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Pampering and Golf in the Berkshires: What More Could You Want?

We were two months into the school year and already itching for a proper getaway weekend. The four of us, friends from the MBA class of 2006, took off to the beautiful Cranwell Resort in western Massachusetts, the heart of the Berkshires. Nestled on a lush 380-acres, Cranwell is an all-season resort featuring 107 guest rooms, an 18-hole championship golf course, and a sparkling 35,000 square-foot spa with state-of-the-art Fitness Center and indoor heated pool. Best of all, it’s only two hours from HBS by car.

During the drive out in our rented PT Cruiser, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly Boston melted away into the gorgeous fall foliage. There was hardly any traffic almost the entire way to the charming town of Lenox, and once there, we were greeted by a distinctly New England strip of cozy shops and restaurants. That night we dined at the lovely and affordable restaurant named From Ketchup to Caviar, located in a warmly-decorated house by the side of the road. What a wonderful, case-free way to begin the weekend.

The quiet, old-fashioned feeling of our dinner remained with us as we approached Cranwell, which, set back from the road, is a majestic sight. Once in our spacious double room in the Cottage House, we were met with all kinds of girly delights, from fragrant lotions to traditional country d‚cor to the warm feeling of the Berkshires. But exhausted from our first wave of midterms, we soon fell asleep in “heavenly beds” that rival those of Westin Hotel’s in comfort.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Cranwell is that it is situated on a hilltop, giving breathtaking views of the surrounding area. After a relatively early checkout time (11 a.m.), we went to brunch in the main “Mansion” overlooking the hills. Our brunch, in a glass-walled room, included fresh juices and an inviting buffet with everything from custom omelets to a table full of sinful pastries. Though the breakfast was a bit pricey ($20 per person), the food was delicious and the service exceptional. For example, a waiter who wasn’t even serving our table helped indulge our high-maintenance limitless picture taking, not accepting anything less than airbrush-quality photos.

After our royal treatment at brunch, we were in a relaxed mood to head to the spa. This led us to the ultimate test of Cranwell’s facilities: could Cranwell dissolve the stresses of HBS? Three Swedish massages and one manicure later, we thought so. In particular, we sampled three permutations of the Swedish massage (duet, single, medium strength, and mild) and had varying experiences. Dina’s “medium strength” massage was a bit more than she bargained for when she first sized up her petite masseuse. Maria, on the other hand, found the same massage to be extremely relaxing. Mireia, who had a softer version of the same massage, also left her session in a blissful state. The duet massage, which we had previously considered a “couples” experience, was actually quite enjoyable with a friend, since the staff was quite aware and responsive to our changing moods to chat or nap during the massage.
Jacquelyn emerged from her $60 manicure with soft hands and beautiful nails.

All in all, we felt that the spa prices warranted more plush surroundings and a more polished staff, but the treatments and friendliness of the spa made us feel wonderfully relaxed and at home. You might want to note that the spa does add an automatic 20% gratuity to all services you select, and they charge your credit card before providing the service even if you request otherwise (Our FRC professors would claim they haven’t “earned” this revenue yet!).

After our massages, we sampled the fitness center. The cardio room boasts ample workout equipment in a modern glass-covered facility overlooking the mountains on one side and the indoor pool on the other. Both facilities are clean, well-maintained, and quiet. The steam room, sauna, and whirlpool were our last “treat,” serving as a perfect end to our pampered visit.

As we stopped in town for a final hot chocolate at the cozy Lenox Coffee caf‚, we reflected on our experience. We all felt this was a creative and enjoyable way to get acquainted with Massachusetts while releasing some HBS stress.

We would recommend Cranwell for a girls’ weekend like ours, a golfing trip with friends, or as a couple’s retreat (think holiday or anniversary gift). As for how much it will cost, consider budgeting $200-250 per person per day. Sure, it’s not cheap, but it is without a doubt worth it! We had a fantastic time and one week later we are still glowing from being pampered in the Berkshires.

Cranwell Resort, The Berkshires

Pros:
* Lovely resort with full spa, fitness, and golf facilities
* Incredible brunches and relaxing spa services
* Beautiful surrounding area and cozy town

Cons:
* Early checkout time (11 a.m.)
* Inconvenient charging policy (credit cards charged before services provided; 20% automatic gratuity added to spa bills)

November 22, 2004
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