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Floating spa offers oasis of calm

By George Webster for CNN
  • "Bota Bota" is a former ferry that has been transformed into a luxury floating spa
  • Situated in Montreal's Old Port, the spa enjoys panoramic views of the city
  • Geothermal energy sourced from the riverbed helps power whirlpool and heated tiles

(CNN) -- City dwellers in search of an oasis of calm need look no further than the "Bota Bota" -- a former ferry turned floating health spa.

Docked at the Old Port of Montreal, the reinvented vessel offers luxury pampering spread across five ship decks -- including a cocktail bar-cum-pedicure lounge, a vast open air whirlpool and a sub-aquatic changing room.

"We wanted to create an environment that would allow the user to rediscover the imagery related to a boat trip, even though he or she would not be on the move, but rather in contemplation of Montreal and its river," said Jean Pelland, the architect behind the project.

Entrepreneurial sisters Natalie and Genevieve Emond, who both have experience in the spa industry, bought the 2,500 square meter boat in 2008, having been on the lookout for a novel location to launch a high-end treatment center.

We saw that this old ferry was up for sale, and we barely even had to think about it.
--Natlalie Emond, marketing director

"We saw that this old ferry was up for sale, and we barely even had to think about it," said Natalie Emond, who acts as the company's marketing director.

This was not the first makeover for the old tub, which originally was built in the 1950s..

"In the 1960s it was converted into a floating theater, so of course, when we bought it, all the natural light inside had been shut out," Emond said.

However, with its 678 portholes having been painstakingly refurbished, the "Bota Bota" spa is now positively aglow, according to the 34 year-old businesswoman.

"As you're getting a signature massage or a beauty therapy, or lounging in the sauna, you've got these breathtaking views of the Montreal skyline as seen from the St. Lawrence River," she said.

And those watching their carbon footprint needn't fret, says Emond, as the heated floors and whirlpool are all powered by geothermal energy drawn from the riverbed beneath.

However, those hoping to sail off into the sunset as they receive their bamboo dewdrop skin hydrating treatment will be in for a disappointment.

"I'm afraid we took out the engine to make way for the underwater changing room," said Emond.