When you walk into the air-conditioned entrance of New Orleans’ only AAA Five-Diamond luxury hotel, you’re not just leaving Canal St.—you’re entering another world altogether. At least, that’s how it felt when I arrived, hot and disheveled after a long flight, for the ICPA Educational Forum this July. All the hassles of the day fell away, and I was sucked into a place that really lives up to its credo of "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen," from the doorman’s greeting to the friendly and efficient front desk associate. While you know you’re in a hotel, the feel is more of a stay with a gracious host in one of the antebellum mansions in the Garden District.
This elegant 452-room property, which was a department store up until a few years ago, has been renovated and restored to include more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space—including a 7,500-square-foot grand ballroom, a 3,500-square-foot junior ballroom, a 955-square-foot boardroom, and 13 breakout rooms—and a beautiful interior courtyard with lots of lounging spaces and a tinkling fountain. Among the perks for meeting planners are a dedicated conference concierge, shipping and receiving services, high-speed Internet access, and a technology butler, not to mention a highly dedicated conference services department and cuisine to die for.
While I didn’t have a chance to sample the spa, I heard that the French-inspired treatments like the signature Napoleon’s Royal Massage were fabulous. Being set on the edge of the French Quarter, there’s plenty to see and do. But for those who simply must golf, there are several challenging courses within a half-hour's drive from the hotel, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed par-72 Championship Course at English Turn, and the 36-hole course at Eastover, which has hosted qualifying tournaments for the PGA Tour. www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/new_orleans/