The Ritz, Cabanas and a storm named Isaac

Private Cabanas at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale: now that’s relaxation! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Anyone who knows me understands that I always get up early. Six and seven in the morning are fairly standard wakeup times for me, no matter where I am.  But here at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, that isn’t the case. The fact is this: their ultra-comfortable bed continues to call me to sleep, even when I know I should be getting up!

Is there such a thing as “too comfortable”? The answer is yes – and it’s the beds at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

So – grudgingly – I pulled myself out of bed at the rather late hour of quarter to nine, intent on exploring Fort Lauderdale.

I didn’t get far.

The reason: I discovered the Ritz-Carlton’s private cabanas.  And then I figured the city tour could wait!

Two Magic Words: Private Cabana. Mine is the one with the towels laid out. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Located on a secluded level just below the pool on the 7th floor, these resort-style cabanas are the perfect getaway from the everyday – or, as I discovered, everything. When you book one, it is available for your personal use (for you and a guest) throughout the day.

Cabanas feature sweeping views of the ocean, and cleverly hide the road and beach seen here from standing-height. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Dual loungers and chairs accompany a canvas tent designed to keep the sun out or in, depending on your preference. A coffee-table boasts an assortment of magazines and reading material, and a chest located at the rear of the cabana opens up to reveal a flat-panel television, iPod docking station and a mini-fridge stocked with chilled still and sparkling bottled water.

Fresh fruit, anyone? Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But this isn’t just a comfortable place to sit in a prime location; these Cabanas offer a true VIP experience.  As if the experience of staying at the Ritz wasn’t enough on its own!

Throughout the day, a dedicated Cabana Captain will attend to your every need. He or she can get you refreshments from the bar, offer you breakfast service, or even have lunch from the Pool Grill just above brought down to you – all without having to leave your relaxing perch.

You can even wander up for a dip in the Ritz-Carlton’s exquisite pool, then return to your private Cabana. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

That’s not to say that you have to stay at the Cabana all day; instead, you are welcomed to come and go as you please.  I spent two ultra-relaxing hours at my Cabana this morning, reading the Wall Street Journal, a book, and of course a selection of cruise brochures I brought with me. It’s always good to be prepared!

Fresh orange and mango smoothie – a great start to the morning! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Shannon was my Cabana Captain for most of the day, and she did a superb job, always managing to arrive just at the perfect moment – usually, when my drink ran out – and with a smile.  She even came around in the late afternoon with a cup of fresh grapes and blueberries; the perfect antidote to beat the heat!

Ahhh…. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

An entire bowl of fresh fruit is also produced on-demand when you arrive at your Cabana, and there’s nothing like having a ripe, juicy apple during the heat of the day. Forgot your sunblock like I did? Don’t worry – you don’t have to hike all the way back to your room; sunscreen is provided in every Cabana.  And being Canadian, I used it liberally!

Time to leave the Cabana; I would have likely stayed there until dinner had it not been for a late-afternoon storm! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Here’s the thing: I never sit still. Never. I find it difficult to relax, and am always on the go. Today, I sat in my Cabana for two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon.  What did I do? Not a heck of a lot – and it was a wonderful escape from the everyday.  When I wasn’t gazing out at the ocean, I was reading. When I wasn’t reading, I was gazing out at the ocean.  And it feels decidedly like you’re on the Lido Deck of a cruise ship out in the Cabanas; when you sit down, the road and beach disappear, leaving only the rich blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean.

The view from the Cabanas – standing up, of course. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I never knew doing so little could be so rewarding.  Whenever I looked out at the sea, I felt like I was in Barbados, or St. Lucia, or even Hawaii. That’s the brilliance of this property; it may be firmly routed on land in Fort Lauderdale, but this classic ocean-liner-themed resort does a great job of transporting you to your very own fantasy land.

Like Shannon, every attendant who works the Ritz-Carlton’s beautiful pool area remembers their guests by name, inquires as to how they are doing, and asks – sincerely – if there is anything else they can do for them. As a guest, I like that. As a frequent traveller, I appreciate it wholeheartedly.  I pass through hotels frequently, and it is always the ones that make me feel special, appreciated, and welcomed that leave the strongest impression on me.  My time here, and at my private cabana, certainly left that strong, positive impression on me!

Dinner at Via Luna, the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, I had the opportunity to dine in Via Luna, the Ritz-Carlton’s on-site restaurant.  It is, as you might expect, excellent.  How excellent?  I only got a picture of this menu at the start of my meal; the rest of the time, I was enjoying my food far too much to even think about dinner.  Veal and penne pasta with asparagus, brussle sprouts and truffle oil drizzle – amazing!

All across the Ritz, art deco elements of yesteryear and Fort Lauderdale are present. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But what made the meal even more sublime was the environment in which you dine in; Via Luna looks like an elegant dining room on one of the ocean liners of yesteryear. In fact, the whole property has a strong influence from ships like the Normandie and Norway/France, with their sweeping walls, curving public spaces, and art-deco sensibilities.

Best of all, Via Luna is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even Sunday Brunch – a Ritz-Carlton tradition.

The beginnings of Isaac. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

All too soon dinner was over, and I was left lamenting the fact that this would be my last night at this great property. While it looks like Tropical Storm Isaac is going to miss Fort Lauderdale, the weather here tonight is stormy to say the least, with high winds and dark, moody skies punctuated by lightning.  Every so often, a flash of lightning will light up the vast Atlantic Ocean, revealing tanker and container ships slowly making their way up and down the coast, battling the elements as they do so.

But here in my room, the lights are glowing brightly and only the slightest sound of wind can be heard gently whistling through my balcony doors.

Enjoying a refreshing nightcap… Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There’s so many things you can do with the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale as your homebase; you can go shopping along Las Olas; you can take a water-taxi along the inter-coastal waterways; the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is just a few blocks away; and then, of course, there’s the sprawling Fort Lauderdale Beach coastline that just beckons you in for a swim.

… at the Via Luna Lounge. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

In the end, I did none of these. Surprising? Yes – because I’m a big “get out and go” person.  But aside from strolling down the oceanfront promenade, I found my day at the Ritz to be exactly what I needed – and very likely, just what pre-and-post cruise passengers need before they head off to or return from the Caribbean.

If only airports were like Ritz-Carlton’s – how much fun travelling would be!

A mark of excellence. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Trip Report from the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale has sadly come to a close, but be sure to tune back in on Monday as we recap our coverage and, yes, explore Fort Lauderdale – just a little bit!  There’s plenty more to come next week, right here on From the Deck Chair!


2 Responses to Fort Lauderdale Live Trip Report – Day 2

  1. Kim says:

    Amazing! The cabanas looked enjoyable and cozy!

  2. Brenda says:

    Fantastic pictures and experience! Thanks for sharing. Love the old pictures mixed in with the new.

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