A new study of the hotel and resort industries shows how they have reacted and…
Registration at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, is an ethereal experience. The registration area sits atop the resort’s main building, offering views over the pool and beach, and to the neighboring island of St. John. Ocean breezes waft through the open windows, making it almost hard to stay focused on check-in.
It becomes a common theme throughout the stay. At every turn, there’s another glimpse of shimmering ocean waters or sun-baked coast. It’s a pleasing renaissance for the resort, for which the past several years has been—to borrow a sports team term—”rebuilding years”.
The resort closed in 2017 after suffering significant water damage during Hurricane Irma. The resort owner took the opportunity to do a top-to-bottom refurbishment, completely gutting guest rooms and public spaces.
Guest rooms now have marble floors and wood accents alongside the Ritz-Carlton “resort” color palette of soft blues and neutral grays and updated patio furniture. Patios remain unlit, however, due to environmental concerns (excessive lighting near the shore can confuse nesting sea turtles).
The resort’s waterfront restaurants, which took the brunt of the storm surge, were completely redone and reconceived. Allora, a Sicilian restaurant, now has sophisticated European styling with an eye-catching reef mural and geometric room separators and turns out memorable classics—naturally with heavy emphasis on local seafood.
Also new is Southwind, a coffee and snack bar near the pool, a redesigned indoor-outdoor Club Lounge and updated lobby and registration areas. A brand new addition for Club Level guests is a dedicated beach area, ensuring there is always oceanfront seating available for guests in that tier.
The popular pool was also redone, expanded and split into family and adult pools (one even has a waterslide), although during my visit social distancing requirements prevented the property from enforcing separation between family and adult pools. A significant number of beach and pool cabanas were added, for guests who prefer dedicated, shaded space for their pool day.
The hotel was near capacity during my visit, and the staff was clearly happy to be serving guests again. “We just got approval from the Governor to go from 50% to 75% capacity,” notes General Manager Arjun Channa. He went on to explain that the capacity restrictions affecting guest areas were also in place for employee areas, limiting the resort’s ability to bring on staff where needed, so the allowed increase to staffing was particularly welcome.
The Ritz-Carlton’s brand goal of making memories for guests is well-accommodated at this resort—there are plenty of opportunities for memorable moments to be had. Outdoor dining spaces abound, from buffet breakfasts among the bougainvillea at Bleuwater to live music and fire pits on the same patio for evening diners at Allora.
As the resort faces east, guests bent on enjoying the full vista of a Caribbean sunset can take a sunset cruise on the resort’s dedicated luxury catamaran. There’s a full bar and appetizers to be had on the sunset sail, which departs right from the resort’s beachfront. Snorkel equipment and small catamaran sailboats can also be obtained from the beach services hut.
Another innovation for memory-making is a series of built-in selfie sticks dotted around the property at the most photo-worthy locations. Guests can put their smartphone cameras on a timer and set it in a purpose-designed slot (typically mounted to the ground or attached to a wall) to take selfies with luscious resort backdrops.
It’s to make fast vacation habits here. One quickly grows accustomed to the ideal spot for breakfast, has a favorite beach chair or knows when to visit the lobby for the complimentary beverage bar (guests can choose from fruit punch or iced tea with or without local Cruzan rum).
For a resort that’s been a fixture on St. Thomas for decades, it’s a welcome refresh, bringing the property firmly in line with the high standards of the Ritz-Carlton brand and ensuring quality vacation memories for a new generation of visitors.
Rates start around $550 per night in the very trough of the off-season not including tax or the daily resort fee of $80.
Views from the balcony in the registration area are sure to draw attention.
Good to Know
Guests accustomed to renting cars on their vacation should know that traffic in the U.S. Virgin Islands moves on the left (vehicles are standard US models with the steering column on the left side). There is plenty of free valet and self-parking at the resort.
The resort sits on a hillside, so some areas require stairs or elevators to reach. The hotel is accessible for guests with limited mobility, but it’s best to contact the property directly for details. Golf carts are available to transport guests between areas of the resort, but not every room is easily accessible, so it’s helpful to work out the details in advance.
Reservations are recommended at lunch and dinner for the resort’s restaurants, particularly during peak periods.
Coconut Cove, the casual lunch-and-dinner restaurant, is actually located next door at The Ritz-Carlton Club. It’s a short walk along the beach; golf cart transfers are available, and resort guests can charge to their room account.
Footwear is a good idea for wading or snorkeling.