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Before leading our group into the dome, our shaman gave us an overview of the ritual’s history and told us what to expect, then invited us to smear therapeutic clay all over ourselves. Next, we were instructed to mentally put all of the things that we didn’t want any more (negative emotions and so forth) into a handful of tobacco, which we threw into a fire. After being smudged, one by one, with copal incense, we climbed inside the Temazcalli and the door was closed behind us. The shaman doused the hot rocks with water containing traditional medicinal herbs, creating pleasantly aromatic steam that surrounded us. There, in the darkness, he led us through ancient Maya chants and songs. In stages punctuated by the arrival of more hot rocks and chanting, each person seated on the floor in the circle was instructed to briefly share memories, thoughts and hopes about specific stages of life, starting with childhood and ending with old age. My shyness dissolved once I realized that every participant was making him- or herself just as vulnerable as I, and that we were in a safe haven in which to express ourselves. After a while, it seemed quite natural, and even liberating, to talk candidly while sweating profusely among people I hardly knew. But the best part was yet to come: a cool and refreshing dip in an adjacent pool at the ritual’s end. I emerged feeling renewed and at peace, gazing out at the crystal-blue water of the Caribbean as I walked back toward the spa. The Temazcal is Aventura Spa Palace’s signature treatment, and it is likely to appeal to clients interested in Maya culture and self-renewal. But for those seeking sheer pampering and relaxation, the spa menu offers plenty of more familiar treatments as well.Classic massages range from aromatherapeutic and sport styles to a couples’ treatment that takes place in one of four couples’ suites. (The spa features 76 treatment rooms in all.) Clients can also choose from an impressive selection of rituals with Eastern origins, including the Hindu Head and Foot Massage, Zen Shiatsu and Samunprai Herbal Massage, a traditional Thai therapy in which an herbal poultice is rolled over sore, tired muscles to soothe and release tension. Wraps, facials, scrubs and post-sun soothers round out the ample menu. It’s worth getting to the spa at least a half-hour before a scheduled treatment in order to take advantage of the inviting “water journey” facilities in both men’s and women’s lounges. Spa attendants are on hand to help guide guests between sauna, steam, cold plunge and other hydrotherapy zones, which encourage relaxation while prepping the body for treatments. The spa isn’t the only place to benefit from hydrotherapy at this adults-only, all-inclusive resort. Among other luxury amenities found at all Palace Resorts’ properties, every one of 777 luxury guestrooms here offers a view of the Caribbean or lush tropical gardens and features a double Jacuzzi. Several pools provide opportunities to swim laps, freestyle, cross-current or to revel in the waterfall features, and two swim-up bars provide relief for those seeking liquid refreshment of a different variety. Travel agent commissions aren’t paid on individual spa services at Palace Resorts, but the luxurious, all-inclusive resort chain does offer a newly enhanced bonus commission program for more rewards on bookings at all of its properties through Dec. 23. Agents can earn up to $1,250 for every 10 rooms booked at one of 12 Palace Resorts or Le Blanc Spa Resort. Those who book individual stays for three or more nights earn $50 commission per room, and $75 per room for stays of five to six nights. Stays of seven nights or more are worth $100 per room. Agents also receive $250 for every combined 10 rooms. (Earnings are included on bookings made through preferred wholesalers or GDS as well.) In addition, bonus commissions on the first 25 rooms booked with any group are available. Weddings present another earnings opportunity. Agents who book select wedding packages at participating Palace wedding resorts receive a 20 percent commission on top of the 10 to 12 percent bonus commission on associated room blocks and other bonus commission incentives. And, coming soon, add-on Palace Resorts optional packages (including spa, golf and honeymoon) will pay up to 10 to 12 percent of the room and package total cost. Perhaps most therapeutic of all, however, is the inviting water of the Caribbean — mere steps away and there for the taking. And, there’s no appointment necessary. 800-635-1836www.palaceresorts.com
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