Four Seasons or Aman | high end travel choices

Four Seasons and Aman Resorts are two of the world's top luxury hotel families. Clients traveling to Bali have frequently asked my advice as to where to stay. Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay and Amankila are both great beach resorts. Amandari and Four Seasons Sayan are top choices near Bali's cultural center of Ubud. Four Seasons or Aman? That question was one reason I recently traveled to Bali. I wanted to see these properties with my own eyes and experience their service.

So here's my take on this question. Aman and Four Seasons are two very different hotel management companies. Each does what it does very well, but they set out to do different things. Monty Brown, Aman's regional manager for Indonesia, told me the following story which I think is quite illustrative of the distinction. Michael Dell (who owns FS Hualalai and Kona Village Resort) once approached Amanresorts to redevelop and manage Kona Village Resort. Dell's idea was to make the resort a bit bigger. Aman's intention would be to make the resort smaller, and it was an immediate no-go decision for Aman.

This story encapsulates what Aman is all about. The word Aman means peaceful, and Aman's intention is to provide an extremely intimate guest experience. Each Aman resort has only 30 to 35 rooms. They offer a lot of space to a very few select guests. With a 5-1 staff-to-guest ratio, Aman has the resources to provide personalized service and an uncrowded, serene guest experience. Your guest assistant will work with you to customize an itinerary for your stay, and you will be in the best of hands with Aman's excellent driver-guides. Everyone will know you by name, and you'll never be presented with a bill until you check-out; Aman doesn't want to interrupt your vacation with a series of commercial experiences. You will of course pay more for the personal space and level of service you are lavished with, but the price is worth it if this is what you want for your vacation. (You will receive additional value with the Virtuoso amenities you receive by booking through a Virtuoso travel consultant).

Four Seasons provides an excellent product at a reasonable price, but it's a very different product aimed at a different market. Four Seasons offers a predictably comfortable luxury resort stay, at a price that represents a good value, at nearly 100 properties around the globe. You can generally expect large rooms, great beds, great bathrooms, complimentary kids programs, no resort fees, and a very good amenity program through Four Seasons Preferred Partners. The two Four Seasons properties in Bali (FS Jimbaran Bay, FS Sayan) succeed in providing this as well as any of their resorts around the world.

So here's the basis of your choice: your vacation at a 147 suite beach resort (FS Jimbaran Bay) will be materially different from your vacation at a 35 suite beach resort (Amankila). Do you want a very relaxed vacation in a serene setting with extremely personalized service? Aman may be your choice. Or do you want the resources that larger resort can offer: lots of kids that your kids can play with on the beach, a choice of restaurants on property, a chance to meet new people and interact at the bar, at the pool, or on the beach? You may prefer Four Seasons.

Four Seasons or Aman? There's no one correct answer to this question. It's all about the kind of vacation you want to enjoy.

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copyright (c) 2011 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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