Diva For A Day At The Ritz-Carlton In Palm Beach, Florida

After dinner, I stopped in the lobby to arrange for a 7:30 a.m wake up call the following morning.

“We’ll be happy to do that, Ms. Weibel, and would you like a follow-up call 15 minutes later?” asked the woman behind the front desk.

My jaw dropped open. I have always wondered why hotels don’t offer this service. Turns out I was just staying at the wrong hotels; at the Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach Florida, multiple wake-up calls are standard operating procedure.

Oceanfront pool at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach

I had been invited to stay at the Ritz in preparation for writing a review about the property. Because the resort has earned the prestigious AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star awards, I knew I was in for a treat. But I was also apprehensive. When I abandoned my corporate life three years ago, I traded my stressed-out life of luxury for a happier, albeit poorer existence. My wardrobe these days consists mostly of khakis and, since a laptop is an absolute necessity, I carry a backpack rather than a purse. My only other stay at a Ritz-Carlton had occurred some 15 years earlier, at a property with an extremely formal atmosphere where dressing for dinner was a requirement. I worried about being under-dressed, unaccepted, and judged this time around.

Ritz-Carlton hotels have a tradition of unparalleled guest service dating back to the original Boston hotel, built in 1927. Regarded as a private club for the very wealthy, the Boston Ritz was not shy about serving up a side of ostentation with its pampering. Up until the 1960s, the hotel was very formal. Guests were regularly checked to see if they were in the Social Register or Who’s Who and the hotel sometimes went so far as to examine the quality of writing paper on which the guests wrote to the hotel requesting reservations (if it wasn’t of high enough quality, they were refused). Dress codes were enforced for all guests, in great part due to the formality of Boston society. Restaurants were also very stringent with regard to whom they admitted. Women were not allowed to lunch alone and unescorted women were not allowed to enter The Ritz Bar until 1970.

Temple Orange Restaurant

When The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach opened in 1991 it reflected the corporation’s time-honored tradition of old-world elegance and formality. Decor featured dark wood and a massive lobby fireplace blocked the view of the ocean. Employees were trained in the firm’s scripted approach to managing guest outcomes, which ensured a loyal affluent clientele but also resulted in a formal atmosphere not particularly compatible with the “playground” image of Palm Beach.

It was a successful formula, until demographics began to shift. Recognizing that the guy sitting in the lobby wearing torn jeans could be a rock star worth millions of dollars, the firm implemented a new guest relations program that was a radical departure from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. Dubbed Mystique, this computerized customer-relationship management system collects information about guests. In my case, the information that I am a vegetarian was recorded; the next time I stay at any Ritz-Carlton, anywhere in the world, staff will automatically know about my dietary preferences.

Oceanfront cabana
Beach and water sports equipment

Simultaneously, management took a fresh look at its individual properties and required each to come up with a unique Scenography – scenes around which guest experiences could be built. The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach defined its Scenography as: Fire and Soul of a Modern Life, which conveys the spirit of a traveler who has collected art, furnishings, and attitude from around the world. A two-year, $100 million renovation followed, resulting in an extraordinary new design. The fireplace was relocated to one side, providing guests with sweeping views of the ocean the moment they walk through the front door, and the dark wood was painted in light, beachy colors. The new design has brought new traditions: each evening, the fire pit on the outside terrace is ritually lit during a Resort Turndown ceremony, as are hundreds of votive candles scattered around the lobby. As darkness falls, scarlet outdoor lights reflect on the pool’s shimmering turquoise surface like glowing, red hot coals. In the morning, a crimson sun rises over the azure sea…fire and soul, but not a hint of ostentation.

Candles, crystals, and precious art adorn the lobby
Lobby Lounge
Fire pit on the terrace is lit each night at sundown

Each of the resort’s 310 guestrooms and suites were also transformed during the renovation. My oceanfront room featured a marble bath with large tub and separate shower. Exotic lemongrass-scented toiletries lured me into the shower, where I luxuriated under the rain shower head. Finally, guilty over my excessive use of water, I dried off with an enormous Egyptian cotton towel and snuggled into a thoughtfully provided bathrobe. Hopping into the oh-so-soft bed, I slid between 400-thread count sheets, plumped up goose down pillows smothering the bed, pulled the duvet up to my chin, and clicked through the channels on the 32″ LCD HTDV flat screen TV. All rooms are equipped with the essentials: DVD player, fully stocked refreshment bar, hair dryer, in-room safe, iron and ironing board, desk with Ethernet connection and telephone, and WiFi access. Every detail has been thought out; the alarm clock even had a built-in iPod dock! And this is just a standard room; suites are much more elaborate, featuring two bathrooms, ocean view stone soaking tubs, multi-jet oversize showers, and two TV/DVD’s.

Standard guest room
Oceanfront suites have private cabana terraces

Perhaps best of all was my visit to Eau Spa, a glamorous on-site retreat where I opted for a facial. After changing into yet another cushy robe, I was directed to the Eau Zone, an indoor lounge with sumptuous furniture, diaphanous seafoam green floor-to-ceiling drapes, and a cut glasses chandelier made entirely from stemware. At the appointed time, my esthetician led me to a treatment room, where I selected my preferred lighting color (purple), aromatherapy (sandalwood for grounding), and settled in for a half-hour of pure pampering. Guests can spend the entire day at the spa, availing themselves of the steam room; sauna; jacuzzi with its column of falling water; or the Self-Centered Garden, a whimsical co-ed Garden of Eden where mod metal hanging chairs are suspended over ankle-deep warm water, fragrant plants attract butterflies, and a stone waterfall bench sends warm water cascading over sore muscles.

Spa experience begins by lighting a votive candle, making a wish, and setting it afloat on the spa pond
Jacuzzi features multi-color rotating lights
Eau Spa indoor lounge features chandelier made of crystal stemware
Self-Centered Garden at the Eau Spa

The next morning, following two wake-up calls delivered by a real live person rather than a recorded voice, I headed for my 9 a.m. breakfast meeting with the hotel’s Director of Public Relations, Christine DiRocco. The hostess greeted me before I could open my mouth: “Good morning Ms. Weibel. Ms. DiRocco is due to arrive shortly. Can I seat you while you wait?” How do they do that? I was definitely impressed. Although Christine later confessed that she had sent my photo out to the staff, I am convinced that I was not afforded special treatment, as I repeatedly witnessed this same personalized interaction between employees and other guests. As to my wardrobe of choice, my khakis were never at issue, regardless whether I was dining in the formal restaurant or walking the grounds. The only problem is that I am now spoiled for life. Few other hotels are likely to compare favorably to pure class and pampering at The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach.

Photos of hotel room, cabanas, spa fountain, lobby lounge, and Temple Orange restaurant courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach.

Author’s note: On July 30, 2013, I was notified that the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach was recently rebranded as the Eau Palm Beach. I have not visited since the rebranding. If you’re considering a visit to Palm Beach, my favorite site for finding the best prices is Booking.com. I earn a small sum if you book by clicking on the link above story, which helps keep this blog free for you to read.

23 thoughts on “Diva For A Day At The Ritz-Carlton In Palm Beach, Florida”

  1. Dear Ms. Weibel:
    It was an awakening moment to find your rich blog pages, and to read about your travels, but also about you as an individual, about your courage, will power and determination to fulfill your inner desire to turn your life upside down, to do something you really wanted to do in order to make your life happy. Congratulations! Being in my 70’s I am greatly impressed by your reporting.

    Two issues:
    It is clear, how to leave a COMMENT regarding your blogs, however, it is not clear, how to COMMUNICATE ABOUT OTHER ISSUES, e.g. how to request your permission to use your material, for instance your photos, and under what conditions. I feel kind of odd to bring up this kind of a request in your comments section. I can only hope that this request reaches you and I will get an answer.

    Also – when I tried to register to your Free Gift for Subscribers,” Around the World, 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers”, it rejected my entry, and I got back a comment:
    “Cheatin’, huh?”
    It didn’t make me feel too good. Why this answer? I cannot change my name nor my e-mail. They are what they are.

    Stay healthy and safe and best of luck to your travels!

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  3. I admire your hotel review! I have never had a chance to stay at Ritz Carlton, but from your review I can see that they have a real hospitality which in some places is hard to find. This luxurious hotel chain is now on my list. I’m also visiting different hotels around the world as this is my passion and hobby πŸ™‚
    So where are going to next?


    • Hi Kasia: Well, at the moment I’m in Milan, Italy, doing a house sit for a few weeks, but then I will move on to Denmark and Sweden. I don’t often get to stay at such luxurious places, so it’s a special treat when I do.

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  5. Hello, been reading your blogging site for a long period. I manage a comparable web publication although I always keep getting a great deal of spam comments, tips on how to maintain your blog page so unpolluted?

    • Hi Shirley: I have a self-hosted WordPress blog and I use two plugins (Akismet and Bad Behavior) that seem to control spam quite well.

    • Yes, Imhkki, it was impressive, but I didn’t even tell the best part – when my follow up call came, another real person came on the line, asking if I would like a THIRD follow-up call 15 minutes later! Just gotta love the Ritz!

    • Hi Jackie:
      No matter what anyone tells you, the MOST IMPORTANT THING is to just write, write and then write situation some more. Find your “voice” and stick with it, and make sure your spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct. If your writing is good, the rest will happen.

  6. Very yummy place. I like your focus on customer service. When travelling with work, which I used to do a ridiculous amount, that was far more important than almost any other single item and it sounds like this hoel has it worked out perfectly.

  7. Love this! Queen for a day! I appreciate the history you have shared as well as the info about the Mystique system (I’m a geek at heart and I love it when computer can be used for somethig good and useful!) It makes me miss good customer service – something I feel like the rest of the world lacks at time. If I have the $ and am ever in Palm Beach, I’d love to stay!

    • Hi Costa Rica Hotels:
      I only know that the room I was in has a rack rte of $500-600 per night in high season. No idea what the suites go for.


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