I originally selected this hotel over others in Berlin – including Hotel Adlon – due to its top 3 Tripadvisor ranking at the time. I noted with dismay that ever since then its position had been continually sliding ever downwards! I really had hoped that the recent spate of less than good reviews was down to overly particular guests or the occasional bad experience, which can happen even at the best properties. As I’d booked it through a third party agent (I would advise using a price comparison web-site as I got a far better deal than if I’d booked directly with the hotel) and paid in advance there was no turning back!
Before I launch into the full review, I will note that the best thing about this hotel is the breakfast. It is superb, and any criticism would only really come down to very personal taste and would be nit-picking. Everything is catered for – a wonderful selection of fresh fruit, including berries, and cereals. Lots of different breads, rolls, and even bagels, and a toaster so one can toast whatever selectiong one wishes; there is also an equally large array of jams/conserves to enjoy with the bread. There is a good selection of cold cuts, fish, high quality cheeses, as well as the usual American style hot buffet complete with omelettes made to order. As if this isn’t enough, crepes, American pancakes, French toast, and waffles can all be made to order (at no extra charge). In short, this is an exemplary hotel breakfast in both terms of quality and variety. The service was usually attentive with glasses regularly topped up, but once it started to get busy (around 9.30 onwards, especially at the weekend) one did notice a drop in attention to detail, as well as a queue snaking its way into the bar area. If you are going to stay here, make sure you have breakfast included as it is the major redeeming factor of this property!!
Upon arrival, a fur caped doorman opened my taxi door, and swiftly removed the luggage and welcomed me to the hotel. If only things had continued like this… The girl at the front desk was polite, but far from welcoming as the doorman had been. Things went wrong when she asked for my voucher; I explained that whilst I had booked through a third party I had e-mailed the hotel directly to confirm everything was as it should be and they had never mentioned the need for any voucher. She was very persistent and went away to ask someone else, and still insisted on the voucher. I advised that I could probably dig out an email once I had access to a computer and print it off for them. She still wasn’t really satisfied, and a little huffily said that they would contact the travel agent for another copy. To add to this, I had been travelling since 4am that morning; whilst I did not expect the hotel to specifically know that, the front desk should always be wary that most travellers will always be somewhat weary from their journey! I’d have expected that she’d have checked me in and then contacted me if I had indeed needed to provide the voucher (which as it turned out I didn’t).
A bell boy showed me up to my room and was extremely friendly and professional and showed me the various features of the room, how to operate touch-panel light switches etc. This was a thoughtful touch, and much appreciated. The room itself was an huge letdown (I will discuss the rooms in more detail a little later) and the double glazing was far from top quality and a hissing noise could be heard where the window did not seal fully on the hinged side. I complained about this, and they advised someone would look at the window whilst I was out. I returned and the problem was as before and there was no note explaining what had happened. I went to shower and get ready to go out; the box containing the vanity kit was empty which I was not best pleased with. I spoke to the duty manager on my way out and he assured me he would resolve the issue with the window. I returned from dinner, still no note and the hissing sound ever more apparent. I called the guest service department yet again (I am sure they were bored of my calls!!) and they advised that maintenance considered the noise to be normal. I am not someone who requires complete silence, but it was a very particular noise and the room otherwise was pretty quiet so it would’ve been rather noticeable.
The next day I returned and was offered a change of room, and a complimentary upgrade, which was a thoughtful gesture. They sent someone up to help with my luggage, the very first room I was showed to smelt very strongly of stale cigar smoke, so that was not going to work! Then I was shown another room which on first impressions seemed to be fine. Whilst I was getting ready to go out for dinner I noticed a tapping sound coming from the entrance/air-con unit. I called guest services who promptly sent up maintenance who advised that it was just fan noise from the hotel’s central air-con which would stop at 10pm. This would of course have been acceptable to me, so I left it at that. I returned long after 10pm to find the air-con grilles covered in duct tape, and the tapping sound was still apparent in the hall. I called for a manager to come and speak to me. He arrived quickly and offered to move me yet again, bearing in mind that I had moved rooms 3 times already I was not best pleased, but left with little alternative. The final room was at least free of irritating noises.
Now a little bit on the rooms themselves… Like the rest of the hotel they feel extremely dated. Given the hotel only opened in 2004 I found it staggering how 1980s in style the décor was; 1980s style geometric “cascade” chandeliers in the corridors, and lots of similarly naff touches. The carpets in the rooms are now worn very thin; if one treads in the corners where hardly anyone walks, one can feel the original deep pile. The furniture is functional, but ugly again. The bathroom is also extremely dated in pink marble, and has some simply bizarre features. The bathtub features a separate hand-shower attachment which is supplied disconnected to the water outlet, and one has to fiddle around to connect it; why?!? This property was built in 2004, bath-tubs have long had retractable handshowers – hardly a cutting edge solution! The separate shower cubicle had a peculiar corner “seat” which no adult would be small enough to use! Also, the marble counter-top has a glass upper layer, presumably with the intention that the marble isn't marked so easily, instead hard water marks form around the edge of the basin as well as chips showing as light reflects off of the glass; it is yet another bizarre feature as marble on its can always be re-polished and filed down whereas this would need a new glass "upper". The beds are made up as standard with a duvet per person i.e. two single duvets on a king bed which might be the local style, but in an international hotel a single duvet as standard and two upon request would be sensible - I had to ask for one duvet in each of the rooms. The lighting was very poor in the bedroom, which is fine for “mood” lighting, but there was no overhead light to make it bright. Even the bathroom could’ve done with being a little brighter. The touch panel light controls are backlit by bright blue LEDs which do give out quite a bit of light when all the other lights are off and curtains drawn. The rooms were completely devoid of any thoughtful touches.
The so called spa area was diabolical. On their web-site they advertise it as a La Prairie spa, it no longer is. They have a few treatment rooms but these are all locked up, unless one books in advance and they order in a therapist as there are none employed full time in house. The pool is literally the size of a postage stamp; the jet stream - which would’ve enabled one to swim more than two strokes before having to turn - was not functioning with enough power to be effective. There is also a Jacuzzi, and sauna area with a hot and not quite so hot sauna. Most people went straight from their rooms to the “spa” in their bathrobes so changing rooms were not an issue… On my last day I was only given a late check-out until 1.30pm (I did not need to leave the hotel until 5pm) which was fair enough and the front desk had advised that I could use the changing facilities in the spa to shower. Foolishly I had never bothered to inspect the changing rooms whilst I had had a room of my own; this proved to be a big mistake!! The changing room is tiny, has a wall of lockers, and a loo and basin in a small cubicle together, and that is it. The shower that is across the corridor from it (how does that work?!) was out of order so the only showers available were those in the sauna area or by the pool. Hardly convenient. Furthermore the changing rooms open directly onto the pool area, so if you are stood in the wrong place people sat by the pool would get a full view into them! Again, given the hotel was built in 2004 the spa area is very poor indeed.
Other than the breakfast, there was very little I enjoyed about this hotel. How this property has consistently made it onto CN, T+L, etc. lists is truly beyond me, it just goes to show that those lists are really worth very little. Externally the architecture and style is very impressive, but internally I was staggered that a modern, purpose built hotel should be so un-user-friendly, and so clumsily conceived. The service was best from the door staff who without exception were friendly and welcoming. I think that the Ritz Carlton branding is this hotel’s own worst enemy; it raises expectations above what one would be happy with at a Marriott (directly around the corner), Hilton, etc. and it fails to deliver. The fact that this property sells its rooms at a discount through various third parties, again highlights that this is not a property at the top of its game. Berlin itself is a fabulous city, and I would like to think it has an equally fabulous city centre hotel… The Ritz Cartlon certainly isn’t it!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in the heart of Berlin, on prestigious Potsdamer Platz, within walking distance to the Sony Center, renowned shopping galleries, the Brandenburg Gate, the Diplomatic and Government District and the heart of cultural Berlin. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin Hotel Berlin
- Ritz Berlin
- Ritz-Carlton Berlin
- Berlin Ritz Carlton