Hotel Review: We've never met a luxury hotel we didn't like. In fact, it's our business to stay at luxury hotels. So it's always a pleasure to actually experience unparalleled luxury -- to find a hotel where the experience is so terrific, and so downright sybaritic that we hate to leave. We weren't surprised -- the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco is the city's only Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond hotel, and the service, and everything else, was superb. Built in 1909, this year the building is celebrating its 100th birthday. It has aged gracefully -- and elegantly. We have always been unabashed fans of Ritz-Carlton, where "Ladies and gentlemen serve ladies and gentleman," and this trip only underscored our high esteem for the brand.
Join The Club
Superlative is the word for our recent experience at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, located near the city's Financial district, Chinatown and Union Square. The nine-story hotel, set on Nob Hill's eastern slope, is one of the city's best examples of neo-classical architecture. Our visit was marked by our stay on the Club Floor, which Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report recently named "Best in America." This home-within-a-hotel cradles you in the lap of luxury, starting with daily food presentations: Breakfast, Light Snack, Hors d'oeuvres; and Evening Desserts -- not to mention French-press coffee and made-to-order espressos. We always thrill to an outstanding Club Floor, and by all means, this is one of them. Is it being able to have a simple turkey sandwich in lavish surroundings, right around the corner from your room? Is it enjoying a delicious breakfast and fresh berries while you sit in your robe? It is knowing that you can have a yummy cup of coffee anytime? It is the convenience of having free access to 24-hour wireless Internet? Well, it's all that and then some -- including a selection of gourmet fresh-baked cookies, and fresh fruit, which are always available. It's like being at home -- only much, much better. And if you simply must have, say, Reese's Pieces, or soy milk, just say the word and your preferences will be noted for this and future trips. (Travel writer Peter Greenberg, in a recent story in USA Today, also noted that of ALL the Club Floors he's traveled to in the world, this one, at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, is his absolute favorite!) There's even unlimited garment pressing. In our room, we also noted that there was a bath menu featuring three types of indulgences, if you wanted to experience good, clean -- and luxurious -- fun.
Rooms At The Top
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco features 336 guest rooms including 60 suites and two Presidential suites. Guest rooms include a wealth of amenities including electronic in-room laptop safes, Kohler "rain" showerheads, Bulgari White Tea bath essentials, bathroom scale, feather beds with 400-thread-count Egyptian-cotton and Frette linens, deluxe in-room coffee and tea presentations in a wooden display box, fully stocked honor bar, plush bathrobes, and much more. The property even features a Technology Butler to solve any of your computer and technological problems, a successful concept that was a hit immediately after launched at the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Club Deluxe rooms range from $449-$759 depending on the season.
Suite 919, is the "presidential" Ritz-Carlton suite -- a 2,000 sq.-foot opulent area featuring a grand piano, parquet floors, dining room, kitchenette with personal wine cellar and espresso machine, and walk-in separate shower. Prices range from $5,000-$9,000 per night, depending on season.
Traveling with Fido? It's always a dog day afternoon at this property, which has unleashed a "pooch policy." It starts with a VIP (Very Important Pooch) greeting at the front door, in-room cozy framed dog bed, and other features including an in-room dining menu such as chopped beef tenderloin with sliced baby carrots -- all for a $125 non-refundable pet fee. Guided walks are available for an additional charge.
If you're a hotel guest who says a minimum of four nights per month, the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco also offers "luggage-less travel," which means that the hotel will check your clothing and personal items, so that you obviate the need for a suitcase. For an additional charge, your clothing will be laundered, dry-cleaned and pressed, and personal toiletries will be replenished. Then, when you return to the hotel (without your Travelpro Rollaboard bag, for example), your clothing and personal items will be delivered to you. The only fee for this service is for hotel laundry/valet charges.
Follow The Scent
Debbi did just that -- she could smell the mango/tangerine aroma of the spa, and was treated to a Signature Facial at Spa-De-Vie. In fact, this facial is the best-selling treatment at the 7,000-sq.ft spa, which includes a fitness center with cardio theater, and a huge pool. All guests are also treated to a glass of Monavie juice, which is actually used in some of the treatments, as it's such as strong antioxidant. Debbi's facial, expertly administered by facialist Masha, included masque; face, foot and leg massage; heated mitts; warm towel on the back; extraction; cleanser, all using Pevonia's Myoxy caviar products. This treatment costs $195. Other treatments in this Spa-de-Vie concession include a large selection of body treatments including one with mango and passion fruit; gentlemen's facial; numerous women's facials; and several massages include hot stone, reflexology and aromatherapy. One great advantage is that the spa is open 365 days a year, so you can pamper yourself anytime, and even schedule a massage in your guest room. Wedding parties also take advantage of the spa -- for example, brides and their bridesmaids frequently treat themselves, as a group, to manicures, massages and updos, even including a delicious lunch from the restaurant. To schedule a spa treatment, call (415) 364-3460.
Debbi, having a sweet tooth, set her sights on the chocolate/lavender lollipops in The Dining Room -- an acclaimed "special occasion" restaurant that specializes in serving local, organic cuisine with a French and Japanese influence. "Some of our chefs go to the Farmers' Market twice a week," said Shelly Auyeung, the hotel's public relations coordinator. Ms. Auyeung further explained that Chef Ron Siegel even grows herbs at his own home, which he adds to the menu (he was the first American to win the Iron Chef Competition in 1997, where chefs are required to make a meal of surprising assorted ingredients). In fact, the menu also lists the local farmers and purveyors that have determined the restaurant's daily-changing menu, listing, on our visit, 14 vendors including Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, Calif., Biagio Artisan meats in the Bay Area, and County Line Harvest in Marin County.
Our dinner was a delight, including the elegant surroundings that included tassels and trim, fine fabrics, expensive starched linens, gorgeous flowers and original paintings. The first course featured 11 offerings -- everything from white corn and pepper soup; abalone with sugar-snap peas; and squid-ink linguine. The second course offered seven entrees, including truffle-encrusted halibut; Alaskan king salmon, and rabbit. We had the salmon and it was a delicious ensemble of fish, artichoke ravioli and sugar snap peas. For dessert, there was a darling candy cart (hence, the lollipops), but we ultimately chose some black raspberries as the least caloric way to go, although we did taste some of the petits fours including almond-butter cake, and passionfruit marshmallows. Deb even got a homemade cherry lollipop to take away. Three-course menus are available for $74 (it includes first and second courses, and desserts, but no coffee, tea, alcohol or tip). No jacket and tie are required. As we said, this is a special-occasion restaurant, and on our visit we saw numerous couples who appeared as though they were celebrating a special event. The Dining Room has won numerous awards -- including the coveted Mobil five-star rating in 2009, and other accolades from the American Automobile Association (five diamonds); Zagat, Michelin, Gault Millau and Food and Wine Magazine. It's clearly a winner.
How Green It Is
We wish to point out that in October 2005 the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco became the first hotel in the world to install United Technologies Corp.'s Power PureComfort 240 power solution -- which reduces power usage by 20 percent, conserves energy and protects the environment. Since then, the hotel has launched other green initiatives -- including aggressive recycling and composting programs -- even the "house car" is a hybrid vehicle. All families traveling with children also receive a 24-piece education puzzle, designed to inform them of earth-friendly practices such as water conservation, recycling and energy reduction. If you're concerned about the environment -- and who isn't -- you can rest assured that this hotel is doing its part -- and then some.
Travel to King Tut and Alcatraz
Through March 28, 2010, San Francisco's de Young Museum is exhibiting Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. In honor of that, the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco has partnered with the museum to offer an array of privileged experiences. Guests booking the hotel's new "Front-of-the-line at King Tut" package that has been designed to shorten the wait time for guests of the hotel. Prices from $429 per room, per night, it features overnight accommodations in a deluxe guestroom; two VIP tickets to the exhibit, including priority entry; and overnight valet parking.
If you're in the area, we also highly recommend a trip over to Alcatraz, one of the area's top tours. Alcatraz and history go hand-in-hand. Once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to "The Rock." The presence of infamous inmates like Al "Scarface" Capone, and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud helped to establish the island's notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world's most legendary prisons. You'll take a quick ferry ride over to "The Rock" and view the tiny cells and dreary atmosphere. Everyone also receives an audio tour, allowing you to fully experience what it was like to be an inmate. For tickets, visit www.alcatrazcruises.com -- the official source for tickets to Alcatraz island. It was quite a counterpoint -- to visit the dark, dank prison -- and then go "home" to the Ritz, where unabashed luxury is the name of the game.
By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham. Esq.