RItz-Carlton Tahoe: Revisited

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Last year I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Tahoe and had a wonderful visit.  The Club Lounge staff were all extremely personable and warm, the food was great, the rooms were cozy and well-designed, and the views were gorgeous.

The Ritz-Carlton Tahoe does not know I’m a travel writer, but as a frequent Ritz-Carlton guest they invited me to return this year for a complimentary night to try out their new beds. You can read about my previous visit and hotel review by clicking here.  I was delighted to accept the invite, and decided to add a paid night on to the reservation. I had given my hotel stay the last time four stars, and expected this year’s visit to be even more amazing.

Pulling my car up to the front to be taken by valet, I remembered that valet parking had been $35 a night. There is nowhere else for miles where you can leave your vehicle and there is no self-parking, so I think the rate is high. The rate has also gone up to $39, which seems a bit over the top.

Check-in was friendly and warm, and I was again encouraged to enjoy some fresh lemonade in the lobby or an organic apple (they were delicious).  I was given my key to a Club Level room on floor 5, and a welcome letter with details on the different offerings in the Club Lounge.

The room was lovely, and had all of the thoughtful touches I had remembered from my last stay. In fact, if possible it seemed even larger and more cozy than before. I loved the luxurious leather chairs at the foot of the bed with the footstool, and everything was so well-designed.

The view I’d had previously was great, overlooking the treetops. This time the view was even better as I could see the fire pit, swimming pool, restaurant and also the trees. So relaxing.

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View from room

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View from room

Walking into the bathroom I was thrilled to see that someone had read my profile. I don’t care for the Asprey products so another was substituted in per my request, and whoever had stocked the room had even taken the time to write a nice note explaining that there was no shower gel available (and an alternate soap was provided on the counter).

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Bathroom amenities

This stay was already getting off to a wonderful start! I went down the hall to the Club Lounge to see their evening food offerings.

Opening the door the first thing I came to was a table covered in sweets. Even as adult it really is fun to look at (plus the house made goodies are tasty).

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Sweet table

I was greeted warmly by Ro, one of the same lounge attendants I had met during my last stay. Clearly in his element, he practically glided from table to table with an endearing smile, asking guests about their day, offering drinks and explaining the food options. I passed on the house made truffles but selected some delectable chocolate covered strawberries.

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Caramel & chocolate desserts

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House made truffles

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Chocolate covered strawberries

He even came over while my husband and I were finishing up with our desserts, mentioned that the sun was about to set and that he knew just the perfect spot to see it from. He guided us to a place on the balcony where we had a prime view of the outstanding colors of sunset over the resort. It was absolutely stunning.

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Sunset

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Sunset

After stuffing myself with all of the delicious Club Lounge desserts, I returned to the room and got ready for bed. One corner of the bedspread had been folded down and chocolates were waiting next to bottles of water on the nightstand. Housekeeping turn-down had also dimmed the lighting and turned on some relaxing music. She had even written her name with a smiley face on a paper near the bed, giving it a personal touch. I smiled, and decided to add a few extra dollars to the amount I usually leave for housekeeping in the morning before leaving the room.

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Thoughtful housekeeping note

Sliding under the covers I got ready to turn out the light, but my husband felt that something wasn’t right with the sheet at the end of the bed. The sheets were luxuriously soft but maybe the sheet was just bunched up, and we pulled down the cover to take a look.

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Bed

The sheet was short by about a foot, and our feet had been resting on the mattress pad. I took a look at the sheet and pondered how I could fix it myself, but didn’t see a good way since pulling one end would undoubtedly short the upper end near the pillows.

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Bed

I didn’t really want anyone to come to the room, but I also didn’t want to sleep with my feet resting on the mattress pad sans sheet. I made a quick call to the front desk to explain the situation, and someone was outside of the door shortly.

He walked around the bed, said “hmm” a few times, and then announced that he had figured it out. He said housekeeping sometimes uses a Queen bed sheet instead of a King when they run short on time instead of going back to get the proper size, and that is what had happened. He kind of laughed, and said something along the lines of “oops, we got busted again”.

He apologized for the mishap, and thankfully had brought a King bed sheet with him so he set about remaking the bed. He worked quickly, asked if there was anything else we needed before he left and wished us a good evening.

I’ve never had that happen at a hotel. Although I was mildly annoyed I thought nothing more of it and went to sleep.

The next morning I went to the Club Lounge for breakfast around 8:30am. There were plenty of open tables so I did some work while enjoying my meal. The morning staff had a guy who was helpful and friendly, but oddly the other staff seemed more comfortable staying in the back than out front.

 

Around 11:30am I finished up my work and went back to the room, figuring that housekeeping would have come already since usually I find that luxury hotels excel at this. In fact, in some hotels like the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome I swear they must have a small camera that they watch so as soon as a guest leaves the room they immediately go in and clean like magical elves.

The elves hadn’t been in the room though and I didn’t see the cart down the hall but checked my door just in case I had accidentally left the “do not disturb” sign on. The sign was not on, so I went back to the Club to grab a water bottle for my day trip off property.

I mentioned to the attendant at the desk that housekeeping hadn’t come yet, and that I would be leaving for several hours. I asked if he could please call housekeeping and arrange for them to clean the room before I returned. He said absolutely no problem, and that he would make sure it was taken care of. Great!

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors even in the summertime, from bike trails to hikes to kayaking. I enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine and it wasn’t until much later I came back to the resort.

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Lake Tahoe

After I returned from my day trip, I got to enjoy a special treat from the Ritz-Carlton Tahoe – marshmallow roasting! Kids and adults alike gathered near the fire pit outside to enjoy the gooey fun.

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Marshmology

The Marshmologist explained a little about the marshmallows and about the special house-made flavor for the evening – cherry lime.

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Marshmologist

I took a marshmallow (good old-fashioned flavor) and toasted it in the fire. When it got to just the right level of burnt I brought the stick back where the gooey mallow was nestled in between a piece of chocolate and some graham crackers to create a s’more. It was so good.

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S’more

I headed up to the lounge to enjoy a few of the evening snacks before going to the room, and found a couple of items that looked especially good.

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Club Lounge snacks

I made a dietary inquiry about one of the foods, remembering that the last time I had stayed they had even informed the chef so that the next time I came to the lounge there was something in particular that fit my request. I had been impressed by the thoughtful response, but I didn’t expect that this time.

However, the attendant didn’t speak English well enough to understand my question. I tried a second time, and I thought she got it that time. I sat down to eat something else, she went in the back room but then after a while just came out with more of the item I had asked the question about and didn’t say anything to me. There were no other attendants around, so I asked sheepishly just once more if she had gotten an answer. She didn’t understand but said she would find someone who could answer me.

By then it felt like I was making a big fuss and was sorry I had asked in the first place. Someone did come over but didn’t know the answer either and said they’d find out. Thank goodness that when I finally left they informed me that they had been unable to get an answer.

I went back to the room, and was surprised to find it exactly as I had left it in the morning. Housekeeping had clearly not been there, even though I had been out of the room for almost the entire day. Where were the fluffed pillows, the straightened sheets and the fresh towels?

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Unfreshened room

It was already late in the evening and I didn’t want to have anyone come in the room so I just left it as-is. When I’m at home I don’t put on clean sheets every day so no big deal, and there were extra towels still in the bathroom so I just used those. I was disappointed though, as the stay wasn’t going very smoothly.

In the morning, back in the Club Lounge I looked for a place to sit. There was an attendant on the phone that was assisting a guest, but even though I saw three other staff in the Lounge they weren’t interacting with guests. Many guests had obviously left long ago, but their cups, plates and food hadn’t been cleared off of the tables. One table seemed to be the place where everyone had been putting dirty dishes so I just moved the things from the table I wanted to sit at to that one and cleaned off the table with a napkin.

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There had been a milk spill earlier, but no staff were visible. Guests just walked around the mess, being careful not to step in the puddle. I thought to myself, “Is this really a Ritz-Carlton? What happened to the phenomenal service from my previous stay?”

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Cleanup in aisle 1

Shortly afterwards I went to pack up my stuff and check out.

This stay surprised me, but not in a good way. The hotel had wanted to showcase their new bed and it was indeed fluffy and cloud-like, but clearly there was a housekeeping issue. It had started out so great, with the note and the careful turn-down service, but went downhill. If the guy who came to fix the bedsheets was correct in his phrase that “oops, you caught us again” than it indicated to me that there is an ongoing issue rather than a single one-time mistake.

Also, the last time I had stayed at the hotel I had been wowed by the Club Lounge staff. They still had a few of their previous stellar employees, but many were new and not well-trained. I appreciate the difficulty in trying to communicate in a language that isn’t your mother tongue but I think that if put in a customer service role such as a lounge agent, one should have a reasonably good grasp of the language that guests are speaking. Plus, several of them preferred to stay inside the kitchen rather than out interacting with guests. 

These aren’t huge problems, but my bill for one night came to over $400. That’s the room charge, plus valet parking, resort fee, taxes, etc. I believe a luxury five-star property that doesn’t pay attention to the little details won’t have a ton of repeat customers that believe the high price is worth it. I wanted to love this place, tucked away in the mountains with a cozy cabin-like feel and fun niceties like the marshmallow roasting. I appreciated the complimentary night offer that was extended to me. Some of the employees were phenomenal. Unfortunately, as a whole the experience was disappointing and I do not think I will return to this property.

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Good To Go

+ Location was great, close to Northstar and Village
+ Bed was wonderfully comfortable
+ Gorgeous views
+ Room with fireplace was wonderful

Good To Know

- Valet parking is $39 a night, with no self-park option
- Housekeeping wasn't on the ball
- Club Lounge staff not well-trained
- Summertime gondola to village only runs limited hours

How many Magic Stars did this hotel stay earn?

 3/5 Magic Stars
  1. Elena-MuslimTravelGirl
    Reply

    First I have to say I am glad I am not fasting when I went through your photos. Boy they looked good.

    Second I really don’t like when 5 star hotels with 5 star prices don’t match on the level of experience. I believe in five star luxury properties we pay fro the experience, customer service and level of attentiveness rather than just a bed. After all that’s what they pride themselves for. So for this price tag I don’t think I would be happy or return either. I have had the same issue with sheets being too small and I don’t understand why hotels do this. I am really annoyed when it happens. Not cleaning rooms is another one, in some hotels they come to clean my room at 6pm which is annoying especially if i want to work in the room rather than lounge.

    Small details make the big difference. Btw the only hotel where i have found five star price and six star service is in Greece. We should go.

    • Melinda
      Reply

      Elena-MuslimTravelGirl I’m intrigued, shoot me a message to let me know what hotel in Greece has 6* service. Right now might be a great time to book too, with the country’s current… issues.

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