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With the pandemic top of mind for everyone in the travel industry, it’s easy to forget that some destinations had barely recovered from the aftermath of 2017’s devastating hurricane season by the time COVID-19 came barreling through.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas — an icon of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ hotel landscape — was among the many properties forced to shutter their doors after the island was hit by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria nearly four years ago.
After a two-year closure and a $100 million renovation, the property reopened in late 2019 only to shut down again a few months later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas finally opened again in November 2020, it did so with a totally new look and a range of new amenities and experiences, plus a ramped-up sense of eagerness among both guests and staff — the vast majority of whom worked at the property in 2017 and happily returned for its reemergence.
That excitement was apparent from the very start of my recent stay at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. From the lobby building’s welcoming pastel colors to the rum-spiked lemonade they handed to me upon arrival, there’s a warmth to the property that makes it luxurious (as one would expect from a Ritz-Carlton property), but also relaxed and approachable.
As I waited for my check-in to be complete — a process that now includes sanitizing suitcases before bringing them to the guestroom — I wandered the lobby area, admiring the decor, which features simple white and natural tones accented by subtle blues, wood detailing and occasional pops of coral pink. It’s just one example of the tropical-inspired renovations that touched all of the property’s public spaces.
This theme continues within the 180 ocean-facing guestrooms and suites, which were also entirely refreshed during the recent renovations. My Club Level accommodations were spacious and flooded with natural light that complemented the bright wood furnishings, beige fabrics and gold accents.
But the real gems of this property are the Presidential Suites. These one-bedroom accommodations feature a micro-kitchen; two fully furnished balconies; expansive living and dining areas; a bathroom with double rainfall showers and a standalone tub; and more — all in an elegant, art-filled space.
For an even more elevated experience fit for groups and families, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas also created a new Presidential Penthouse, with three bedrooms accommodating up to eight people, five full bathrooms, ocean-view terraces, a kitchenette and extra perks such as a daily complimentary pool cabana.
While most of the newly designed cabanas line the edges of the pool, for an extra bit of privacy, be sure to recommend that clients request one of the two cabanas that sit on an elevated platform overlooking the entire area. That’s where I hid out for the day as I enjoyed complimentary snacks and drinks and ordered lunch from the Sails restaurant’s American-Caribbean menu, featuring dishes that range from guava BBQ wings to grilled fish sandwiches topped with Cajun mayo.
When I was ready to take a dip, I had two pools to choose from: the new, family-oriented pool with a waterslide; or the infinity pool, which looked as though it flowed directly into the ocean, with nearby St. John poking out over the horizon. If those options aren’t enticing enough, the beach is just a few steps away, with an exclusive area just for Club Level guests, including those in the Presidential Suites. And for the first time ever at this property, the Club Lounge — where guests can normally treat themselves to drinks and light bites all day long — is also making an appearance on the beach by way of complimentary non-alcoholic beverage service.
Other beachside amenities include the new Seaside Spa Cabana, offering a private and airy alternative to the indoor treatment rooms, and the brand-new luxury catamaran Lady Lynsey II, which accommodates up to 75 guests on snorkeling tours, sunset dinner cruises, island-hopping excursions and more.After a full day of playing in the sun, sand and sea, I was also pleased to find that The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas has also introduced new restaurants and dining concepts for a much-needed refueling. During my stay, I had extremely impressive dinners at both the new Alloro restaurant and the reimagined Bleuwater eatery.
At seafood-focused Alloro, the bayfront views allowed my imagination to wander to the shores of Italy as I indulged in Sicilian-inspired dishes such as lobster carbonara; heirloom tomato salad with burrata; and a juicy cut of steak rubbed in espresso and perfectly charred. For my final night, I tried the Asian fare from Bleuwater’s new steak- and seafood-focused menu. In what felt like a trip around the continent, I tried the Thai glass noodle salad, crispy chicken gyoza, kung pao cauliflower and more. But it was the dessert that left the biggest impression, thanks to a standout yuzu citrus tart topped with strawberry ice cream and a bit of white chocolate.
I strolled back to my room, full and happy after yet another delicious dinner, only to find a tray of chocolate truffles waiting for me. I sank into a hot bath, poured a glass of wine from the complimentary bottle also found in my room, and nibbled on the chocolate. It was a sweet farewell as warm and inviting as my welcome.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomaswww.ritzcarlton.com