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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Public transportation from New Orleans airport (MSY) to downtown

January 2014, Weekday afternoon

Our flight arrived in the New Orleans airport before noon, so we decided to take the bus downtown since the cost was only $2 each. And, we are always up for an adventure! I easily found route information on the Jefferson Transit site for the E-2 bus from the airport. I did not think the airport location description I found online was very accurate though. The online information says: The Airport bus stop is on the second level of the airport, near the Delta counter, in the median (look for the sign and bench). Our stop is located outside of Door #7 on the UPPER LEVEL.
view of the bus stop from our seats

These directions were somewhat unclear, because the doors were not numbered inside the terminal. Fortunately, there are information desks inside each concourse, so we found the stop without too much trouble.

Here are the directions we followed: We flew Delta and arrived in concourse D. We followed the signs downstairs to baggage claim, and then we went back upstairs, since the directions said that the bus stop is on the upper level. We did not see any door numbers, so we stopped at the information desk in concourse D to ask about the bus stop. The bus stop is in concourse C. We walked over to concourse C, which is only a few steps from D concourse. We saw the bus stop sign in the median, and sat down inside the airport to wait for the 12:26 p.m. bus. The bus stop was easy visible from our seats inside the terminal. Click on the photos to enlarge them and see the labels I added.

Since I knew that our ride was going to be over 30 minutes, I had planned to use the restroom a few minutes before 12:26; however, at 12:18 p.m., we saw the E-2 bus stop in the median. The route number on the side of the bus was easily visible from our seats inside the airport. One passenger boarded as we walked out. The bus started to pull away as we walked up, and I waved my arm to get the driver to stop. The bus stopped again, reopened the door, and we boarded. I commented that I was glad we had seen the bus because we were not expecting it until 12:26. After this, the driver stayed at the stop until 12:26 p.m., and several more passengers boarded during this time. I am not sure why the door was closed and the bus had been starting to pull away when we approached.
E-2 bus seats

Before our trip, I had read a comment from someone online, who said that the bus is for local riders, as though it is not set up to accommodate passengers to and from the airport. When we boarded, the bus was empty except for the one passenger who had gotten on before us. Since there were not many passengers, we did not have any trouble with space for us our luggage; however, one thing the bus does not have is a luggage rack or place to stow luggage.

We arrived at the Tulane and Loyola stop at 1:10 p.m. We had expected this to be a transportation terminal, since we had been told it was the end of the line and the transfer station. This stop was just a basic bus stop on the street. I assume that one could stay on the bus to go the next few blocks by paying another fare, although I did not ask. 

We had an easy 5 block walk to the Astor Crowne Plaza hotel. The sidewalks were wide and the walk was flat. There were crosswalks and stoplights at all of the corners. The bus worked out well for us this trip, although I am not sure we would do this again. It would depend how early we are arriving.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Amtrak -- Roundtrip from GRR to CHI -- 4 1/2 late return

January 2014, Friday - Saturday

We have taken the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Chicago and back several times, and I provided a review of one of our prior experiences here: January 2012

Friday morning departure from Grand Rapids, Michigan
There were only a few minor departure differences since I wrote my last review. We did not need to wait until we got to the station to print our boarding passes at the kiosk. We made the reservation online, and then I received an email with a PDF of our boarding passes that we printed. We also got our boarding passes this way in 2013; however, I did not write an Amtrak review in 2013. I have the Amtrak app, which I used to check the schedule, and I think that if I had also entered my account information on the app, we would have been able to use that as our boarding pass.

An Amtrak employee was inside the station when I entered to use the restroom before we departed, and I do not recall ever seeing an employee inside the station in Grand Rapids before.

We rode in upper level seats, and the ride was comfortable. The onboard ticket collector was friendly. Employees provided clear and accurate updates en route. Our arrival time was scheduled for 10:38 a.m, and we arrived at 10:48 a.m.

Saturday evening departure from Union Station, Chicago
Our return trip was horrendous. This was one of the most unpleasant travel days I have experienced, and I travel a lot! Our scheduled departure time was 4:55 p.m.

It was not until after we arrived at the station and people had started to line up to board that we were informed that the train was going to be delayed 30 minutes. Our departure time ended up being 2 hours and 23 minutes late, and we were not given much information while we waited. There was an announcement two or three times that merely said to stay in the area. Many passengers remained standing in line or they sat on the floor because there were not enough seats in the area. The trash cans around us were overflowing, and it was difficult to move around because there were so many people waiting. The train schedule board was never updated with a new expected departure time, and we did not learn the cause of the delay until we were getting ready to board.

When our train was finally on its way to the station from the yard, we were told that the cafe car had not been working and that they had to swap cars. It was not clear whether they meant that the car itself was not working or whether is was the cafe equipment, although it sounded like it was the cafe equipment. Many of the passengers waiting could have already been to their destination by this time. And, our train had been sitting in the yard since it had arrived from Grand Rapids that morning around 11 a.m. I do not understand why the train was not thoroughly checked sooner, so that any mechanical problems could have been taken care of before our scheduled departure.

We rode in a car similar to the one we had ridden in from Grand Rapids; however, this time it was very uncomfortable. This was probably because our 4-hour ride ended up being just over 6 hours, and the seat I was in needed to be replaced. My seat cushion kept sliding out, my fold down tray was dirty, and there was food debris on the floor in front of our seats. The open seats across the aisle did not seem much better when I went over and briefly sat in one, so we did not move.

All of the passengers traveling to stops before Grand Rapids ended up arriving about 2 1/2 hours late, and we ended up with another delay of just over 2 hours after we left Holland. When we got to Hudsonville, the train stopped, and we sat on the tracks for an hour. The information we were provided over the next two hours was unclear. The employee mumbled, and he did not clearly explain the reason for the delay. We were told something about a train car, a fire, and the Wyoming yard. 

After an hour or so on the tracks in Hudsonville, we started to move. The conductor then told us that we were going to proceed to the yard and deal with the situation when we got there. We again came to a stop a few miles from the train station. We remained in this location for another hour while we waited for a train beside us to be moved.

From the information I found online (car train fire in SW Grand Rapids), and what we observed, it appeared that a freight train had been moved because of a fire 4 hours earlier, and we had been sitting on the tracks waiting, because the freight train was in our way, and we had to wait for someone to come and move it.

Our scheduled arrival time into Grand Rapids was 9:55 p.m., and we arrived at 2:26 a.m. The Amtrak app said 2:22, which was not correct. It was only a few minutes later, so they must not have updated our arrival time when we were just short of arriving at 2:22.

Promotions and discounts
I "like" RailServe on Facebook because the Amtrak site says to do this in order to be informed about promotions and discounts. This is partially untrue. They do post the discounts eventually; however, do not rely on them to keep you informed. You are better off to do your own research, if you are interested in booking an Amtrak ticket.

When we were planning our trip, I searched online for discounts every few days, and I wished I had done this more frequently. I found the 20% Winter Sale discount over 24 hours before it was posted on Facebook. I was able to purchase our return tickets from Chicago with the discount when I found it; however, the promotional tickets for our outbound trip from Grand Rapids were already sold out by the time I found the discount. It was apparently available at least a few days before I found it, and before it was posted on Facebook. I missed out on the discount for our entire trip, because I had been counting on RailServe to let me know about upcoming promotions. Because I was following them on Facebook, I did not search for discounts as diligently as I had done for prior trips.

I felt betrayed by Amtrak and RailServe since I missed a discount by following their instructions. Their website encourages followers on Facebook several different times: 
  • There is no advance notice of these sales, so be sure to "like" our Facebook Page for updates. 
  • Subscribe to our Facebook Page for early notice of new Amtrak discounts. 
  • UPDATES: Subscribe to our Facebook Page for the latest Amtrak promotion code discounts plus occasional 3-day fare sales not available on our website. 
During our trip, we thought the Amtrak delays were handled inefficiently, and I have contacted Amtrak about our experience. I "like" the Amtrak page on Facebook, so I contacted them via message the evening of our delay. After we arrived home, I submitted a customer contact form via their website. It has been 4 days since I first contacted Amtrak about our experience, and I have not heard from them.

I always enjoyed riding the Amtrak before this experience. The way that Amtrak treated its passengers when our delay was initially caused by mechanical reasons, is the same poor treatment we received from the Lake Express when our trip with them was canceled due to mechanical reasons July 2013.  

I travel by air frequently, and I am sometimes frustrated with the delays I encounter. After our experience with the Lake Express and Amtrak, however, I am certain that air travel is far more reliable and friendly. I will provide an update if I hear anything from Amtrak.

I had expressed our dissatisfaction by submitting an online form via the Amtrak web page. I used the "Employee Praise/Compliment" form, because there was not a form to register a complaint or problem! I received an automated reply eight days later, and I received a call from Amtrak five weeks later.

The Amtrak representative who called apologized for the situation, and he said that he was issuing us a future travel voucher, since the delay had been over four hours. He was professional, although he also implied that the delay was due to the fact that the train had arrived late from Grand Rapids that morning. The train had arrived slightly late--around 40 minutes, if I recall correctly; however, I do not understand why that would have made our departure almost 2½ hours late, since there had been almost six hours between the two trips. I did not think it was necessary to argue the point; I was glad to hear that Amtrak is aware of the problems along this route, and that they are looking into things. Now that we have this travel voucher, I am more apt to try the Amtrak again. The value is not high enough to cover a roundtrip, although it is better than nothing. It is good for one year, and if we travel with Amtrak again, I will share our experiences.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chicago, Illinois / Palmer House Hilton

January 2014, Weekend, 1-night, King guestroom #8148 and Edison suite #8150

Status perks and check-in
I had made our reservation at the Palmer House Hilton quite a bit in advance of our stay. I found a fabulous rate for a Jr. Suite, so I booked that room type. Before our arrival, I noticed online that my room type had been changed to a king guestroom, and that there was an additional confirmation number listed with no information. When I called the hotel to ask about this, I was told that they did not have any Jr. Suites available, so my room had been changed to a king guestroom with a connecting door to a parlor room for the same price.

We arrived at the hotel before noon on the morning Amtrak from Grand Rapids. The front desk agent said that our guestroom was ready, and she allowed us to check-in early for no charge. The executive floor of the hotel was closed for remodeling, so she provided two coupons; one for breakfast and one for appetizers in the lounge. I also received two bottles of water, complimentary Internet access, and I was allowed to have late check at 1 p.m. the next day. I love having Gold status at Hilton!

arrival photo
Guestroom 8148
My previous stays at the Palmer House have always been on the executive floor, so I was initially disappointed when I entered the guestroom. This guestroom is quite a bit smaller than the guestrooms I had stayed in before, and the view looked out to a building wall and a fire escape type walkway.

photo taken the next day
The bedroom area contained a king size bed, desk and chair, night stands with clock, soft chair, and flatscreen TV on an armoire. Lamps were located on the nightstands, beside the soft chair, and on the desk. The bed, pillows, and bedding were all extremely comfortable. The sleep quality was excellent.

Glass glasses and an ice bucket were on the shelf area next to the TV. There was not a coffeemaker in the guestroom. A coffeemaker had been provided in the executive guestrooms I stayed in before, so I do not know if this was not provided because of the guestroom type, or if this had changed since our prior stay. A coffeemaker and supplies were available for no charge from room service. We called to request this, and it was immediately delivered.

A large closet next to the desk contained hangers, a folding luggage rack, extra bedding, an iron, ironing board, and a large safe. A full length mirror was mounted on the wall outside of the closet, and a second one was mounted on the bathroom door.

The bathroom was very small. There was not enough room to sit down on the toilet with the bathroom door open, and there was barely enough room to step into the bathroom and then close the door. The bathroom door needed to be closed to get into the tub/shower. 

photo taken the next day

The bathroom contained some amenities: soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. A hairdryer was in a bag hanging on the back of the bathroom door. 

The wall mounted makeup mirror in the bathroom was loose, so it slid down slightly when I tried to move it. There were some minor plumbing issues with the toilet. Sometimes we had to hold the handle down or jiggle it in order for the toilet to flush.

The connecting door to Edison Suite was located between the desk and the armoire. As soon as I realized the size and comfort of Edison Suite, I was amazed with this upgrade from the Jr. Suite I had booked.

Edison Suite entrance

Edison Suite 8150
We had access to the Edison Suite from our guestroom and from the hallway. The front desk agent had coded both of our keys so that they would work on both doors. Both rooms are marked in the photo of the guestroom diagram. Clicking on the photo will enlarge it to see the detail of the room layouts.

A wet bar area was located just inside the connecting room door entrance. This area contained a small fridge, sink, glass glasses, and an ice bucket. I was surprised that wine glasses and a coffeemaker were not also provided.

The sitting area was extremely comfortable and spacious. All of the white leather chairs were superb, and the other furnishings were comfortable and beautiful as well. My husband and I were traveling with two other couples this trip, and there was plenty of space for the six of us to visit.

view from table in front of bar area

The suite furnishings included two tables with eight chairs, four additional chairs, two couches, coffee and end tables, lamps, two flatscreen TVs, and more. 

There were two large closets and a half bath in Edison Suite. There was another connecting room door at the end of the room by the living room area.

The bathroom was more spacious than the one in our guestroom. It did not have a shower. I was surprised to see a couple of extra bathroom amenities in this bathroom. In addition to the bar soap, this bathroom also had shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and mouthwash. I would have expected the body wash to be in the guestroom bathroom.
center table in front of hallway entrance

Edison Suite has three walls of windows: facing north, south, and west. The flag is the view facing north, from one of the windows by the table next to the bar area. This is where the second flatscreen TV is located, which is barely visible in the photos.

Food & Beverages
The breakfast coupon we received at check-in said it was good for the continental breakfast buffet. The service in the restaurant during breakfast was mediocre. As the host seated guests with coupons, she said that it is $6 to upgrade to the hot buffet. I asked our server if I could use the coupon for a frittata instead, and he said no. He said that he could order this for me via the hot breakfast buffet add-on, so I did that. I ordered a spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese frittata. I received a ham, mushroom, and goat cheese omelet. I also ordered a glass of milk that I never received. Cold cereal was available at the breakfast buffet; however, we did not see milk in the buffet area. Other items in the buffet were scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, potatoes, fruits, breads, bagels, muffins, and yogurt.

We never received a check after we finished dining. We had heard servers discussing that gratuity is covered with the coupon, and we had observed several guests leave without a check. Finally, we asked our server if we were all set, and he said yes. I was glad to hear that we did not owe anything, since my egg order had been incorrect, and I never received my milk.

The appetizer coupon we received was good at Potters from 4 to 7 p.m. Unfortunately, we were away from the hotel at that time, and were not able to use that coupon.

We had lunch in the lobby bar area the day we departed, and it was excellent. The service was good, and the food was delicious. We had the pork sliders, and a bowl of mushroom soup. The pork sliders order included three sliders even though only two are showing in this photo. Our friends had the burger and southwest chicken wrap, and they were impressed with both food items.

Pool and fitness center
The pool and fitness center are both accessible from floors 7 and 8. They are located between the two floors. The pool was actually visible from one of our friends' guestrooms; #8-109. Their windows had frosted panes; however, they partially opened, and then they looked down at the pool.

We did not use the pool or fitness center, although we did walk through the area. The onsite fitness center is massive with many exercise machines. I did not take a photo because there were several people using the equipment when we walked through.
steps to whirlpool

The pool and whirlpool tub were both a decent size, and there were cushioned seats in the area. The whirlpool is up a few steps from the pool area. We did not check the water temperature, although I would guess that the tub temperature was comfortable, since there were guests in the whirlpool frequently. 

Misc. and overall

There is a lot of beautiful artwork throughout this hotel. The building has been preserved well, and it is beautiful.

There is a small museum onsite, although it has never been open any of the times that we stayed at the hotel. After I inquired about this at the front desk, I was given the name of someone who would take an appointment for a narrated tour. I think the names I was given were "customer relations or Ben Price." I did not keep this information after we left, so  if you are interested in this, check with the front desk.

I called and left a voice message with customer relations while we were there; however, no one called me back. I received a call from the Hilton shortly after I had left the message; however, the call did not ring long enough for me to answer it, and the person calling did not leave a message. I think that the caller hung up before it went to voice mail, since my phone did not even ring; I just saw it light up and tried to answer it.

The Palmer House Hilton is less than 3/4 of a mile walk from Union Station, and it is even closer to the Van Buren Street Station. This was our third or fourth stay at this hotel, and we have enjoyed every stay.

Sarasota, Florida -- SRQ / Hotel Indigo

January 2014, Weekday, 1-night, Rewards stay, King executive guestroom #420

Status perks and check-in
I redeemed 25,000 points for a basic guestroom at the Hotel Indigo Sarasota, because that was the only guestroom option for a stay with points. Before we arrived, I saw that our online reservation had been upgraded to an executive guestroom. The executive room description says: complimentary snacks and drinks, so when the agent did not say anything about this at check-in, I asked about this. She said that there would be an "amenity" in the guestroom. I asked if any kind of breakfast was included, and she said no. 

executive guestroom amenity 
Guestroom 420 is an average size hotel guestroom, and it is located next to the elevator. The view from the window faces south. It is one of the smallest guestrooms in this hotel. The guestroom was tastefully decorated, although I was somewhat disappointed with the guestroom size compared to other Hotel Indigos I have stayed in. My other stays were in Downtown Ft. Myers, FloridaAthens, Georgia; and Fishers Uptown Indy, Indiana. The Hotel Indigo in Fishers, Indiana is now a Holiday Inn Express.

The guestroom was furnished the same as the king guestroom photos in the hotel website; however, the photos in the hotel website do not portray an accurate picture of the guestroom size, because the photos are stretched out. When I compare the photos I took to the professional hotel photos, the furniture is longer in the professional photos, which makes the guestroom look more spacious.

entrance table with coffee
The only extra item I observed in the guestroom was a small fridge. Since there was no amenity in the guestroom, I again inquired at the front desk about the complimentary snacks and drinks listed on the website. The agent said that someone would bring the "green tea amenity" to the guestroom. A container of sweetened green tea and wrapped chocolates were brought to the guestroom a short time later. The chocolates were delicious; however, if I had been paying for the guestroom, I do not think I would book an executive room. The rate for an executive room is about $15 more, and the only extras were the snack and the fridge. Usually, when I have an executive guestroom in a hotel, it also includes more luxurious accommodations, like a larger guestroom and bathrobes.

A single serve coffeemaker with good quality coffee was provided on a table in the guestroom foyer/hall.

The bathroom was located across from the coffee table. The spacious shower had stationary glass walls. There was enough room inside the shower area for the wooden stool, which is shown in the hotel website photos. I forgot to take a picture of this.

view from entrance
A long vanity with mirror was located across from the shower, and the toilet was in between the vanity and shower. There was minor damage to the mirror frame; it was peeling at the bottom. The sink drain was sluggish, and the shower drained well.

Aveeda amenities were provided on the vanity, as well as good quality towels, and a hairdryer. The bathroom had sufficient room and counter space, although it was not as roomy as the other Hotel Indigos I have stayed in.

view from end of foyer/hall
The guestroom area contained a king-size bed, nightstands, a wardrobe closet, flatscreen TV on a stand, fridge, desk and chair, end table, soft chair, and footstool. I thought the small fridge was nicer and larger than what is usually provided in hotel guestrooms.

Lamps were located on the desk, the nightstands, and behind the soft chair. A clock and bottled water for purchase were also on the nightstands. A steel ice bucket and glass glasses were on a tray at the foot of the bed when we arrived.

floor peeling

The sleep quality was not good. The mattress was hard, the pillows were low quality, and we could hear the elevator most of the night.

There were a couple of minor spots where the floor was peeled up, although none of them were protruding enough that we tripped on them.

Food & Beverage
There is a restaurant a couple of blocks away from the Hotel Indigo called Toasted Mango Cafe. We thought about having breakfast there, but we ended up dining at the hotel instead. The food in H2o Bistro in Hotel Indigo was delicious. The entrees were expensive, although they were not much more than the specialty entrees at Toasted Mango Cafe. The portion sizes were generous, and we wished we had split one entree instead of ordering two.

I am not usually a fan of breakfast burritos, although I would have eaten half of the one my husband ordered. I tasted it, and I thought the flavor was amazing.

I had an egg and spinach sandwich type entree on a whole wheat bun. I do not recall the name of the menu item. It was very good.

Both items came with a side item choice, so I chose sliced tomatoes, and my husband chose potatoes. The tomatoes did not taste as fresh as the other ingredients. They were slightly mushy inside.

Whirlpool tubs
Again, the professional hotel photos of the whirlpool tubs are stretched out like the guestroom photos. The tubs are not as large as they look in the photos, although they are a good size. When I looked at all of the photographs before our stay, I thought that the tubs must be on a roof of the hotel. I have stayed in hotels that have the outside pool or sitting area on the roof, and not necessarily the top floor roof. The tubs are located at ground level next to the parking lot and entrance. There is a fence around the area and not much traffic, so the location was not a huge factor for us.

One of the whirlpool tubs was filled with cool water, and the other one was filled with hot water. We used the hot whirlpool, and the water felt silky smooth, as if it contained bath salts.

Business center
I used the business center to print our boarding passes. There were two computers on a counter down the hall near the front desk. Only one of the computers worked with the printer, so I needed to ask a guest who was sitting by the computer if he could move. He was not using the computer; he had his laptop plugged in.

Misc. and overall
Hotel Indigo from our balcony
at The Ritz-Carlton

One of the reasons we chose this hotel is because it is the only hotel in the downtown area that provides airport shuttle service. We walked to the hotel after we checked out of The Ritz-Carlton, and we used the Hotel Indigo shuttle to get to the airport the next day. We made an appointment for the shuttle, and the driver was very prompt. The Hotel Indigo is within waking distance of downtown and there is a Publix grocery store just a couple of blocks away.

This hotel did not seem very full the night of our stay, and I am sure we would have been much more comfortable in a suite. If we both wanted to sit in the guestroom to watch TV, one of us had to use the desk chair or sit on the bed.

We have a couple of future stays booked at IHG hotels--airport hotels and at the Astor Crowne Plaza, which we are looking forward to. The executive level at the Astor looks great, and we are looking forward to that stay!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sarasota, Florida / The Ritz-Carlton

December 2013 - January 2014, Weekday-Holiday, 2-nights, Rewards Stay, Waterview king guestroom 708 with club access

Arrival experience and check-in
We had an excellent arrival experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. I had filled out the virtual concierge form online asking about club access, and I received a telephone call from the concierge a few days before our stay. Initially, we did not think we wanted to upgrade to a club floor guestroom when we learned this is $200 a night. We had previous experience with club floor access at the JW Marriott in Cancun for $100 a night, which was an excellent decision. We thought $200 a night was a bit steep, especially since the concierge had told me that there would be no guestroom difference. After a brief discussion with my husband, we decided to upgrade to the club floor guestroom.

view from club floor balcony
We were promptly and warmly greeted by a bellman when we arrived at the hotel. He offered bottled water, and then we were escorted to the club floor by a different employee. After we were seated at the club floor desk, we were offered champagne. We had arrived just before 1 p.m., and our guestroom was not ready yet. The employee at the desk provided a key to access the club room, and he said that lunch was currently being served. We had lunch in the club, and our guestroom was ready less than 1/2 hour later.

Rina, the female employee who greeted us in the club after we sat down for lunch, already knew our name when she learned that we were checking in that day. I thought that was impressive! The employee from the club desk brought us our guestroom keys as soon as our room was ready. We received impressive service from all of the employees we had contact with.

The club room is located on the 8th floor, and guestroom 708 is one floor below this. The guestroom was comfortable and clean. The bedroom area was not as spacious as our guestroom had been at Naples Waldorf Astoria or Sanibel Harbour Marriott, although it was more comfortable.

Coffee supplies and water were provided on a table by the entrance door. The supplies included a single-serve coffeemaker, Ritz-Carlton brand bottled water, coffee, and condiments, and Taylors tea. Two coffee mugs and paper to-go cups were also included. This was our first experience with Ritz-Carlton, and I thought the coffee was excellent.  

The closet next to the entrance contained hangers, extra bedding, and a built in safe. The safe was similar to the safe in our guestroom at Sanibel Harbour Marriott. A full length mirror was mounted on the inside of the closet door.

Two bathrobes were provided, although I would have preferred a thick, plush robe to the thin woven material. One of the robes had a stain on it, and we did not use that robe. I left it on the floor near our used towels, and it was replaced when housekeeping tended to our room during stayover.
bathrobe stain

A spacious marble bathroom was located across from the closet. The toilet was located in a separate area with a door that could be closed. A long marble vanity with two sinks and a large mirror was located between the tub/shower and the toilet room.

Bath amenities, a good quality hairdryer, and plush towels were provided. The hairdryer had a diffuser attachment. Extra amenities, such as, cotton swabs, a comb, and Woolite clothes wash were also on the vanity. My husband thought he could use a new pocket comb, so he took the comb that had been provided. It is a good thing that he did not throw his other comb out, because the comb broke after he used it only a couple of times. This is a nice amenity for guests who may have forgotten to pack a comb, as long as it is not needed more than a few times. 

A folded bath towel that was on the edge of the tub had a stain on it. Plenty of towels were provided, so we did not need to use the stained towel. I set the towel back on the tub after we showered and I had taken the photo. Housekeeping must have seen the stain when the guestroom was cleaned during stayover because the towel had been replaced when we returned to the guestroom.
towel stain

As I started to write this review, I was shocked to see that I did not take any photos of the bed in the guestroom! The king bed photo in the hotel photo gallery is an accurate representation of our guestroom. 

A nightstand with a lamp was located on each side of the king-size bed. A flatscreen TV on an armoire was located at the foot of the bed. The room also contained a suit rack, desk and chair, and soft chair with footstool. An iPhone charger, two more bottles of water, and a clock were on the nightstands. Two chairs and a small table were located on the balcony. 

The bed comfort and bedding was superb, and the chairs on the balcony were very comfortable. The sleep quality was excellent, although we did hear a small dog barking/yapping almost continually in the early evening. It appeared that this was coming from the guestroom across the hall, and that it only happened when the dog had been left alone in the guestroom.

guestroom balcony

The Internet connection speed in the guestroom was very slow. Web pages either loaded slowly or not at all, so we took the iPad or my laptop to the club lounge when we visited. The Internet connection was excellent inside the lounge and on the lounge balcony.

guestroom balcony
There were not many easily accessible outlets in the guestroom, and the one at the desk was connected to the switch by the entrance door. So, if we turned the switch off when we left the guestroom or when we went to bed, my laptop also disconnected from power.

guestroom 708
We had a view of the water from the balcony with a partial view of the gulf. The view from this guestroom is pretty close to the same as the view from the club lounge. We were one floor lower, and west of the lounge. The club lounge is located in the center portion of the tower, which extends out just a little bit farther than guestroom 708.

Club lounge
All of the food and beverages served in the lounge were good quality, and the service was great. Here is a brief summary of some of the included items.

Breakfast: cheeses, cold meats, salmon with toppings, breads and bagels, quiche, scrambled eggs, cold cereals, oatmeal with toppings, and some fruit. There were several juices and two milk choices available.

Lunch: mini-sandwiches, soup, chips, salads, vegetables and dips. There was a slight variation of the sandwich and soup flavors each day, and we thought all of the lunch items were excellent.


Afternoon: I do not recall the specific snack items out in the afternoon, although we learned that we could get a plate of cheese and crackers, if we asked.

Evening: a couple of hot dish items were offered in the evening, along with salads.

Sweets/desserts: cookies and candy items were available in jars on a table by the entrance all day. Dessert and cordials were brought out in the evening. I think the time listed for this was 8 to 10 p.m., although I did not take a photo of the printed food offering times.

Beverages: wine, champagne, bottled water, sodas, coffee, and tea were always available during club open times for self assistance. A cappuccino machine was available next to the coffee and tea.

The printed club hours said that beverages are to be consumed in the club; however, we observed guests taking beverages out of the club. We usually had a partially full glass of wine when we left the club, and I asked if it was okay to take it with me the first time that we did this. One afternoon, we observed a guest fill an entire tray of to-go coffee cups with wine and take it with her to the pool! I am sure that guests are encouraged to stay in the club because of people like this woman.

Other beverages were available upon request. Pepsi products were stocked in the self-serve cooler, and Coke products were available when requested. My husband was able to try one of the local beer brands, and we each had a Bloody Mary on the balcony before lunch two different days. Sometimes, one of the concierges would stop to ask guests if he or she wanted anything, and other times, we made the effort to request things ourselves.

hotel pool and whirlpool
view from our balcony
The club lounge was comfortable and the presentations were good quality. Even though we were happy with our decision to upgrade, we thought that the upgrade at the Cancun JW Marriott that I mentioned earlier, had even better food choices.

Pool, beach, grounds, beach club shuttle
The outside temperature was not very warm during our stay, so there were plenty of seats available at the hotel pool. The water in the large whirlpool tub was warm, and the area was clean. Thick towels were provided, and the cushioned lounge chairs looked comfortable.
click photo to enlarge for detail

The perfectly manicured grounds were immaculate in all areas. I do not think my words or photos can express the outside beauty of this property.

front entrance

Paddle boards and kayaks were available for use at the hotel, and this was included in the $28 resort fee. We probably would have used both of these, if the weather had been warmer, and if our stay had been longer.

hotel grounds

A shuttle bus ran on the hour from the hotel to the Beach Club. The route traveled through the shopping and dining area on John Ringling Blvd., and the shuttle driver also stopped in this area to drop off and pick up guests.
Beach Club

We loved the Beach Club. We took the shuttle out there during our stay, and after we had checked out, we stored our luggage with the bellman, and then spent a few more hours at the club.

Beach Club upper level
The service at the Beach Club was excellent. A pool attendant immediately greeted us to set up chairs with towels whenever we arrived. And, we were brought an iced bucket of bottled water.

The locker room at the Beach Club had showers with amenities, such as a hairdryer, and locked storage lockers.

Beach Club

The warmest day of  our stay was the afternoon after we had checked out. Even though we arrived at the Beach Club in the afternoon (1 p.m. shuttle), we did not have too much difficulty finding two lounge chairs in a decent location. We had wanted to sit on the upper level; however, there were not any seats available in that area. We were able to find two loungers by the pool with a partial view of the beach. Additional lounge chairs were available on the beach.

The whirlpool tub at the Beach Club is massive. The temperature in this tub was just as perfect as it had been in the hotel whirlpool.

When we took the shuttle back to the hotel the afternoon of the warmest day, there were more guests waiting than there were seats on the bus. The driver told the remaining guests that he would be right back for them. We were already on the shuttle, so I do not know how long the guests had to wait for the next ride.

Misc. and overall
The Sarasota Recreational Trail runs right next to the entrance drive into The Ritz-Carlton. The trail system was not complete at the time of our stay, and I could not find a user friendly link with trail information to share. One of the days that we walked the trail, we took it over the causeway to Ringling Bridge Causeway Park and back. The trail is amazingly wide on the causeway; however, I was still slightly spooked by the height, since I have a mild apprehension of heights. The GPS app on my phone showed that we had an elevation gain of 994' during this walk.

Complimentary bottled water was available by the front door every morning, and the bottles in our guestroom were replaced during stayover. There was definitely plenty of water available throughout the resort.

The $200 that we paid for club access was pre-tax. I redeemed points for this stay, and the $200 charge was $224 per day after taxes.

We absolutely loved the Ritz-Carlton, and we wish we could have stayed more than two nights. With only a two-night stay, we really only had one full day to relax and enjoy the resort and the area. We would love to visit again for five to seven nights. We think it would be great to stay with club access for half the time, and just overnight accommodations the other half of the stay. This way, we could enjoy the club for a few days, and then have some time without club access to check out the area and hotel restaurants.
view of The Ritz-Carlton from Hyatt