With Toronto’s restaurants and entertainment venues closed for the season, Jessy and I had decided to plan a simple staycation this past Valentine’s Day.
Having already tried out the St. Regis Toronto, my natural next choice was the other Marriott luxury hotel in town: The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto.
I had attended a few events at the Ritz over the years, but had never stayed as a guest, and so I was curious what the experience would be like at what seemed like a rather low-key Ritz-Carlton location by global standards.
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The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – Booking
Paid rates at hotels in Toronto’s downtown core can be exorbitant during normal times, given their popularity among business travellers to the Financial District.
However, I was somewhat surprised that the base rates during the pandemic era, at a time when Toronto’s Bay St is a virtual ghost town compared to before, were still upwards of $600/night.
Between the occasional out-of-town visitor and local staycationers like ourselves, it seems like the luxury properties are just about scraping by these days, looking ahead at a time when downtown occupancy picks up again.
Of course, $600+/night was far more than I was willing to spend, so this was a good opportunity to redeem some Marriott Bonvoy points for a one-night stay. The Ritz-Carlton is a Category 7 property within the program, charging 60,000 Bonvoy points per night at the standard rate; I was able to make my booking during the off-peak promotion that we saw at the turn of the year, scoring a free night for only 50,000 Bonvoy points.
Since we value Bonvoy points at 0.9 cents/point, I thought I was getting fairly good value in redeeming ~$450 worth of points for a stay that would’ve otherwise cost at least $700 after taxes.
Plus, by paying for any incidentals with my American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, I’d be making progress towards a “Spend $200, Get $50” Amex Offer on my card that was valid during the spring of 2021.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – Location & Arrival
The Ritz-Carlton is situated on Wellington St West, just at the boundary where the Financial District meets the Entertainment District. With easy access to the shops of Queen West, excellent dining options on King West, and the attractions of the Harbourfront (including the CN Tower mere steps away), its location is unbeatable for any visit to Toronto.
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We left home and headed over to the hotel at around 2pm in the afternoon, enjoying a brisk walk across Toronto on a relatively warm day for mid-February.
Compared to other Ritz-Carltons around the world, the Toronto location has a rather unassuming exterior, with some subtle signage out front and along the side of the awning above the driveway. In fact, before I started paying attention to hotels, I had passed by this spot for many years without even realizing that there was a Ritz-Carlton here.
Entering the building, the lobby is a little more grand, its warm wood finishes illuminated by an elaborate chandelier. The Ritz-Carlton had undergone some major refurbishments to its guest rooms a few years ago; however, the lobby has remained intact from its earlier years, so it did feel a bit dated compared to other luxury hotels in town like the St. Regis, Shangri-La, or Four Seasons.
Indeed, it seems like renovations have already begun on the lobby, and the hotel has walled off the back area of the lobby and put up a temporary facade while construction is in progress.
Nevertheless, it was still a fairly aesthetically pleasing space. Jessy took a seat in the lobby while I queued up behind a few other guests for the check-in counters on our left.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – Check-in
After about a five-minute wait, a front desk associate was ready to help me with checking in.
She confirmed my one-night stay and thanked me for being a Titanium Elite member, while also confirming our suite upgrade to the One-Bedroom Suite with a City View, which I had already arranged over the Marriott chat app.
(Knowing that Ritz-Carltons are tougher in terms of complimentary elite upgrades, I had reached out via email a few weeks before the stay to request a suite upgrade, before reaching out a few days in advance via chat to reiterate my desire. Finally, on the morning of check-in itself, I received confirmation of our successful upgrade. I had also asked about upgrades to larger suites beyond the One-Bedroom Suite, but the hotel informed me that they aren’t available for elite upgrades and quoted a figure that was far beyond my budget for this stay.)
The associate also let me know that the hotel’s Club Lounge was unfortunately closed for the time being. That’s a shame, because I’ve heard excellent things about the Club Lounge here, and I would’ve certainly considered paying for access just for the experience.
With no elite breakfast available at Ritz-Carlton hotels either, I was happy to accept my 1,000 Bonvoy points as an elite welcome gift, and proceeded to receive our keys to Room 705 for the evening.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – One-Bedroom Suite
The guest room hallways have the same older-generation look as the lobby and public spaces. I’m sure it won’t be long until these undergo a makeover as part of the hotel’s overall transformation, either.
Our newly-renovated suite, on the other hand, was instantly much more visually appealing.
A foyer with black marble flooring greets your entrance, adorned by a full-length mirror casually leaning against the back wall. The leaning mirror is something I’ve seen at quite a few upscale hotels now, and I have to say I’m a big fan of this type of interior design.
There’s also a half-bathroom and powder room here by the entrance.
The foyer then opens up to the suite’s main living room, which draws upon a neutral colour palette with pops of saturated navy in the furniture and carpeting, supposedly inspired by both the hotel’s proximity to the waterfront and its close relationship with the Entertainment District and the Toronto International Film Festival. I quite liked how it all came together, and I think the hotel did a great job with their recent room renovations.
The living room played host to the pantry, featuring a kettle and Nespresso machine, as well as a stylish bar cart in the corner. I love the bar cart feature in a hotel room, and I’d love it if it became a standard piece across higher-end hotel suites.
The rest of the suite opens up into a full “L”-shaped layout, with a narrow hallway linking the living room to the bedroom, and the master bathroom situated in-between.
Technically, this suite might straddle the definition between a “junior suite” and a “one-bedroom suite”, since there’s no door to separate the living and sleeping areas. That’s something to be aware of if you’re considering a stay at the Ritz-Carlton and hoping for a suite upgrade, as you aren’t likely to get upgraded to any of the higher-tier suites beyond this one without paying top dollar for it.
While the desk in the hallway was spacious enough, I did think its position in a narrow hallway and opposite the bathroom wasn’t exactly ideal, nor was the fact that the accompanying seat was only an ottoman, rather than a proper office chair. Nevertheless, I did manage to sneak in a few productive hours from this spot the following day.
For its part, despite its somewhat unconventional position within the equally unconventional suite layout, the bathroom was as nice as I’ve been accustomed to from any Ritz-Carlton hotel, featuring those signature glossy marble finishes on all sides.
We enjoyed a nice long bath in the bathtub, a rain shower with excellent water pressure, and the always welcome indulgence of an automated Japanese-style toilet seat.
Finally, continuing down the hallway, we arrive at the swanky master bedroom. This was our first nice hotel stay in quite a few months’ time, so the plush and comfortable king-sized bed was a real indulgence, which we made sure to enjoy to the fullest extent by lounging lazily for many hours on end.
The bedroom was large enough for another navy-blue chaise longue along the windows, which afforded a striking close-up view of the CN Tower just outside.
If you’re staying at the Ritz, make sure to ask for a suite with a CN Tower view if possible, as it’d be a real shame to miss out on these views in a north-facing room instead.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the one-bedroom suite, and I thought the newly-finished interior decor was even a little bit nicer than the rooms over at the St. Regis Toronto.
The cinema-inspired darker colours gave the suite some cozy residential vibes, while the snazzy blue accents made the Toronto hotel stand out more from other Ritz-Carltons I’ve visited around the world, which can sometimes feel a bit stale in their brand-standard brown and black finishes.
After settling into the suite, we headed out to pick up our takeaway dinner from Pearl Diver just a few blocks east and one of our favourite spots in Toronto, before tucking into our seafood tower with a bottle of bubbly in the comfort of our living room.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – Breakfast
One downside to staying at Ritz-Carltons compared to Marriott’s other brands is that you generally don’t receive complimentary breakfast as an elite member.
Indeed, the Toronto location was no exception to the rule, so I went ahead and ordered a simple in-room breakfast (the only breakfast option available during the pandemic) for about $55 after taxes and tip.
The omelette and Eggs Benedict were both delicious, though I can’t really say that they were worth the price on their own. I suppose it’s really the premium of having breakfast delivered straight to the room that you’re paying for, and in that sense, breakfast in bed was a very welcome treat on this staycation morning.
Having to pay for a rather expensive breakfast even as an elite member is always one of my least favourite parts of any Ritz-Carlton experience (with the exception of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, where breakfast is free).
Unless I can book the right paid rate that includes breakfast, it’s certainly a factor that could easily sway my decision to stay at another high-end brand over a Ritz.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto – Other Facilities
While we spent the majority of our time in the room, I took a moment to scope out the hotel’s other facilities, most of which were “closed for the season” with coronavirus still raging.
The hotel’s spa, fitness centre, and indoor pool are located on the fifth floor. The Spa My Blend by Clarins is supposedly Toronto’s largest luxury spa, and is a popular destination for the city’s spa-goers even outside of hotel guests.
During our stay, the spa was operating on limited opening hours, though still providing treatments by appointment only.
Both the fitness centre, known as Innovative Fitness, as well as the indoor pool were closed due to local lockdown restrictions. Otherwise, we certainly would’ve come for a dip in the pool to make the most of our staycation.
On the ground floor, you’ll find the hotel’s flagship Ritz Bar, as well as the stairway to the TOCA Restaurant on the upper floor of the lobby. Again, both establishments were temporarily shuttered, with TOCA offering takeaway service only.
The ground floor also played host to a small business centre and a jewelry store.
I was quite pleased with our stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, which helped us enjoy a bit of the Valentine’s Day spirit in an otherwise challenging time.
Since its partial transformation was completed in 2020, the hotel’s rooms and suites (and to my understanding, its Club Lounge as well) are looking beautiful on the inside. I’m sure the hotel’s standing will be truly elevated once its lobby is renovated under a similar concept in future years.
When comparing the Ritz-Carlton against the nearby St. Regis Toronto, though, I must say I’d probably pick the St. Regis again if I were returning to one property over another in the future.
Even though the St. Regis’s rooms aren’t quite as nice as the Ritz, they do upgrade Marriott Bonvoy elite members to “full” suites with a separate bedroom rather than “junior” suites, and of course they honour the free breakfast benefit as well.
Having said that, one part of the Ritz-Carlton experience that I had missed out on this time is the Club Lounge, which has gotten rave reviews from hotel patrons in the past, and I’ll be sure to give it a try if I find myself back here again.
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