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Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul

Introduction to The Long Way back to Australia
Bangalore to Mumbai (Jet Airways Business Class Class 737-800)
JW Marriott Sahar (Mumbai)
Mumbai to Abu Dhabi (Jet Airways First Class 777-300ER)
Abu Dhabi to London (Etihad First Class A380)
Tour of Etihad's The Residence
The Frankfurt Hotel (Frankfurt)
Park Inn by Radisson (Luxembourg 1)
Sofitel Luxembourg Europe (Luxembourg 2)
The Westin Grand (Frankfurt)
Lufthansa First Class Terminal (Frankfurt)
Frankfurt to Seoul (Lufthansa First Class A380)
The Ritz-Carlton (Seoul)
Tokyo to Sydney (Japan Airlines First Class 777-300ER)


The Ritz-Carlton
Seoul, South Korea

Disclaimer: The Ritz-Carlton Seoul was booked with a media rate.

After a wonderful Lufthansa First Class flight, I had to make my way to the Ritz-Carlton located in the popular Gangnam district - however I hadn't entirely done my research, so I wasn't too sure how I was going to travel there. There were the options of a train (which looked confusing), bus, and cab - and I settled up with the cheapest (and most convenient) option of the bus - as it would drop me directly at the Ritz-Carlton. The only downside was that it was an hour drive, and I had to wait 30 minutes for the bus, but when it did come, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice and comfortable the bus was, and soon enough I was at my hotel.

It feels weird turning up at a Ritz on a bus, but convinience and costs do matter - especially since I was only in town for one night, and had no plans for the day apart from meeting a friend in 8/9 hours for dinner (our first meeting in 14 years - thanks Facebook!). Either way, I was excited to try the Ritz-Carlton as it was my first Ritz-Carlton in many years.

The entrance of the hotel was quite grand, and you could tell that it was exactly the feeling they were going for. Up the stairs took you to the lobby and reception area, and as soon as I hopped out the bus, the bell man was there ready to grab my bag and whisky me away to check in (it's worth noting there were two other people in the bus with me getting off the the Ritz. As for the lobby, you could tell it was grand, but an older grand with big pillars, high ceilings, and lots of room.

I was quite impressed with the lobby, even if it was looking a little dated at the reception area. Even more so - it was impressive that there were ladies welcoming us in the traditional Korean Hanbok dress to the hotel, which gave a real authentic Korean experience. On the other hand, I know it's weird, but it almost gave off the feeling of a high end shopping centre from the 90's in other areas past the reception (probably leading to the conference center and ball rooms).

Weird right? Anyways, check-in was fairly smooth and since I had booked a club-lounge junior suite (around 45 meters square) - I was given the info sheet which gave me an idea of all the welcome services I was eligible for such as Complimentary pressing of two items, complimentary use of gym and pool (surprised this wouldn't be for all guests), free wi-fi and access to the RC Club where they served food (snacks) around 5 times per day.

Seemed good to me, the friendly bellhop took my bag and led the way to the room.

 

The carpets were clean, but looked a little worn over time. Once we were inside the room, the bellhop gave me a quick tour of the room and showed me where all the safe and mini-bar were (hint: I wouldn't have found the safe without searching hard for it). I thanked him and as he left I took some quick shots of the room. There were actually two sections to the room - the bedroom, which was simple and elegant, and the living room - obviously for a single traveller it's more than big enough.

Like I aid - fairly simple as there were no paintings hung in the bedroom, while a small tv was perched in the corner on top of a dresser. The living room area was large, and featured far too many seats for just me - but I could see it being useful if you wanted to entertain guests while you were in town or catch up. Unfortunately the seats looked well worn (again - they were clean), and the couches especially looked past their date - unfortunate since from a classic perspective - the room was quite nice. A larger tv was found along with the tea cups, kettle and coffee + tea options.

There was no great view per-se from the room, but it gave me a good idea of my surroundings. The bathroom itself was completely featured a marble sink - and featured the Ritz-Carlton's standard quality Asprey ammenities which I quite like.

 

It also featured a smart toilet - which I couldn't figure out. Perhaps it wasn't working properly?

As I was really starting to feel the lack of sleep from my lufthansa flight, I decided to hop into my bathrobe and grab around 2 hours of shuteye. I did head off to the club lounge for a quick lunch in between pictures and a nap, but I didn't take any photos at that time (more on that below).

When I woke up I was feeling super groggy, but decided that I needed to go out and explore Seoul before it got to dark, so I grabbed a map from the concierge (located at the club lounge AND the lobby) and shot off towards the Gyeongbokgung Palace and other sights. Mind you it's a miracle I managed to find my way at the start as I was so groggy I was at the wrong machine for the metro tickets (I honestly don't even know what machine that was for). The great thing about South Korea is that everyone that's below 30 speaks english - which made it far easier to ask for directions and get about. Here's a few pictures I took in Seoul (it was a bit overcast the whole day unfortunately, so the pics weren't too great with the light. Due to my slowness in getting out- the Palace entrance was unfortunately closing for the day but the guard let me sneak in for a quick photo or two which was nice, even though he didn't speak English at all.

The train journey here was at least 30 mins, and it seems that many of the hotels were here as well in the business district. Either way, I went to a nearby market and just walked around getting a feel of the place and the culture before heading to meet my friend for some much anticipated Korean Barbecue and a drink!

The catchup was great, and hopefully we don't have to wait 14 years to do that again! I decided to head back as I had a morning flight to Osaka (Japan), and wanted to get some good rest to make up for the lack of rest today, so I took the metro/subway back and unfortunately it started raining as I got back to my stop in Gangnam - however this picture was too pretty not to take with all the lights at night.

Once back in the room I was pleasantly surprised to find a note from the hotel wishing me well about the stay - obviously booking with a media rate is a given that they'll know it's a review happening - but aside from this note - I don't believe the treatment was any different (just how I prefer it). I wouldn't be surprised if othere's guests got it as well however - considering the 'Tripadvisor' advert.

I ended up crashing pretty soon after my shower, and woke up after a nice 8 hours of sleep - packed, and headed to the club lounge for some brekky before checking out. 

The breakfast section wasn't massive by any means since this was just a club lounge, but the spread was still of good quality. It was mostly a buffet section with pastries, cold meats and salds, bread etc - with a tiny hot food section which could be ordered. Since I had to go to the airport after this - I decided to order the Oatmeal since it should have been quick. Unfortunately it wasn't and it took nearly 25 minutes to arrive (good thing I ordered it before getting the buffet). I'm not entirely sure if they forgot the order, or they were just generally slow - I'm just glad I didn't order the pancakes! Either way, full, I rushed back to the room and went to check out and enquired about the bus. Unfortunately it seemed like the bus was late and I was starting to run a little late - so I had to book a cab which ended up costing me $80 to the airport versus $25 for a bus.

All in all, while it was a really short experience, the experience was almost flawless at the hotel, only let down by the old styling and furniture. However, as of Jan 1 - the Ritz-Carlton Seoul has closed for renovations for around 6-7 months, so by August we should hopefully see a much grander experience worthy of the Ritz-Carlton Brand.

Comfort8.5
Location9
Facilities + Extra7.5
Cleanliness9.5
Staff9
Value8
While I do prefer more modern hotels with newer amenities - the Ritz-Carlton Seoul was old school grand, and it was perfectly serviceable from that standpoint. Large lobbies and rooms gave a real luxury feel, but it was unfortunately let down by the lack of modern furniture (some of which was in poor condition) and it was in need of some renovation works across the board. The staff were very friendly and helpful (they don't even accept tips as is customary in Korea), and I wouldn't have minded staying a further night at the Ritz. The location is spot on as well within Gangnam, and I would certainly love to come back to check out the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Seoul when I can. I would definitely recommend this hotel once it's open again - as the only thing wrong with it is currently being fixed!
8.6
Jay