For our trip to Asia I partnered with several companies in order to portray an image of the region I don’t see enough of in the blogosphere – luxury. There are thousands of blog posts out there about how to spend as little money as possible when touring through Asia, but very few resources exist for those of us who don’t necessarily like staying in a dormitory. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that style of travel but it’s not for me, at least not in this stage of my life. The first stop on our trip was Tokyo where we partnered with Ritz Carlton. While my partner has stayed with the prestigious hotel group before for business travel, it was my first time experiencing the service and quality for which they are so well known. Although we only stayed with them for three nights, I quickly learned why they have such a loyal following and on the plane ride home I sketched out a few reasons why the Ritz Carlton Tokyo should be at the top of your travel wish list.
1. Location – Location is very important to me when I chose a hotel. Especially if you’re short on time being centrally located isn’t just a nice convenience, it saves money and time. Even though I wasn’t familiar with Tokyo before the trip, I quickly learned that the Ritz’s Roppongi Hills location is perfect. The hotel occupies the top nine floors of the Midtown Tower, making it the highest hotel in the city and definitely the most luxurious. The Midtown Tower itself is great because of the incredible views of the city, but also for the nearby conveniences. Next to the hotel is an upscale shopping mall with many shops and restaurants but most importantly it offers subway access. Given the size of Tokyo and its massive population, the subway is one of the best ways to explore the city and having a stop adjacent to the hotel was extremely convenient. My only complaint regarding the location is that I typically don’t like hotels where I have to use two banks of elevators to get to my room, but it really wasn’t a big deal and well worth it for the views.
2. Service – I’ve written before about what separates luxury hotels from other properties and ultimately it comes down to service. Yes, the extras are nice and important, but outstanding service must first be present before a hotel can truly be considered exceptional. Not surprisingly, Ritz Carlton takes service to a new level. The staff set a tone throughout our stay that didn’t just make us feel comfortable, but it made us feel special. Whether it was the guy who ‘hailed’ elevators for us or the waitress in the club lounge, the ability of the staff to see to our every need was impressive. My partner’s birthday took place during our stay and once the hotel found out, he was surprised with a birthday cake and card on our last night. That says a lot about the culture at the Ritz Carlton Tokyo and serves as a great example of the pride everyone takes in their work.
3. Club benefits – Many hotels offer extra benefits for those who choose to book club level rooms. I’ve experienced a lot of these benefits at a variety of hotels, but the Ritz Carlton Club is amongst the best I’ve seen. What made it better than others was frankly the club lounge. Most club lounges offer breakfast and sometimes snacks, the Ritz Carlton Tokyo however took the food offerings to a whole new level. Not only is there a full breakfast (with omelet station) but they also have five other meal times in the lounge throughout the day. We’re not talking dry canapés here; these snacks and meals were large, diverse and delicious. Our first night we arrived late in the day and the London broil in the lounge was a welcome treat. The other meals throughout the day include lunch, afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres and an evening dessert course. Keep in mind, the lounge is just one of the benefits of club access. Some (but not all) of the other benefits include: complimentary Internet access, personal check-in/out, spa voucher, packing/unpacking service and the list goes on. The entire Club level experience was the best I’ve enjoyed anywhere in the world and did, truly, make the stay more enjoyable and memorable.
4. The rooms – In certain cities a small hotel room is just inevitable; in New York for example even the best hotels feature rooms that are smaller than my closet at home. Given the size of Tokyo, I expected the same at the Ritz but instead I was surprised with guest rooms that are the most spacious in the city. The rooms start at 560 square feet (52 square meters), very respectable for a hotel. Heck, our first apartment was only 900 square feet. After getting over the size of the room, the next thing I noticed was the view. The entire city expanded below us from 53 stories in the air and watching the city change throughout the day became a favorite activity. The extras in the room were also impressive whether it was the luxurious towels, the Asprey branded room amenities or the 40 inch TV, everything was done well and tastefully executed. Some people dismiss the importance of hotels during a trip, but for me they’re an integral part of the experience. So much more than just a place to sleep, a well-done hotel can transform a mediocre trip into an adventure of a lifetime, just as the Ritz Carlton Tokyo must do for every one of their guests.
5. The intangible – I discussed the importance of service in a luxury hotel, but just as important is that intangible ‘something’ we all experience. Everything in a hotel, every staff person, every meal and every moment spent there all combine to create an overall impression. It’s how you feel about the stay and ultimately how you remember the hotel and even the destination. I’m not sure what it was, but my time at the Ritz Carlton Tokyo just made me happy – everything seemed better there. The bathroom was huge, the towels were plush, the bed was comfortable, the views of the city were amazing, the staff kind and helpful, the location was great, I was made to feel special – all of this and so much more worked together in perfect harmony to transform an average night in a hotel to an experience in its own right. I now understand why Ritz Carlton patrons are so loyal to the brand.
So there you have it, a brief look at an extraordinary hotel and one that should be at the top of everyone’s list when choosing a hotel in Tokyo.