Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour: Review Of An Award Stay With Suite Upgrade

St. Regis properties are usually more popular with savvy Marriott Bonvoy elites than Ritz-Carltons. That’s because as a legacy Starwood brand, St. Regis provides more benefits – like breakfast and suite upgrades for Platinum members (Ritz-Carltons only are required to upgrade to suites for Titanium 75 night members).

However I recently stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour on an award redemption, rather than the nearby St. Regis, and it was the absolute right choice for my stay – even leaving aside the fantastic upgrade I lucked into.

ritz-carlton bal harbour

What This Stay Was All About, And What It Cost

My daughter has been talking about ‘going to the beach’ and we decided to take her to South Florida. We flew American from Austin to Miami and Southwest back from Fort Lauderdale. With tickets starting at $31 for the outbound, and a Southwest companion pass to use coming home the tickets were cheap (and for our third ticket on Southwest I used points).

A row of Oasis Main Cabin Extra on the outbound, and an A22 boarding position for the return even our seating was good for the two and a half hour flights.

My goal for the stay was a property that wouldn’t be too busy in the midst of Miami spring break crazy, and the Ritz-Carlton has just 95 rooms.

Even though the hotel was heavily booked, it was never busy, and we rarely saw more than a few other guests. The property is split into four towers with separate elevators so you’re not even congregating with others on the way in and out. Their pool and beach weren’t crowded, either.

ritz-carlton pool

Now, this wasn’t going to be a cheap stay,

  • 100,000 Marriott points per night – but this was against a $2700++ room rate (for a base room)

  • $40 per night resort fee – includes high speed internet, nothing was offered in lieu of my platinum internet benefit even though Bonvoy terms require it. The fee also includes 2 hour bicycle rental and 2 cocktails taken between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the hotel restaurant along with daily pressing of 2 items.

  • $38 per night parking – certainly pricey for Florida not even downtown Miami.

I was paying a lot for relative quiet and seclusion in the midst of South Florida Spring Break, and for available services while many properties have cut back far more than this one. I didn’t want a resort where scrounging for additional towels was going to eat up a good chunk of my stay, and with my young daughter having available room service for a quick bite makes things easier at least as insurance.

Lucking Into An Incredible Suite Upgrade

Since I was checking in mid-week and out before the weekend, and the hotel was full, I even lucked into a suite upgrade. Granted it was on the second floor and without a direct ocean view, but the room had a kitchen as well as a wraparound balcony with four different seating areas.

No doubt having status when the property was likely booked full for its base rooms, along with clearing out before the weekend when they might have sold the suite, helped here.

I wouldn’t expect the same room again – since I’m a ‘mere’ Platinum with Marriott and not a Titanium, and the upgrade was beyond what I was entitled to through the program.

Taking the elevator to the second floor, I discovered there were only two rooms on the floor – mine directly ahead, and another room to the right.

Inside there was a living room and a full kitchen, the former consisting of a desk area as well as two couches and the latter had a dining area.

ritz-carlton living room and kitchen

The kitchen was fully equipped, from a refrigerator, microwave and cook top to plates and flatware and a coffee maker.

ritz-carlton bar seating

ritz-carlton dining table

The bedroom was comfortable enough, but lacked outlets.

ritz-carlton bedrooom

The bathroom was large and attractive, with a separate shower and tub and a closed off toilet room.

ritz-carlton bathroom

ritz-carlton shower

ritz-carlton tub

The real star of the show was the balcony, which wrapped around the entire length of the room on two sides and featured five different seating areas.

ritz-carlton balcony view

ritz-carlton balcony view 2

ritz-carlton outdoor dining table

ritz-carlton balcony seating 2

ritz-carlton balcony seating

ritz-carlton balcony seating 3

The room was obviously great, and a great value considering my award booking, but there were a couple of negatives. There were weird shrieking sounds, that I think were coming from pipes in the wall, which occurred intermittently throughout the stay. The telephone on the desk in the room didn’t work (you could dial and hear, but the mouthpiece did not work). And the television remote in the living room didn’t work either. So… not perfect.

Limitations on Available Amenities

At check-in I was told that housekeeping was available during the business day on request, and that you needed to be out of the room to receive it, but twice housekeeping came knocking. No complaints! Hotels need to be bringing back full service. Both times I declined, but it was convenient to get refills of in-room coffee and more towels.

Restaurants and room service were available 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. only, there’s in room coffee but otherwise no coffee before 7:30 a.m. even on a weekday. Given the pricing here it seems like they should be restoring availability of services. And while service was more or less prompt most of the time it did take over 20 minutes once for guest services to answer the phone.

The spa was operational, by appointment only, but common use facilities remained unavailable.

Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour In A Nutshell

Ritz-Carltons don’t provide the same level of elite benefits that many Marriott brands are supposed to, but I lucked into an incredible suite upgrade anyway.

It was the perfect hotel for seclusion amidst the chaos of Florida during Spring Break, with available services that exceeded what most other properties have been offering during the pandemic. I had beach and pool access without difficulty and didn’t see many other guests despite the property being completely full.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Just stayed at Ritz Amelia and had a completely different experience as a Platinum. Hotel was UBER crowded even though were told 60% capacity, service was terrible all around – dining, pool/beach, housekeeping, etc. COVID protocols weren’t really working/adhered to by guests. We decided to check out a day early because of all of this – and this is a property we’ve loved for 12 years and gotten married at.

    We wrote an email to the GM, who was both responsive and empathetic. We were comped $300 and 2 nights of our points stay back. He explained the bookings went from 30% to 70% in a week and they were caught off guard. While their furloughed staff had been offered jobs back, many had accepted other positions, making hiring new personnel tough. He said this is a statewide issue (I’d assume an industry wide issue) and could continue throughout the summer.

    Definitely need to be cautious with expectations this year at 5 star + hotels for the year.

  2. Very disappointed that you didn’t enforce the internet replacement benefit.

  3. @Dave: I don’t for a second believe occupancy went from 30% to 70% in a week as the GM claimed.

    Florida hotels from Keys to Miami to Clearwater have been 60-70% minimum since November. Most hotels have been 90-100% since the beginning of spring break at the end of February.

  4. Good review – would not consider this property. The room looks very nice, but hotel location is bad – looking at the hiway from your balcony and noise are not worth the stay.
    For that price can find much better location on the beach. Go to Clearwater next time.

  5. Love to see review content and very solid review. But personally, I’d skip the five-star hotels and burn my IHG points at a beach HEx before they finish devaluing. I assume the Cat 8 Bonvoy properties will be stable prices for at least a couple years

  6. $2700 a night for a base room? In Florida? You sound like Ted Cruz taking his daughter to Cancun. Must be a Texas thing. Lol

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