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To Robe or Disrobe?

As students meandering through Europe many years ago, some friends and I found ourselves in Budapest, where we planned to visit a thermal bathhouse. In the days leading up to it, there was much discussion over whether or not we would do as the Hungarians do and experience the single-sex baths nude. What percentage of visitors would be in the buff? Would we feel out of place?

In the end we opted for modesty and wore swimsuits. We might as well have been sporting burkas. Among the middle-aged Eastern European women, our American primness was far more humiliating than cellulite could ever be.

So when I visited Las Vegas’s newly opened Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace last spring, I considered going sans suit. After all, on top of such treatments as the signature $300 Mystic Journey (bamboo body exfoliation, moisturizing wrap, oil facial, aromatherapy, and a scalp massage) and the Sleep Health hypnosis and massage ($280), Qua insists that it offers a traditional Roman bath experience—soaking in mineral-rich waters to heal the body. It encourages the kind of social spa-ing I witnessed back in Budapest. Yet this wasn’t Hungary. This was America—and Vegas, no less.

Once I arrived I found I had no choice; I’d inadvertently left my suit in the hotel room. I reluctantly stepped into the stone room, with its three baths of varying temperatures, wearing just a towel. Several women sat in the waters. All wore swimsuits. I plunged into what turned out to be the cold bath, not exactly the kind of pool you want to linger in. It’s better, I learned, to soak in a hot bath and follow with a short cold stint. But I was too mortified to emerge naked. Eventually I relaxed, hopping from one pool to the next, and it was, truth be told, quite liberating. Admission to Roman baths, $45; 866-782-0655; quabathsandspa.com

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