Since opening in 1991, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island has become
the preferred resort for upscale business and leisure travelers to
this northernmost barrier island along Florida's east coast.
On a recent visit, I encountered guests who ran the gamut from
individual business travelers to couples and families on vacation
to members of corporate groups attending meetings and
"Maintaining a diverse client base enables us to withstand
periods when one segment of the market may be experiencing a lull,"
said marketing director Kathleen O'Brien.
In a typical year, the client mix is around 70% business and 30%
leisure; group business was soft in 2003, while leisure traffic
picked up, resulting in a solid year with a higher occupancy than
in 2002, O'Brien said.
For the leisure traveler, the resort offers a host of
activities, including water sports and horseback riding. (Amelia
Island is one of the few remaining resorts on the Atlantic coast to
permit horseback riding on the beach.)
But the island is more than sand and surf. It has an interesting
history, as well, as the only U.S. location to have been governed
under eight different flags, including the flag of the
During the early 1800s, Amelia Island was home to pirates,
smugglers and illegal slave traders, but its fortunes changed
dramatically when its one town, Fernandina Beach, rose to
prosperity with the simultaneous boom of the shipping and tourism
Guests can take the Ritz-Carlton's shuttle bus into Fernandina
Beach, a 15-minute ride from the hotel.
After being dropped off in the middle of town, it's a short walk
to Centre Street and several connecting streets lined with many
impressive examples of Victorian architecture.
Victorian homes encompass a 50-block area that can be found on
the National Register of Historic Places. One can take a guided
tour of the area organized by the Amelia Island Museum of History
at 233 S. Third St.
Amelia Island also is home to the Palace, Florida's oldest
saloon, at the corner of Second and Centre streets.
The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island completed a multimillion-dollar
renovation at the end of 2003, which included refurbish-ment of all
guest rooms and conference facilities.
But the resort's key selling points have to be its superb
restaurant, its beachfront location and its quality recreation
facilities, led by the 18-hole Mark McCumber-designed PGA golf
Also on site are an oceanside tennis complex; heated indoor and
outdoor swimming pools; a massage and fitness center with steam,
sauna and spa services; and a host of land and water
Each of the resort's 449 rooms, which include 45 suites and 62
Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms, has a balcony with an ocean or
coastal view, one king or two double beds, a marble bath, satellite
TV, high-speed Internet access and dual-line telephones.
Guests booking space in one of the Club Level rooms
(Ritz-Carlton's "hotel within a hotel") have exclusive use of a
club concierge and a private lounge offering five complimentary
food and beverage services daily.
Business groups also receive personal service with more than
32,000 square feet of function space, including a
13,400-square-foot ballroom, 13 meetings rooms and two
Grill Room takes the cake
A prime perk of staying here is the chance to sample the Grill
Room's award-winning cuisine. The renowned restaurant is featured
in an episode of the PBS series "At the Chef's Table," which is
being aired nationwide.
The Grill Room's many awards have enhanced the resort's status,
as the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is one of only 21 of 50,000 U.S.
properties to be honored with two prestigious AAA Five Diamond
Awards in 2003, one for the resort and another for the
This is the 10th consecutive year that both have been honored
with the AAA Five Diamond Award.
In addition, the Grill Room has the distinction of receiving
more Five Diamond awards than any other Florida restaurant.
It also recently earned an Award of Excellence from Wine
Spectator magazine and a DiRoNa (Distinguished Restaurant of North
The Grill Room's success can be attributed in large measure to
Scott Crawford, a 30-year-old Vermont native who has emerged as one
of America's hottest young chefs.
To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to
[email protected] .
Cooking School packages on menu for foodies
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Guests should book well in advance to
assure space in one of six Cooking School Packages being offered in
Designed for guests of all levels of cooking experience, these
two-day packages are limited in size to enable participants to
receive chef Scott Crawford's personal instruction.
The course begins at 9 a.m. each morning with coffee and
pastries, followed by instruction and hands-on cooking
On the first day, there is a behind-the-scenes tour of the
resort's three dining venues. Besides the Grill Room, which is open
only for dinner, there is an informal cafe serving three meals
daily, and the Ocean Bar and Grill where light meals and cocktails
are served. Guests then assist Crawford in preparing a four-course
On the second day, everyone works at perfecting their newly
learned techniques by cooking a complete gourmet feast, after which
they are invited to dine with the chef on dishes they have
Cooking School packages include accommodations for two nights in
a coastalview room.
Following is the schedule for 2004:
• Spring Savory Sensations, March 30 and 31; $738 for one, $938
for two persons.
• Celebration of Summer, July 13 and 14; $658 for one, $858
• New World Cuisine, Oct. 5 and 6, 26 and 27; $738 for one, $938
• Holiday Celebrations, Dec. 7 and 8, 14 and 15; $658 for one,
$858 for two.
Another unique foodie experience, dubbed "A Seat in the
Kitchen," offers the rare opportunity to get a look at the
restaurant's operation while dining at a glass-enclosed table in
Guests are welcome to interact with Crawford while being served
a 10-course meal and their choice of wines.
Other packages available during 2004 include an Unlimited Golf
Package (three-night minimum), a Bed & Breakfast package and a
Special Occasion Package. Wedding, romance and summer fun packages
round out the offerings.
For more information, call (800) 241-3333 or contact the
Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island directly at (904) 277-1100 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com.