The only difference between Montreal’s Bota Bota Spa and any other chic urban day spa? This one floats.
To board Bota Bota, which opened in December, you’ll have to make the one-hour flight or 6-hour drive to Montreal. The former passenger ferry is permanently moored in the St. Lawrence River, where hard-working hydraulics hold it steady enough for perfect manicures.
The novel idea for turning a nautical vessel into a spa bubbled up for Genevieve Émond, and her sister Natalie, when looking for “impossible and overpriced waterfront real estate.” Converting this once “ugly, chunky box” into an ubermodern floating day spa seemed a better route.
It took a complete retrofitting by Sid Lee (the ad-and-design firm behind Adidas and Red Bull), but Bota Bota now has cool factor in spades—a glass-enclosed pedicure room with Vieux Montreal views; 12 spa treatment rooms with peek-a-boo portholes (680 in all); several co-ed indoor saunas and outdoor tubs; and a design style that’s submarine chic without going, well, overboard.
Imagine the Frying Pan getting this kind of treatment?
First-class passage on Bota Bota comes cheap: You can board for C$55, and enjoy a day of soaks in the hot tubs, cold plunges, and steams in the sauna. (The spa practice of alternating hot-and-cold temperatures for its health benefits is alive and well here—and locals use it as a chance to socialize.)
Or you can book spa services in the treatment rooms on the lower decks. Go for the simpler services, like a massage, which run C$90 for 60 minutes. (The more involved treatments didn’t really deliver.) There’s also a spa café.
The 20-degree winter temperatures don’t dissuade Montrealers from taking the geothermal waters at the spa, which is open year-round. In fact, three of the baths are located outdoors on Bota Bota’s upper decks.
You can choose whether or not to brave the chilly Canadian air, but either way, by the time you hang up your robe, you’ll be feeling shipshape. Bon voyage! —Melisse Gelula
Bota Bota Spa, 358 Rue de la Commune Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, www.botabota.ca
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