- Area with limited dining and nightlife
- Far from most of the city's most famous sights
Ritzy. (Duh.) It's the lower-key sibling of New York's two Ritzes, host to many corporate travelers who are in town to do business on nearby Wall Street.
Many hotels claim to be synonymous with one superlative or another. ("Our name is synonymous with service .... ") With the Ritz, it's precisely the opposite: the superlative "ritzy" is literally derived from the hotel's name. Even the Four Seasons can't say that. ("This fruit is so four-seasonal .... " Um, nope.)
Featuring 298 rooms (including 39 suites) on 39 floors of a skyscraper right on the Hudson, this Ritz is quieter, lower-key, and, yes, a bit less ritzy than its sister property uptown by Central Park. The lobby is classy, sure, with gorgeous modern art and a baby-grand piano, but it's smaller and less imposing than those you'll find at other luxury hotels like the Waldorf Astoria. The front-desk clerk who checked me in wore a suit and addressed me as "sir" and "Mr. W__," but he was also chatty and smiley, like, say, a waiter at Applebee's.
Still, this is the Ritz, and the little flaws you find at other hotels -- chips in the paint on the door, luggage-tire scuff marks on the walls -- are noticeably absent here. The Ritz's ritz is in the details: the water bottles and headsets in the gym; the padded hangers in the rooms; the complimentary overnight shoe-shine service; the trademark cobalt-blue glass vases (check out the interesting history behind that motif at the corporate site). Even the Gideon's Bibles are gold. All of that adds up to an experience that has earned this Ritz a place on numerous "Best Of" lists.
I stayed there in mid-April, seven months into the recession, yet it wasn't immediately evident that the slowdown had hit the Ritz. The lobby was never empty, and the restaurant, 2West, was still bustling at 10 p.m. An hour later, its bar area was a happening place to be, with finance types in pinstripes crowding around the larger tables and well-heeled couples lining the bar. RIse Bar, on the 14th floor with gorgeous views, is another bar area at the hotel but is only open for private events.
Attentive, efficient, and relatively informal for a Ritz. Everyone there, from housekeeping to the front-desk staff, is -- or at least seems to be -- happy to serve you.
According to the corporate website, the Ritz's motto is, "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen," which makes the place sound a bit snootier than it actually is. Yes, the staff dresses formally, and when I dialed from my room, whoever picked up addressed me as "Mr. W__." But the vibe is a far cry from aristocratic Manhattan. When I passed staff in the halls or elevators, it was all smiles and how're-you-doings. Patrick, the front-desk clerk who checked me in, seemed genuinely happy to be there. That, or he's just a really good actor (always a possibility in New York).
Overall, it was typical Ritz service -- "typical," of course, being set on a higher bar here than almost anywhere else. They anticipate, they personalize, they go the extra mile to make sure you're happy. Moments after I settled into my room, a member of the housekeeping staff came by to see if I wanted a p.m. turndown (I declined). But she noticed that I had ordered extra towels earlier, went into my bathroom to see if they had been delivered (they hadn't), and went back out to her cart to bring me a pile.
The main thing that separates the Ritz Battery Park from the city's other landmark hotels is its location. Nestled at the southern tip of Manhattan, about 100 yards from the harbor that separates New York from New Jersey, this Ritz is miles apart from its counterparts uptown. The area is comparatively tranquil during the day and downright -- almost eerily -- quiet at night.
It's a different sort of New York experience. Nearby dining and nighttime entertainment options are scarce. During the day, there's plenty to see, but it's not the typical Times Square/Central Park/Museum Mile loop you'll take uptown. Instead, it's New York's almost-as-famous -- and very worthwhile -- downtown haunts. The departure point for tours of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is right around the corner. Also nearby are the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Museum of the American Indian, and the famous Staten Island Ferry. And of course, right next door, the attraction the Ritz is named for: 25-acre Battery Park, which is great for people-watching.
Avid shoppers benefit from the hotel's location near Century 21, a prime destination spot for the serious bargain hunter. This is where to scoop up heavily discounted Prada, Versace, and other designer products.
If you do need or want to get uptown, it's easy. The Bowling Green station, an express stop on the main subway line that runs up the east side (the 4/5 express train), is just a block away from the Ritz. The 1 train is only a short walk away as well, and it's only a 10-minute cab ride to the myriad shops and restaurants downtown.
30-90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Getting into town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than from Newark, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 plus tolls and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. Public transit is also available for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairways.
For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
With the exception of a few enormous -- and enormously priced -- suites, the Ritz's standard rooms start at 425 square feet, which is large for New York, but not quite as big as those at some other upscale hotels (the Four Seasons comes to mind). In addition to the king-size bed, there's an extra-stuffed chair and ottoman and a desk with an office chair. Between them, there's plenty of room to maneuver. Deluxe Rooms are the standard room, although some have views of the Statue of Liberty, along with telescopes for checking it out.
One thing I didn't like about the room was that they charged for Wi-Fi.
The fitness center isn't huge, but it's still impressive. It sports cardio machines with private TV screens and headphones, half a dozen strength-training machines, a set of free weights, and some more specialized equipment like fitness orbs, "Perfect Pushup" bars, and a full-size dumbbell set. Plus, there's free bottled water.
Other noteworthy features: a club lounge for guests who upgrade, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Not really a place for families, but if you do bring the little ones, not to worry: The world-class staff will find a way to please.
On the one hand, the Ritz has a very adult vibe, with a classy decor, relatively formal service, and an upscale restaurant, 2 West, that doesn't have a children's menu.
On the other hand, cribs and rollaway beds are both available at no extra cost, and fit easily in the rooms (with the exception of the rollaways, which can't be used in rooms with two double beds). There's also a small selection of kids movies in the DVD library.
The Ritz was built in 2002, and the property is extremely well maintained.
A well-regarded upmarket restaurant on-site. Not too many options right nearby; five to 10 minutes uptown, however, is some of the finest dining in the world.
The Ritz's restaurant, 2West, serves up high-quality American and international cuisine. My lobster bisque and fish burger were both tasty; the fries -- sorry, pommes frites -- were greasy but (and?) dangerously addictive.
Your best option for any meal might be to just stay in the room. As at any Ritz, room service is available 24 hours.
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