Let me say that we were a little underwhelmed by this property until several days into our trip when we visited a few other options. I was expecting beautiful and pristine, and it was just okay. The pool is nice but small. The grounds are nice but not without imperfections. For what we were paying, I was expecting perfect.
However, the Marriotts on St. Thomas are gigantic and sterile feeling, like you would expect from a Marriott but even more. The beach is a long walk from the hotel. There aren't enough chairs to go around. Other guests were rowdy. We would only stay here if we had points and the whole thing was free. And even then, maybe not.
We also visited the uber expensive Caneel Bay on St. John. It would be nice if you're a celebrity or otherwise in need of privacy. it's very secluded, a lot smaller than the Ritz and with beach access from most bungalows. However, the beach was small, the chairs didn't look particularly comfortable and we didn't spot a pool. You're close to some amazing beaches but pretty isolated from restaurants and the like.
So, after sizing up the other options, we returned to the Ritz much happier and fully enjoyed our 10-day stay, with the exception of the Ritz's restaurants. They're a real problem. But I'll get to that in a minute. Here's a summary:
Beach chairs: After exploring a lot of beaches we decided the chairs are what set the Ritz experience apart. They are padded and then lined by a porter with a fresh beach towel for each guest. Each chair also has a canapy you can pull up for shade. The first row of chairs is feet from the water. The view is stunning. We never had issues getting a first row chair in November.
Room size: Don't go in expecting anything modern and swanky, but comfortable, the Ritz can do. We got the lowest room category and it was still much larger than a typical hotel room -- king bed, loveseat, desk, large bathroom, foyer, large porch.
Water sports: Sure you pay a pretty hefty resort fee, but that's standard operating procedure at these sorts of places. What you get for it is nice. Unlimited use of snorkel equipment, kayaks, paddleboards, peddleboats, windsurfing stuff, hobies, etc. Basically, anything without a motor is free. The equipment is in good shape and there's plenty of it to go around. The bay is calm and pleasant to explore by boat or board.
The pool: Though not huge, the infinity pool is nice enough and has a great view. I wish I had realized before my last day that there's a bench around the edge perfect for sitting in the pool and reading. You live, you learn. There are also small non infinity pools you can use over by the timeshare units. They advertise a kiddie pool but it's probably five feet wide; I'm not sure it really counts.
Restaurants: The resaurants are a real problem and why we might hestitate to stay at the Ritz again. First of all, they aren't any good. (We took a sushi making class and saw firsthand that the fish they use is bought frozen in bulk at the grocery store, despite being on a tropical island with ample fresh fish.) Second of all, they are ridiciously overpriced. For breakfast your only option is Bluewater, which is a $35/person buffet. You can get the cold buffet for about $10 less which we did a few times. For lunch there's Sails by the pool and Cococut Cove which is a short walk over at the timeshare proprty. Both are your typical pool lunch fare and decent, but $20 for a sandwich and $5 for a soda. For dinner there's Bluewater again, at least $50 a pop for seafood, and another Asian fusion type restaurant with sushi and such for just as much. After the first day or two we went offsite for all meals. Thank goodness we rented a car. Restaurants at nearby hotels Elysian (walkable) and Secret Harbour were good and reasonably priced. The community of Red Hook is also a five minute drive and has some decent options. The best meal we had was a 30 minute drive at 13. Try it -- you won't be disappointed!
The nickle and diming: When you pay a certain amount for a hotel room you expect to not be constantly asked for more money. However, more fees were everywhere. Want room service? That'll be $5 for delivery on top of your inflated food prices. Want your lunch delivered to the pool? That'll be $3 per item. You'll be asked to tip every employee you have a five second conversation with. It gets tiring (and expensive). The spa was so outrageously priced that I couldn't bring myself to use it even though I wanted to.
No Marriott perks: My husband is a platinum Marriott member but this didn't get us an upgrade at check in as the website told us it would. (The Ritz sometimes honors this, and sometimes doesn't.) The hotel was definitely empty so that wasn't the issue. Consider yourself warned.
Golf carts: In theory they stop and give you a ride to your room, which, depending on your building, can be anywhere from a several minute to a 15 minute walk. No one ever offered us a ride. In fact, we almost got hit multiple times by staff members speeding by.
Lack of attention to detail: Again, when I think of the Ritz I expect immaculate. That was not our experience. We had dead lightbulbs in our room upon arrival. Our coffee machine didn't work. None of the phone numbers in the directory are accurate. These aren't huge things, and they were fixed when I asked, but it's vacation and I don't want to have to ask.
Lady Lynsey: We did one of the sailing excursions. It was a little pricey but still a nice experience. It was convenient to have an excursion leaving right from the beach outside your room.
The gym: Hey, it's a gym. Nothing fancy but perfectly fine. I liked the idea of the free exercise classes but they were always at times I wanted to be doing other things. Why do they think people want to exercise mid-day while on vacation? Bummer.
Location: While the Ritz is located in a beautiful bay, it's a little bit of a hike from anything else on the island. Red Hook is a small community about a five minute drive away, but it's a good half hour to larger Charlotte Amalie which can be kind of a pain.
All in all we had a good experience, and it would have been great with better restaurant options.
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- Also Known As:
- Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas Hotel St. Thomas
- St. Thomas Ritz-Carlton
- The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands