by Candyce H. Stapen
Note: This resort sustained damage during the 2017 Hurricane season and is currently closed for renovations and repairs. It is expected to reopen the end of 2018.
Tucked away on 30 acres on the island’s east end about 20 minutes from busy Charlotte Amalie, the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas offers a luxury oasis that comes with soothing decor, topnotch service, a good spa and tasty food. Along with the standard Ritz-Kids program, this property also features a children’s windsurfing and sailing camp.
This Virgin Islands’ resort works well for deep-pocketed families who want Ritz service and style in a beachfront resort with a children’s program on an easily accessible island. We expected and received a warm welcome from the bellman, proffering cool washcloths and cold bottles of water as he escorted us to the check-in desk. The property incorporates such signature Ritz resort elements as creamy marble floors, soft yellow and coral colors and tasteful furnishings. But unlike typical Ritz-Carlton resorts, this one displays a more Mediterranean style that includes Palladian windows, arches and a open-air, interior courtyard that adds an airy feeling. That’s because the resort initially opened in 1985 under a different name and became a Ritz-Carlton in 1998.
In 2007, the 180-room resort completed a $40-million renovation that, among other refurbishments, created a Club Level and a new Club Level lounge, the only one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas isn’t an all-inclusive resort, you can add meals and services to your package to make it feel as such.
To learn more about Ritz-Carlton, please visit Ritz-Carlton.
Our Editor Loves
- Children's sailing and windsurfing camps
- Oversized rooms
- Children's program for ages 5 to 12
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
At a minimum of 450 square feet, the spacious Ritz-Carlton rooms make sharing with kids easy. The 180 rooms and suites, tastefully decorated in a palette of soft Caribbean colors, feature creamy yellow walls, dark wooden desks and headboards, accented with coral and soft blue chairs, pillows and dust ruffles.
All rooms come with private balconies or terraces, 32-inch flat-screen televisions, high-speed Internet and coffee makers.
The 2007 renovation added a Club Lounge plus club level rooms, of which there are 55 deluxe rooms featuring ocean views and private balconies. These start at 500 square feet and come with the added luxury of 400-thread count Frette linens, Sealy Posturpedic Plush mattresses and ocean views. Fifteen one-bedroom Executive Suites and three Presidential Suites are also available. That may not make enough of a difference to you to pay the extra premium, around $125 to $150 for three people, but the new Club Lounge will tempt you.
As at any resort, the Club Lounge operates as a hotel within a hotel, adding a dedicated concierge and a living room-like gathering space, more private than a hotel lobby. Then there's the food. The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas does a good job with this, serving complimentary breakfast (7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), a light lunch of salads and sandwiches (noon to 2 p.m.), and evening hors d'oeuvres as well as desserts (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.). Throughout the day, sodas, juice and bottled water are also available for no extra fee. Those age 18 and older can have alcohol.
Depending on how much and how often your kids eat, the Club Lounge can be a worthwhile investment that's not as pricey as it first seems. The Ritz facility divides into an adults-only area plus a kid-friendly zone. The family section of the Club Lounge has child-sized tables, cushions for kids to sprawl on plus stuffed bears and lions as well as storybooks. It's nice to see a Club Lounge that goes out of its way to welcome kids.
Kids interested in sailing and windsurfing can learn with a former Olympian at this Ritz-Carlton resort. Paul Stoeken, a Virgin Islands Olympian who participated as a windsurfer in the 1996 and 2000 games, teaches children ages five to 12 how to master the winds at his year-round camp. Typically, kids learn sailing in the morning aboard Optimist Pram boats designed specifically for children.
Following lunch with the group, kids switch to windsurfing. Tethered to instructors, the kids learn balance, footwork and how to read the winds in a few feet of water off the resort's beach before venturing into deeper areas. The sessions, which cost $85, run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. With advance notice, Stoeken can customize the program to focus on all-day sailing or windsurfing. Family lessons and outings are also available.
Your daily resort fee ($62) covers your use of Hobie cats, paddleboats, kayaks windsurfers and snorkel equipment. The infinity-edge pool also entices kids and adults.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas offers a Ritz-Kids activity program for ages 5 to 12, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program, which will operate for even one child, is busiest during Christmas and New Years, as well as during spring break. The children's facility, a large room with windows, is outfitted with colorful beanbag chairs, craft materials, games and children's drawings. Kids make paperweights from shells, tie dye pillowcases, fashion beaded jewelry, play games on the lawn and go for rides on the property's Hobie Cats. The resort lacks a playground.
The resort does have a teen room equipped with couches, television, computer and Nintendo Wii. Generally, the room opens from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when teen occupancy is high.
The kids' programs operates as part of the Ambassadors of the Environment Program. One of just a few resorts operating the Jean-Michel Cousteau program, Ambassadors of the Environment provides a number of eco-adventures introducing guests to St. Thomas' waters and culture. The program is designed for families, children and adults and includes guided tours, outdoor and indoor activities and more. Kids activities are offered to groups 5 to 8 or 5 to 12.
Lunch and dinner for children 5 to 16 can be provided at the cost of food plus a $45 supervision cost. Extended hours of supervision can be provided at a charge of $40 per hour, per child.
Private On-the-Water Excursions
Another nice touch: the Lady Lynsey, the resort's 53-foot catamaran. You and your children can book a variety of family-friendly outings from snorkel excursions to outings to St. John to pirate sails, available Christmas and New Year's, when many families are in residence. Treasure maps, bandanas and toy swords add to the swashbuckling fun. Half-day snorkel adventures are offered daily 1 to 4 p.m., Best of St. John Sail is offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a sail to Cruz Bay, where guests are escorted into town for shopping, exploring and lunch at leisure. A Dinner in St. John Sail is offered from 5 to 10 p.m., and a Full Day British Virgin Islands excursion, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., brings guests to Jost Van Dyke.
It's important to realize that the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas has two areas: the resort side and the fractional ownership area called the Destination Club that is on the other side of the cove, connected by a short path. It's easy to forget about the Destination Club when at the hotel because you don't really see the fractional ownership buildings from the resort area's beach. Even though the resort books only hotel rooms, resort guests may use the Destination Club facilities. You should. Although the resort area's beach is small and cramped, you can -- and should -- walk over to the Ritz's Destination Club next door. Shaded by sea grape trees, that longer, less crowded beach is much more appealing.
The Destination Club area also offers more grass for romping, two volleyball courts, one of which is at children's height, a main pool, a kiddie pool and a fenced "serenity pool" for ages 16 and up.
The Ritz-Carlton offers four restaurants. Children 4 and younger dine for free with a paying adult. This Ritz also offers a special Ritz-Kids Meal Plan. For about $29 per day, children enjoy the breakfast buffet at Bleuwater, lunch from children's menus at either Sails or Coconut Cove and dinner from the children's menus at Bleuwater, Great Bay Lounge or Coconut Cove as well as soft drinks, juices and an afternoon snack. For older children, this might be a good deal.
At Bleuwater, kids can eat from the breakfast buffet for half-price. The restaurant is a seafood and steak restaurant that also serves Caribbean-inspired dinners. You can choose to dine inside the air-conditioned room or on the terrace with its view of the ocean. Located in the Destination Club section, Coconut Cove Beach Bar and Grill is an open-air eatery facing the beach that serves fried shrimp, sandwiches and a variety of other items.
White canvas awnings provide shade at Sails, the beachfront, open-air restaurant on the resort side. The cafe serves burgers, salads, lobster quesadillas, grilled fish and other items. The children's menu has peanut butter and jelly, burgers and other kid favorites. Great Bay Lounge appeals more to families with teens and 20 somethings who like sushi, an evening staple. Great Bay also has a billiards table and televisions as well as indoor and outdoor seating.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting is available.
The spa, in a separate building, has 11 treatment rooms plus a beachfront cabana and a variety of treatments. Although dark with no windows, the scented relaxation room invites de-stressing with its full-size lounges separated by gauzy, flowing white curtains. Kids are welcome and can be pampered with manicures and pedicures, and teens can try facials and massages when wearing bathing suits.
For Mom and Dad
Along with treating yourself to a massage at the spa, you can book a sunset cruise or a romantic dinner for two served on the beach.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season runs from mid-December to mid-April; low season, from mid-June to mid-November; and shoulder season from mid-April to mid-June and mid-November to mid-December.
Getting There and Around
Both American Airlines and Delta fly into St. Thomas. Taxis are readily available on St. Thomas. When calculating drive time, be aware that when several ships dock in Charlotte Amalie's harbor at the same time, the traffic increases exponentially. Time your island drives, when possible, to those hours before the cruise ships arrive or after they depart.
Transportation from and to the airport is available for $18 per person plus $2 per piece of luggage through the VI Taxi Association, or $90 for up to four passengers ($15 per each additional passenger) in a private taxi. A chauffeured limo is available for $200 each way.