Hotels With Incredible Service

Lately, I’ve been reading so many complaints about service in hotels and on airplanes that I’m burned out on the rants, warranted though they may be. I thought I’d share my favorite experiences instead.

The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia

Last year after my husband returned from a deployment, he surprised me with a night at the Ritz-Carlton to celebrate the anniversary that we’d missed a month earlier. We had just bought a house (oh, the joy of doing that on my own with power of attorney!), so he had to assure me that he got a good rate. Good rate indeed! They were offering a military discount of only $125 a night. I was thrilled to know that such a well-known luxury brand supports the troops. I also expected a room facing a brick wall.

My husband gave his name at reception – his name, not my writer name – and before ever looking at a computer or list, three employees said, “Happy Anniversary!” It was evident that they had memorized the names of any and all guests celebrating special occasions, even the ones on the $125-a-night military special. I was impressed already.

Then, we went up to our room. Unbeknownst to us, we had been upgraded to a one-bedroom suite with views of the historic courthouse and Center City. On the living room table was an anniversary card and a box of hand-made gourmet chocolates.

It’s one thing to get special treatment when you’re a travel writer on assignment (and honestly, sometimes it can feel so insincere), but it’s more than impressive – it’s heartwarming – when a hotel goes above and beyond to create a special stay for one-time guests on a deeply, deeply discounted rate.

In fact, maybe some hotels really do deserve that dubious sixth star.


Crystal Cruises
I wasn’t surprised to find incredible service aboard the Crystal Serenity, after all the staff-to-guest ratio was almost one to one. But I was blown away with how personal and genuine the experience was. It wasn’t the snooty service you might expect at a style hotel, nor was it the ingratiating “Yes master” service of some luxury resorts. From the housekeepers to the servers to the musicians, the people on Crystal made me and my mom feel like welcome guests in their home.

The service was so outstanding that each time Simon, my personal butler, came to my room to see if I needed anything, I had to say no. Believe me, I spent time each day trying to think of things to do in order to spare his feelings. The only problem? He had already taken care of anything I could imagine. Read the whole story.

Sea Island, Georgia
It was also no surprise to get the star treatment at the Cloister on Sea Island. Privately owned and gated, it’s one of the most exclusive enclaves in the South. And to top it off, I was on assignment for Coast magazine. But you know who didn’t know that? The groundskeepers. And yet, when I was about to check out, they were there to help. I pulled my rental car (of the budget compact variety) around to my suite and rolled my bag to the curb. The second I popped that trunk, a gardener stopped his golf cart, jogged over and lifted my bags before closing the trunk and opening my door. Genuine Southern hospitality at its finest. Read the whole story.

Where have you experienced the best service?



  1. Nicole Jolly says:

    A wonderful piece that left me with a smile on my face. Thanks for restoring my faith in human kindness this morning. And, wow, I totally need to check out the R-C Philly!

  2. Reanna Wolberg says:

    I guess most people expect good service from Disney so it may not come as a huge surprise, but the best service I have gotten was at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel. I’ve stayed there many times and everytime the hotel staff are amazing. On my wedding night we checked in pretty late and asked for park tickets. The staff mentioned that the park was only open for another 1hr 30mins. We said we knew but we really wanted to end our night riding a couple rides. He finished checking us in and gave us ticket for that night and the following day, for free. They knew it was our wedding night but I still think it was an amazing gesture, and we’ve had a ton of other fantastic experiences there as well.

    • You’re right – I would expect nothing less from Disney, but yet I’m impressed anyway. How very cool of them.

  3. Now I;m dying to go to Sea Island, and my mouth is watering, too, after reading the full article….sigh

    • Gisele – Sea Island, St. Simons, Savannah all have incredible seafood. All I want to do is eat when I’m there. I’m dreaming of local shrimp and oysters right now.

  4. The episode that stands out in my recent memory is a girls’ weekend at the Newport, RI Marriott – the one on Goat Island right near the harbor. They also did not know that I am a travel blogger and so their upgrades and special services and waiving of extra fees was a welcome surprise.

    And long ago in another life I stayed at a wonderful hotel (Carlyle Suites) for two weeks in Washington DC while on assignment for a TV show. I was 8 months pregnant and always exhausted and there’s no parking for miles around this hotel, so even though they didn’t have valet service a porter came out and parked my car for me one night to help me avoid a complete meltdown. This was 2004 – it’s probably updated by now but I will never forget how they took care of me. In my pregnant delirious state I failed to tip the housekeeping staff when I left – I mailed a tip later but I’ll never know if they got it. So here is my “pay it back” publicity for them:

  5. I had the most glorious honeymoon at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. I also love their sister hotel Cavallo Point in SF, nestled right under the Golden Gate Bridge. And finally the Four Seasons… anywhere… had my wedding at the Santa Barbara location… love Maui… the one is Budapest is stunning… hitting up the one in Westlake Village for a spa day tomorrow.

    LOVE the new site design! It is so awesome!


  6. These are all great examples, but there is something truly special about five-star service in Asia. I have been consistently blown away by properties like the Shangri-la Pudong in Shanghai, where things like perfectly pressed suits just seem to appear exactly when you need them. And speaking of clothes, in Shanghai, I was measured for a custom-made suit and leather jacket by a local tailor. As promised, 24 hours later they were both delivered to my Shangri-la suite. We had a refitting just to double check, everything was fine and that was it. No extra charge for delivery either.

  7. My wife and I received excellent service at El Petriolo in Tuscany on our honeymoon. The staff was totally accommodating and very understanding after I accidentally set off an alarm inside the hotel.

  8. We never go anywhere, so any of these places sounds wonderful to me. The last big vacation we had was, uh, 32 years ago, and that was in a tent on the shores of Brewers Bay, Tortola, BVI. I did love that, however. :-)

  9. I went to Hastings House on Saltspring Island long ago for my grandmother’s birthday. I was young. But I remember we were all blown away. They met every need without being even being intrusive. It was amazing.

    Love this post!

  10. I completely agree about being overwhelmed with negative rants. It seems that’s all people write about online these days. So, I appreciate your change of pace.

    As an avid traveler, I haven’t been many places I absolutely dislike. I’ve only experienced maybe a handful, and those were just horrendous.

    I’m interested in learning more about Crystal Cruises, now, though. Thanks!

    • tiffany says:

      Brandi – I’ve been lucky to only have a few horrible experiences too (sewage running down the halls, blood on the walls, crazy stuff!).

      If you do ever go on a Crystal Cruise, you won’t be disappointed. Yeah, they’re expensive, but you do get what you pay for.