This is the ninth in an eleven-part series covering my June/July 2019 trip to Slovenia and Venice. You can read my last post, covering how I got from Piran to Venice, here.
July in Venice was actually pretty awful. Walking through the streets, particularly in the San Marco area, could best be compared to walking throw Disney World on a crowded school holiday – just wall to wall people. I’ll go into more detail in my next post, but for purposes of this post, I ended up spending more time in my hotel room than I probably would have otherwise.
For signing up for the now-unavailable Ritz Carlton Visa card, I had received two certificates that, after the Marriott-SPG merger, could essentially be used at any property worldwide. There are two super-fancy Marriott properties in Venice, the Danieli and the Gritti Palace, both part of the Luxury Collection. The Danieli has a more contemporary décor which is generally my vibe, but the consensus seemed to be that the Gritti Palace had more even service and was truly a “wow” property. So, I went with the Gritti Palace — where base rooms for summer regularly hit 1,000 EUR a night. The hotel was indeed really nice, though nowhere near worth that kind of money.
The Gritti Palace is right on the Grand Canal. There is a more dramatic entrance from the Canal itself via the hotel’s private water taxi dock. I came by vaporetto, though, docking about a block away and thus entering via a rather unassuming side entrance. Once inside, a bellman took my suitcase, and I was escorted to a desk for check-in.
A trainee was checking me in and was very slow, but she was very friendly and warm, so I didn’t mind. As a Platinum member, I selected breakfast as my welcome amenity, and I was also given a voucher for a 20% discount for lunch. I was also given another voucher which indicated there was a media event at the Canal-fronting bar my first evening during sunset hours, and thus offering me a free martini if I stopped by anytime from 8:30 “until late.”
Although it was only 12:15, my room was ready and the woman from the desk escorted me up, pointing out facilities as she did. I had been upgraded one level to a “Venetian” room on a weird mezzanine level. As the clerk said, “For this room, we say the view is inside the room itself.” Whereas there are Canal-facing rooms in the hotel, my room faced some duct work. But the room itself was opulent and gorgeous (although totally not my style), with ornate gold furnishings everywhere. There was a Queen-size bed with two armchairs at the foot, and a built-in closet on each side of the bed. There was a large mirrored wall facing the bed with a desk with a television and a desk chair, and then another built-in closet off to the side.
The bathroom was massive, entirely in marble, reminding me of a much nicer version of the bathroom at the Waldorf-Astoria Caledonian in Edinburgh. It had a double sink vanity set-up, a soaking tub, a walk-in shower, toilet, and bidet. The toiletries were high-quality Acqua di Parma.
The room did not have any hot water kettles or anything, but I discovered a card that stated Venice law prohibited hot water kettles and irons in hotel rooms. Despite the Old-World style of the room, there were lots of outlets throughout the room. I tried to access the wifi, but it said I needed an “access code.” Although it hadn’t been mentioned, I took a guess at the random sticker code on my key envelope was it, and it worked. There was a well-stocked minibar, with two free bottles of water in it.
As a welcome amenity, there was a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates.
I found the whole room very comfortable. The bed was by far the most comfortable of the trip, as were the linens and towels. There was a ton of lighting in the room, which was good because there was very little natural light. Too many hotel rooms have no overhead lighting, but this one had a massive chandelier. The air conditioning worked well. There was a bit of noise from the hallway and elevator, but there was a door to the bedroom which, when closed, helped a lot. In the evening, there was a full second housekeeping service at turndown, including an anti-aging Sisley cream left on the bed.
The gym was a bit disappointing, given how recently renovated the entire property was. It was a tiny room adjoining the spa, with four very fancy, new cardio machines. There was also one weight bench, but only very light dumbbells – the heaviest being 20 pounds. I know a lot of people don’t work out on vacation, but there were always people in it when I was there, and a hotel of this caliber should have a better equipped gym. It was clean, though, and there were bottles of water and apples, in addition to fresh towels.
The hotel’s bar, Bar Longhi, is well-known for its beautiful views along the Canal and fancy cocktails. It’s a recommended stop for sundown cocktails, or evening drinks, even for people not staying there. So, it makes sense that the hotel would offer something to make up for it if the bar was going to be inaccessible to guests during peak hours. I took the card that was given to me and was seated at 10:15pm on the terrace, which had beautiful views as well as a loud DJ. I asked the waiter if I could get the Wild Fennel Martini that was mentioned on the card, and he told me the “promotion” was “over.” That didn’t seem to make any sense, since the card explicitly said “from 8:30pm until late the same evening,” and 10:15pm struck me to fit squarely within that. I didn’t argue, but he said he’d ask and disappeared. When he came back, he said they’d give me a vodka martini on the house, which was fine, but still a weird experience. A martini would otherwise have been 24 EUR so I don’t imagine I would have gotten one… I sipped casually and just enjoyed the view.
The restaurant where breakfast is served is also right along the canal, just next to the bar. I thought it might be super-crowded given how crowded Venice, but at 8:30am, I was one of only three parties on the terrace, and got an amazing table right on the canal. (And it was the same at 7:30am the following day.) The breakfast here goes for a whopping 53 EUR, so I definitely would not have done it if I didn’t have it as a Platinum amenity. There was a small buffet, in addition to a choice of cooked to order entrees from the kitchen.
I didn’t get a ton of pictures from the buffet, but it was fairly standard in terms of cold offerings, in addition to a really excellent spread of pastries and cakes. There was also self-serve juice and prosecco. A pot of coffee and orange juice was brought to my table, and I also could have ordered espresso drinks. I tried two different omelets on my two mornings, and both were fine; the star really, though, is the setting (and the pastries). The service was also fantastic and warm both days, and I didn’t feel rushed at all.
The keys at the hotel are heavy metal keys you have to leave with the concierge desk when you’re coming and going from the hotel. I did have one other interaction with the concierge desk which was disappointing. I had booked a restaurant reservation in advance for a nice place on Saturday night, only to get a phone call on Saturday mid-day to be told they were overbooked. Rather than try and find a place last minute, I thought the concierge might be able to help. Unfortunately, they were not very interested in listening to my interests. I told them I wanted something not very expensive, and perhaps not super touristy. The concierge said “everything is expensive” and said he would look into it- no discussion of options or anything. I came back down about an hour later, and they just gave me the name and address of a restaurant, Giardenetto. The place wasn’t bad and was moderately priced, but it was entirely tourists and had really unimpressive service. I would have been better off finding a place on my own. Oh, well.
Checkout was easy and friendly, and I just had to pay the city tax of 5 EUR per night. It was a short walk to the Alilaguna airport water taxi stop (which was the same stop I arrived at on the vaporetto), and I was on my way to the airport for a long travel day.
In all, this was one of those properties that I only stayed at because of the points certificates, and was probably about 20 years and $250,000/yr below their target audience. It was nice, though, and I did enjoy having a relaxing comfortable place to return from the hell on earth that was Venice. If I ever visit Venice again, though, I would stay outside of San Marco.
Next up: the highlights(?) of my 2ish days in Venice