Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Five words you never want to hear on the other end of the line as you’re packing for vacation: “Your reservation has been canceled.”
A preemptive call to The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, to inquire about airport transportation options had me breaking into a sweat, and not the kind induced from lounging on a beach under the Caribbean sun, as an agent tried to pull up my impending booking. Luckily, with a little digging, they were finally able to locate the still-intact reservation but I couldn’t help wondering if the mix-up was an omen for the trip.
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The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas was in its third month of operation when I visited, according to one staff member I spoke to, after being closed for a $100 million renovation to repair damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. As I learned from my colleague Summer Hull, you just never know what you’re going to get when visiting a newly opened property.
What I found upon arrival was a hotel that may be open, but wasn’t quite offering guests the full resort experience yet — which could be a dealbreaker for some considering the cost of a stay at this property.
Rocking chairs welcoming guests at the entrance to The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
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The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is a top-tier Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy property. This means award nights will cost you 70,000 points for an off-peak night, 85,000 for a standard night, and 100,000 for a peak night redemption.
Predictably, a stay — even mid-week — at this property wouldn’t come cheap in the middle of high season for the Caribbean. Had we paid cash, we would have paid about $1,000 per night, but we wanted to keep our cash outlay to a minimum so instead chose to redeem 155,000 points (for one off-peak and one standard night) which TPG values at around $1,240.
The resort quotes a daily resort fee of $85, but I was “only” charged $50 upon checkout.
If you’re low on Marriott points and are eyeing a redemption such as this, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
Getting to the island of St. Thomas from New York was a dream: a quick nonstop flight from Newark (EWR) to St. Thomas (STT) meant wheels down by 2:50 p.m. local time. The drive from the airport to the resort, however, was a different story.
Related: Best ways to use miles in the Caribbean
The Ritz-Carlton is located on the east end of the island, 10 miles from the airport. The hotel does not have any type of shuttle service in place and the island does not currently have Uber so your only option is to grab one of the many taxi vans waiting in the airport lot. You have two taxi options: Pay $90 cash for a “private shuttle,” meaning you have the van to yourself, or $18/person to ride in the same vehicle but with additional passengers. And by additional passengers, I mean seven additional passengers — so get ready to get close if that’s the route you go.
A view of the Ritz property at night. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
You could also rent a car, but beware that the quality of rental cars in the U.S. Virgin Islands is often not great, and you drive on the left-hand side in the USVI, which could be difficult for those used to right-hand driving on the mainland.
Because St. Thomas is very hilly, be prepared for a long drive (in our case, about 45 minutes) up very steep and winding roads. If you’re prone to car or motion-sickness, maybe skip the free shots offered at the airport Margaritaville on your way out.
My husband and I arrived at the resort around 3:50 p.m. We were met by friendly hotel staff who directed us to the check-in desk where a cold towel and delicious iced beverage (with optional Cruzan rum topper!) appeared within minutes. Despite official check in being a mere 10 minutes away (4 p.m.), the room was not ready. This was especially hard to comprehend after a staffer mentioned the hotel was only 40% full at the time of our visit.
The lobby is airy and decked out with brand-new furnishings. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The receptionist asked us to drop our bags with the bellman and wait at Sails, the resort’s closest beach-front restaurant, while the room was readied. As we hopped on a golf cart to head down to the water, my husband had to ask that our luggage be moved from the middle of the unattended valet driveway to a secure storage room.
Golf carts at the ready to transport guests from the lobby to their room. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
An hour later, we finally received a call that the room was ready. We waited 15 minutes for the bellman to meet us at Sails as directed by the receptionist but eventually gave up when no one showed, and walked back up to the entrance to retrieve our luggage and room keys.
The room — especially the bathroom — at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, was the highlight of the stay.
The term “well-appointed” is defined as “having a high standard of equipment or furnishing” when it comes to a building or room and this certainly was true of our standard king room. All the furnishings looked brand-new, modern in design, and the room was spotless.
The bed was large and luxurious with plenty of pillows to go around and crisp, clean linens.
A king bed fit for a king — what more could you ask for? (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Outlets were within arm’s reach of any horizontal sleeping position and ample in number. The only downside to the bed setup was that the thermostat was obscured behind a large lamp on the bedside table, making it almost impossible to read or adjust the temperature without doing a furniture shuffle or some type of neck gymnastics.
Plenty of outlets, but you had to work for thermostat access. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Oddly, no protective or decorative covering was fitted onto the lower mattress, which made for a strange-looking setup.
Some things are better left unseen. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
That said, the top-of-the-line bed situation coupled with the sleekest and quietest ceiling fan I’ve ever seen made for a great night’s sleep.
Aside from the bed, the room also included a chic faux-reclaimed wood desk with leather chairs under an oversized rattan light fixture.
A large and in charge desk made for the perfect spot for breakfast. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
There was also a sleek set of drawers under the flat-screen TV that housed a mini-fridge and DIY Nespresso coffee station with all the fixins’.
The coffee station was discreetly tucked into the set of drawers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
There was also a chaise lounge in the room that, while large for the room, was quite comfortable.
The perfect spot for a little catching up on work. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The closet was big enough to fit an entire resort wear collection and housed the room’s safe, which was easy to use and large enough to accommodate a bevy of electronics and travel documents.
Love a good hotel room robe. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The balcony was spacious albeit no frills, with two basic loungers and chairs at the ready.
The perfect spot for catching a sunset sky. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
This outdoor space would have been the ideal spot for relaxing except for the fact that the view from our building was of the ongoing grounds construction as well as the back of Sails, with limited views of the water. If a good view is a priority, make sure to request a room in one of the buildings that faces east and not north.
View from the balcony of the lush grounds, but limited water. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
As the grounds and property were still very much a work in progress, many of the foot paths were muddy from landscapers.
Lots of greenery — and lots of mud. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The bathroom was beyond spacious with a shower stall, private toilet, large vanity area and the kind of deep soaking tub that vacation dreams are made of.
Could have spent the entire stay just in the tub. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The vanity had ample counter space around his-and-hers sinks as well as an additional shelf for storage needs. The lower shelf of the vanity was lined with automatic track lighting that turned on as soon as you walked in — a smart and useful feature.
A private toilet is always appreciated. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The shower was spacious and included a Raindance showerhead. Asprey amenities were fully stocked in both the shower and main bathroom area.
The shower situation was just as nice as the tub. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The usual suspects. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The toilet seat was one visit away from sliding off but was promptly fixed after a call to the front desk.
Clean, but needed a little tightening. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Food and beverage
Our first dining experience on the property was at Sails waiting for the room, where we began our vacation with high hopes.
The covered beach-front area was a godsend between afternoon rain showers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The service, as we would experience throughout our stay, was top-notch. The local staff were friendly, attentive and the best part of every meal.
The chips and guac (called Hallamole on the menu, $14), on the other hand, was frankly terrible. Stale cuts of various root vegetables were piled into a basket with a side of guacamole that was oxidized and tasted store-bought.
Sails root chips, guac and salsa. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Tuna poke ($29) and the Red Hook fish tacos ($20) followed suit. Both were disappointing.
The tuna poke looked much better than it tasted. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Fish tacos with more mayo than Mahi Mahi. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The good news is you’ll have no trouble finding solace in the frozen drinks, a favorite being the B.B.C. (Baileys Banana Colada, $16), which was basically banana pudding in drink form with booze mixed in.
The Baileys Banana Colada a.k.a. the B.B.C. will make you forget all your worries. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Dining at Alloro for dinner, where “fine dining transports you to Sicily by way of St. Thomas,” was not as disappointing, but still not great. We were told the restaurant was booked up when we walked in, and that the only seats were at the bar, which was more than fine with us, but odd considering all the empty tables.
A beautiful space, to be sure. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
An eggplant caponata starter ($16) was served atop an arugula salad with no dressing and undressed grilled bread. The pizza ($21) and pasta dish ($19) were not offensive but nothing memorable. The resort is lucky to have such incredible staff working, who at least made the experience pleasant overall — and also knew how to make a great Negroni.
You can get better pizza and pasta at the airport. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The property’s surf-and-turf restaurant, Bleuwater, was not open for dinner during our visit (despite the website listing hours of operation as 6 to 10 p.m. daily), which reception was unable to confirm or deny when we called for reservations.
The restaurant was, however, open for breakfast (if you can find it — the space is unmarked except for faded lettering over a nonworking entrance). It was the best meal we had during our stay. Opt for the breakfast buffet ($32/person) and enjoy fresh juices, pastries, a selection of standard breakfast items from the hot bar and a cold bar of meats and cheeses.
A variety of pastries were available to choose from for all your carbohydrate needs. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
A hearty cheese-and-meat selection did not disappoint. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The fresh fruit was a much-appreciated highlight, as were the fresh fruit juices. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
A hot bar came stocked with all the basics: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and breakfast potatoes. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Again, the service was amazing.
Not wanting to try our luck again at Sails, we ventured over to the beach-front lunch spot on the residence side of the property. We opted for what seemed like the safest choices: a crispy chicken wrap ($19) and a steak quesadilla ($27). Not exactly island food, but it did the trick.
The crispy chicken wrap. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The $27 steak quesadilla. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
On our last morning, we opted for room service: bagels and cream cheese, fruit smoothies and coffee ($79 total). We were told it would take 35 minutes but the food did not show up until almost an hour after we ordered.
Bagels for breakfast: You can take girl out of New York… (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, also offers a Club Lounge (complete with a killer balcony area) where you’ll find a light breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks (!) and dessert served daily for $400 per day per reservation.
Given how expensive it is to dine on-property and how, well, not great, the food was during our stay, I would 100% opt to go this route if returning. On our walk-through one evening the selection of bites looked incredible (much better than what was being offered at the actual restaurants) and the self-serve bar speaks for itself.
The other move would be to take advantage of the local restaurants and bars that are a short taxi ride away in Red Hook.
The patio outside Alloro restaurant. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
When all the construction is complete, guests will have access to two pools on the resort’s property. However, only one of the two was open while we were there, so we were given access to the pool at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Club residence property.
The pool that was open at the resort was a smallish infinity pool just steps from the beach. The pool deck was adorned with about a dozen lounge chairs and a few cabanas.
The only pool open on the hotel side during our stay. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The cabanas remained untouched during our stay. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Due to construction, a large metal fence limited the deck space as well as the sunlight at the open hotel pool, which is probably why we rarely saw many guests hanging here.
Some serious shade. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The pool was also noisy as one would expect from a working construction site. The pool currently under construction should be a nice family-friendly option once complete.
I called to check in with the resort about the progress of the construction on this pool, and the agent I spoke to told me that it should be open by the end of next week, as it’s just awaiting a final water inspection.
Ongoing construction at the second, family-friendly hotel pool. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
An overview of the hotel pool and beach area. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The best part of the beach was the sunscreen station. A nice touch for those on a quick vacation not wanting to check a bag full of liquids or not wanting to buy a new bottle of sun block on the island.
A sunscreen for everyone — even pasty New Yorkers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The pool at the Ritz-Carlton Club next door, however, was massive and offered a much better selection of lounge chairs and access to sunlight for those seeking an extra dose of vitamin D.
The beach on the residence side was also in better shape (softer sand, better beach chairs and trees for the sun-averse). It was about a five-minute walk from the hotel pool area, and worth the trip.
Picture yourself in one of those amazing hammocks. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The gym was brand-new, with plenty of cardio and weight machines to choose from, and offered a better view of the ocean than our room.
Come for the workout, stay for the view. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
There were plenty of free weights to choose from. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Brand new cardio machines. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Complimentary earphones, water, towels and fruit were also supplied.
All the necessary gym amenities, a nice touch. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The tennis courts looked great but we were unable to use them due to frequent rain showers and high winds during our stay.
Nonmotorized aquatic activities were included with the stay. We took out and enjoyed kayaks and snorkeling gear. Standup paddleboards were also available, although we opted not to take them out due to the rocky nature of the beach.
The restaurant and grounds staff at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, were excellent from start to finish: friendly, speedy and knowledgeable. Reception was hit or miss, at times unable to answer basic questions about operations. We did receive prompt service to repair the toilet as mentioned above, which was appreciated.
The gorgeous atrium at night. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The grounds at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, were beautiful — the flora and fauna were abundant and tropical — and that’s even with ongoing construction.
Blooms on blooms. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
There was a good deal of mud on footpaths and in grassy areas where crews were working during our visit. The footpaths are also very poorly lit, so a walk to dinner or around the property at night was precarious.
The room was top-notch and the staff wonderful. Once construction on the hotel pool is finished, it should be a nice play to catch some rays, relax and take in the scenery in peace.
Once the final details are finished on this property and operations have had a chance to smooth out the kinks, this resort will be worth considering for your next visit to St. Thomas, especially if you can do it on points. The food could still be a gamble, but if you opt for the Club Level option and/or dine in Red Hook as a Plan B, you should be good to go.
Featured image by Jane Frye / The Points Guy.