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“Was hoping for a little more...”

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The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
Ranked #7 of 13 Hotels in Isla Verde
Certificate of Excellence
New York City
Level 1 Contributor
1 review
“Was hoping for a little more...”
Reviewed March 24, 2010

We booked a long weekend at the Ritz Carlton in San Juan on a bit of a whim. Wanted to escape NYC for somewhere guaranteed to be warm so we could just relax and unwind. Chose San Juan because it's an easy, direct flight. Once we made the reservations, I discovered several friends who had been to this hotel and really enjoyed it. Let me start by saying that, overall, it was an okay stay. Would I go back? No. Why? I think you can do much better for the money...let me explain.

A previous poster mentioned how close it was to the airport. That is absolutely true. Rooms in the front of the hotel overlook the airport runways. You do hear the thunderous roar of airplanes coming and going the entire time you are lounging at the pool or the beach. Side note: the cab driver overcharged us by $5...just FYI, confirm that it is a $10 fare plus a $1/bag charge before they start to drive. It's literally a five minute cab ride.

We arrived at 1 a.m., so we probably didn't get the typical first impression of a Ritz Carlton guest. We dragged in our own bags, front desk guy was nice and efficient, but we had to confirm specifics of our check in...he didn't offer them. The offer to help take our bags up to the room was more of a hesitant, please-don't-say-yes question. Got the feeling they were operating with a very lean staff at that hour.

While the lobby was quite elegant and classy, once stepping off the elevator on our floor it was clear that the hotel was quite old, and possibly refurbished from something that was not a Ritz Carlton before. It was clean and well-cared for, but worn doorways showed clear signs of age.

We had reserved a club-level, ocean view balcony room and were quite surprised by how unimpressive the room was. It had all the standard appointments, but it was rather small, very little closet space (we had trouble fitting our suitcases in the closet), and the bathroom was nothing remarkable (one sink, shower/tub combo...did have a water closet, though). Our room clearly had some of the best views in the place, but we still overlooked unattractive rooftops of the buildings and apartments to the west. We had great views of the pool and beach, but the beach was quite far from our room. The only other rooms with balconies had a decent view of the beach, but no real views of the pool...instead they overlook the basketball court/wedding gazebo.

We popped up the first morning to spend the day at the pool and were surprised by how hard it was to find two decent lounge chairs together. Obviously, even though the pool area was jam-packed with lounge chairs, people had come down early to reserve seats (and frustratingly enough, we observed that many of the "reserved" chairs went unused over the course of the day). We ended up stuck by the beachside restaurant that day and were subjected to the not-so-great music coming from the bar and a steady stream of traffic (made up of waitstaff, guests going back and forth the bathroom, landscapers, etc.). It was hardly private or relaxing, but we learned our lesson and went down to reserve chairs at 7 a.m. the rest of our stay. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. (Note: shame on Ritz Carlton for maintaining such a large, private cabana area in a prime location. We looked into reserving those, were told they were booked for the entire weekend, and saw that they were more than 75% empty the whole weekend. You really should have plenty of comfortable seating for your paying guests.)

Somewhat surprising was the fact that the Ritz sits on a postage stamp-size property on a public beach. We preferred to hang by the pool during the day, but we were disappointed that walking the beach in the daytime or evenings was not appealing. Neighbors of the Ritz Carlton include: a rundown sports club, an unattractive condo building (which rooms on the east side of the building overlook), a Marriott Courtyard (which looked quite decent and appeared to have better ocean views than we had!), etc. Also disappointing, because of the way the beach is shaped and the height of the buildings to the west, we didn't get to see one sunset while we were there (even from the 9th floor balcony). Such a shame...I'm sure they were lovely.

I could easily get bogged down with other details about the pluses and minues, but I'll do my best to sum up here.

Pluses:
- The people were very friendly...we generally had great service from genuinely great and helpful staff.
- We had some EXCELLENT meals. Mares serves a great brunch and has a very nice lunch menu. BLT Steak and Il Mulino, while very pricey, were outstanding. In four days, we only left the property for one meal away, and I wouldn't have changed that.
- The atmosphere was surprisingly casual. I had been warned that dress codes were strict at the restaurants, but was disappointed that we had gotten so dressed up when others showed up in jeans.

Minuses:
- Property and room were rather disappointing. Housekeeping missed a few beats by not removing empty glasses (to the point of absurdity...like 10 over two days!) and not properly stocking our towels (we only had a bath mat two of the four days). Also had a bizarre situation where a bottle of wine was errantly delivered to our room. We unknowingly tipped the guy who delivered it, only to find out it was sent to the wrong room after he had walked away. We notified the front desk, and they took the bottle from our room during turndown service without leaving a substitute or just telling us to keep it. We were out the $10 tip for that one...kind of strange.
- The proximity to the airport was pretty annoying.
- Beach was nothing special. Hard to walk and crowded with local surfers.
- Club level lounge had a pretty lame breakfast spread and the lounge itself was small and dark. It didn't compare to other Ritz Carlton lounges we've had the pleasure of visiting in the past.
- We were shocked by all the families. Could have been the time of year we were there, but we had a couple of instances were children were very disruptive during our meals. Frustrating that parents don't consider other diners when their children are running laps around the tables and bouncing on seats. I'd expect that at a hotel near Disney World, but not here.

Conclusion
Overall, we had a pleasant but unremarkable stay. We were hoping to come across a place that could be a regular long-weekend getaway for some late-winter R&R...but this was NOT the place. We kept saying to each other that while there were things that were very easy to nit-pick, the biggest problem was that we could have gotten A LOT more for our money somewhere else. Had we stayed in one of the less expensive rooms or gotten a great deal, perhaps we'd have felt differently. But for $900 a night (after tax and resort fees), I would hope for more...MUCH more.

Photos:
I've included photos here, but keep in mind that they were taken during off hours (pool doesn't look croweded) or I went out of my way to crop out "unsightly" elements (like the rooftops, etc.).

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank NYCcitygirl77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Boston, Massachusetts
Level 6 Contributor
119 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 118 helpful votes
Reviewed March 24, 2010

Good grief!! Some of the negative reviews about this Ritz Carlton are absurd; how much better service do you require? They meet you at the door, they tell you to sit in their gorgeous lounge while they carry your bags to your room, they have pillow-top beds that are heavenly, they offer Bulgari bath products, room service is efficient, tasty and cordial, the pool attendants come around every 1/2 hour and ask if you want an iced facecloth to beat the heat AND offer you a delicious sorbet, there is a shaved ice-chip cart that offers your favorite childhood memory of a snow cone, the hotel's choices of dining experiences are terrific (albeit expensive.....but come on, it's the Ritz Carlton), the casino is smoke free, the Ritz Carlton staff are impeccable and have an eye for your every need, and the decor is top notch, reminding you that you are in a luxury hotel.
You would have to be a pretty spoiled individual to find fault with this luxury hotel. San Juan, itself, is not the prettiest Caribbean destination but The Ritz Carlton in San Juan is set apart from the noise of this bustling city and the airport traffic.
If your pocketbook can stand a rare treat, then spend a few days at this beautiful hotel, and be spoiled by their outstanding service and amenities.
The Ritz's motto that we heard over and over and over again, every time we asked for something, was "it is my pleasure." I'm going to use those 4 words now that I'm home, in every aspect of my life!

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank V&PBostonMA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Silicon Valley, California
1 review
Reviewed March 21, 2010

I'm a big Ritz Carlton fan and I've stayed in at least six Ritz hotels around the world, but I didn't feel this property quite deserved to carry the Ritz name. It was below Ritz's ordinarily high standards for service. But let me start with the positives: This hotel is beautiful and has well-maintained grounds that are lush and tropical. And unlike most hotels in the San Juan area, this hotel not only has a beach, but a gorgeous one. It also has an attractive pool. And other common areas, such as the lobby, are lovely. Now, the negatives: The service was repeatedly disappointing -- from the front desk, to the cleaning staff, to the room service. By way of example, when the room was cleaned daily, basic things, like towels, shampoos, soaps, or the waste basket, were inexplicably not replaced or missing. This happened about 5 times during a 7-night stay. While this might sound like petty stuff, it was frustrating because I had to ask a number of times (not just once) to fix them. In fact, no one often answered at the front desk, especially in the evening. It just rang and rang, so I'd have to try again later. Overall, the hotel grounds are lovely, but I was soured by the lack of good service. Given how expensive the rooms are, this hotel was disappointing.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank SiliconValleyGuy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Manchester, CT
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed March 21, 2010

Though this was my 9th trip to Puerto Rico, it was my first at the Ritz Carlton. I was largely disappointed. The hotel itself is nice enough but the rooms are in need of a renovation. My room was a good size, had a minimal ocean view, the pool blocked by large palm trees (on the 6th floor). The carpet in the room had several dark stains. The bathroom sink area was streaked with (I presume) other peoples' makeup -- it came off on a kleenex-yuk. The hairdryer was so dirty I didn't use it. Housekeeping was problematic -- rooms made up late -- one day after 3:30PM and early "turndown" between 5:30-6PM except one night when they came after 9! One time they took my used towels but did not replace them. My hotel directory was missing several pages including most of the room service menu. Are all of these horror stories -- not really but when you're paying in excess of $500/night plus resort fees and it's the RITZ, you expect a little more. The staff were all cordial and enthusiastic and the internet access was excellent -- a real plus for me. The grounds are small -- a nice (but not spectacular) pool area and that's about it. The beach area is public and you are warned that you are leaving hotel property. I"m not a fan of Isla Verde -- the section where the hotel is located -- because there's nothing much to see or do. Old San Juan and the Condado are (an expensive) cab ride away. Shopping in the hotel consists of two jewelry stores and a vastly overpriced logo shop. No toiletries, soda, water, etc anywhere. You need to venture out to Walgreens for that. I ate twice in the BLT STeakhouse. It was quite good and the service excellent. On my last day I had lunch in Mares -- I opted to pay with a credit card so my room bill would remain closed out. Well, they charged my credit card and then at check out was told that my room was charged also. To boot, it wasn't even MY bill charged to the room. No one seemed to be able to sort it out in a timely fashion and I needed to leave for my flight. They took off the charge but still need to "investigate".
The conference facilities were very good but they seemed to have difficulties with our continental breakfast each morning. Couldn't make two toasters for bagels work at the same time and they kept shorting out. THIS IS THE RITZ. The upshot -- I felt the hotel was below Ritz standards -- and I've stayed at a few -- and I was frustrated enough with the unevenness of service that I probably would not stay again even if my (yearly) conference is there next year. (PS While the hotel is right near the airport, I was not bothered by flight noise except by the pool -- and then not that significantly)

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled on business
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Helpful?
2 Thank Laura L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Baltimore, Maryland
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed March 20, 2010

My husband and I stayed here for our second anniversary. We chose the hotel after sifting through the many available in Trip Advisor and I must say, we were not disappointed. Right from our welcome and throughout our stay, all our needs were attended to by the wornderful concierge. My husband has informed them that we were comming for our anniversary. We were greeted with some coconut rum and a cake from their kitchens. The staff greeted us by our names throughout our stay, wherever they saw us. We had a view of the pools which was great. Their cocktail lounge was a bit pricey, but good for alcohol. The casino was good (although we din;t spend much time there) The room itself was big and very quiet so we had our privacy. The pool was big and the beach was excellent. You had staff that put out hammocks, loungers and towels in the beach at your request free of cost. And since it was our anniversary, we received a surprise rainforest turndown and that too free of charge!!! It included some soothing music, flower petals and fern decorations, a mini spa in the bathroom, some scented candles, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries...We were very pleased with the overall service and this was an added bonus. We will definitely stay here again!!!

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Pandora_1981
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stephanie Lathrop
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed March 14, 2010

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton San Juan last week and had a wonderful experience. The service is wonderful. At times, it feels like there is staff everywhere! They are very courteous and helpful. The rooms are very nice and simple. They are clean and the beds are super comfy! The beach staff are very helpful and accommodating. The pool grill is right next to the pool and beach and the food is fabulous. Try their black bean burger! It's SO good! The restaurant serves food poolside and on the beach. We also ordered rooms service and the food was very good (pricey though). The hotel has a business office area which is also nice.

I read a lot of the previous reviews of the hotel and there were a lot of negative ones. I am not sure if things had changed before we came, but we were very happy with the hotel overall. And, there's free high speed internet!

The area surrounding the hotel is not great. Although, it's about 10-15 minutes from Old San Juan and other great shopping. We were a bit disappointed with Old San Juan's shopping overall. There were lots of shops, but most of it was not of interest to us. If you are in Old San Juan, make sure to go and see Fort Cristobal. Also, Sofia's Italian Restaurant is fabulous. Make sure to try it!

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled on business
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank SLathropMSW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Raleigh
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed March 14, 2010

We stayed at the Ritz march 8th through 11th. I read a lot of negative reviews before going so was worried about this trip.

Let me say up front we were there for a Mercedes Benz meeting/vacation. Mercedes Benz did pay for all of meals, drinks, room, flight.....having said that I must have stayed at a different hotel.

We were on 7th floor ocean front with balcony. Glad we upgraded. Loved the balcony. I read reviews about the 7th floor having bed bugs. I never smelled bugspray, never was bitten by anything. Room was very clean, housekeeping checked the room several times a day. Beds were comfortable, never heard a sound at night.

Airport...yes it is very close which is a plus to me. You can hear the planes when out by the pool....big deal...I enjoyed watching them.

Food was great, service was great. I'm not much of a beach person, but enjoyed strolling on it. Pool service was excellent.

Only negative I had was the spa. There were over a hundred of us there with Mercedes Benz and all of us were given three complimentary spa treatments. Everytime I showed up for one of my scheduled treatments somethin was always wrong. Either the time, or the treatment. They always managed to fit us in though, but that seemed a little unprofessional.

Loved the Rain Forest hike. Loved the casino. Won $200 at blackjack on our final night. Wish they had some regular cash games with the poker. Only way you could play was at night in a tournament.

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled on business
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank northcar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan

Property: The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
Address: 6961 Ave of the Governors, Isla Verde, Carolina 00979, Puerto Rico
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > Puerto Rico > Carolina > Isla Verde
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#3 Business Hotel in Isla Verde
#3 Casino Hotel in Isla Verde
#3 Spa Hotel in Isla Verde
#4 Family Hotel in Isla Verde
#5 On the Beach Hotel in Isla Verde
#5 Romantic Hotel in Isla Verde
#5 Luxury Hotel in Isla Verde
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:5 star — The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan 5*
Number of rooms: 416
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Also Known As:
Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel Isla Verde
Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa And Casino
Ritz Carlton Carolina
Carolina Ritz Carlton
Ritz Carlton Puerto Rico
Ritz Carolina
The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Puerto Rico/Isla Verde

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