When you think of the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain, you think of luxury, class, and elegance. For this reason, I booked this hotel for a stay after Christmas that was to be enjoyed through New Years. I’d never been to St. Thomas and had heard so many great things, so my expectations were high, as was the price of the stay at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas.
The hotel is located around 25 minutes from the airport. I tried numerous options, even calling the hotel directly for shuttle service, but everything always circles back to a $90 private taxi ride. $90 seems steep for a 25 minute ride, but prior to the trip I spoke to some friends who frequent St. Thomas and they advised me this was to be expected.
The Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas – Full Review
There aren’t a ton of options when your in St. Thomas, and being a loyalty member at the Ritz Carlton brand, this was my natural choice.
My first observations as a frequent guest of Ritz Carlton properties were plain and simple:
- There isn’t a lobby bar. In most locations, the lobby bar is the focal point of the property. It’s a place where high end cordials and liquors are available as well as a great place to meet people. In the Cayman Islands Ritz Carlton, as well as the Orlando Ritz Carlton, there is live music and cocktail waitresses, and a nice ambiance that guests can enjoy which creates interaction and makes everyone feel at home. The lack of any central location to unwind was a real downer.
- The normal luxury stores found in other locations (like the Rolex store) aren’t here in St. Thomas. Instead, there are more mainstream stores as well as a jewelry store without any luxury brands.
- The room service menu was entirely different. Being accustomed to late night green drinks and chicken noodle soup, we were disappointed to find this not on the menu.
All in all, while the service was on point and the staff very friendly (we even switched rooms once, more on that below), the property is NOT up to par with the other Ritz Carlton properties. One could say, “when in Rome,” but when you pay a premium for the brand you are loyal to and enjoy, you expect the best of luxury. This was far from a Ritz Carlton type experience.
The property is secluded and away from most of the action, but it’s a short five minute cab ride to the Red Hook area, where you’ll find bars like Duffy’s, Raw Sushi, and many other hole in the wall dive bars where you can get bar food and the beverage of your choice. We found ourselves going to Red Hook at night and even taking the Ferry to St. John for the day in the nearby marina.
The property advertises the typical water sports activities the Ritz Carlton brand is known for offering, but unless you are sailing, there really isn’t much here. In fact, the beach is very small and everything is very close together. The typical beach side cocktail and food service is available from their nearby poolside restaurant and bar, called Sails, which helps, but there isn’t a lot to do in the water unless you are sailing.
Near the pool there were ladder golf games as well as a soccer goal for the kids. The Gym was on the smaller side, but had everything needed to get in a good workout. There were multiple bikes, treadmills, and a decent free weights room. If you are the type that must get in a workout or some cardio, your fine here. The facilities are adequate with up to date machines and equipment.
We found the small smoothie and sundries store, called Zest, to be a big hit with us. Zest has every kind of drink you want. From smoothies, to frozen adult drinks, to ice cream and frozen yogurt, this place was a hit with us, especially after the gym, which is located next to it. However, it was a major let down that they advertised having protein powder, but didn’t have it. Same thing for the bananas during our stay. Since 90% of the smoothies on the menu featured bananas, (not to mention they were in abundance next door at the breakfast spot) it was disturbing that they would run out of them.
It’s worth noting that our ocean view room was at the very far end of the property. Literally a five minute walk to the main building through hills and winding trails. We asked if we could be more centrally located, and within minutes, we were granted this wish. The building we were moved to seemed to have been updated in comparison to the previous room, so your mileage may vary on how your room looks and feels based on the fact that our two rooms were very different.
Pro’s of the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas US Virgin Islands Hotel
#1: Solid breakfast buffet.
For $35, you get an omelette station and just about everything imaginable that you could desire for breakfast. They include coffee in this price, even latte’s and cappuccino, so it’s a solid deal in comparison to the menu items.
If you like to be on your own and away from the hustle bustle, you can’t beat this hotel.
#3: Friendly Staff.
Sure, this should be expected anywhere, especially at this price point, but I felt the staff was very pleasant and eager to hail a taxi, let us change rooms, and cater to our every need. They were detail oriented and highly courteous.
Con’s of the St. Thomas Ritz Carlton Hotel
As mentioned, this is not on par with other properties. My guess is it was purchased and not “created” by Ritz.
#2: Lack of consistency with other Ritz properties.
Everything from the menu, to the spa treatments, to the activities offered varied greatly from the norm.
There’s really no excuse for any major hotel charging almost $2,000 per night to run out of an ingredient as trivial as a banana. This seemed to be something of normalcy during our stay.
On some personal notes, I was also very irked that I saw my stay advertised for $400 per night (that’s not a typo) cheaper than when I pre-paid for the trip a month earlier. This didn’t sit well with me, nor did the fact that we could not book spa services until the last day of our stay. That said, we went across town to a Marriott property called Frenchman’s Reef, and did our massages there. When I figured out that it was a Marriott property, I called Ritz Carlton and tried to transfer to that hotel. However, the hotel was full and it didn’t come to fruition. I called American Express travel concierge, went to the front desk, and tried every website possible in order to make this switch happen, but wasn’t successful.
Word to the Wise:
The Frenchman’s Reef is 1/4 the price on average and has a better location, vibe, and overall ambiance. Don’t waste your money at the Ritz Carlton. After our massages, we spent the day at the pool (there are about 5 of them, and also a beach) there and had a great time. There are numerous outdoor bars and even a lobby bar (are you reading, Ritz Carlton?) and it would have been a much more enjoyable stay had we been there, not to mention a huge savings. Push the money aside for a second, the vibe and offerings at the Frenchman’s Reef, combined with the location and views make it a no brainer if I ever come back to St. Thomas.
It’s also worth noting that I communicated this to the staff (global customer service) at Ritz Carlton and they had told me the General Manager from the Ritz Carlton (where we stayed) was going to reach out to me to “better my stay.” While I told them that they couldn’t update the hotel or fix the issues that simply make it a very hokey Ritz property that devalues their iconic brand name, they did told me that the GM had the power to address the difference in price that I paid versus what was advertised.
Readers, do you think the General Manager reached out to me during the remaining three days of my stay?
Like the rest of the experience, I was let down. I’ll be calling corporate when I’m back State Side and have time to communicate this saga to them. While I’m hoping for the best, I have my doubts that this will be rectified to my liking.
You can count on me to come back and update you all on what unfolds, or doesn’t unfold, in this here AllWorld.com travel review.
Further issues we ran into at this St. Thomas hotel…
This video shows how the breakfast buffet, at $35 per person per day, was serving expired yogurt! This didn’t happen just once, or I would have let it slide. In this grainy video (I didn’t want to advertise the fact that I was recording this) you’ll see me warn a hotel guest of this. This was the third day in a row the expired yogurt was out there for the taking. I wonder how many people got sick?
The pool scene was pretty brutal as well…..
The competency of the staff to properly take an order and actually deliver it within reasonable time was just atrocious. I’ve seen better service at fast food restaurants.
So after the trip, I was sent a survey. I filled it out, and linked them to this page here. They were not impressed. I do have to tip my cap to Marriott, because they did end up compensating me (in points, not cash) for a portion of the trip. While that’s going to get me a week of my life back and “re-do” the vacation, at least there is some small consolation in this. They certainly didn’t make it easy, as I was offered a stay at this property again at first (ahhh, no thanks), and then had to talk to person after person, re-telling my horror story until someone was willing to help out. In the end, I do appreciate the points and look forward to using them in the very near future.