Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Luxury with all the requisite perks, but nothing especially breathtaking
It's reliable, it's luxury, but it's just ... a little boring. The 300-room Ritz-Carlton Washington adheres to all the tenets of a Ritz: service so good it's practically the industry gold standard, spacious rooms with all the hallmarks of comfort and luxury, and just enough standout hotel amenities that guests will feel spoiled. But in design and substance both, there are no surprises, nothing exciting, nothing to inspire "oohs" and "aahs." Ritz loyalists will be happy. Anybody looking to be dazzled -- and why not, at this price point? -- risks a bit of disappointment.
While the standard guest rooms are perfectly comfortable, and a good 200 square feet larger than the average Washington D.C. hotel room, they don't have nearly as much character as the rooms at the Park Hyatt Hotel or Dupont Circle's Jefferson Hotel.
And then there's the other Ritz, the smaller, 87-room The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. Though the two hotels have virtually identical rooms and the same service standards, the Georgetown Ritz is a bit more unique, thanks to its unconventional setting in a restored industrial trash incinerator, and charming lobby design.
As if the entire staff went through a Ritz-Carlton service boot camp, the service here is flawless.
Service is where the Ritz consistently excels and often beats the competition. From the time you pull up in the driveway, the staff is on top of everything. As the bellman pulled my luggage onto a cart, he asked my name, spoke it again into an earphone, and apparently this heralded my arrival to the staff; I walked into the hotel, towards the front desk, and they greeted me with a "Welcome to the Ritz, Ms. R____!"
The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. has a convenient, if sleepy, location within the West End. It's decidedly sleepier than Georgetown, its wealthier, more historic neighbor (a 10- to 15-minute walk west). The downside to the vicinity is that there aren't many restaurants, cafes, or nightlife -- for those you'll need to head to Dupont Circle, a 15- to 20-minute walk (or quick taxi), or to nearby Georgetown.
Ritz-Carlton rooms are tried and true -- a good thing, if you know what you like and what you like is the Ritz. And they're great: lots of space, king-size featherbeds, 400-thread-count linens, and big marble bathrooms with separate bathtubs and stand-up showers, and Bvlgari toiletries. On the other hand, a room at the Ritz can be a bit formulaic: Decor is reliably traditional, with understated modern accents to keep it from looking dated (in this case, white beds, beige walls, and dark wood with gold trim gets a facelift from upholstered chairs in seafoam and brown). The rooms are just as nice as the ones at any Ritz we've ever visited (including the nearby Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, which is usually more expensive). You can't go wrong staying here, but there are other luxury hotels in D.C. that simply feel more ... special. Check out the The Jefferson or the Park Hyatt, for example (though both have slightly less square footage in their smallest rooms).
Access to Sports Club/L.A. plus a few other standards, but all cost extra
Beyond the rooms and service, access to the Sports Club/L.A. is by far the best perk of staying here. The multistory fitness complex, which sells memberships as a private club, has a lap pool, basketball court, four squash courts, cycling and aerobics studios, and two stories of cardio and weight equipment. Locals will tell you it's the best gym in Washington, and whether or not that's true, it stands head and shoulders above any other hotel gym in the city.
Otherwise, there aren't many notable features at this Ritz, and just about everything costs extra. You have to pay for use of the fitness center, for Wi-Fi after the first day, to use anything in the basement business center, and for access to the Club Level Lounge, a lounge only open to guests who either prebook 9th-floor rooms or choose to pay for lounge access.
Not much beyond a free toy on arrival, but rooms are big and quiet
Quiet, comfortable rooms, 24-hour room service, and an on-site restaurant make this an easy enough place for families to stay (though the restaurant's fancy twists on American food might prove hard for the 10-and-under set). But there's nothing particularly special for kids here. The hotel keeps a "toy wagon" behind the front desk to offer kids a small gift on arrival, but otherwise they don't do much to entertain.
Twice-daily housekeeping and a $12 million renovation in 2008 have kept the hotel squeaky clean.
Celebrity chef Eric Ripert's Westend Bistro
Run by Eric Ripert, the Michelin-star celebrity chef who runs New York's acclaimed Le Bernardin, the Westend Bistro is a popular spot among locals, but it's nowhere near as special as Le Bernardin. It's overseen by Ripert, but the Franco-American menu is really little more than bar food with a twist. That said, the bar was almost always full, and their wine and cocktail menus are enough to keep guests and locals happy all night. The hotel also serves breakfast and lunch in its Lobby Lounge, and offers 24-hour room service.
The larger of Washington's two Ritz-Carltons, this 300-room Foggy Bottom outpost offers the whole Ritz-Carlton package: stellar service, big and comfortable rooms, access to one of the city's best gyms (Sports Club/L.A.), and on-site Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert. And yet, a sleepy location and fairly generic design make it a less-than-enthralling choice.