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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