Thursday, July 5, 2012



I recently had the pleasure of a return visit to this popular resort destination.  Located in the picturesque Lake Geneva, WI area, this remains a preferred destination for many Midwesterners, including myself.  I’ve been visiting the popular Abbey Resort & Avani Spa since 1989, primarily for spa-centric visits.  My last visit was in March 2011; you can read my review article, posted on April 12, 2011.  In this article, I give an in-depth overview of the storied past of this vacation destination, including historical aspects for the spa, which used to be known as the Fontana Spa.  Although the spa opened in 1989, a major expansion and transformation occurred in 2008.  The spa was renamed the Avani Spa, Sanskrit for “of the earth.”

 ~ Spa Reiterations ~

When the spa originally opened, it was the Midwest’s first traditional destination spa, complete with multi-day programs that focused on healthy cuisine, fitness classes and therapeutic spa treatments.  In addition to a private dining area, each day included health walks, fitness classes and several spa treatments.  The few destination spas in the U.S. at that time were considered somewhat novel and located on opposite coasts.  The thought of having one in the upper-Midwest seemed incongruous.  My first stay was in 1989, shortly after the spa opened; I booked a three-day program; spa guests were assigned rooms in close proximity to the spa, and since the rooms were a short walking distance to the spa’s entrance, guests were also encouraged to wear their spa robe all day long as they went about their spa routines, which was another incongruity, since reserved Midwesterners always dressed for the day and would never be caught in their robe traipsing the hallways.

At the time of the spa’s opening, it was also the Midwest’s first full-service European-style spa.  At 35,000SF and with seventeen treatment rooms, it was considered the Midwest’s largest full-service spa, which contained separate changing and waiting areas for men and women; each area was equipped with its own enormous whirlpool, steam, and sauna.  There were connecting hallways from each area to the spa’s enormous atrium pool, which was solely dedicated for spa guests, another first.  My first visit was in the dead of winter and I felt downright giddy being in a virtual tropical paradise while looking out the floor to ceiling windows of the pool at the mounds of accumulated snow.  To me, it couldn’t get any better.

The spa was also the first in the area to introduce thalassotherapy-based treatments, which was another incongruity.  Other first-ever type treatments included herbal wraps, salt glow/body loofah, and mud treatments.  And, while no longer offered on the current treatment menu, the spa also offered the area’s first Scotch Hose-Swiss Shower treatment; this therapeutic treatment, which benefits the circulatory system, has historical roots that go back to the Victorian-era health spas in Europe; many international spas continue offering this exhilarating treatment to their spa guests.  Without a doubt, Fontana Spa established a lot of firsts for the Abbey Resort and especially the area and would stem the tide of other resorts building similar-type full-service spas.  My spa experiences at many of these other spas would be enjoyable, but my first experience at Fontana Spa holds special memories for me.

~ Fast Forward ~

The Avani Spa continues the tradition of offering therapeutic and healing spa treatments in a restorative environment.  It continues offering its guests regularly scheduled fitness classes and seasonal treatment package specials; there’s also a wonderful retail area for guests who want to take the spa experience home with them.  The amenities remain very impressive, with my all-time favorites remaining as the whirlpool in the women’s area, sauna, and the exquisite atrium pool.

Whenever I review a spa, I always try to book a treatment that targets the entire body; these types of treatments are my favorite ones to experience.  I especially enjoy those that concentrate on the back, which if often neglected, or superficially treated.

My visit to the Avani Spa this time around was experience one of the Spa’s newest treatment menu additions, the Bacial.  The Bacial was a treatment that combined elements of two different therapeutic treatments ~ a restorative back treatment and a lifting facial.  The Bacial would also be utilizing Skin Authority products, a new treatment line added to the spa’s extensive treatment product offerings. 

Founded by one of the spa industry’s über icons, Celeste Hilling, Skin Authority has become a pre-eminent skincare brand known for its highly effective and results-oriented treatment products that target all skin types and conditions, regardless of age.  While the product range is considered a cosmeceutical, as opposed to certified organic or all natural, every product formulation is based on ingredients that are natural, organic and hybrid, free of parabens, dyes and fragrances.  Skin Authority is a leading skincare brand that combines the best of nature and science and is found in leading spas worldwide.

Skin Authority is also committed to environmental and sustainability issues and uses recycled containers, plastic and glass, in addition to having a manufacturing policy that incorporates renewable energy sources and eco-friendly production techniques; further, no animal testing is ever done on any of its products, whether it’s in the developmental stage or manufacturing cycle.

~ The Experience ~

My arrival day began with an in-depth presentation and primer on skincare, and was conducted by Skin Authority’s National Director of Sales, Tammie Basseghi.  Topics included the basics of skincare, including skin types and their unique conditions, as well as how product ingredients impact product performance and efficacy.  Whatever wasn’t known prior to the presentation about skincare and Skin Authority products was taken care of by this expert.

After the presentation, I headed over to the Spa to check-in and spend time in the Women’s Area, relaxing in the Whirlpool, then the Eucalyptus Inhalation Room, followed by the Sauna and then off to the Atrium Pool to lollygag a bit before my scheduled Bacial treatment.  Before I knew it, two hours had flown by and now I had less than twenty minutes before my treatment to get changed out of my suit and into a dry robe.  Once that was done, I head for the Waiting Area to “rest” and clear my mind before my therapist greeted me.  

My therapist turned out to be one of my favorites at the Spa, Sarah.  It was great seeing her again.  We arrive at my beautiful and spacious treatment room.  My therapist leaves the room, and I prepare myself for the treatment by getting onto a warmed treatment table face down.  Sarah gives me an in-depth recap on all of the steps in the treatment so I’m not surprised at anything she might do during its course.  First, my entire back area, including arms and legs, were prepped with the Warming Glow Body Oil followed by an application of the Bamboo Ginseng Scrub, which gently exfoliated the skin; then the scrub was removed with warm toweling.  This was followed by an application of the Deep Detox Ritual Mask.  After its application, my entire back area was then wrapped in a polymer; the remainder of my backside was then covered with sheeting and warm blankets.  The warmth helps open the pores, which activates the Mask to penetrate into the opened pores and cleanse out any toxins or impurities; I rest for about twenty-minutes before having all of the covering removed; I’m then escorted to an in-room shower where I’m instructed to shower off the Mask.  Returning to the treatment table face down, Sarah checks to make sure all traces of the Mask are removed and found a few and finished what I wasn’t able to do; then she begins putting another application of the Warming Body Glow Oil on, followed by the Olive, Fig, Shea Butter Body Cream.  Thus completes this portion of the Bacial; I quickly touch my skin and am amazed at how refined the texture feels, how silky smooth the skin feels, but most of all, how drenched in hydration my skin feels from these two wonderful products.  I then flip over onto my backside for the facial portion of the treatment. 

The facial portion of this restorative treatment utilizes a number of products geared towards revitalizing dulling and sagging skin; these Anti-Aging products included Daily Cleanser, Deep Detox Ritual Mask (I love the duality of this product, whether it was used on my face or body), Moisturizing Mist Spray, Super-C Serum, Resurfacing Accelerator, Age Defying Moisturizer SPF 18, Reviving Eye Brightener and Dramatic Eye Lift Cream.  After a thorough cleansing, the Mask was applied to detox my facial pores and refine its texture.  As the Mask worked its magic, the Body Cream was again applied and massaged into my arms, legs and feet; my neck, shoulders and scalp were also gently massaged.  After the Mask was removed, a gentle cleansing followed, and the remaining facial products were applied to my face to complete this wonderful facial.  My skin felt and looked amazing, healthy and vibrant.

This all-inclusive restorative treatment exceeded my levels of expectation!  Not only was my back purified, exfoliated and hydrated, but my face was also revived, rehydrated and brightened.  Throughout the seventy-five minute treatment I was also incredibly relaxed and left the treatment room definitely restored.  Each product used was gentle, non-irritating and quickly absorbed; products left no tacky or greasy residue on my skin.  My skin also felt balanced with proper hydration; the exfoliation products restored my skin outer layer, making it easier for the hydration products to absorb properly.  I also enjoyed the lovely product aromas, but especially the Warming Glow Body Oil and the Olive, Fig, Shea Butter Body Cream.  

Some of the key ingredients for each of the four body products included Warming Glow Body Oil ~ safflower, bergamot fruit, jasmine, cardamom seed and neroli oils, and vitamins E and C; Bamboo Ginseng Scrub ~ bamboo powder, aloe vera, chamomile and ginseng root extracts, apricot kernel and avocado oils and provitamin B5; Deep Detox Ritual Mask ~ Moroccan rhassoul clay, sea kelp, provitamin B5, vitamin E, ylang ylang, jasmine and rose flower oils; and, Olive, Fig Shea Butter Body Cream ~ olive and wheat germ oils, fig leaf extract, shea butter and a derivative of palm and coconut oils.

Rounding out my overnight stay, before departing the following day, I enjoyed a pedicure in the Salon.  My therapist, Michelle assisted me in making a color selection; I went with a blue-red from OPI.  My calves and feet are thoroughly exfoliated and then a hydrating mask is applied; my calves and feet are then wrapped; after fifteen minutes, the mask is removed and a meticulous grooming follows; then a super rich moisturizer is applied to the calves and feet, followed by the application of the OPI color.  The color looked gorgeous and my feet looked and felt better than they had for some time.  I left with very happy feet!

In addition to these two outstanding treatments and the Spa amenities I enjoyed, guests who don’t mind breaking a sweat can also access daily fitness classes, or workout in the Fitness Center; a favorite is also to take morning walks along the meandering manicured pathways throughout the resort or around the Lake Geneva, or opt to get one of the complimentary bicycles and take a self-guided tour throughout the beautiful area.

~ Overview Teaser ~

Perfect as an ideal getaway for singles, couples, families or groups, the Abbey Resort & Avani Spa remains one of the finest Midwest destinations for all seasons.  Seasonal sports, like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, ice fishing in the winter, and boating, golf, tennis, hiking, swimming in the summer make for exciting times for each guest.  During the summer, guests can rent a boat and order a packed lunch or romantic dinner as they take a cruise on beautiful Lake Geneva.  Guests can also shop at the Resort’s Waterfront Shops or take a quick trip into town for antiquing; there’s an unending array of activities to do, whether you’re by yourself, with your significant other, or with the kids; there’s even a special kid’s camp.  Some of the guest activities during the summer include Lawn Games, Bonfires (including s’mores), Seasonal Crafts, “Flick ‘n Float” (outdoor movies by the pool), and Poolside Play (board games)The Resort will even provide babysitting, if needed.  

Throughout the summer, the Resort offers the extremely popular “Burnin’ Down the Docks” every Sunday; this must-do activity is a crowd pleaser and includes “blues entertainment, frothy brews and tantalizing BBQ.”  And whether you want to dine upscale, casual or just snack, the Resort’s restaurants (Fontana Grill, The Waterfront, The Helm, Café Latte, Porto or The Gazebo) offer guests fresh and tasty cuisine that’s refined or playful; any palate or dietary restriction will feel at home at any of these restaurants; food is locally sourced as much as possible, including natural and organic selections, in addition to heart-healthy food fare.  

In addition to the beautiful Avani Spa, guests have the option of booking their own private Spa Sanctuary Suite or Spa Cabanas for total spa immersion and enjoyment.  And just as the seasons change, Resort activities and Spa treatment menu offerings change to highlight a particular season.  Group meetings and weddings are also very popular at the Resort and often include aspects of Spa for attendees and guests.  The Abbey Resort & Avani Spa has it all.  And, it’s closer than you think! 

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to take care of yourself and those you love.
By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker.  She also serves on EXPERIENCE | PREMCHIT Journeys In Retreat To Wellness Advisory Board, which is comprised of ten international experts in various fields of wellness and spa.  She also serves as a Group Manager for the popular LinkedIn group, The Spa Buzz.  You can email her at


(Photo credits as represented by the specific brand.)


  1. I really enjoy the scenery in Paarl when im on vacation, beautiful place to have a spa.

    1. ...thanks for your I conclude that my review article reminds you of this location, then...


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