Luxury Beyond Ritz-Carlton: Newest Hotel Is Part Of Even Posher Brand

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What do the world’s best winemakers do when they need to create an even more special wine? They make a limited edition “reserve” label. In trying to build an even more elite sub-brand out of one of the best-known names in luxury hospitality, Ritz-Carlton has taken the same tack with its Reserve resorts. The Reserve concept is a collection of signature, one-of-a-kind and decidedly non-cookie cutter boutique resorts. Each is smaller in number of guests than a typical Ritz-Carlton, with better lodging and little if anything in the way of “standard room.”

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Each emphasizes a distinctive personality and tries to capture the local sense of place. As the company put it in an earlier press release, “The Reserve is for travelers seeking to discover a singular location and peerless resort that, through its design and services, has a distinctive personality that blends together the culture, history and heritage of its setting. The Reserve brand extension will be distinguished from other award-winning resorts by offering guests’ exotic, hand-selected ‘hideaway’ destinations globally; a relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere; and an even greater level of individualized service through a higher staff to guest ratio.”

The first Ritz-Carlton Reserve opened in Phulay Bay, Thailand. The second was Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in Puerto Rico. It is coming up on its third birthday in a few months, and has received rave reviews for service, rooms and especially its over the top spa. The spa has quickly proven to be an important part of the Reserve equation. A very well-traveled doctor friend of mine went to Dorado Beach and told me it was one the best resorts he’s experienced in the world.

If the third time is truly a charm, as the saying goes, then the latest addition to the Ritz-Carlton charm bracelet of properties is Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve that will open in less than two weeks, in time for peak winter season, in one of the most romantic and desirable destinations on earth: the mystical island of Bali (September 5, 2015).

Mandapa is in Bali’s cultural center, Ubud, and as part of its unique differentiation, it offers individually tailored spiritual, wellness, health and detox programs, combining spa, fitness and dining. For guests seeking a more typical/decadent vacation experience, there are a full slate of resort and local activities. Catering to all ages, there’s an educational Kid’s Hut (clubhouse) hidden away from the rest of the resort, with a program aimed at the curious minds of younger guests and nature-based educational activities for “mini-explorers.”

In what is almost certainly a luxury hotel first, Mandapa has its own traditional rice field, and offers guests the chance to experience the time-honored methods of planting, harvesting and tending the local staple. I wouldn’t be surprised if more guests opt to spend their time in the spa than rice gardening.

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Fitting the theme of this property, the resort’s spa will offer comprehensive wellness and lifestyle programs from six “pillars”: Balinese Spa, Detox & Nutrition, Alternative Therapy, Body Therapy, and Healing. It features eight treatment rooms, half of them for couples, and the spa complex also includes fitness center, river-front yoga studio, and vitality-pool.

To date the Reserve concept has been very well received, but Bali is arguably the single most competitive top-tier luxury resort destination on earth, with extremely well appointed properties from the likes of Oberoi, Four Seasons, Como, Aman, Banyan Tree, Bulgari, Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) and St. Regis – and there is a ready a “regular” Ritz-Carlton. It will be interesting to see how the newcomer fares.

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By Larry Olmsted Courtesy Forbes

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