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Ritz-Carlton is known for having some top notch club lounges, and as a result, accessing them can be pricey. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at what Ritz-Carlton club lounges are like, and what the best ways are to access them.
What are hotel club lounges?
First for some context, a variety of hotel groups have club lounges. The concept is that you get access to a special “club,” which is typically open throughout the day. In that club you can enjoy several food and drink presentations (think breakfast, an evening happy hour, etc.). Personally I also love club lounges as a place to work from, as it’s usually quiet during the day, and you have access to coffee, water, etc.
Club lounges also often have special concierge service, and club rooms are also sometimes on the top floors, and may have some premium amenities that other rooms don’t have. While the quality of club lounges varies considerably, think of club lounges as offering the experience of an exclusive hotel within a hotel.
Why don’t Marriott elites get access to Ritz-Carlton club lounges?
While Ritz-Carlton belongs to Marriott Bonvoy, not all elite perks apply at Ritz-Carltons. For example, Bonvoy Platinum Elite members get access to club lounges and free breakfast at most hotel brands, but Ritz-Carlton is specifically excluded.
Marriott Bonvoy elite members don’t receive complimentary breakfast at Ritz-Carltons, and also don’t receive lounge access.
Why is that? Practically speaking, Ritz-Carlton club lounges are far superior to what you’ll find at other Marriott brands with lounges, like Sheraton, Westin, etc. For hotels that offer free lounge access to elite members, the lounges generally get pretty crowded, and for the most part quality suffers. The lounges go from a profit center for the hotel, to a way to reward elite members for their loyalty.
To be clear, I’m not advocating for the lack of Bonvoy benefits at Ritz-Carltons, but rather am sharing what I imagine the brand’s logic to be.
How much does Ritz-Carlton charge for club lounge access?
As you’d expect, the price for Ritz-Carlton club lounge varies significantly. Not only does it vary based on the hotel, but even at a particular hotel the premium over a standard room can vary depending on when you’re staying, based on general demand for club rooms.
It’s hard to say how much club lounge access at Ritz-Carlton properties costs, though to give a general range, on one end of the spectrum you have the Ritz-Carlton Astana, where I’m seeing dates where a club room costs only an extra 23,520 KZT (~$55) per night compared to a standard room.
Meanwhile at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, I’m seeing dates where a club room costs an extra ~$311 per night compared to a standard room.
So yeah, there’s huge variance here, and generally you’ll find that Ritz-Carlton club lounges cost anywhere from an extra $50 to $350 per night, depending on the property and demand.
How can you get the best deal on Ritz-Carlton club lounge access?
The obvious way to get access to Ritz-Carlton club lounges is to just outright pay for them at the time of booking. That being said, there are some other potential options for getting club lounge access, which I wanted to summarize below.
Be strategic about your bookings
In reality this kind of falls into the category of just outright paying for club rooms, but I think it’s worth mentioning that booking at the right time can make a big difference in terms of how much you’ll pay.
Ritz-Carltons often have a third or fourth night free offer on stays, so if you keep an eye out for sales and are willing to stay during an off-peak period, you could score a club room for much less than you’d usually pay.
These can usually be combined with the Marriott STARS program (which is how you should book all paid stays at Ritz-Carlton properties), which offers additional perks like room upgrades, free restaurant breakfast, a hotel credit, and more.
Ask how much an upgrade would cost
Many Ritz-Carlton hotels will let you upgrade to the club level after booking. There are two ways to approach this:
- You could contact the hotel in advance and ask about any club upgrade opportunities
- You could ask at check-in about any club upgrade opportunities
In some cases the cost to upgrade to a club will just be the rate difference between what you paid and how much a club room would have cost, so don’t expect to consistently get a discount just by upgrading after the fact. However, sometimes hotels are willing to offer discounts on club upgrades last minute subject to availability.
Historically some Ritz-Carlton properties have even let members redeem points for upgrades to the club level at an attractive cost. For example, back in the day the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo would let Bonvoy members redeem 10,000 points per night for an upgrade to the club level. I’m not sure if that’s being offered anymore, but it’s worth being aware of, as that was an excellent deal. I value Bonvoy points at ~0.7 cents each, so to me that’s like paying $70 for a club upgrade.
Redeem Bonvoy points for a club room
Generally speaking when you redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for a free night stay, you book into a standard room. For example, you can see that below for the Ritz-Carlton Astana, where you could redeem 40,000 Bonvoy points for a free night award.
However, sometimes there are opportunities to directly book a club room as part of an award booking. At the same hotel:
- You could instead redeem 50,000 Bonvoy points per night to directly book a club room
- You could pay 40,000 Bonvoy points per night plus pay a 20,000 KZT (~$47) upgrade charge
It’s not always going to be the best deal, but it’s worth being aware of this option, especially if you want to stay in a club room but don’t want to fully pay out of pocket for the stay.
Get the Ritz-Carlton Credit Card
This is kind of tricky, but worth being aware of. Chase issues a Ritz-Carlton credit card, but you can’t apply for it directly, as it’s no longer open to new applicants (it was one of the legacy Ritz-Carlton credit cards from back in the day).
That being said, if you have another Chase Marriott Bonvoy credit card — the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card (review) or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (review) — you should be able to product change to it after a year.
The card has a $450 annual fee, and one of the major perks is that you can upgrade three stays (of up to seven nights each) per year to the Ritz-Carlton club level. The major catch is that you have to book a specific rate directly through Marriott by phone to do that. The rate is often more expensive than other rates you’ll find online, and there’s often an opportunity cost to booking this way, but if you’re determined to stay in a club room, this might just be the best deal.
How good are Ritz-Carlton club lounges?
Ritz-Carlton club lounges are very good, among the best out there. As a general rule of thumb, Ritz-Carlton club lounges have five daily meal presentations, including:
- Afternoon snacks and/or afternoon tea
- Evening happy hour with alcoholic drinks
- Dessert and cordials
As you’d expect, the quality of club lounges varies significantly around the globe. Like most things in hospitality, you’ll find that club lounges in Asia are the best — for example, the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo has an incredible club lounge, which I’ve reviewed before.
But even in the United States, club lounges are considerably better than what you’d find at other hotel brands. For example, let me share my experience with the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island club lounge a while back, as this is pretty standard of what you’d find at a club lounge at a Ritz-Carlton in the United States.
The lounge itself is a pretty nice space, with some couches, chairs for relaxing, and dining tables. Even though the lounge isn’t huge, it doesn’t really fill up too much, since it’s only open to those paying for access.
The lounge even has several private balconies with outdoor seating, which sure is cute.
Throughout the day the lounge offers soft drinks, juice, water, coffee, tea, and light snacks.
Let’s take a look at a few of the meal presentations, just to give you a sense of what it’s like.
Ritz-Carlton club lounge breakfast
Ritz-Carlton club lounges in the United States generally have a continental breakfast, and frankly this is probably the least differentiated serving of the day, compared to your typical club lounge. Keep in mind that if you book a Ritz-Carlton stay through a travel agent affiliated with Marriott STARS, then you also have the option of enjoying restaurant breakfast, which will likely be better.
I’d say the selection is only slightly larger than you’d typically find in a club lounge, but it’s much higher quality. Breakfast included bagels, toast, pastries, fresh buns, fresh fruit (including berries), smoked salmon, cold cuts, eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, and sausage.
Ritz-Carlton club lounge lunch
Ritz-Carlton has a proper lunch in the club lounge, which could easily act as a full meal. This is impressive, since most other brands don’t have a proper lunch in the club lounge. The lunch selection consisted of several types of spreads and dips, fresh veggies and fruit, cheese, sandwiches, a make-your-own-salad bar, soup, and a variety of desserts.
Ritz-Carlton club lounge evening drinks & snacks
In the evenings, Ritz-Carlton club lounges have a proper happy hour with snacks and drinks (including complimentary alcohol). The food selection included bread, veggies, dips, cold cuts, cheese, several other appetizers, egg rolls, a surprisingly good beef dish, and cookies.
Keep in mind that most club lounges in the United States charge for alcohol in the evenings, though Ritz-Carlton offers it for free. Not only does this include a fairly wide selection of complimentary beer and wine…
…but it also includes made-to-order cocktails. That’s not something you often find in club lounges in the United States, so that’s pretty awesome.
Ritz-Carlton club lounge dessert & cordials
Completely separate from the evening happy hour, Ritz-Carlton club lounges have a proper dessert and cordials presentation. The dessert included everything from candy you could scoop onto a plate, to mini-desserts, to a chocolate fondue.
Then there were also half a dozen cordials to choose from.
Are Ritz-Carlton club lounges worth it?
It goes without saying that there’s no one size fits all answer to whether or not it’s worth paying for a club level room at a Ritz-Carlton. However, here’s how my thought process would work in general:
- How much is the hotel charging for lounge access? Is this a Ritz-Carlton property where a club costs ~$50 per day, or one where it costs $300+ per day?
- Does the rate otherwise include restaurant breakfast? If you’re booking a paid stay at a Ritz-Carlton you should generally book through Marriott STARS, which offers free restaurant breakfast, and in my opinion that takes away one of the benefits of paying for club lounge access, since having access to the club breakfast isn’t as valuable
- How much would you actually use the club lounge? It’s tricky, because to really get value out of the club lounge (assuming it’s expensive) you have to use it a lot, and at the same time most people want to dine out when they’re traveling, rather than in a hotel lounge (especially if they’re paying for it)
- How is the local food scene? In some cities it would be a total waste to have any meal in a club lounge, while at other destinations (especially beach oriented ones without that many great dining options), being able to dine in the club lounge could be a good option
Personally I love club lounges, since I always work when traveling, and it’s a fantastic place to use as an office. One of my tips for avoiding jetlag is working outside of your hotel room as much as possible (so you’re not tempted to sleep), so having a quiet place from which to work with unlimited coffee and other drinks sure helps. That being said, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to pay.
Personally I’d probably be willing to pay the equivalent of $100-150 per day for access to a Ritz-Carlton club lounge, assuming I didn’t otherwise have breakfast included. I think that’s a conservative and fair valuation.
If breakfast were included, I’d only be willing to pay a bit less, since there are limits to how much I’d use the lounge. If it’s a really impressive club lounge (like in Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc.), I might be willing to pay a bit more.
Ritz-Carlton is known for its incredible club lounges, which typically feature five daily food presentations. The major catch is that accessing these lounges often isn’t cheap, as Marriott Bonvoy elite members don’t get access to Ritz-Carlton club lounges for free.
Hopefully the above is a useful guide to what you can expect from a Ritz-Carlton club lounge, along with the best ways to access them.
Have you ever visited a Ritz-Carlton club lounge? If so, what was your experience like?