Salt rocks in Santa Barbara
On a port visit during a Californian cruise, Brad Crouch dismisses scepticism to fall asleep in a man-made cave.
huge chunks of colourful salt made into lamps and artworks. This is not your white table salt, but 45 tonnes of 250-millionyear-old Himalayan salt blocks, imported from Pakistan, with a palette of colours spanning from ginger to mauve to ochre. Chunks as large as bread bins decorate the greeting area.
As piped relaxation music plays, we are led into a “cave’’, treading on crunchy salt granules about 20cm deep on the floor. Red salt blocks are in the background, the low ceiling is salt encrusted. You can lie on a towel on the floor and cuddle up to the salt, with its 84 minerals, foetal-style. Somewhat sceptically, I choose to sit in a reclined deck chair as others go cocoon-like on the floor. The lights fade and the volume of the music rises. I’m sceptical of yet another California New Age fad, but a second later, I’m on my way to nirvana. Thirty minutes later, I awake refreshed and calm. My skin is clean and I’m ready to hug a tree – after a large drink of water.
Santa Barbara is one stop on a California coastal cruise out of LA aboard 1814-capacity Celebrity Century, one of the premium cruise liners in Celebrity Cruises’ fleet. Its facilities include a spa, fine French dining at the Murano restaurant, multiple bars, pools and lounges as well as plenty of live entertainment and Broadway-style theatre.
Other port stops include San Francisco, where a welltimed 4pm arrival gives all aboard the adrenalin-charged thrill of sailing into the harbour city under the Golden Gate Bridge. We take a fascinating night tour of infamous former prison island Alcatraz that night, and in the morning stroll directly off the ship to roam the vibrant port area. The nearby Fisherman’s Wharf tourist precinct is a daytrip in itself. There are plenty of eateries and lots to look at including the large colony of sea lions that have made one wharf in the precinct their own.
The next port of Monterey proves to be another town of yachts, affluence, shopping and wine tasting; then it was on to Catalina Island, which rises dramatically from the sea. The island’s small town of Avalon and large casino, which dominates the waterfront, stir up images of the Rat Pack and the Kennedys from an earlier era. The cruise also calls at Ensenada in Mexico where tour options include wine tastings in the Calafia Valley. The writer was a guest of Celebrity Cruises and Visit Santa Barbara.