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Atlantic City Bets that Lavish Hotel Rooms and Spas
 Will Attract Vacationers Outside the Casino Crowd
By Jacqueline L. Urgo, The Philadelphia InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 22, 2008 - ATLANTIC CITY -- You're sitting on the edge of a swimming pool so blue, you imagine you're in the Caribbean.

The vivid flowers and aquatic plantings surrounding this pool are so spectacular, they rival those found near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Now, you close your eyes and savor a meal so satisfying you'd swear you were in Paris.

All this after a pedicure so perfect, a facial so cleansing and a massage so soothing, you think maybe you've just died and gone to . . . Atlantic City?

With the recent openings of the new Water Club at Borgata, "The Pool" at Harrah's Atlantic City, and the new Roman baths and spa at Caesars Atlantic City, the old Queen of Resorts is rolling the dice on a new era of sybaritic pleasures that have nothing to do with craps tables or slot machines.

"Within a few short months of opening Borgata, we realized the need to expand our product offering to accommodate the high demand, and we understood there was an untapped niche in the market for a cosmopolitan hotel experience in Atlantic City," said Larry Mullin, president and chief operating officer for Borgata.

Mullin said his company has positioned Water Club -- and the Borgata -- to lead vacationers other than gamblers to Atlantic City, as the resort town evolves into a world-class travel destination.

With a $400 million investment, the new 800-room Water Club may be well on the way to doing just that.

When it opened in June, Water Club became Atlantic City's first "boutique-lifestyle" hotel, offering guests a personalized experience with sumptuous rooms priced from $400 to $15,000 a night.

But will guests come just for the swanky-decorated rooms that offer expensive marble, ultra-comfy beds, heated towel bars and just about any other amenity you can think of?

Or will they book it so they can indulge in the spa that specializes in high-end beauty and relaxation treatments, like 90-minute in-room massages that cost $320 -- plus gratuity -- and "oxygenating" facials at $280?

Or will they come for both the expensive rooms and the indulgent spa services?

"I love the new Water Club concept because it gives us something else to do here other than gamble," said Lisa Scannichio, 47, of Westchester County, N.Y. "We've been coming to Borgata since it opened, but I think we'll stay over here from now on when we come down. The rooms are beautiful and we love the spa with the his-and-her rooms."

Mullin says the entire point of a Water Club experience is that it will be up to the guest to decide. And if early bookings were any indication, the public was ready for such choices: Both the spa and the hotel have been consistently full this summer, he said.

Through a portal leading to the Borgata casino, you can find Bobby Flay Steak, Wolfgang Puck American Grill, Michael Mina's Seablue, and Izakaya -- A Modern Japanese Pub. If you don't want to leave the Water Club, dine poolside or in your room on the talents of Manhattan's Country and Town chef/owner Geoffrey Zakarian.

Over at Harrah's, they've been welcoming guests to "The Pool" and the glamorous Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa for more than a year now.

But "The Pool" is much more than just, well, a pool.

Part of a $550 million expansion project, the quarter-acre entertainment complex is a lush tropical oasis that has been created beneath a 90-foot-high glass dome. The space can be used year-round and offers guests luaus, poolside spa treatments, bars, live music and opportunities to view "dive-in" movies.

Harrah's spent more than $1 million on the striking horticultural "dressing" alone, but it's clear the real money went into the 23,000-square-foot, 86,000-gallon heated pool with its stunning tile work and surrounding cabanas.

"The Pool complex is unlike anything else in the marketplace and brings entertainment and fun in Atlantic City to a new level," said R. Scott Barber, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Atlantic City.

Barber said the opening of the The Pool and the Red Door Spa raised the bar on what Atlantic City had to offer beyond casinos.

Debra Clovis, 55, of Upper Merion, said she and her husband like The Pool at Harrah's and the Red Door Spa because of the "friendly atmosphere."

"I'm thrilled that now we can come to Atlantic City and have a choice of spas and pools and fine dining options instead of just a choice of casinos. It really makes it fun," said Clovis, who said she spends more than $500 on spa treatments each time she visits.

The spa is already known worldwide for its level of pampering and expertise -- behind its signature red door, of course. Atlantic City's version features 23 chicly decorated treatment rooms, including couples treatment rooms and a suite with its own in-room Jacuzzi and shower where couples may be indulged in a myriad of services, including massages, facials and wraps.

If you go it alone, the stringently trained Elizabeth Arden personnel will still be happy to pamper you in the steam rooms, saunas and whirlpools that surround a cozy fireplace. There is also a specialty cold shower with rainwater mist and turbo-jet settings. Try the $220, 80-minute signature massage or the Ultimate Elizabeth Arden Facial, an 80-minute $120 indulgence created to make you look years younger.

Guest rooms in Harrah's new Waterfront Tower, which go for around $400 a night, are elegant 504-square-foot retreats that offer water views, luxury linens, a pillow menu and oversized sit-in showers.

Two $2,200 "Red Door Spa Suites" -- the first offered by the spa -- include their own massage room, steam room, sauna and workout facility. Three "recreation suites," for groups of six, feature pool tables, iPod docking systems and Nintendo WiFi consoles, among other amenities.

But if you're looking for a quieter -- and more distinctive -- experience, try the Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Atlantic City.

With 15 treatment rooms, the $15 million oasis offers an unusual variety of treatments and therapies in hushed sophistication.

There's a 75-minute, $300 "Signature Chakra Balancing" ritual as well as a 60-minute private session starting at $130 in which Swarovski crystals are applied to the body.

If you've won big at the casinos -- and are a little stressed out over it -- you can try the $5,000, 180-minute Dieci Mani, a combination of rituals involving the spa's Roman baths, Vichy showers, facials and massages administered by four "artisans" and one aesthetician.

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If You Go

The Water Club & Immersion Spa

1 Renaissance Way, Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. TheWaterClubatBorgata.com. 609-317-8888

"The Pool" and Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa

Harrah's Atlantic City, 777 Harrah's Blvd., Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. harrahs.com. 609-441-5000

Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Atlantic City

2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. caesarsatlanticcity.com. 609-343-2455

Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-823-9629 or jurgo@phillynews.com

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To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.philly.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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