We reserved the Mary Jane Colter Suite--an AMAZING two and a half room suite with a full bathroom--a full year in advance. It has one of only 4 balconies directly over-looking the south rim in the entire park and is worth every single penny we paid. Those pennies equalled more than we've ever paid for any type of luxury accommodation anywhere in the world we've traveled, and we were SO glad that we splurged.
We spent copious amounts of time on the ginormous balcony, enjoying sunrises, sunsets, drinks, snacks and conversations with some of the most awe inspiring views ever. Judging from the other reviews, I'm guessing that our balcony was larger than most rooms.
Our room was equipped with a Keurig coffee machine and ample complimentary pods of regular and decaf coffee as well as tea. Also nice was the free coffee each morning just down the hall.
Our room consisted of a very large living room area with a full sofa, side chairs and a dining area. The bedroom area had two beds, a desk and a few chairs. Both rooms had TV's but we didn't watch them. There was a small room in-between these two rooms that had a large closet, the coffee bar area and a refrigerator.
The bathroom was large, well equipped and had amazing finishes.
On the down side: the carpeting was notably and terribly stained throughout to the extent that we didn't feel comfortable walking around without something on our feet. This really is unacceptable for a room of this caliber and cost. At this point, the damage appears to be beyond a need to be cleaned and instead needs to be replaced. It was honestly nasty, but given the opulence of everything else, did not diminish our stay.
The second thing is that the washroom had a full window in the shower. When we were outside after dark, it was very easy to see others with the same set up while showering. They seriously need to upgrade the curtains to allow for more privacy while showering.
The room above ours was set back, and its balcony was directly over our living room area. During our stay, the guests in that room dragged their abundant patio furniture all around during all hours of the night. Despite closing the doors between the sleeping area and the living room, the noise they made was both very audible and kept us awake. I was very close to going upstairs and knocking on their door. It was ridiculous.
Lastly, the parking situation is really a nightmare. You can pretty much count on parking a LONG way away from the hotel and walking to and from your car. That was a bummer, but given the magnificent views on the walk, not such a terrible thing.
As to the criticisms of other reviewers: the lodge felt like a lodge to us. We didn't think it was too dark at all. We also had wonderful experiences with the staff, who were all outgoing, helpful and very nice.
We ate in the restaurant once. The service was exceptional, the food good and the prices high. Not surprising. We enjoyed both of the gift shops in the lobby area, as well as all three common porches, some with rocking chairs.
Were we to travel to the south rim again, I'd stay here and would definitely recommend planning ahead and splurging on a suite to others.
El Tovar was definitely a highlight on our trip.