Indulgent day spas do have a fun side, writes Fiona Carruthers.
Disposable knickers might have their rightful place - especially in spa culture. But they are arguably not the greatest facilitator of serious romance.
The prospect of a long weekend in Port Douglas trialling the Pullman Sea Temple's new refurbished Vie Spa (Life Spa) sounded too good to be true as a circuit breaker ahead of Christmas - not least flying business class with Virgin Australia to sample the fresh, tasty Luke Mangan fare.
I grabbed my fiance, packed our swimmers and the SPF - and eagerly anticipated a romantic getaway.
We start our mini break with a healthy breakfast of fruit, eggs and toast at AQUA Restaurant by the pool, followed by yoga on the beach. New to yoga, my partner complains he feels more like a downward-facing hippo - but the downward dog pose does iron out those back pains. Next comes an invigorating Reef Sprinter trip to the Great Barrier Reef for a spot of snorkelling with tropical fish and turtles. Then it's back to the Pullman Port Douglas's Vie Spa for an afternoon massage - and that's where the disposable knickers come out.
Never having encountered such an alarming item before (nor a day spa), my partner subtly hitches up his robe in the dimmed lounge to ask nervously whether he was really meant to put them on, whereupon I laugh so hard the therapist threatens to banish me to the other end of the day spa.
The key differences in Pullman Port Douglas's transition from Mii Spa to Vie Spa are new products (Pevonia and iKOU) and a stunning fitout with a Balinese feel - think batik and teak touches. Despite the challenge of the disposables, men are almost as likely as women to book into the Vie Spa.
When I confess next day to the Vie Spa manager the uproar over the paper knickers, she replies one of her male hotel colleagues actually took delivery of 1000 pairs of the little black unisex disposables while she was on annual leave.
It took him days to work out what they were - including wondering if they were not very effective shower caps.
The writer travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia and the Pullman Port Douglas.
Lounge luxe for regions
Low-cost carriers may have taken the glamour out of flying but Virgin Australia is working to redress that.
Last month, Virgin Australia unveiled its first regional lounge - in Cairns. Located on the upper level of the Cairns domestic airport, the lounge (which seats 180) includes business facilities, a Luke Mangan-designed buffet, all-day barista service and complimentary Wi-Fi plus Foxtel.
Virgin Australia operates daily flights between Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns; see virginaustralia.com.
The Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa starts from $189 a night for a standard room. Located within the resort, Vie Spa offers a huge menu of treatments, starting at $40 for a Vie Blissful Eye Mask, or scalp massage - or a 20-minute Vichy shower. Men's 60-minute skinfit facial is $165.
phone (07) 4084 3515.