Monday, March 11, 2019

Okinawa Short Trip: Mixed Bag Experience

It's regrettable that I couldn’t exactly say our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa got on well from the moment we walked in to the resort property – in fact it was probably the most unpleasant "Marriott Experience" in my memory. We found ourselves greeted by no one when we pulled up to the front after a long drive from Naha, then we were made to wait in the lobby for over 15 minutes with our luggage sitting next to us on a cart until someone actually came and completed the check-in steps (despite having urged to check-in online 2 days before and I did and we arrived right on time as we have earlier indicated), during which no one even mentioned basic information like when and where breakfasts will be served.

While the property boasted their magnificent, “panoramic” view of the golf course and the sea behind, I was shocked when they showed us our room with a partial view, snuggled right behind another structure (they should have called this a "concrete rooftop view" – that’s pretty much all we could see from the balcony) That's on top of somehow they thought sticking us to the far end of the hotel was a good idea - that took a good 5 minutes walk from the room to the lobby.

Given it’s low season for Okinawa travel and the hotel (obviously still too cold in February for beach-goers), I was actually expecting a room upgrade as I usually did most of the time at a Marriott (or formerly Starwood) property given the membership level I have accrued at their new frequent guest program, or at the very least, I thought they should accommodate my simple room preferences on file (high floor, king bed, non-smoking). But after seeing the room, I felt that was a "complimentary downgrade" (thanks for nothing - okay, at least they got the non-smoking part right). That’s in addition to having to spend over 15 minutes on the phone calling virtually every single extension trying to get hold of someone, just someone, to complain on the other side of the line but to no avail – yes, that included Front Desk, Concierge, Housekeeping, Reservation… you got the idea. All I got was the dialing tone, seriously. I thought an average road-side motel did better than that.

It wasn’t until some dealings with the duty manager (after I finally got hold of someone who picked up the phone and I asked for the hotel manager to come over), that they agreed to switch us to another room – still no upgrade from the original room type we have booked in ("the hotel was fully occupied" was their explanation – well let’s just say their staff was not well-trained in lying), but at least now the room is a couple floors above the lobby with a more proper view (and a king bed as opposed to 2 doubles that we were originally given)

But other than that, I wasn’t going to let this hiccup dampen our mood to enjoy our vacation (that I would save for the complaint letter to the hotel management after and/or a rant on tripadvisor after I return home - P.S. yes I already did both), and the property itself was beautiful and great for a quiet getaway. The location could be a bit remote for some people, situated inside a country club about an hour away from the main city of Naha along the western coastline of Okinawa island and surrounded by the club’s 18-hole golf course. But to us that’s exactly what we needed to chill and do nothing. Springtime is still a bit too cold to hit the beach nearby or the outdoor pool (it's closed at the time anyway), but there’s a nice gym, a (small but adequate) indoor pool and a spa – with a bit of a walk to the separate building connected to the hotel through a underground walkway.

Even for a basic room we were in, facility wise it’s on par with the Ritz Carlton standard I was expecting, sans the "view" in our original room of course. The room was spacious – over 450 sq feet in size – and came with a balcony and a full-sized bath tub both looking over the golf course and the sea view as the backdrop. It also came with the usual amenities just as any luxury hotel chain – true the hotel has been around for some time already but the sign of age was there but hardly noticeable most of the time. There’s no executive club or lounge facilities like any other urban Ritz Carlton properties, but there’s a "Library" next to the pool if one wants some quiet time indoors – no food or drinks served though, complimentary or otherwise, or even anyone present. Apart from the lobby level, a few times we felt like staying in a totally deserted hotel with no staff around.

Fine-dining options in Okinawa were few and far between, but at the hotel there’s a couple high-end restaurants – one Italian and one Japanese Teppanyaki, for those who already had too many Chanpuru or Okinawa soba and wanted something different. We did enjoy our night out at their Italian Chura-Nuhji restaurant on the day of arrival - more on that in a separate post later. Our room package also included breakfast in their all-day dining restaurant and it was decent, with a wide selection of pastries, western and Japanese/Okinawan dishes. Despite being "fully occupied" as the hotel claimed they were, the restaurant was peculiarly not crowded in both mornings we were there.

One thing I appreciated most was their courtesy car service. Yes we did have our rental car to get us to anywhere we choose, but then I also would love to have a glass or two of awamori when we went out for dinner, so the chauffeur service just came in handy. The car was ready right before our dinner reservation time, and they returned to pick us up after we finished our meal and called them on the mobile phone they passed to us. We also enjoyed the restaurant recommended to us by the concierge.

So overall for us this is a mixed bag experience staying at this property – we had a decent, relaxing time but it’s a pity that they clearly didn’t quite deliver up to the high expectation we had in terms of services.


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