It’s a cloudy Tuesday when I pull up to the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte in the heart of Uptown. My assignment? To try the luxurious Ritz-Carlton spa out for size, with full access to all the facilities and four hours worth of treatments unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I’m a bit unsure what to expect, but it takes only a moment to valet my car (complimentary as a spa guest) before I’m off to find the spa itself.
The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte itself is everything you’d expect: upscale sophistication in hotel form with bars, a restaurant, and a swanky lobby. A short ride up the elevator gets you to the 17th floor, where your surroundings cease to look like a hotel and instead become a fully immersive retreat. It’s quiet and softly lit on the spa level, and people in white robes pad around speaking in hushed tones while looking thoroughly blissed out.
The penthouse Spa & Wellness Center spans two levels, so, as a guest, you can enjoy the pool, nail salon, fitness center, and couple’s suite in addition to the spa itself. The space is a full retreat, where you can easily spend the entire day.
The spa manager, Gillian Agre, who joined the Ritz team this year, is there and ready so within moments, I’m checked in and being escorted upstairs to see the low-lit, plushly-furnished relaxation room and the Aqua Lounge, where you can swim, lounge, dip in the hot tub, and order from the menu to have food and beverages delivered poolside.
Then, it’s back downstairs to the locker room. Once I have a plush robe and sandals on, I take a seat with a snack and cup of tea while waiting for my spa technician. Once she arrives, the relaxation process gets real.
In one of the four treatment rooms, my soft-spoken, attentive technician sets up one of the Ritz Charlotte’s signature services: The Honey and Chocolate Detox Ritual, using local chocolate and local honey (including, when it’s in season, honey from the Ritz’s own beehives). It’s a 110 minute process in which a honey mask is applied to exfoliate and soothe the skin before you get a rich chocolate body mask, to deeply nourish and hydrate. Once you rinse the honey off in the hot steam shower, the spa technician massages you with a deep moisturizer. The end effect leaves me in a bit of a relaxation-daze, with anything even resembling muscle soreness melted entirely away.
I’m lead back to the locker room, where I have a glass of lemon water and try to compose myself before my esthetician arrives to give me another signature treatment. This one, an organic facial using The Ritz’s new ESPA line, offers all natural and organic ingredients to tighten and brighten your face. All of the Ritz-Carltons nationwide incorporated the ESPA over the past year; known as one of the premier luxury skincare lines worldwide, ESPA is the clear choice for the Ritz’s top-of-the-line service.
The first part of my facial I spend chatting with the esthetician as she gets to work: she’s knowledgeable and friendly, and explains each treatment and its benefits. She goes step-by-step with cleansers, detoxifiers, and masks. For at least a short time after that, I finally drift off (it almost happened once or twice during the body scrub…) – the warmth of the bed and the calming music and dark room is just a bit too much. When I wake from my light nap, the esthetician is just finishing her work. My face is noticeably brighter and softer from the treatment, and now, four hours later, I officially feel like I’ve had the full Ritz spa experience.
They pull out all the stops – the service is spot-on, the treatments beyond luxurious, and the full experience is one that makes you forget entirely where you are. It genuinely feels like its own retreat space, where you could stay for hours on end and not even know it.
At the end, I return to the locker room once more to enjoy one of the large showers so I can rinse the mask out of my hair from my first treatment. The locker room has a full set-up with hair styling tools and products, so I emerge looking presentable enough to return to work. Just like that, I’m back on the streets of Charlotte, feeling like a million bucks and like I’ve just discovered one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets – although, of course, the Ritz spa, which is nearly always booked solid, is no secret at all. It’s the type of indulgence that you don’t forget.