Best Cruise Ship Spa
- A Nordic Bathing Experience

by Elsa Dixon

A review of LivNordic spas on the Viking cruise ships

Best Cruise Ship Spa
- Nordic Bathing Night

I was onboard the Viking Sky cruise ship, wondering about the spa treatments and thermal suite. I wasn't sure at first.

But it was the poster showing a picture of a lonely ice-blue bench in a little ice-blue room with the alluring title of "Let it snow! See you at The Spa for Nordic Bathing Night" that reeled me in. Before you could say "Snow Grotto," I had phoned reception at the Liv Nordic Spa and was buying a no-nonsense black swimsuit for the occasion.

lady on a cruise shipElsa on the Viking Sky cruise ship

Soothing music eased my trepidation as I lay outstretched in the spa area, next to two other couples on the luxurious sauna beds, waiting for the revitalizing treatment to begin. I glanced around at the low electric fires burning along the edge of the wall to my right and the blue snow cave winking to my left. The ambiance was warm and inviting. 

Soft footsteps introduced Mihajlo from Macedonia and Simi from South Africa. They quietly explained the history and philosophy of the Nordic Bathing Tradition to us. The ritual originated in Finland. It usually involves alternating between a hot finnish sauna (or aromatic steam room) and a dip into cold water or a roll in the snow.

In some places, there is an "iss hull" (hole cut into the ice in Norwegian) where a person plunges in and a rope to haul one out!

sauna beds in a spaRelax on the luxurious Sauna Beds

Best Cruise Ship Spa
- What are the Benefits of this Procedure? 

The sauna causes the blood vessels to expand, and when exposed to the cold, the vessels contract, and the pores close. This process relaxes tired muscles, detoxes, and boosts circulation, while layers of heat are stored in the body, boosting the immune system.

Check out the video below of the changing rooms and thermal tub in the Liv Nordic Spa!

Best Cruise Ship Spa
- Liv Nordic Spa Procedure

In the LivNordic Spa onboard the Viking Sky cruise ship, the experience is more cultured and sophisticated, with body treatments like an exfoliating scrub and nourishing mask treatment.

In addition, each guest receives an Eco Beauty Box containing a scrub brush and beauty products. GoGerd, a Swedish brand, produces quality merchandise, keeping costs down by using inexpensive, simple biodegradable packaging. 

beauty bucket with a brush in itThe Eco Beauty Box

Simi showed me how to use the Birch Scrub Brush in delicate upward strokes to exfoliate the neck and facial areas. The Scandinavians acknowledge the healing properties of the leaves and bark of the birch tree. These natural chemicals act as anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal agents.

I applied the Cloudberry Facial Mask, lay back, and relaxed. Inhaling the pleasing fragrance while deeply breathing in and out, I felt the tension leave my body. Next was the application of the Blueberry Queen Cream, and finally a wipe down with a soft towel.

Best Cruise Ship Spa
- Hot Sauna alternating Snow Grotto

Now for the fun part! I was relieved to hear that, unlike in most Scandinavian saunas where nudity is a rule of thumb, I would be allowed to keep my swimming suit on while I steamed in the moist heat. But, there was another unusual ritual to surprise me: Simi appeared with a 'broom' of leaves, and Mihajlo explained that he would whack us on the legs and arms.

birch leaves against a legWhacking with the birch leaves!

Even as early as the thirteenth century, the ladies in Scandinavian public bathing houses used the birch broom on their clients till the skin turned pink, massaging the bather's skin, and generating heat.

Birch leaves are gathered in Springtime when they are most nutritious, tied around a wooden handle, and dried during winter. When needed, the leaves are rehydrated by soaking them in water, releasing aromatic oils. I succumbed to the broom with slight apprehension, but the light slapping left only a pleasant tingling sensation. 

A snow grottoThe Snow Grotto

Then it was time for the snow cave. Stepping into the ice-cold and being covered in soft snow was an invigorating experience. I now understood what Mihajlo meant when he explained the healing properties of contrasts:

The fireplace versus the water fountain at the entrance, the steam versus the snow, the dry sauna versus the cold plunge pool, the light versus the dark, and the sound of the general room versus the stillness of the sauna. 

thermal baths in a SpaThe Thermal Baths

Best Cruise Ship Spa
- Time for Reflection

After repeating the process a few times, I went to the relaxation area, and sank into the bathing bed in the heated tile lounge for the final few minutes of deep relaxation, reflection, and a foot massage.

Mihajlo explained that, as a child, people told him that his warm palms had healing powers. So, he went on to study massage procedures, eventually achieving a master's level in Reiki Swedish massage and physiotherapy. He loved that his work allowed him to "tailor-make the treatments, restoring physical and emotional well-being." 

thermal pools in a SpaSink into the mineral-rich pools

What makes Liv Nordic Spa different from other spas is its Signature Service, the Northern Bathing Ritual. The Snow Grotto is currently a feature in six Viking cruise ships. Other services offered are a Swedish, deep tissue, and Swedish Mindful massages. In addition, the Spa facilities include a substantial mineral-rich hydrotherapy pool.

Having experienced the profound effect of the Northern Bathing Ritual and the Grotto, I wholeheartedly agree: "Let it snow!" This must be one of the best cruise ship spas!

The Nordic Spa procedure does not have some of the things you might expect in a spa; there is no thalassotherapy pool, no hot tub, nor hydrotherapy pools. You may also miss the hot stone massage, herbal sauna or salt room. But the Liv Nordic Spa is focussed on the Finnish hot and cold alternating treatments.

- Story and photos by Elsa Dixon

Author Bio:

Who is Elsa? Elsa is an author, travel writer and a professional photographer. You can find Elsa's very interesting Bio on

You can find Elsa's website, Travels with Elsa, on

To read more of Elsa's published Articles please visit

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If this article has made you want to sample a similar Spa experience, more information on the Viking Sky cruise and other Viking Ocean Cruises can be found on their website HERE.

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