The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain
Al Seef, Bahrain
- Boutique Spa
- Day Spa
- Kids club
- Pool – Indoor
- Pool – Outdoor
Ritz-Carlton Bahrain is a seven storey hotel which sits by the coast in the capital, Manama’s, smart Al Seef district. A former Le Meridien, it was taken over by Ritz-Carlton in 2003, with all the comfort and opulence that suggests.
There are 245 rooms and suites in the main building, while in the grounds are 23 separate three bedroom villas, perfect for families. Swimming and watersports are the main focus outdoors; the beach curves round to an elongated peninsula, or ‘private island’, where events can be held, and there’s both an indoor and outdoor pool.
The Royal Beach Club is available to non-guests, who join to take advantage of the upmarket facilities – including tennis and squash courts, hi tech gym facilities, and the sumptuous spa.
The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Bahrain
The spa comprises of a circular thalassotherapy pool, which uses seawater, as well as a steam room and sauna, and a small plunge pool. There are 9 treatment rooms offering treatments from ESPA and Natura Bisse – and a ladies-only fitness area upstairs, with a separate room for Thai massage, and a couples massage room.
- Steam room
- Thalassotherapy pool
- Fitness area
The hotel has 245 rooms and suites, many with a sea view. There are also 23 three-bedroomed villas in the grounds closer to the beach.
Check out: 11:00 AM
There are seven different restaurants in the resort, as well as a handful of lounges and bars.
Primavera offers modern Italian cuisine, while Nirvana is a luxury Indian. Plums is a gourmet steakhouse and La Med, a light, airy space which serves breakfast and a buffet lunch as well as dinner. More casual options are La Plage, which overlooks the outdoor pool and offers Arabian-Mediterranean fusion cusine, and Thai, which serves pan-Asian and Thai-influenced cuisine.
Facilities and Activities
- Tennis courts
- Squash courts
- Indoor and outdoor pools
For the Kids
There is a kids club, which organises activities for children during the day with an educational twist, so they can learn about sustainability as well as having fun, and they even offer Ritz Kids Camps, where children can attend for a period of several days and take part in anything from tennis and water sports to swimming, boat trips, snorkeling, culinary classes, arts and crafts, adventure games, talent shows, camp fires, star gazing and barbeques.
Airlines which fly non-stop from the UK to Bahrain include British Airways and Gulf Air. Indirect flights can be found via Turkish Airlines or Emirates.
Bahrain is one of the lesser-known countries in the Middle East, often overlooked for its flashier neighbours such as Dubai, or Abu Dhabi. But that’s precisely what I like about it; it has kept a bit more authenticity, and a sense of its past, with a distinct lack of skyscrapers except in the capital, Manama’s, financial district. Here you’re more easily able to uncover streets and buildings which have been here since pre-oil times; mazes of low-level, whitewashed homes, traditional-style cafes and restaurants, and souks selling gold, fabrics and crafts as they have done for decades. That said, you’ll also find a certain amount of bling. Bahrain sits between two wealthy neighbours, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and isn’t short of a few quid itself. It is home to plenty of impressive, five star resorts, and one of the most impressive is the Ritz-Carlton.
This seven-storey, slightly pyramid-shaped, property sits by a curving stretch of private beach in Manama’s smart Al Seef district, set in several acres of peaceful, landscaped grounds. It started life in 1994 as a Le Meridien, but was taken over by Ritz-Carlton in 2003. The grand lobby is marble-clad, with an atrium reaching all the way up to the seventh – executive level – floor, with the ground-floor restaurants, shops and spa stretching out in either direction. Staff are unfailingly attentive and helpful; many have been with the company for years, if not decades, which I always find an extremely good sign. The decor is stylish and elegant, with changes in tone between the different public areas and restaurants, from the dark velvet banquettes and chairs in the Lobby Lounge, for example, to the European Grand Brasserie feel of the Royal Gourmet Lounge, but all is unmistakably five star.
The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Bahrain
The Spa is tucked away in the centre of what is also known as the Royal Beach Club; non-guests have the option to be members, which gives them access not only to the private beach, but also to facilities such as the indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and squash courts, and the gym, as well as the spa.
The spa itself comprises of a circular thalassotherapy pool, which uses seawater, as well as a steam room and sauna, and a small plunge pool. There are 9 treatment rooms – the two main products used are ESPA and Natura Bisse – and a ladies-only fitness area upstairs, with a separate room for Thai massage, and a couples massage room.
To me, the decor has a bit of a French country house feel; there’s lots of dark wood, pink velvet chairs and drapes, gilt ceilings, and big vases of flowers; it feels lovely and cosy, if a little dated. And the treatment rooms themselves could do with a bit of a refresh, clad as they are in what seems to be Laura Ashley wallpaper, accented with dark wood cupboards.
But it’s the staff, yet again, who make this spa what it is: by all accounts, the best in Bahrain, which I can easily believe. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such skilled professionalism coupled with such enthusiasm for the job from these lovely women, some of whom have been here for over 15 years.
The first treatment I experience is the hotel’s signature, the Four Hands Royalty Massage (while most Ritz-Carlton spa treatments are similar across the board, each property has its own individual treatment). This can be either 60 or 90 minutes, and involves two therapists working in perfect synchronicity, one on the right hand side of the body, the other on the left hand side.
Mine, Gigi and Rattana, are both Thai, and, once I’ve selected the energizing ESPA oil, with peppermint and rosemary (I could have chosen the relaxing oil, with sweet orange and lavender), they set to. It’s utterly hypnotic; I am only conscious of smooth, swirly, oily strokes, with Gigi and Rattana’s movements almost balletic. It’s not often I switch off fully during a massage, or lie like a stone without twitching now and again, but I do here (I also appreciate the pre-treatment form, which asks if you prefer no conversation during the treatment; good for an awkward Brit like me who often makes a lot of small talk out of politeness, and therefore can’t truly relax). The girls occasionally use their elbows to dig into my problem areas (my neck and shoulders), and at several points hot stones are swept over my arms, legs, shoulders, feet and hands, which just feels incredible. My arms are stretched out, as are my fingers and toes, so that at the end I actually feel invigorated rather than sleepy. It’s utterly dreamy.
I also experience the Cellular Anti-Ageing Facial, which uses Natura Bisse products. First, I undergo a Glycoline Glyco Extreme Peel, followed by an application of Essential Shock Intense Complex serum, then a hydrating moisturiser, Essential Shock Intense Retinol Fluid. My blackheads are carefully steamed and removed, I have a cooling clay eye contour treatment, and finish with a scalp massage. Afterwards, my skin is unbelievably plumped, dewy and glowing; it looks, and feels, incredibly smooth and firm, and the effects last for several days afterwards, a testament to what is probably the best facial I have ever had.
I stayed in a Club Room, on the seventh floor, which is the Executive Club Level. The elegant, neutrally decorated room overlooked the beach, with a large and criminally comfortable bed, a workspace area with desk and multiple power points, a Nespresso machine, a walk in wardrobe, lounge area and spacious bathroom with a standalone bath, separate rainforest shower room and toiletries by Asprey. I was welcomed with a jug of iced water – very welcome considering the 30oC heat outside – and a platter of fruit, which was lovely. The Club Lounge, to which staying in a Club Room gives you access, is available for snacks and meals throughout the day and evening, with cocktails and alcohol available at night, as well as a relaxing library area, with books and magazines to read or borrow.
I dined at two of the restaurants during my stay; firstly, at Primavera, which serves modern Italian cuisine, and is staffed exclusively by Italians, which helps it feel even more authentic. The decor is slick and modern, with a glass-walled open kitchen, and beautifully rustic handpainted crockery from Amalfi. Highlights include seafood – I start with grilled octopus with crushed potatoes, pesto and green beans, followed by hammour (grouper fish) with a caper, olive and tomato stew – and the handmade pasta.
Plums is all about fine dining, with some exquisite dishes including scallops in miso sauce, and freshly prepared beef tartare, but you come for the steak, and my surf and turf – prime steak with half a grilled lobster – is utterly delicious.
Don’t miss a visit to the colourful souk in Muharraq; these narrow, winding, maze-like streets, lined with jewellery shops (some selling pearls, which used to be the island’s main trade, but mainly gold), clothes stalls and stores selling sweet, sticky halva, haven’t changed much in centuries. Perfect for stocking up on souvenirs.