I recently enjoyed a "Mother/Daughter" trip to the Ritz in Sarasota and had an absolutely wonderful time! We were lucky enough to take advantage of a deal they were offering and got to stay on the Club Level which was an experience enough in itself! If at all feasible, do yourself a favor and book a club room - you will not be disappointed!
Hotel/Grounds: This Ritz location actually consists of 2 distinct properties - the actual hotel and the Beach Club. We elected to not rent a car and just took a taxi from the airport which was about a 10-15 minute ride. The hotel itself is located on the Bay and is your typical Ritz property with a grand lobby, floral displays, and a refined décor. It's smaller than some of the other resort properties but certainly not lacking in any amenities. There is a pool at the hotel (with poolside service) but I will say that the one at the Beach Club is nicer. I did also notice a ping pong table and small arcade area for kids on the ground floor. There are also several evening activities held during the week, mainly the live music in the Ca d' Zan lounge which was quite the experience! They were getting ready to start a renovation of this space shortly after we left so I'm not sure if they are still offering this, but make sure to check it out if they do!
The Beach Club is only a few miles away and there is a complimentary shuttle that runs hourly. We had no problems with the shuttle service - it was always on time and the drivers were extremely friendly and helpful. The shuttle also makes a stop at St. Armands Circle (about halfway between the hotel and the beach) which really made a car unnecessary for us. The Beach Club is a gorgeous property complete with a restaurant, pool bar, and well appointed locker rooms. There is a large pool with ample seating along with direct beach access. This pool tends to get a bit more crowded than the one at the hotel, but the overall atmosphere is definitely more relaxing.
Room: As I mentioned, our room was on the Club Level with a decent view of the harbor - I don't know if there are any truly good views at this hotel due to the location. The room itself was fairly large with ample space for all of our luggage. Everything appeared well maintained and very clean and we had absolutely no complaints!
Service: The staff was wonderful and extremely professional (as expected). We were always warmly greeted by the staff members in the lobby and the Club Level staff was always checking in to make sure there was nothing we needed and that there were not any issues. The shuttle drivers were outstanding and really made the effort to learn the faces and names of everyone on board.
Food: Since we were staying on the Club level and are fairly light eaters, we ate most of our meals in the Club Lounge which offers 5 meal presentations daily:
Breakfast - Breakfast was a fairly standard spread of assorted cereals, breads, pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, and deli meats as well as a few hot options including oatmeal, breakfast potatoes, and a rotating specialty item. Champagne was also available most mornings to make your own mimosa.
Lunch - This was probably the "heaviest" offering of the day and included assorted sandwiches, salad, cheeses, chips, and crudités. Everything was very fresh and refilled often and we were more than pleased
Afternoon Snack - This was the lightest presentation of the day consisting of assorted nuts and cheeses along with the same chips that were available at lunch.
Dinner Appetizers - There was a decent variety of appetizers offered while we were there. There was always a small salad, some type of seafood "shooter", assorted breads and cheeses, a hot option (chicken skewers, bite-sized quiches) and a few other items. Everything was always pretty good, but I did wish they would offer a healthier or lighter option such as crudités or marinated vegetables
Dessert/Cocktails - Small desserts and liquors were offered in the evenings and certainly offered enough variety to please any sweet tooth!
In addition to the food presentations various soft drinks, water, coffee/tea, and wine (beginning around lunch) were available throughout the day along with assorted cookies and jars of candy. We really enjoyed the lounge, especially the wonderful staff members there. Elena in particular provided exceptional service and we looked forward to seeing her every afternoon! She really treated us as if we were family, not just another hotel guest.
Gym: The fitness room was well appointed with a variety of cardio machines and free weights. It did feel slightly cramped though and many of the cardio machines were marked as being reserved for residents (probably a bonus for them). Overall it met our needs but wasn't designed as nicely as other Ritz properties.
We really enjoyed our stay here and will definitely consider this hotel again for our trip next year!