Friday, December 29, 2017

Ritz Carlton Herzliya Review

Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv Review

From stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and best-in-class service to cuisine that will change the way you think about Israeli food, the Ritz Carlton Herzliya sets the bar for world class hospitality in Israel.

Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv Review
Just the Med, yo. NBD.
Every visit I've made to Israel has involved multiple cities in multiple hotels. My third and most recent trip in November 2017 was no different. I spent two days in Herzliya followed by four days in Haifa. Knowing that my time in Haifa was going to be "work", in the form of moving my elderly father into an assisted living facility, I wanted to enjoy a few days of my trip to the Middle East.

RELATED: Brown Beach House Tel Aviv: An Urban Oasis in the Heart of Tel Aviv

I had read about the Ritz Carlton's foray into Israel when it opened in 2013. As a Ritz Carlton loyalist, I wanted to experience this property and finally be wowed by a hotel experience in Israel. I've stayed at the Kind David in Jerusalem, the Sheraton and Intercontinental in Tel Aviv and the Scots in Tiberias. King David aside, none of them impressed me. I felt that a level of service and luxury was missing in Israel and hoped the Ritz Carlton would change that.

Ritz Carlton Herzliya Location & Logistics 

Israel's Ritz Carlton is actually located in Herzliya, an affluent suburb located about 10 miles north of Tel Aviv. The hotel sits atop the Herzliya mall and overlooks the beautiful Herzliya Marina.

My balcony overlokoing the marina!
In terms of "what to do" in Herzliya, I didn't go beyond Acadia Beach or the Marina. The homes, boats and views in the Marina were enough eye candy to keep me happy. The beach itself offered everything I needed. I was content staying in my little Herzliya bubble.

Herzliya, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv, Ritz Carlton Herzliya Review
A condo complex in Herzliya Marina
The immediate surrounding area offers a modern mix of restaurants, bars and shops. From sushi and steak to bistro fare and casual mall eateries, you can find any cuisine to suite any palate.

RELATED: Tips for Women Who Travel Solo

Arrival & Check-In

I arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion airport after 11PM on a Friday. While trains don't run on Shabbat, getting a car or cab is no problem. I booked a car using the Gett app (Israel's version of Uber) and arrived at the Ritz Carlton close to 1AM.

Ritz Carlton Herzliya Lobby
The entrance to the hotel itself is grand but at that early morning hour, guests are welcomed at a secure, smaller entrance at the street level. A bellman and gentleman manning the street-level entrance greeted me and escorted me up a small elevator me to the reception area in the main lobby.

Can you tell I was exhausted? I'd been traveling for 17 hours!
At that hour no one was in the lobby but one front desk attendant who offered a warm, gracious welcome. When I checked in, she informed me I had her favorite room in the hotel. Who doesn't love hearing that! The check-in process was a breeze: I presented my credit card, passport and got my key. Simple as that.

Ritz Carlton Herzliya Review, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv
The hallway leading into the lobby.

The Room 

In a word: Wow.

Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv Review

She didn't undersell the room. Even approaching 2AM in the morning with no natural light to fill the space, I could tell it was special. The large, king suite was the size of a studio apartment and had a balcony that ran the entire length of the suite. It featured a guest bathroom, coat closet, small kitchenette and seating area. The bedroom offered a luxuriously appointed king-size bed with a dressing table and ample closet space with drawers in the closet itself.

Girls love a good bathroom and this one had everything you want in a swanky hotel WC: separate commode, large shower with overhead nozzle and spray nozzle, dual sinks and a soaking tub that invites you to stay for hours.

Beyond the beauty of the room, the welcome itself made me feel instantly at home. The hotel offered a beautiful fruit plate as well as a cheese plate to welcome me to Herzliya. An attendant even placed a sweet stuffed lion (the Ritz Carlton "mascot") on the bed. Sadly, this served as the only souvenir I brought back for my daughter. She loved it.

Not gonna lie, after traveling from Dallas to Miami to Paris and finally Tel Aviv, I was exhausted. I had a few grapes, unpacked and climbed into bed. It. Was. Heaven. The older I get the more I value sleep. This was the kind of sleep that any overworked parent dreams about: nine hours of uninterrupted REM sleep. #Heaven.

My balcony! 😃
Those skyscrapers? That's Tel Aviv!
I woke up feeling like a million bucks. Perhaps it was the view of Herzliya Marina and the Mediterranean Sea in the daylight or simply one of the best nights of sleep I'd had since....I don't know when....I was up and ready to go. And I was hungry.

The Food 

For breakfast, I opted for the buffet at Herbert Samuel, which is considered one of the finest kosher restaurants in Israel. I didn't have any sense of what the restaurants in Herzliya Marina offered and, candidly, I wasn't up for getting dressed-up.

I went to the restaurant in workout clothes: leggings, flip flops and a jacket. I looked like a bedraggled American but didn't care. I was a bit underdressed as a number of families were coming from Shabbat services. Despite that, I never felt uncomfortable and enjoyed my table on the balcony which offered stunning views of the marina. Admittedly, I'm glad they put me on the balcony as most of the better-dressed families were inside in the main cafe.

The breakfast buffet was stunning, as well. It offered a typical Middle Eastern array of prepared salads, hummus, lox, breads, cereals, fruits and crudités. Shabbat excluded, a chef is available to prepare made-to-order omelettes, eggs, pancakes and waffles.

I enjoyed lox and baked salmon, roasted sweet potatoes, vegetable antipasti, fresh fruit and a chocolate pastry. I followed that up with more vegetables and dried fruit. It was fresh and filling! I found myself full through dinner.

The second of my two, okay three courses.
The breakfast buffet was roughly $35, on par with most Ritz Carlton's breakfasts. While I don't typically splurge for a pricey breakfast, I was fine with it. Considering I was so full and didn't need lunch, it seemed like a bargain.

The breakfast buffet was so good, I went back again on Sunday. Why mess with a good thing?

The Gym 

I enjoy working out while on vacation. For me, the ultimate luxury is the chance to focus on myself for an hour or so. The Ritz Carlton's gym isn't huge but it has everything you need: free weights, cardio equipment, a squat machine and yoga mats. It also offers towels, fruit, bottled water and hot tea.

Perhaps the best feature of their gym is a panoramic view looking north to Acadia Beach. I actually did a Periscope broadcast from the gym's balcony to showcase how beautiful the region is.

The view of Acadia Beach from the gym. 
It's simply breathtaking. I'm talking about the type of views you take pictures of, blow up, frame and hang on your office walls to serve as inspiration. I couldn't get enough.

The Spa 

Knowing I was heading for a stress-induced trip to Haifa, I booked a massage at the Ritz Carlton's spa. I needed it. I was traveling over Thanksgiving, away from my family and was preparing for a battle with my dad. He didn't want to enter an assisted living facility but needed to. No fun.

Entrance to the Ritz Carlton spa.
The spa offers a calm, intimate setting. Once you change into your robe, you're escorted into a co-ed lounge that features another stunning balcony overlooking Acadia Beach. The lounge offers hot tea, water, dried fruit and nuts for snacks.

My massage therapist was outstanding. I indicated that I had a wretched knot under my left scapular. She spent some time working on it while also providing a strong, deep-tissue massage. When she was done, I was a little loopy, something like after a massage. It hit the spot.

The ladies locker room.
The sun sets early in Herzliya, at 4:30PM on this particular day. I sat on the spa lounge's balcony for a good half hour after my massage, simply relaxing and reflecting. This was perhaps my favorite moment of my stay and it's a moment I've never had before in Israel. Most of my previous trips were rushed, hurried and chaotic. This experience lent itself to a gentle ease into a working trip that I was dreading.

Ironically, the rest of my time in Israel wasn't rushed or chaotic at all. It was calm and enjoyable. While it would be a bit ethereal to say that those few minutes of "me-time" set forth a cosmic domino effect that lasted my whole stay, I do think it set the tone. It put me in a place mentally that was accommodating, centered and open. Don't judge. I needed it.

Other Amenities: The Pool & More

There was so much I wanted to enjoy but didn't get the opportunity to try: the rooftop pool, the Rooftop Bar or a drink in the lobby. While the pool was open and an attendant was on duty, it was a tad chilly for a dip. No one was sunbathing or swimming in the pool. I did tour the pool area and, again, it was stunning. The views were postcard-esque.

Love this pool! 
The rooftop bar also seemed to be closed for the season. If I was there during the summer, I guarantee the place would be packed.

While the lobby seemed pretty busy on the Saturday evening I stayed, I never had a glass of wine or snack.

The Final Details 

Check out was swift and easy. No surprises or unexpected charges snuck up on me. The price is on par with other Ritz Carlton's. I paid $275 per night for my stay. With taxes and breakfast, I wound up paying $314.58 per night.*

I've paid comparable amounts for other hotels in Israel. I paid close to $500 per night for the King David in Jerusalem! 😳

Any time I've been asked about hotels in Israel, I've told friends to manage their expectations when it comes to Israeli hospitality. Typically, the level of service they experience in the states can be tough to find in Israel.

That's no longer the case. If you're looking for a first-class experience while visiting Israel, the Ritz Carlton delivers on every level.

Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv, Ritz Carlton Tel Aviv Review
I did not want to leave this view!
In my case, for this trip, it helped change my whole mindset on what a trip to Israel can be and what I hope it will be when I return with my family.

I adored this hotel and cannot recommend it enough. I've never wanted to go back to Israel after visiting the country but after this experience, I'm already looking forward to planning another trip.

But Wait There's More!

Curious about something I didn't cover here? Interested in another hotel review? Email me or Tweet me. I'd love to help you upgrade your travel game.

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*The first night of my two-night visit was provided by the hotel. I enjoyed the first night so much, I extended my stay for another night. 

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