Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey
To date, I am very fortunate to have visited and stayed at around 30 Ritz Carlton properties around the world, all of them with teams that strive to be the very best in hospitality. As someone who has traveled extensively most of my life, it can be difficult at times to distinguish or remember one hotel from another; many fall into the category of “nice” while others are “average.” Every now and then though, we come across a hotel that stands firmly in the recesses of our memories, either because it was the stuff nightmares or dreams are made of.
The Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey is the latter- a hotel that makes you smile wistfully long after you’ve left her warm embrace, longing desperately to be back in one of the very best hotels in Los Angeles and in America.
Located right on the Santa Monica coast ten minutes north of LAX and roughly twenty minutes west of downtown Los Angeles, the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey is both city hotel and beach resort. It’s entrance off Admiralty Way is non-descript at first glance but reveals a large fountain that hides the wide portico where just enough team members are waiting to greet you with sunny smiles. The lobby is awash in silver, grey and gold tones against light beige walls and a stunning gold ornamental chandelier which doubles as artwork. To your left and right, you’ll find front desk and concierge- both staffed with some of the most humorous ladies in LA. The wonderful lady at front desk who checked me in called herself a “calorie collector” at which point we became instant foodie friends.
Straight beyond the lobby sits Cast and Plow, the hotel’s signature restaurant, bar and outdoor lounge all in one. (More on Cast and Plow later).
Guest rooms continue with the gold motif but integrate the blues of the Pacific Ocean, right at the hotel’s doorstep. Plush beds that tantalize you to sink in are quintessential of all Ritz Carlton properties, as are plenty of tastefully appointed lighting fixtures, artwork, wood furniture and chaise lounges, the latter of which is perfect to read a book in and enjoy the afternoon sunlight. Every room has sliding French doors that open to a balcony with views of the Marina (watch celebrities’ yachts slip away) or Santa Monica skyline. A closet with satin hangers and built-in laptop-compatible safe offers plenty of room for storage while a massive wooden boudoir table and accompanying mirror table sits in the foyer, perfect for a last minute check before heading out of the room.
Amenities include thick, plush white spa robes, soft slippers and an array of Asprey skincare products. All marble bathrooms complete the luxury guest room experience. If like me, even on vacation, you find it impossible to not check in with work, the ample-sized wooden desk has built in electric and USB outlets which in this day and age, should come standard but surprisingly don’t. Hotels that have upgraded their furniture to include easy to reach outlets earn major points with me for not making me crawl under dusty areas and contort into far out yoga positions in order to simply charge my laptop and other devices.
Across all of the Ritz Carlton properties I’ve stayed at, I’ve experienced their regular rooms (which are already far superior to most hotels), suites and Club Level rooms. The Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey has one of the world’s best Club Lounges and here’s why.
It’s definitely not the largest lounge I’ve been to at a Ritz Carlton or at any luxury hotel brand but it is beautifully cozy; not in a faux “this is too cramped kind of cozy” but a genuinely warm, sophisticated ambiance that gives me ideas on how to decorate my own home. The food is excellent from breakfast to dinner (there are 4 food offerings each day- breakfast, lunch, hors d’oeuvres and evening cordials and dessert) with standouts like their fresh Melon Juice, Empanadas and Truffle Salted Chips. Located on the 11th floor, the lounge overlooks the hotel’s massive swimming pool and hot tub as well as the glistening waters of the Marina, with several sliding French doors that open to outdoor seating areas on the balconies where you can enjoy the aforementioned food offerings.
All of these, while necessary and appreciated as part of a Club Lounge, serve as a surprisingly less important backdrop to the stars of the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey- the famed Ladies and Gentlemen who work hard to uphold the Gold Standard of hospitality. At my most recent stay at Marina Del Rey, I had the utmost pleasure in meeting Edgar, who oversees the Lounge operations, along with Maria and Zonia, his team members. Edgar has been with the Ritz Carlton brand in total for nearly 20 years while Zonia has been with Marina Del Rey since its birth 25 years ago.
As someone who has worked on various sides of the hospitality industry, I can tell you right now that employee turnover is one of the largest issues in the business. That the Ritz Carlton company, and especially the Marina Del Rey property has been able to retain such true talents who care deeply about making guests happy for what is essentially a lifetime in hospitality years, speaks volumes on true teamwork and the philosophy of Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.
If you are planning a stay at Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey soon (and you should be), even if you are not staying on Club Lounge floors, I urge you to ask to meet Edgar and his Lounge team. He will greet you with a kind of genuine warmth that is unusual for a typically elitist Los Angeles zone and he will become your new best friend, weaving in fascinating stories of the hotel and local folklore while deftly making you his signature cocktail and whisking away empty plates as you converse and laugh together. When you do finally meet Edgar, don’t think I’m lying to you about his 19 years with the brand just because you think he can’t be much older than 19 himself. Ask him yourself how old he is and he’ll happily tell you what ethos he lives by to maintain his youthful exuberance. Perhaps it has something to do with being part of Ritz Carlton.
In the evening offering of savory hors d’oeuvres and morsels of Stuffed Strawberries, Zonia will greet you with a shy smile that belies the fortitude of a woman who emigrated from Guatemala nearly 30 years ago and who maintained a fierce loyalty to the Ritz Carlton brand, working hard at a career that has allowed her to help her family move to the United States. She is the American dream and the Ritz Carlton brand is all about just that- creating, enabling and encouraging dreams, both for its team members and guests.
Dining or relaxing at the Club Lounge is like coming home to a luxurious seaside estate where family is waiting to welcome you with open arms.
Fear not, if you don’t have access to the Club Lounge, both room service and the hotel’s signature restaurant- Cast and Plow, are both excellent options. I would be remiss if I did not give special commendation to the in-room dining staff who I purposefully pushed to the limits to see just how far they would go to accommodate my travel companions and me. On two different evenings we were poolside late at night and called in to in-room dining via our smartphones. We told them we were in the mood for munchies but did not have the menu on us. They very patiently read the menu for us, took our order and brought out trays fully decked out with linen napkins and silverware, all without extra charge despite the poolside restaurant itself already being closed and having had to trek a long distance. (We of course tipped very generously on this courtesy they provided). While I don’t encourage regularly pushing hotel staff to the limits (they work very hard as is), it is nice to know that every single member of the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey staff takes hospitality very seriously.
Speaking of poolside, the pool is just about the largest hotel pool you’re going to find in a major city with exception of perhaps The Biltmore Hotel in Miami. The best thing about the pool at Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey? Both swimming pool and 14-person hot tub are open 24 hours a day, which gets a huge thumbs-up from yours truly, who avoids the sun at all costs. Whether you’re a sun worshipper or a fearer, you’ll have access to the stunning pool at any time you want. Sometimes it’s not even about the sun; sometimes you’re just busy with meetings or sightseeing and you don’t get to lounge at the pool because of restricted times at most other hotels. Not the case here. And believe me, even if you are a sun worshipper, there is nothing quite like swimming in such a beautiful serene setting late at night (the pool is amply lit and set at a comfortable temperature) when no one else is around to disrupt your peace and there is nothing quite like sitting in a large hot tub by yourself or with just your travel companions.
Not a water person and need to work out? The fully equipped gym is opens early morning to evening and has the latest and greatest for a standard workout. Every cardio machine is wiped down after each use and replenished with a fresh hand towel and water bottle just for you. Separate women and men dressing areas come with Eucalyptus Steam rooms; yes, it is as relaxing and restorative as it sounds.
If the pool and the gym are still not your cup of tea, perhaps the hotel’s tennis courts or bicycle rentals will entice you. And if not, check out the 7000 square foot spa that offers treatments like Apple Blossom Scrub & Massage.
If you’re a through and through foodie, head to the aforementioned Cast and Plow where can’t miss dishes include:
– an outstandingly devilish Herb Brioche whose exterior has just the perfect touch of crispness and whose interior is dense, rich and melt-in-your-mouth delicious,
– a vibrant, fresh Scallop Ceviche that makes you wish this dish were your main course,
– a to-die-for Pappardelle with Pork Bolognese that is topped with Burrata (it doesn’t get more #FoodPorn than this) where the handmade pappardelle is perfectly al dente and the Burrata melts into the savory pulled pork.
Dine inside Cast and Plow where massive plush sofas and love seats abound near the all-day burning fireplace or window-side, at the long bar table facing the HD tv, or outside directly overlooking the Marina with Santa Monica breezes brushing on your face.
Whether you’re on a business trip or a vacation to Los Angeles or the SoCal area, there is really no better choice than the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey. If you crave luxury, location, outstanding food and unparalleled service with a genuine human touch- it’s all here and then some.
The hotel is about to undergo a massive renovation early in 2016 (it will remain open during renovations) which is in line with the Ritz Carlton philosophy of striving to always be at their best, though in this case, it’s almost redundant. Here’s to another 25 years of one of America’s greatest hotels; may she live long and prosper.