately atmospheric, but not overly “New-Agey” (read: ponderous and uninteresting).

Golden Nugget Spa & Salon; Brigantine Boulevard and Huron Avenue; 800-777-1177 (ext. 65001).

As is always the case with a great massage, the 50-minute session ended in what seemed more like 10 minutes, so it was off to the men’s locker room to get dressed and head to my second—and longest—appointment of the day.

1 p.m. Qua (Caesars Atlantic City)

I double-dipped at the Roman-bath-themed Qua; both treatments were a departure from the standard rubdown.

The first was a 50-minute “Mind and Sole” ($80) session which totally ignored the area between the shoulders and ankles. According to Qua spa supervisor Laurie Vasquez, there are several reasons one might choose this approach.

“This is a treatment for people who want to relax [as opposed to those who need physiological therapy], who want to enjoy the spa experience,” she offered. Vasquez added this could also appeal to people with physical issues that prevent them from lying on their stomachs (the client remains on his or her back the entire time), and to shier folks as well.

“This is a good treatment for those who choose not to remove all of their undergarments, or for someone who's nervous about being on a massage table,” she said.

Whatever the reason for indulging one’s self in it, it can be said without fear of contradiction that the “Mind and Sole” treatment is a ticket to Relaxationville.

My therapist Janet, who has an enchanting North-of-England accent, began the session with a ginger-rosemary pumice-based scrub applied to the hands and feet. Those extremities were subsequently returned to, this time with applications of a menthol-and-camphor cream.

The “ocean of lotion” continued with a coconut oil scalp massage, which, in itself, is worth the price of admission.

Because I requested it, Janet performed an optional (at no extra cost) neck-and-shoulder massage. If I hadn’t already reached a blissful state of relaxation, this part of the treatment would have put me there.

Again, 50 minutes flew by, but this time, I stuck around for another 25 as I availed myself of something called “Shirodhara.” It’s a head-only treatment that involves applying an oil of Indian origin that is kept in a special brass bowl, and focuses on what the more mystical among us refer to as the “third eye” in the middle of the forehead. It is usually part of a 50-minute “Shirodhara and Reflexology” ($80) treatment that includes a foot massage.

Incidentally, the private room where all this took place has to be among the largest such spaces in Atlantic City. And please note that the prices quoted above are in effect April 28-May 3 during what Qua has dubbed “Spatacular Week.”

Caesars Atlantic City, Boardwalk at Arkansas Avenue; 609-343-2400.

By the time the Shirodhara ended, I certainly had more blissing out than any human required for one day. But I work best in the face of daunting challenges, and besides, I couldn’t disappoint the BettorsInsider audience. So I steeled myself for one more round of disrobing and submitting myself to another 50 minutes on the table.

4 p.m. Rock Spa & Salon (Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City)

The impressive sprawling, multi-level Rock Spa was where I signed up for what was the most intriguing of treatments. Called “Synchronicity” ($155), it is described on the facility’s web page as a “pulsating massage featuring a masterfully blended soundtrack. Treatment taps into memories to create an experiential journey, in sync with a performance of techniques, pressure and rhythm. Infused with your choice of natural organic essential oils to reduce stress, ease muscle tension and detoxify.”

The key points are that music (naturally, this being Hard Rock) plays a crucial role beyond that of creating a restful atmosphere, and the therapists don’t just massage you, but do so in rhythm to the music.

So, the first order of business was selecting the soundtrack to the Swedish-style massage. With the help of Sandy, the therapist, I browsed the musical menu, which features everything from Shaggy and Jason Mraz to Frank Sinatra and Pat Benetar, on a tablet. I ultimately landed on the playlist called “Chill,” a collection of songs that mostly blended mid-tempo, deep-grooved instrumental tracks with lush R&B ballads.

I’m not sure that Sandy kept in rhythm with the music 100 percent of the time (although there were many times I could sense she was totally locked into the rhythmic “pocket”), but it ultimately made no difference, thanks in large part to the many little touches that made the “Syncronicity” a perfect capper to the day: The camphor-and-lime foot scrub, the hot towel applied to my back and, especially, Sandy’s wonderful strategy of hopscotching between deeper manipulations and feather-light pressure.

Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City; Boardwalk at Virginia Avenue; 609-449-6481.

The day I hoped would never end alas, did. But the glow of my selfless public service remains, and it’s on to the next opportunity for self-sacrifice in Atlantic City.

Hmm, I wonder how many lobster dinners I can do in an evening…

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