In Vienna: A Tale Of Two Hotels

The New Ritz-Carlton, Vienna
Visiting Vienna in the winter and taking advantage of great rates at the new Ritz-Carlton Vienna. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Sunday night, while checking into the Hilton Vienna, I had one of the most remarkable travel experiences of my life. The front desk clerk presented me with a gift, which I assumed was part of the welcome package for Hilton Diamond members. When I got to my room, I unwrapped the gift and I was totally flabbergasted: The gift was a DVD of the Viennese New Year’s Day Symphony, a thoughtful gesture given that I am a fan of the performances. But the astonishing part, as I discovered when reading the hand-written note addressed to me, was that the gift was not from the Hilton but from the Ritz-Carlton Vienna.

The backstory: I had stayed for three nights at the Ritz-Carlton (thanks to special winter rates). Rarely have I experienced higher standards of hospitality, even though I spend a lot of time on luxury cruise ships. From the initial greeting on the night of my arrival, through every encounter (especially the ever-persistent Carol who spent hours tracking down my lost luggage), the Ritz-Carlton provided me with more than just a place to lay my head. The luxury hotel, which opened in August, provided me with a series of experiences that were as memorable as Vienna itself.

I won’t go into details about the Ritz-Carlton Vienna (for those details, you can visit the hotel’s website), but I will emphasize that it may be worth ponying up a little more for an experience versus having a place to sleep when in Vienna.

Sure, the Hilton Vienna is a fine hotel, but it is the “human capital,” as Hotel Manager Sandra Estornell characterizes her staff, that distinguishes the Ritz-Carlton Vienna from the Hilton and all other hotels where I have stayed during the past few decades.

“It was a pleasure to have you here,” the note that accompanied the gift read. “I hope you will enjoy the concert (I had attended an afternoon concert in Vienna). And please enjoy the rest of your stay in Vienna.”

Stay tuned for more about Vienna, and why I believe it is the perfect pre/post-cruise destination for river cruisers, this week.

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