Spa/Salon at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware
It's not very often that I am totally surprised by a spa, but Toppers Spa at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino did just that. There was a very nice surprise and a not-so-nice surprise.
First, the nice...
I was working on the DiscoveriSpas.com spa directories one day and decided I would rather be at a spa than list them, so I looked up the phone number of Toppers Spa in Dover, wrote it down and hopped in the car. I called as I left my neighborhood. Fortunately, they had an opening in two hours for a Remedy Facial (50 minutes, $123). The phone operator suggested I arrive 15 minutes early. I asked if there was a steam room, sauna or whirlpool at the spa (unfortunately, the Toppers website has virtually no information about its five spas' facilities.), and she said the spa didn't have them. However, the hotel did offer them for its overnight guests. No need to arrive any earlier then. Two hours gave me plenty of time to do a few quick errands before heading to Dover - about an hour away.
Toppers Spa opened in 2007 as a part of a $52 million expansion to the Dover Downs complex which now includes a hotel, horse racing, slots gaming and a NASCAR speedway in addition to the spa. The 6,000 square-foot spa has nine massage rooms, three of which are adjoining suites for couples, four skin-care treatment rooms, private bath areas for men and women and separate salons for hair and nail services.
I meant to check out Toppers Spa shortly after it opened, but I rarely travel to that part of Delaware, and it fell off my radar. It was time. The hotel was easy to find, and I arrived a half hour early. I was impressed by how nice the hotel lobby was. A large curving staircase led up to the spa.
The first thing I noticed about Toppers Spa was the massive, beautifully carved doors I passed through as I entered. The reception desk was faced by the same carved wood. The rest of the reception area was equally inviting. The walls were a calming, deep rust color and the exotic wood floor was highlighted with stripes of metallic rust, gold and silver stripes. Inviting seating was adjacent to a small boutique.
Lisa, the very friendly and pleasant receptionist greeted me, checked me in and led me to the women's changing room. As we walked, she explained that the carved wood and other decorations in the spa were authentic and had been made in Bali for the spa. We passed a glass door to the lounge flanked by carved stone blocks. Interesting statues sat at the end of the halls. The heavy doors to the changing rooms used Balinese masks to identify men's and women's. I was beginning to feel transported.
Inside the changing room, Lisa explained how the lockers worked and instructed me to change into a robe and select a pair of flip flops. She would wait outside to show me to the lounge when I was ready.
When I finished changing, I met Lisa in the hallway. She escorted me to the co-ed lounge. Lounge chairs, sofas and chairs were comfortably arranged under two authentic, imported balés from Bali.
One wall was covered in intricate stone carvings and massive carved wood doors.
Another wall was covered with a backlit photograph of a Balinese landscape.
Books about Bali were on every table. I loved it. I looked through the books and selected two - one on the architecture of Bali and another on the performing arts of Bali.
I slowly flipped through the books and gazed out on the landscape. I soon realized I wanted to stay a while. I noticed a spa lunch menu next to the teapot and asked Lisa to arrange for me to have the Salmon salad after my treatment.
My esthetician, Amy, escorted me to the treatment room. I got settled on the table while she waited outside. After a few minutes, Amy returned to the room and started the facial by massaging my face with lavender oil to decongest the skin. The aroma was lovely, and Amy's technique was light, smooth and unhurried. Already relaxed, I went into a deeper relaxation immediately. Amy used Dermalogica products for this facial. She applied each product in the same light, smooth and unhurried way. A cleanser was followed by a course exfoliant and then a finer exfoliant. Amy removed this with a heavenly, warm, lavender-infused towel. Somewhere along the line, there were extractions, and an antibacterial serum was gently brushed on with a small brush afterwards. Amy used a larger brush to apply a mask. While it was working, she massaged my hands. Another warm towel removed the mask. Finally, a toner and moisturizer were massaged in. I really enjoyed this facial. My skin looked and felt great afterwards. But what I liked best was the way Amy gave the facial.
Amy escorted me back to the Lounge and poured a glass of lemon water for me. My lunch was brought to me, and I enjoyed it while I read and slowly emerged from my super-relaxed state.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Toppers Spa. The decor is beautiful, the service level was very good, and the facial was excellent. I didn't feel rushed. I didn't miss not having a steam or sauna. I didn't miss the neck and scalp massage and foot massage that almost always accompany a facial nowadays. Even though I think this spa's prices stretch the top end of the scale (especially for this part of the state), I could see myself coming back.
Other treatments available at Toppers Spa/Salon at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino at the time of my visit include:
Now, the not-so-nice...
I had such a nice time at Toppers Spa, the next day I decided to browse through the menu on their web site to see what service I might like to have next. That's when I saw a link to a page titled "Current Promotions." When I clicked on it, I saw the following:
30% On any Massage
Hmmmm. Why didn't the person I talked to on the phone when I made my reservation the day before offer this promotion to me? I would have loved to have paid $86 for my facial instead of $123. In fact, had I been offered this discount, I probably would have gotten a massage as well. I felt cheated. Surely she just forgot to mention it...I could feel my blood pressure rising. I called and asked. The young woman who answered asked me to hold for a few minutes - to check with her supervisor, no doubt. She came back and said I would have had to mention this to the person who took my reservation and specifically ask for this promotion. The reservationists don't (proactively) tell customers about it. Excuse me?? Is this a promotion or a secret?? I feel like I was penalized because I was not in front of my computer when I made my reservation. Is that any way to treat a new customer (or any customer for that matter)? Frankly, it made me angry. I asked if I could get the discount now. She said "no," but I could next time. I told her I was a new customer, and even though I loved my spa experience, I wasn't sure I would be coming back for a "next time" because of this.
As I've said before, spas should NEVER do ANYTHING that
makes their customers feel bad. Having a "secret" promotion is bound
to make customers feel bad when they find out they didn't know the secret when
they needed to.
My annoyance may fade, and I may go back to this spa. After all, it wasn't the actual spa that ticked me off, it was the corporate reservations (that is part of the spa experience, however). And, of course, I'll know to check for promotions before I call and ask if there are any other promotions I should know about before making a reservation.
photos copyright 2010 Julie Register
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