Or, how the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale Spoiled Me Rotten

The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, seen near sunset on August 23, 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Two flights, three airports and twelve hours after my journey began, I arrived late last night on the doorstep of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale hotel, my home-away-from-home for the next three nights. Now, arriving at any hotel is great after a long day spent at 38,000 feet, but an hour at the Ritz had me feel like I was setting foot on a cruise ship again.

Welcome! The reception area of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, like the rest of the property, is designed to reflect the golden age of ocean travel – the perfect decor for a pre-or-post cruise stay. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Perhaps I should explain. Someone immediately opened the door of the cab for me. They opened the overheight glass doors to the hotel. They took care of my luggage.  Everyone addressed me by name, as if I was a regular guest at the property.  But in fact, this is my first-ever stay in both Fort Lauderdale and at a Ritz-Carlton.

2012 or 1942? In this case, it’s a true compliment! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

When I was younger, a friend and I flew to San Francisco for the weekend.  We wanted to do something special, so we went from our budget hotel to the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco for Sunday brunch, which we were told was “the best.”

It was.

Since then, this luxury hotel chain has left an indelible impression on me, and the reality of actually staying here is just as fantastic as the moment I stepped through the swinging doors of the Ritz SF nearly ten years ago.

My home for the next few days: a beautiful corner stateroom – er, room – at the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

When I reached my room – jet-lagged and exhausted – I was welcomed to full-turndown service, dimmed lights, and chilled bottled water. Used to doing everything myself, I spent a good minute switching on the four lamps in the room to unpack properly before realizing my bedside clock-radio-telephone is also an interactive system that allows me to control any light in the room with the touch of a button, adjust the temperature, arrange a wake-up-call, or even ring room service.

Like my room, each guest room at the Ritz Fort Lauderdale offers a marble-clad bathroom with a deep soaker-tub, and a separate glass shower and separated toilet room. Oh, and the TV in every bathroom isn’t a bad feature, either! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Bathroom amenities. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Here’s why I’ve fallen in love with the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale: everywhere I go, it feels like I am on a ship. Hallways and public rooms curve and sweep like the sheer of a classic liner’s superstructure, and the entire property is reminiscent of the liners of the 1940’s, with an understated elegance that could also double for the “golden days” of Hollywood.  If I rounded the corner to see Humphrey Bogart nursing a cigarette, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

The dedicated wine bar at the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t feel out of place on a 1940’s ocean liner or one of the elegant cruise ships of today. Just off to the right of this photo is the magnificent 5,000-bottle wine cellar. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Meals can also be taken in the Wine Bar – or even the wine cellar! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

As a cruiser, this is exactly the kind of hotel I would want to stay in pre-or-post cruise; after all, it offers the same kind of personable service found on many cruise ships along with comfortable and elegant settings that are designed to stimulate the senses and impress simultaneously.

My favorite spot in the Ritz-Carlton is without a doubt the Via Luna Bar, clad in dark tones, comfortable seating, 16-foot ceilings, and this stunning painting. Look closely at the surf. Do you see anything? Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

How about now? Yes, those are horses riding out of the mist! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Every room in the hotel offers water vistas of some sort, whether it be of the Atlantic Ocean or of the intracostal waterways that line Fort Lauderdale. Often called “the Venice of America”, these waterways are lined with expensive homes and even more expensive yachts. If you like ship-spotting and people-watching, it’s tough to go wrong with these rooms!

One of the hotel’s Intracoastal Rooms, featuring views of Fort Lauderdale’s “Venice of America.” Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

My room is located on one of the corners of the property, giving me the best of both worlds: cityscape and the Atlantic.  But it wasn’t until the sun rose this morning and my jet-lag abated that I realized that the spectacular windows that line the room actually open, leading to a wraparound balcony.

Situated on a corner, my balcony overlooks both the city and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, a sight I cannot get enough of. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

When I sat down in my deck chair to write this, the city street below disappeared, leaving just a view of the ocean.  Is it just my imagination, or am I at sea again?  Sitting down with a refreshing drink and the cool breeze blowing gently around the structure of the hotel, it’s not difficult to imagine!

Wraparound splendour! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Much like a cruise ship, the 29,000 square-foot Pool area on Deck..er…Floor 7 is a popular place, with tables, chairs, a full-service bar and even private cabanas – more on those tomorrow!  Again, when you’re sitting on the pool deck or in one of the comfortable chairs, the street and other buildings disappear from view, leaving just palm trees and ocean. It’s a clever bit of design work, and one that makes a tremendous difference.

The Ritz-Carlton’s pool, overlooking Fort Lauderdale Beach. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Other cool things: the hotel boasts a dedicated Wine Room, and its own wine cellar, holding some 5,000 bottles – the largest selection in the Fort Lauderdale area.

They say when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do, so I took the opportunity this afternoon to have a Hot Stone Massage at the on-site Spa on Deck…er…Floor 7.  Here’s the deal: I think everyone should experience the spa here.  I’m a big fan of the Hot Stone Massage, but my spa treatment therapist Robin seemed to do it just a little bit better than everyone else.  It was 80 minutes that completely erased the tension from the seven hours I spent in-flight yesterday; my only complaint is that it had to end!

The Golden Age of Travel is everywhere – even on this room service menu! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

And I’d love to show you all what the Spa looks like, but it was the one time today that I put the camera down – really. I hope to go back tomorrow to take some proper photographs!

By the way, the Spa isn’t just the exclusive domain of women anymore; men are more than welcome here, with their own dedicated changing facilities featuring shower rooms that boast 12 jets and an overhead rainfall, and even include combs, razors, shaving cream and hair gel.

Would this be relaxing before a cruise? You bet.

The beach, just mere seconds from the hotel. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In fact, the hotel even offers a pre-and-post cruise package that has a few neat twists. Including overnight accommodations in an Intracoastal View King Room, this package also includes daily breakfast for two in Via Luna, the Ritz-Carlton’s on-site restaurant. But as an added bonus, it also includes transportation to or from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, along with transportation from the hotel to the Port Everglades Cruise Terminals, or vice-versa.

Plenty of shopping is available nearby along Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The only condition: the package has to be booked a week in advance, which is pretty standard for most hotel specials.

I came here because I wanted to experience Fort Lauderdale and the Ritz-Carlton in advance of the Caribbean cruise season resuming in October.  Every year I get questions about where, and even if, to stay in the area; questions I really had no idea how to answer in the past.  I love finding great hotels; properties that are different, unique, and offer something special. After all, that’s what I look for in a cruise, and I have found in my personal experiences that staying in hotels that are as diverse and engaging as your cruise itself can make all the difference in a vacation.

The beach walk continues on for miles and reminded me greatly of the promenade in Honolulu, Hawaii’s Waikiki area. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

After a single day here, I can truthfully say the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale is going to make it very difficult for me to just zip from the airport to the pier in the future without at least an overnight stay at this tremendous, ocean-liner-inspired property!

After all, who wouldn’t want to start their vacation with the taste of the good life, or end it with a well-deserved reward?

It must be time for bed! (or, this installment of our Live Trip Report from Fort Lauderdale, Florida!) Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Trip Report from the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale continues tomorrow, as we spend some time in a private cabana, dine in Via Luna, and more!


6 Responses to Fort Lauderdale Live Trip Report – Day 1

  1. That bar painting is great! I’m sure it had to have been done by Jim Warren. That’s one of his signature surrealist subjects.

  2. Kim says:

    Amazing review and photos I wish I was there and cannot wait to go there with you again sometime soon!

  3. What a gorgeous hotel! Thank you for taking the time to do reviews such as this. One of the most difficult decisions to make as a cruiser is trying to decide on pre- and post-cruise stays in unfamiliar hotels. Having the type of first-hand information you’re providing really makes a difference!

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thanks Deborah! I am always on the lookout for great places to stay pre-and-post cruise; glad you enjoyed the article!

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