Ritz Carlton, a fine luxury hotel in Berlin, yet, still not the best

Upon my return to the Ritz Carlton Berlin, three years from my previous stay, I was pleased to discover the same consistency in customer service, throughout most departments and the good upkeep of the rooms. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to the public spaces, including restaurants, lobby, which display a used, ”tired” state, in need of immediate refurbishment.

Built and designed at the same time with The Ritz Carlton in Moscow, the Ritz Carlton in Berlin has many features which could appear, at least to some travellers as ”bling”, such as the over-use of  crystals, shiny cherry wood, gold plated metal accessories (handles, lighting units etc) and the striking contrast of colours yellow (gold), blue and brown. The Executive Lounge on the 10th floor is the only space within the hotel where these contrast are not so evident and which has an impeccable classic, elegant design resembling a mansion living room, with a full library and a working fireplace.

One of the highlights of the hotel is the SPA and the wellness facilities. Although small, the pool and jacuzzi provide a comfortable relaxation. Since my first stay, the hotel added one of my favourite brands, British AROMATHERAPY ASSOCIATES to its SPA menu, with some of their signature massage treatments. The main cosmetics brand of the SPA remains Swiss La Prairie, especially for facials and body treatments. The SPA Boutique is well stocked with all La Prairie and Aromatherapy products and provides regular retail prices. On request, my generic, non branded (rife in artificial ingredients) bathroom amenities were replaced with Aromatherapy Associates ones, otherwise available only in suites, which I find rather odd, since chains such as Mandarin Oriental Hotels use Aromatherapy in their standard room categories worldwide.

Rooms are large, airy and warm, decorated in a typical Ritz Carlton style. They are also well kept and very clean. My only major disappoinment regarding rooms came from the very limited pillow menu and the rather old linens and towels, which had a used feel. The bed linen even had a detergent, chemical scent, which is unacceptable for a hotel of this standard. Instead of investing in their in-house marketing campaign which portrays employees (photos of staff on room key card, turndown chocolate, bathtub menu, laptop pad on business desk, portraits in hallways and elevators), I would dare to suggest the hotel management to invest in new linen, towels and mattresses, quality of sleep being much more important that the branding aspect of the hotel. I must admit, at first glance I found the in-house advertising materials portraying staff as being interesting, perceiving them as instilling a home feeling and creating a bond with the team of the hotel. However, throughout my stay, I found some materials as being overly promoted with an unconscious ”we are watching you” perception. By contrast, Peninsula Hotels’ similar campaign (already in its third year) portraying staff is much more discreet and limited to advertising in the media and printed catalogues and brochures.

Other smaller, similarly important details which have been overlooked during my stay: 2 duvets instead of one (i was staying alone), no morning newspaper (although I ticked the check in form), no presentation (introduction) of the executive lounge on arrival. Perfect details included: the lavish breakfast in the Brasserie, hot chocolate dip for fruits (Executive Lounge), working fire places in lobby and executive lounge.

Without a real competitor, The Ritz Carlton Berlin still enjoys some sort of a monopoly, hence, the sometimes ”superior and self sufficient” attitude of staff, especially in front office and reservations. Hotels such as Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome and the Grand Hyatt cannot be called real competitors, the first one because of style and remote location from city centre and the second because of its actual facilities. Other five star hotels in the city such as InterContinental and Adlon Kempinski do not qualify as competing hotels, both being very tired properties with much smaller rooms. The only possible comparisons and similar facilities can be applied to the Westin Berlin and the Swissotel, both in excellent locations and with a high level of five star standard facilities.

Another important factor to consider for Ritz Carlton are its similarities with the adjacent Marriott Hotel, built (at the same time, and same structure)) and owned by the same developers. I believe this neighbouring scenario creates a rather odd competition between the two hotels, Marriott being cheaper and with service levels and facilities comparable to Ritz Carlton. A JW Marriott positioning and branding would have been much more strategic (i.e. Ritz Carlton / JW Marriott within the same complex in Los Angeles).

I believe competition such as a Mandarin Oriental or a Four Seasons would be the only ”awakening” reasons for the Ritz Carlton Berlin, however, for the time being, the two chains still being far from securing locations in the German capital.

Oliver Petcu