April 14, 2014

New Orleans' Hidden Luxury Hotel

I recently visited New Orleans for the first time, and I had some trepidation because of its rowdy reputation.  On top of that, my friends and I were staying in a hotel right on Bourbon St, yikes!

But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  When I walked into the Royal Sonesta Resort, it was like entering an oasis.  The lobby is impressive with large floral arrangements, interesting artwork, and traditional French Quarter architectural features.  On site there is a coffee shop, a jazz bar, a well-known restaurant, an oyster bar, and a pretty outdoor terrace with fountain.  An outdoor pool with a bar and spa cabanas is sequestered in the center of the hotel, a nice amenity year-round.

There were four of us celebrating a friend’s birthday, so we booked a split level suite, which turned out to be the perfect set up.  It had a spacious living room on the first level, with both a double and single sofa bed, and a spiral staircase led upstairs to a bedroom with a queen bed and bathroom.   There are only eight of these suites, some of which are located poolside, so they can book up early.

Royal Sonesta Split Level Suite - Living Room
Royal Sonesta Split Level Suite - Bedroom
Our suite opened to a shared patio area with covered tables, and despite having lively Bourbon St just on the other side of the wall, it was amazingly quiet.   Service was very good, everything we asked for was delivered promptly:  extra towels, extra blow dryer, even middle of the night pizza.  The hotel also has an exclusive Club Level on the 7th floor which serves breakfast, cocktails, and hors d'oeuvres.

Patio outside our suite
The location was excellent, with Canal St. only 2 blocks away, and Jackson Square and the waterfront an easy 10 minute walk.

For those who want to be close, but not right on, Bourbon St, Canal Street is lined with  many hotel options, including the regal Ritz Carlton New Orleans, which I also toured.

Like many hotels in the French Quarter, the hotel is quite large, taking up almost a whole block with its 527 rooms and suites.  The first three 3 floors used to be a department store, and a beautiful fountain outside the spa on the ground floor is a leftover from that era.
Fountain outside the spa
There are several public spaces, including a former “smoking lounge" with sofas and game tables,  a pretty outdoor courtyard with wrought iron furniture, and gaslight lamps, and the Davenport Lounge, named in honor of headliner Jeremy Davenport who has performed there for many years.  The dining room opens to this lounge, so guests can have a supper club experience.
Former smoking lounge off the lobby
The Davenport Lounge
I was first shown the 2800 sq. ft. Ritz Carlton suite, which had traditional décor with muted wall colors, ornate drapery, and wainscoting.   It was recently renovated, and a pool table was added.   It has hardwood and tile flooring, a full kitchen, living room with fireplace, and a large outdoor terrace with panoramic views overlooking the French Quarter, all the way to the river.

The Ritz Carlton Suite
Canal St view from the private terrace
Standard rooms and suites also have traditional décor with richly colored bedding. All suites have sofa beds, so they can accommodate a family of four if the children are young, and rollaways are also available.  French doors separate the bedroom and living room giving parents their privacy.
Standard room at the Ritz Carlton New Orleans 
One Bedroom Suite
If families want connecting rooms, there are 38 available in various configurations.  Some rooms have connecting doors, but many are set up as a “lock off suite” - separate rooms that share a foyer with a master door that can be locked off from the hallway.  There is even one suite that connects to 2 king rooms to create a 3 bedroom suite.

So I've talked about two very large hotels, neither of which are hard to miss.  So where is this "hidden hotel?" 

Well, it's inside the Ritz Carlton! Their Club Level is not just a dedicated floor, it is a “hotel within a hotel."  Club guests have to check in at the main lobby, but from that point on they never have to enter the main hotel as they have their own elevator and private drive. It's completely exclusive, offering guests an intimate and personalized boutique hotel experience combined with the amenities of a full size hotel.

The décor is distinctly different, with more neutral colors and wood floors, to give the feel of being in a Southern home. (In order to prevent scratches, rollaways are not allowed in these rooms, but they have air mattresses which are fun for kids. They fell like they are camping!) 

Club room at the Ritz Carlton New Orleans
The Club Lounge was very spacious, with multiple rooms and plenty of seating.  In addition to the usual food spread, there was a 24 hour “grab and go” station which is great for those always hungry kids.

The Club Lounge
Grab N Go Station in the Club Lounge
So if you want to experience Ritz Carlton service and luxury, but don’t want the "big hotel" feeling, then a Club room is the perfect solution!

While Bourbon Street does not exactly cater to children, the rest of the city offers family friendly activities, and the concierge can provide a “Top 10 List.”  The hotel provides POLO Kits (Protect Our Little Ones) which include outlet covers, infant/toddler bath amenities, and (if needed) a forehead thermometer strip, and parents can also request  cribs, pack & plays, infant bath tubs, humidifiers, a diaper pail,  microwave and mini-refrigerator.  

And of course, my clients receive exclusive Ritz Carlton STARS amenities, which include daily breakfast, a welcome gift, and upgrade on arrival if available.

If you’d like more information about planning a trip to New Orleans, or cruising from there, just send me a note at suzette@family-treks.com.

Cruise ship in port