Taking the Plunge

The sleek Immerse Spa at MGM Grand Detroit is drenched in amenities, including a shimmering pool, sauna, whirlpool — and, for massage enthusiasts, something called a bonger


As your dutiful correspondent, I’ve visited a slew of spas, but for amenities, spaciousness, and sleek design, nothing quite approaches Immerse Spa, on the second floor of the MGM Grand Detroit, which opened last October.
Many spas opt for an Asian-influenced vibe, but Immerse is more streamlined and modern, with natural accents (wood, rocks, water) interspersed. Unlike most spas, the lighting isn’t muted. It’s almost as if Immerse is saying, “Look at me.”
It’s hard not to. There’s a sapphire-blue pool, fitness room, sauna, steam room, large whirlpool, spacious locker rooms, copious showers, and lots of plush towels. As long as visitors sign up for at least a 50-minute service, they’re welcome to use the pool and fitness center. And if you’d like to add a haircut to your services, 6 Salon, which also has locations in Royal Oak and Birmingham, leases out a spot.

I hadn’t had a massage for a while, and my back and arms felt the way Atlas must feel after holding up the world for a few days: tightness in the neck and trapezius, sore shoulders, and an aching lower back. Rob, my masseur, had his work cut out for him. I ordered a sport massage, which is similar to a deep-tissue technique and more intense than a Swedish massage. Immerse offers several massage “enhancements,” as its brochure puts it. I was most intrigued with something called a “bonger,” which consists of a jade stone attached to a flexible handle. It’s used to gently strike acupressure points and muscles in the back. So I opted to get bonged.
An attentive massage therapist can readily tell how much pressure to apply, and Rob could feel the knots and tension soon after I lay down. As he put it, he was going to “get at the belly of the muscle.” And he did. Some of it was a little painful, but it was all for a greater benefit: a wider range of motion and looser muscles. My neck felt much freer, and the pain in my lower back was almost gone.
“Bubbling seaweed mud” was applied to my back, further relaxing the muscles and extracting toxins via the heat. After the mud was removed, the bonger beat my muscles into submission. Imagine Gene Krupa drumming on your back, and you’ll get the idea of getting bonged. Some strokes are slow and deliberate, while others are staccato-like, rat-a-tat motions. The experience was invigorating.
Next up was a pedicure, but I had some time to kill, so I used the steam room and whirlpool, followed by a quick shower. And I chugged down as much bottled water as I could; drinking lots of agua is strongly encouraged after a massage so toxins will be flushed out of the system.
People tend to neglect their feet over the winter, only to be mortified by callused tootsies when the first warm day of spring rolls around. I decided to launch a pre-emptive strike. Marlene, my pedicurist, is a woman of few words, but who needs yakking when your tired feet are being soaked and softened in a warm bubbling bath infused with mandarin? My nails were cut, cuticles shaped, and feet buffed and exfoliated. Then came what Marlene calls “everyone’s favorite part,” a massage with a ginger-scented oil and cream. My feet had a Fred Astaire-like lightness and, were it not the middle of winter, I would have danced out of the place barefoot.
Immerse Spa, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 1777 Third St., downtown Detroit; 313-465-1656. mgmgranddetroit.com
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