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As you guys know, I booked this trip to Turkey rather last minute, as Lufthansa First Class doesn’t open partner award space until 15 days prior to departure. My parents were recently in Istanbul for their 25th anniversary, and told me how wonderful it was. They also wanted some more Turkish delights, so off to Istanbul I went.
When I was looking for a place to stay, my mom suggested I look for something close to Taksim Square, or Sultanahmet (where the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar are). Being a Titanium Elite member in the Marriott Bonvoy program, I have a strong preference for properties in the Marriott portfolio due to the additional benefits extended to me. Taking this into account, there are plenty of choices in the portfolio within Istanbul, and all at wildly different price points.
Since I arrived quite late from Zagreb, I decided it wasn’t worth shelling out a bunch of points or more than about $200 for a place to crash, so I spent the first night at the AC Hotel Istanbul Macka. For the other two nights, I was looking for something luxurious, reasonably priced, and located in a good area with lots to do.
Istanbul has a St. Regis property and it’s a Category 6, meaning that it would cost me 50,000 Bonvoy points per night. Cash rates were no better, at about $500-600 per night. Pass.
Next, I looked at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, which was going for about $350 per night, but is a Category 5 hotel which means it would cost 35,000 points per night. Normally, I would never blow 35k Bonvoy points on a $350 rate, since I value them at slightly over 1cpp, and take into account the earning on the paid stay plus the credit card spend. I did, however, have two 1 night certificates worth up to 35,000 points each thanks to my American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card and my American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Card and I figured that this would be a great use of those certificates, as the annual fee on those cards are $120 CAD and $95 USD respectively.
Since I was already in town, I called a taxi for the 10 min drive to the Ritz-Carlton around noon.
The room wasn’t quite ready, so I sat down for lunch at the hotel restaurant while I waited. About an hour later, someone came to deliver the keys, and I went to check out the room.
Ritz-Carlton hotels are well known for being stingy with suite upgrades, and it almost never happens. Suites are only available as upgrades for Titanium and Ambassador Elites, but even then, they are almost impossible to get without having to pay a surcharge. For my two night stay, I was upgraded to a corner room, with a “sea view”.
The room was slightly larger than I imagine a standard room would be, although it was only on the 3rd floor and the “sea view” was more like a view of the hotel AC units.
It’s worth noting, the property doesn’t use the typical “Asprey London - Purple Water” toiletries usually found at other Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world.
Having Titanium Elite Status with Marriott Bonvoy gets me free breakfast, among other things. Ritz-Carlton properties however, don’t fully participate in the Marriott program, so breakfast is not included unless paid for. It was around $30 USD, which I was not going to pay when you can get a full Turkish breakfast for two people for just $15 CAD outside the hotel.
I’m glad I experienced the authentic local flavour, as I’m sure the hotel breakfast would’ve been more westernized even if it offered some local dishes.
The hotel pool, gym, and spa are located in the basement of the hotel. I had a brief look, but preferred to explore the city rather than spend my time here.
Where the hotel truly shines, is its central location near Taksim Square.
It’s a short 10 minute walk to Taksim Square, or about a $2 taxi ride. Along the way, you walk through a beautiful park and can appreciate the beauty Istanbul has to offer.
There’s tons of little shops and food stalls here, it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or evening just walking around and exploring. There’s also a metro station in Taksim Square, so you can easily get to Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar in about 30 minutes.
While the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul doesn’t fully participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program, it’s still a solid hotel in an excellent location. The views and service were a bit disappointing, but the room itself was lovely and did have the premium feel you come to expect at a luxury property. I generally prefer St. Regis over Ritz-Carlton, but for this specific trip, the Ritz was the logical choice.
Would I stay here again?
As mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of options in Istanbul and this property simply didn’t blow me away as a top tier hotel should. I was far more impressed with the W Istanbul, located just a few minutes away in Bekistas. I will be sharing a review of that property in the coming weeks, and will likely stay there when I return to Turkey to try Turkish Airlines’ new business class on the Boeing 787 later this year.
After checking out, I went straight to the new Istanbul airport to catch my next flight south to Bodrum, a beautiful beach resort town on the Agean Sea. My next review will be about the Bodrum EDITION, my first stay at an EDITION hotel.
Have you been to Istanbul? Where did you stay? Let us know down in the comments below!
Ijaaz has been fascinated by air travel since he was a child, and his goal is to become an airline pilot. Ijaaz’s family enjoys travel and takes a trip at least every couple years. His first trip to Asia was for a family wedding in 2015, when they visited Thailand and Hong Kong. Ijaaz was hooked at this point, and has since returned to Hong Kong at least a dozen times. He applied for his first credit card right after his 19th birthday, and has been in the points game ever since. His travels have taken him to over 30 countries all over the globe, and he is known to book flights last minute to new and interesting destinations.