The Ritz Carlton – Reviewed and Revealed: Bali

Last summer, the prestigious U.S.-based travel magazine, Travel+Leisure published their annual World’s Best Hotels for Service. A Balinese property was ranked number one in Asia and second in the world. The Ritz-Carlton Resort and Spa located in Jimbaran has been acclaimed for service honors twice before, but this year represents the first time that the American-managed resort has received top honors.

The numbers: Travel+Leisure readers’ score for Ritz-Carlton Bali service: 98.86 out of 100. Total number of rooms: 368. Staff to guest ratio: 3-to-1

The personal touch: More than a year ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Bali’s premier resort with three of my friends. A virgin to the world of The Ritz-Carlton Bali, I was immediately impressed by the manner in which each of us was treated. The warm reception we received included a wreath of flowers around our necks and welcome drinks for the entire party.

Upon returning to the hotel a few months ago, I was pleased to be once again met by the friendly gestures and the familiar smiles which greeted me on my first visit. The hotel staff said, “Welcome back, Mr. Santana”, instead of “Welcome, Mr. Santana”. Obviously the hotel keeps records of their guests’ visits and advises staff prior to return arrivals; but I’ll tell you more about that later.

The friendly, but not-too-friendly, approach: I was duly impressed with the manner in which the Ritz-Carlton Bali staff always treated guests like friends; not the kind of overwhelmingly intimidating, or too nice that you think it’s fake friendship, but rather a cordial and relaxed acknowledgement which had the immediate affect of making you feel relaxed and at home.

Regularly addressing guests by name, staff often ask for a chat, to make sure that everything’s OK with your stay, talk about Nyepi, Bali’s annual day of silence, or to speak about traffic jams in Jakarta. These effortless conversations are so engaging you’ll actually miss them when you’re checking out.

The surprise: When I had a birthday dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Bali, staff came to my table with a birthday cake with candles. You might think this is just like in any other restaurant, right? Wait until you receive the customized greeting card, personally signed by each of the restaurant’s staff. It makes all the difference.

The innovations: The Ritz-Carleton Bali is replete with a number of unique amenities, activities and services. One of the all-time favorites is the Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool, the world’s largest therapeutic bathing pool of its type. Those seeking more personalized attention may opt for the relaxing Spa on the Rocks, an epicurean adventure leaving guests to be pampered literally in the middle of the sea. Feeling hungry at the end of the day? Try a romantic dinner set on the hotel’s private jetty.

Last year the Ritz-Carlton opened the magnificent Ocean Beach Pool. Proffering amazing sea views, the hotel’s dedication to service includes: the iPod butler, an appropriately attired staff member who offers guests iPods with a selection of different music genres. Just one small detail that can make your pool-side sunbathing just a little more comfortable. A small detail that’s worth cheering for.

The secret: One morning I happened to join the Ritz-Carlton Bali’s daily line-up. A meeting where the hotel’s key staff gather in a circle for 15 minutes or so with sheets of paper listing pivotal guidance for the day. Topics of discussion might include resolution of any defects or customer complaints, who’s who information on guests, VIPs arriving and departing, birthday guests, event orders, as well as favorite lists from repeating guests.

Expect to find vivid details of individual guests. This might include insights as to what kind of food is guest A’s favorite, which drink the son of guest B has always requested and how guest C likes his steak done, and so on. This guide is used to serve repeat guests better for their next visit.

Executive Chef Ron Pietruszka recounted a story of one area in which this attention to individual behavior helped Ritz-Carlton Bali excel: “From our database, we knew one particular film director preferred non-alcoholic beers. One day before he checked in, we stocked his mini bar with non-alcoholic beers. Of course, he was happy to find out.” Indeed, these little things matter when you are running the best hotel in the world.

More secrets: During the daily line-up, staff can also read the day’s “wow-stories” submitted from real-life experiences of over 30,000 Ritz-Carlton staff around the world. Each story always reflects Ritz-Carlton’s 12 service values. They serve to inspire staff so that they can quickly respond to any issue in the hotel.

Stories are regularly swapped from exotic locations throughout the world. From Bali to Berlin, Jakarta to Jamaica, wow-stories are used to motivate employees and remind them of the manner in which the hotel empowers all staff to meet each guests’ every need. One staff member’s experience can become an inspiration for others.

Bottom line: From the moment you walk out of the airport, a new family welcomes you with Balinese smiles, real conversations, innovative service and most of all, dedication to make you feel at home. You’ll be surprised at how you can be wowed at any given moment of your stay at the Ritz-Carleton Bali.

Kenny Santana, Contributor, Jimbaran, Bali,