Marriott are on a breakneck speed to grow their portfolio down under, and no city symbolises this more than Melbourne. In-fact it isn’t even a contest.
Feels like it was only yesterday both Melbourne and Sydney had similar number of Marriott properties, since then, Marriott have more than doubled their footprint in the Victorian capital while Sydney has not seen a single addition. It is expected though that the much delayed W Sydney will finally see the light of day in November 2023.
The crazy thing is that Marriott aren’t the only group expanding their presence in Melbourne. The likes of Hilton, IHG and Shangri-La too have either already opened new properties or are in the process of doing so over coming months and years. The insatiable appetite of the Melbourne market to absorb so many new luxury properties, without seeing corresponding decline in room rates is quite remarkable.
With the opening of The Ritz Carlton Melbourne, Marriott have doubled the brand count in Australia, The Ritz Carlton Perth being the other one which opened in 2019. I was in Melbourne recently and spent 2 nights at the property.
Since opening, Cash rates at The Ritz Carlton Melbourne have hovered round AUD 500+ per night for the base level room. Mind you, the hotel opened in late March 2023 and autumn and winter months typically see softer prices. Who knows what these rates would climb to during spring and summer months with Melbourne’s busy events calendar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were higher by 50% or more.
Meanwhile, award prices at the time of my stay were about 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points per night. I roughly value Marriott points at AUD 0.008 (8/10th of 1 cent). By that measure, the 50,000 points are worth $400, slightly less than the cash rates. So for my 2 night stay, I redeemed 100,000 Marriott points.
Note that Amex are offering 50% transfer bonus to Marriott Bonvoy until 30 May 2023, this means that you are able to effectively convert Amex points into Marriott in the ratio of 1:1 (1 Amex Point = 1 Marriott Point). If you are planning a stay at any high-end Marriott property where cash rates are in high three or 4 digits, this is a great time to take advantage of the transfer bonus and generate some cheap Marriott points.
The Ritz Carlton Melbourne is located on Lonsdale Street in Melbourne CBD. All of the Melbourne attractions you can think of (and there are lots) such as Crown Casino, Marvel Stadium, South Bank, Federation Square and so on are within walking distance or inside the Free Tram Zone.
If you are driving in from Tullamarine Airport, its a pleasant 30 minutes ride to the hotel. Sadly, the airport remains without a rail link even after at-least 2 decades of successive Governments promising to build it. Thankfully, there are abundance of rideshare options at your disposal, expect to pay AUD 50 – 60 to get to the hotel.
Arrival & Check In
I pulled up at the hotel around 11:30 am and was promptly assisted by one of the three waiting bellhops, all dressed in long coats and top hat.
As you enter, you find yourself in the arrival lobby on the Ground Floor, it is spacious and offers lots of seating space. There are examples of indigenous art work on display in one corner of the arrival lobby.
But why hang-around here when you can hop-on to one of the express lifts and rocket up to the main lobby on Level 80. The lobby on Level 80, also known as the Sky lobby is where guests formally check-in.
I was attended by a friendly front desk staff named Charles who welcomed me to the hotel and thanked me for my Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status. Turns out Charles was originally from Malaysia so I got chatting to him for few minutes about my recent trip to his home country.
The Sky Lobby on Level 80 is massive, you have the reception in the centre of the lobby and enormous sitting space all around it. This is also where The Ritz Carlton Lobby Lounge, an informal space to catch-up with friends or colleagues over a few drinks is located.
Anyhow, my original booking was the King Deluxe Room which is the entry level room at The Ritz Carlton Melbourne. A day before my scheduled check-in, I noticed it had been upgraded to the Panoramic King Room which constitutes a 2 category upgrade.
Elite Benefits at The Ritz Carlton Brand
One of the frustrating aspects of Marriott Bonvoy program is the inconsistent application of Elite benefits at various brands. So while as a Titanium elite I am able to choose Complimentary Breakfast as my Welcome Gift at most properties, The Ritz Carlton brand has limited participation in the program.
Marriott Bonvoy members are able to earn and redeem points at the brand and receive some elite benefits such as the 4 pm late check-out, but a lot of really valuable benefits are excluded. So for instance :
- Marriott elites do not receive complimentary breakfast, instead they are awarded 1,000 points per stay.
- Marriott elites do not receive complimentary access to the Club lounge unless booked into a Club room. That said, guests are able to pay extra and have this included.
- You cannot apply Suite Night Awards (SNA) to your booking at The Ritz Carlton brand.
Technically speaking Titanium elites are eligible for Suite upgrade at The Ritz Carlton. Unfortunately, that rule only applies to standard suite so if the property you are staying at does not offer standard suites, as is the case with the Melbourne property where all suites are considered speciality suites, you are out of luck.
Anyhow, I inquired about the Club lounge access with Charles who quoted me the following rates. At The Ritz Carlton Melbourne you can purchase access to the Club lounge for :
- $150 per person per day on weekends (Fri – Sun)
- $120 per person per day during weekdays (Mon – Thu).
Charles mentioned that the rates were on the lower side as they were currently in low season and the property had only been open for under 2 months. He advised that rates will climb to $400 per person per day come spring, ouch…
There is no way I am ever going to pay such absurd sums of money for lounge access, but on this occasion I thought the price was reasonable, besides, I wanted to thoroughly review the property so the extra spend was worth it. Charles also advised that in addition to offering a tranquil space to relax or work, the lounge also offers 5 meals a day to its guests. These are:
- High Tea
- Hors d’oeuvre and drinks
I will talk about these in detail a little later.
Due to the lounge access, Charles moved me into one of the Club Rooms which I wasn’t sure was a good idea. I say that because Club Rooms in many properties are identical to the base room, except that they are usually located on the higher floors.
As I had previously been upgraded to the Panoramic Room which sounded like a room with excellent views, I didn’t want to lose that. But Charles assured me that I will be happy when I actually see the room he was moving me into.
As the room wasn’t ready I spent the next 20 minutes or so sitting in the lobby lounge taking pictures of the views around me.
Club Room – The Ritz Carlton Melbourne
Once the room was ready, I picked up the keys and headed for it. The Ritz Carlton Melbourne takes up Top-17 floors (Levels 64 – 80) of the building. The Sky lobby is perched atop Level 80, Club Lounge is 1 floor below on Level 79, other hotel facilities are on Level 64 and the Guest Rooms are between Levels 65 – 78.
This means that if you wanted to go from your room to the Ground Floor, you first had to take the lift up to the Sky Lobby and then catch another lift down. It felt a little strange, although the situation is far from unique, in-fact this kind of set-up is commonly found at many hotels in Asia.
Charles had assigned me Room No. 7819 which was a Club Room located on Level 78, the highest floor with Guest rooms. At 44 sq meters in size, the room was good size but not exactly huge. It was tastefully appointed with the dark wood panelling offering a nice contrast to the lighter shades.
The King size bed was one of the very best I have experienced in all my years of travel. The super soft mattress topped-up with feathery duvet and the fluffy pillows were heavenly and I woke up refreshed on both mornings.
There was a massive dresser on one end of the bed which also doubled up as a night stand. On the wall in-between, there were power outlets and switches to control lighting and electric blinds and curtain.
A beautiful Chaise lounge lay next to it, perfectly positioned to take in the stunning views of Docklands, West Gate bridge, Marvel stadium and surrounding high-rises.
Towards the foot of the bed, there was a large rectangular table with 2 chairs. Since the room does not offer a dedicated work space, those travelling on business can utilise the table as a makeshift office desk. There are power outlets within easy reach.
Then on the other side of the table, you had the TV and the in-room mini bar set up.
The counter-top had an electric kettle, coffee tabs, a coffee maker and bottled water. The drawers underneath were stocked with sweet and savoury snacks, provisions for making tea and coffee, cups, plates, wine glasses and cutleries.
The wall-mounted display case above featured a few bottles of wines, picture frames and some art work.
The pull-out bar fridge contained all kinds of drinks, including a bottle of Ruinart which retails for around $180, although it was priced at $300 on the Menu.
The other half of the room was taken up by the walk-in-robe and the bathroom. The walk-in-robe was small but came with an illuminated, mirrored dresser and stool. There were hangars, clothing iron, an electronic safe and a few other nick-nacks in the robe.
The slippers were inside one of the drawers and of good quality.
The full bathroom had double vanities, a hot tub and shower. The WC was walled-off in its own little space meaning you could have multiple people using the facilities simultaneously.
There were all kinds of toiletries, items of oral and dental hygiene. Meanwhile, the bath products in the shower were from diptique, but instead of individual packaging they were supplied in large pump bottles.
I suppose people who are into sustainability and save the earth campaign would disagree, personally however, I have mixed feelings about the hotels increasingly taking this approach. Under the garb of reducing single use plastic, hotel owners have found a noble excuse to penny-pinch guests who have paid good money to stay at their property.
Lastly, just as I was settling down in my room, one of the House Keeping staff showed up with the welcome amenity of a bottle of wine, a slab of dark chocolate and a hand-written note from the General Manager.
To sum-up, I was happy with the Club Room at The Ritz Carlton Melbourne, though I wasn’t necessarily wowed.
Club Lounge – The Ritz Carlton Melbourne
The Club lounge is open between 6:30 am – 11 pm daily. It’s Level 79 location means guests have unparalleled, birds-eye view of the city of Melbourne.
The Club lounge itself is huge and offers lots of seating space, some communal others a little more intimate.
As you can imagine, I made multiple trips to the lounge during the stay. On my first visit, I got chatting to one of the staff and inquired about the daily schedule. Turns out the lounge only really offered 3 meals daily and not 5 as I was advised at check-in. There was breakfast, Lunch/Afternoon Tea and the evening drinks and canapes.
Breakfast is served daily between 6:30 – 10:30 am and is a combination of light, self-serve buffet items such as pastries, cold cuts and breakfast cereals.
There was a small made-to-order menu you could order off. I had the omelette of the day and the plain crepe and they were both good. The pastries were flaky and crunchy, the coffee was delicious.
The Afternoon Menu runs between 12:00 and 4:00 pm and offers a very limited selection of dishes.
I had the Club sandwich on one occasion and the mac and cheese with ricotta and chunks of prawn on the next afternoon.
Come Night Fall, the Club lounge really comes in its own with captivating views of Melbourne City lights. The jazz music and the free flowing cocktails hark back to life in early 20th Century in the U.S city of New Orleans.
In terms of food and drinks there is a reasonable selection on offer. You could order from the printed drinks menu, or if your choice isn’t reflected there, just ask the staff and they might be able to rustle-up something.
There were 2 appetisers, mac and cheese croquet and a mushroom quiche. Then you had oysters, salads, dips, cheese, crackers and desserts.
The food’s definitely more of a Grazing Menu rather than a dinner replacement. Also, there isn’t much variation in the offering from evening to evening which may be an issue if you were staying at the property for an extended time.
During my stay, I got to try almost everything on offer and came away with a positive experience. It’s not everyday you get to eat fresh oysters at a Hotel lounge, so can’t really complain.
I also tried three out of the four cocktails on the menu, with Mornington Mix being particularly noteworthy.
Other Guest Facilities – The Ritz Carlton Melbourne
The property has an indoor pool, separate Male & Female Fitness Centres and The Ritz Carlton Spa, all located on Level 64. I have heard some criticism about the size of the pool from others although I didn’t find it to be exceptionally small.
There was a row of day beds lined-up by the window, no doubt a popular spot for swimmers in-between their swim.
The fitness centre was pretty good and had cardio and weight equipment’s largely along the lines of what you see at most hotels.
I didn’t even step inside The Ritz Carlton Spa, but you can look up the full treatment menu over here.
Atria – The Ritz Carlton Melbourne
Besides The Ritz Carlton Lobby Lounge and the Club Lounge, the only other dining option at the property is its signature restaurant Atria. The restaurant is open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
Regrettably, I did not get a chance to drop-by at Atria during my stay, but by all accounts it is one of the finest dining venues in Melbourne presently.
The Ritz Carlton Melbourne puts yet another marker on city’s fast changing hotel landscape. It’s central location, elevated position in the building and just the sheer brand-power means it will have no trouble filling the rooms. I expect the hotel to do brisk business as it matures over time.
From the loyalty perspective its great to be able to earn and redeem Marriott points. I also appreciate the fact that the property honours 4 pm Guaranteed check-out for elites. But the absence of elite benefits beyond these perks might push Marriott loyalists towards some of the other brands.
There’s other areas too where the property can improve. My room wasn’t serviced at all on the 2nd day. On this occasion it didn’t bother me much cos I was working in the room for most of the day, but this isn’t the standard you want to set as one of the premier hotels in the city.
I also noticed long waiting times at the reception if you wanted to speak to someone. When I raised it with the front desk staff, she offered some sort of explanation which didn’t make sense to me. There was also a minor issue with the loss of WiFi during the stay, although I put that down to technology rather than the hotels fault.
The Club Lounge while nice, the admission price in my opinion is excessive specially when it is raised to $400 per per per day. I am pleased I experienced it, but its not something I will take up again on any future stay. Once you pay for it, you kinda feel beholden to eat every meal at the lounge and cannot really explore the wider Melbourne dining scene.
To conclude, I was happy with my stay The Ritz Carlton Melbourne and in the right circumstances won’t mind returning. But it’s not somewhere I would specially seek out for my stay on future trips to Melbourne.
Have you stayed at The Ritz Carlton Melbourne? Leave a comment below.