There’s only one Marriott property in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and it also happens to be widely recognized as the city’s best hotel: the Ritz-Carlton, Almaty.
And because relatively few travellers come to Kazakhstan in the grand scheme of things, the Ritz is priced very favourable as a Category 4 hotel within Marriott Bonvoy, requiring only 25,000 points per night at the standard rate for a free night’s stay.
That was excellent value compared to the prevailing cash rates, so I went ahead and redeemed points for the two-night stay.
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty – Location & Arrival
The Ritz-Carlton is located near the city’s southern boundary, on the grounds of the Esentai Mall, one of the newest and swankiest luxury shopping malls here in Almaty.
While the location isn’t very central within the city, that shouldn’t be a problem given the proliferation of cheap Yandex Taxis in Kazakhstan; however, if you’d like to use public transportation to get around, then keep in mind that it’s about a 25-minute walk from the nearest station on the Almaty Metro.
The hotel occupies the 21st to 30th floor of the Esentai skyscraper, and upon entering, you are directed through a short passageway to a set of lifts that will bring you up to the 30th-floor lobby.
Just like the St. Regis Astana, symbols and imagery relating to horses and equestrianism were employed generously throughout the hotel’s decor as a nod to the nomadic, land-based peoples who lived in Kazakhstan throughout much of its history.
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty – Check-in
The check-in counters and concierge are found in one corner of the 30th-floor lobby, and I was warmly welcomed upon stepping out of the elevator. The check-in associate helping me was exceptionally friendly, asking me if it was my first time in Almaty and proactively giving me a few recommendations for things to do during my two days here.
I had inquired over the chat app about possible suite upgrades as a Marriott Titanium Elite member, and I did so with low expectations, knowing full well that Ritz-Carlton properties were generally quite stingy with their elite treatment.
I was therefore delighted that, shortly before my arrival, the hotel was able to confirm an upgrade to the Club Suite, their second-highest suite type!
The associate who was helping me confirmed this upgrade, and told me that I would absolutely love the suite, so I was feeling quite excited as I took the hotel’s in-house set of elevators – a different one from the one that brings you up from the lobby – down to the 25th floor.
The hotel’s hallways are decorated in what I would describe as the “classic” Ritz-Carlton style: a splash of beige against a backdrop of brown, with a few marble pieces thrown in there. It screams “old boys’ club”, and while it’s not my favourite design palette, it certainly does feel luxurious alright.
Room 2514, my home for the next two nights, was at the very end of the hallway. And that’s always a blissful sight.
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty – Club Suite
Enter the room, and – wow. The first thing you see is a giant pillar in the middle of the foyer. If there was ever a clear sign that your hotel suite would more closely resemble a lavishly appointed private residence, this was it.
Stepping past the pillar, and you arrive at the Club Suite’s living room, where the interior furniture has been arranged in a very tasteful fashion.
An oversized sofa dominates the space, creating an added presence about you as you sit opposite from your guests in their smaller individual upholstered chairs.
A wall-mounted television is found to the side, while the office desk occupies the far end of the room. It was a real pleasure to work from the comfort of this desk, especially during the daytime, when it affords you commanding views of Almaty and the mountains in the distance.
The room’s pantry was situated in the closets by the television, while the coffee machine is set up on a console table in the foyer.
Let’s continue into the master bedroom, which was just as impressive. There was a plush king-sized bed, which treated me to two wonderful nights of sleep, as well another widescreen television and two comfortable chairs to complete the set of furniture.
Adjacent to the bedroom was a walk-in closet, where you could hang up your belongings and truly feel as though you were at home, especially if you were staying for an extended period.
Easily my favourite part of the Club Suite was the master bathroom, which ranks up there as one of the best hotel bathrooms I’ve had the pleasure of using.
The entire bathroom is decked out in an indulgent cut of white and jade marble, and everything inside – from the double sinks, to the vanity table, to the bathtub, to the shower – were large and spacious to a degree that was absolutely unnecessary and purely indulgent.
Look at this bathtub, for example – it’s basically a humongous soup bowl!
Then we have the shower, which was simply… wow. In addition to the handheld shower head, there were not one, not two, but three separate streams of water flowing from the rain shower above you, and you could fine-tune the pattern of water flow to your exact liking.
Throw in the marble bench for some quiet introspection as the water cascades around you, as well as the sheer size of the shower unit, which looked like it could fit… I don’t know, 15 people inside (not that there’d ever be a reason for that or anything), and this had to be the single best hotel shower I’ve ever come across.
Finally, while the half-bath by the entrance to the suite wasn’t nearly quite as large, it still looked like a piece of art thanks to that stunning jade-coloured marble on the walls and floor.
Overall, the Club Suite was a wonderful place to spend a few nights – and the incredible views of Almaty and the surrounding Alatau Mountains during the daytime only made it better.
Due to the jet lag, I was extremely fatigued by the time I arrived at the hotel around 7pm (I had dozed off completely during the Yandex Taxi ride from the airport, which may not have been the brightest idea in a foreign country), so I went to sleep shortly after that.
I woke up at around 4pm, and I spent a few hours working before heading down to breakfast at the hotel’s Vista restaurant at 6am. I also noticed that there was complimentary tea and brewed coffee being served in the lobby in the early hours of the morning, which I took advantage of a few times during my stay, since the coffee from the machine in my room didn’t taste very good at all.
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty – Breakfast
One of my least favourite things about Ritz-Carlton hotels is that they are not obligated to provide Marriott elite members with complimentary breakfast. Indeed, the Almaty location was no exception, and they informed me that breakfast would be 8,600 KZT ($30) per day.
Now, that was expensive in the sense that I could always go to the Starbucks downstairs and eat something for much cheaper, but I also didn’t think it was an unreasonable price for a high-quality breakfast buffet, so I decided to go with the hotel breakfast on both mornings.
I’m glad I did, because the buffet was exquisite in both presentation and taste. There were several items within the breakfast presentation that I had never encountered before, like a waffle cart, a dedicated station for local jams, and a cheese wheel from which you were invited to cut your own pieces directly.
In addition to the standard Western breakfast items, the hot spread also included some delicious Russian blinis with cream cheese, and I loaded up on a few of those.
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Then, there was the made-to-order omelette station, an impressive spread of smoked meats and fish, a Kazakh corner with traditional sweets and nuts, and an ice bar for the fruits and yogurt.
Altogether, I was very satisfied with my breakfast on both mornings, and I had no regrets about paying the up-charge for breakfast even as a Titanium Elite member.
I just wish Ritz-Carltons would stop being so stingy with their benefits, though – it certainly felt strange having to actually sign a check during breakfast, for once!
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty – Other Facilities
The Ritz-Carlton has a few other features that are worth highlighting. In addition to the reception desks, the remainder of the 30th floor houses the Sky Lounge & Bar, a spacious seating area with sweeping views of the city. The bar seemed quite popular with locals throughout the day, and it seemed like a venue that was popular among Almaty’s wealthier crowd.
Then, it’s also worth noting that the Almaty location is also home to a Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge that serves snacks, beverages, and meal presentations throughout the day. Even though I was upgraded to a Club Suite, however, this did not come with Club Lounge privileges.
While hotel lounges are always comfortable places to spend time, I do find that they sometimes incentivize me to stay indoors more often while I could be out and about exploring the destination, so in this case I chose not to purchase access.
Finally, the spa, fitness centre, and indoor pool are located on the 21st floor. I headed to the fitness room on one of the mornings to sneak in a workout before heading out for the day, and even though it wasn’t the largest space, it did a fine job of squeezing as much fitness equipment as possible into a limited area.
I also dropped by the indoor pool and whirlpool to check it out, and thought it looked beautiful, but similar to most of my hotel stays, I didn’t have the time to take a dip even though I would’ve liked to.
The hotel granted my 4pm late checkout request on the final day of my stay, which meant that I could leisurely return after my visit to the Kok-Tobe Mountain, pack up my stuff, and bid a longing farewell to my gorgeous Club Suite before calling a taxi to the airport for the onward journey.
The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty is a stellar hotel whose Category 4 designation belies its true quality and represents excellent value for your Marriott Bonvoy points.
I greatly appreciated the hotel’s generosity in upgrading me to a Club Suite, whose gorgeous master bathroom in particular, where I showered and bathed a few more times than necessary solely for the enjoyment of it, will remain with me for a very long time. Moreover, the breakfast spread was excellent, and everyone at the hotel did a great job of making me feel like a welcome guest.
In my mind, there’s no better address for your stay in Almaty, especially if you’re redeeming Bonvoy points at a good value. I’ll definitely be staying here again when I return to the city.