Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Ritz-Carlton

1 Jun 2005 by business traveller

What's it like? A 23-storey tower built on a man-made island, the Ritz-Carlton opened in 2001 but still feels very new. Its most arresting feature is the 7.5m Viennese Baakowitz chandelier beneath the central atrium in the marble-floored lobby, which contains over 2,000 individual crystals and sets the lavish tone for the rest of the hotel.

Where is it? In West Bay Lagoon, north of the city centre, in an area where development is quickly gathering pace. Limousine taxis are available for the 10-minute drive into town, costing around 35QR ($9.60/£5.25). Doha airport is a 20-minute drive away.

How many rooms? 374, divided into 271 deluxe rooms, 42 Club rooms and 61 suites. Suites range from Junior up to the huge, impressive Grand Amiri suites. Rooms that overlook the Doha skyline also give a good view of the Pearl, currently a construction site but soon to be a luxury island development.

Room facilities Rooms are brightly coloured and contemporary in deep reds and golds and every room has a large balcony with an outside seating area. The bathroom is a vision of black and white marble with a walk-in shower, separate toilet room and own-brand toiletries. Standard features include 24-hour room service, minibar, bathrobe and slippers, laptop-sized safe and complimentary daily regional newspaper. The TV has 52 channels including Al Jazeera, BBC World and CNN, as well as a handful of free movie channels. I couldn't fathom how to connect to the hotel's high-speed internet service on my laptop and, within five minutes of my request, the technology butler was in my room solving the problem and writing instructions to help me configure my laptop back to its original settings. Access costs 100QR ($27.50/£15) for 24 hours. Wifi access is free in the Club Lounge, and 150QR ($41.25/£22.45) per two hours (using a prepaid card available in the business centre) in the Lobby Lounge. The Club rooms are found on the floors 19-21 and the 23rd floor has a private Club lounge with all-day dining and a Club concierge.

Meeting rooms The hotel has 2,000sqm of meeting space on the ground floor in one large wing. With six individual meeting rooms and two lavish ballrooms, the hotel can take meetings for six people up to dinners and exhibitions for over 1,000. The largest ballroom, Al Wosail, measures 12,168sqm and takes 1,200 theatre-style or 800 banquet-style. It has eight huge chandeliers and is divisible into four by portable panels weighing half a ton each. The meeting rooms are decorated in rich reds, browns and greens – all with the obligatory chandelier centrepiece – and the smallest ones can be fitted into a bespoke office on request. There is also a dedicated videoconferencing room (Fateh Al-Khair) with good natural light (many of the others are windowless) and can take 30 conference-style or can be split into two smaller meeting rooms. There are three separate outside entrances to avoid flooding reception with delegates – also handy for the 140 local weddings the hotel hosts every year. A large chunk of the hotel's business comes from meetings (55 per cent of room stays are taken by groups) with the main markets outside the region being the UK, Germany and the US (when I was staying, a Toyota launch was being prepared for a 500-strong event that evening). Recent events have included last year's Global Travel and Tourism Summit and the Economic Forum Arab Competitiveness Round Table in April.

Business centre In the same wing as the meeting areas. Internet costs 20QR ($5.50/£3) per 10 minutes and computers 50QR ($13.75/£7.50) per hour. Also available are printing, photocopying and faxing services.

Restaurants and bars The signature restaurant is La Mer (1830-2300), reached by a separate lift to the 23rd floor with great views. It offers contemporary French cuisine and my warm raviolis goats' cheese with beetroot and rocket salad (79QR/$21.70/£11.80) followed by seared sea bass with buttered apple artichoke chips and red pepper sauce (95QR/$26/£14.20) were delicately flavoured and immaculately presented. For breakfast the buffet at the Lagoon (open 0630-2330) offers a huge range of international and Middle Eastern cuisine. For socialising, Habanos (1730-0100) cigar bar offers live entertainment, but The Admiral's Club next to the marina is the place to head to after hours: it's one of a handful of hangouts in Doha where expats and visitors let their hair down.

Activities Doha is beginning to develop its attractions for visitors, but in the meantime the city's hotel leisure facilities are particularly important and the Ritz-Carlton's excellent spa and fitness centre is certainly impressive. The huge spa wing houses a 24-hour fitness centre, squash court, indoor and outdoor pools, two floodlit tennis courts and daily fitness classes in the aerobics studio. The spa is beautifully decorated in Italian marble and mosaic tiles and has seven treatment rooms, with sauna, steam and Roman baths, plus the largest spa bath I have ever seen. Elsewhere, the Doha Golf Club is only a five-minute drive away and has an 18-hole Championship course, driving range and teaching facilities. The huge City Center shopping mall is nearby and has both designer and traditional Arabic-style shops.

Other considerations The hotel can help organise group excursions to nearby sights such as the dunes and huge inland sea.

Verdict A stylish, opulent hotel with excellent meetings and leisure facilities. Rates are competitive with Dubai and make a refreshing upmarket alternative to the brasher glitz of its famous neighbour.

Price Rooms start from US$352. Delegate rates may be available at the time of booking.

Contact The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, PO Box 23400, Doha, Qatar tel +974 484 8000,www.ritzcarlton.com.

Sarah Maxwell

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