A New Orleans retreat cloaked in mystery
75 Rooms / 7 Suites
The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans sits with a speakeasy-like hush on Canal Street. As inconspicuous as a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel can be in the heart of a major city, the 527-room property largely goes unnoticed if you aren’t looking for the famed lion-and-crown logo. Such modesty is a blatant contrast to the neon-hued pomp coming from just a few blocks over on Bourbon Street.
But if you think that bit of subtly is unique to the hotel’s exterior, wait until you see what cleverness the property has in store for you inside. Down an unassuming hall on the fourth floor is Maison Orleans at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, an exclusive hotel cove that most Ritz guests don’t know exists. (In fact, don’t even say you heard about the club from us, should anyone ask.)
A sort of private wonderland transfixed with early 20th-century furnishings, covert elevator shafts and off-the-menu dining options, Maison Orleans is where savvy travelers searching for elevated service and amenities even beyond the Ritz-Carlton’s already-high standards go when you look the other direction.
The fourth-floor door that opens to Maison Orleans is standard-issue green. It almost looks like it leads to a utility closet, maybe even a doorway to an employees-only room of some kind. But that’s precisely the purpose. Everyone shouldn’t know about it.
Use your room key to enter and you’ll find an entire section of the New Orleans hotel that has a similar look to the rest of the property — head-turning chandeliers, lush plants, chairs you’d imagine in an antebellum mansion — but you’ll feel something different about the space. Your intuition will be right — Maison Orleans was once its own boutique hotel. When The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans renovated in 2011, though, it attached Maison Orleans while somehow still keeping its energy separate.
Much like other hotels’ exclusive clubs, this one has four comfortable lounging and dining spaces that non-invitees aren’t privy to. Unlike those places, however, this club complements its elegant couches, champagne pours and meeting spaces with a set of elevators that lead to Maison Orleans-only rooms.
When you walk into one of the 71 Maison Orleans rooms, you immediately notice how the square footage is used differently. Accommodations on this level have unusual nooks and antique crannies. Those sorts of quirks were the design de rigueur in Garden District mansions a century ago. Rather than alter anything, the Ritz-Carlton embraced the unique qualities. So, if you have to maneuver around a bookshelf to get to a window, that’s just how it has to be.
Typical rooms on property are carpeted; Maison Orleans’ usually have hardwood. Maison Orleans units offer half-tester king beds. All the others are plush, sure, but they’re decidedly less prim. Shelves are filled with titles like Ronald Coddington’s Faces of the Civil War and The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. An evening here is a wholly transportive one, even though the club’s complimentary wi-fi can bring you back to the present in an instant.
Though Maison Orleans guests are granted all sorts of perks during their stay (five pressed garments, a dedicated concierge), the tastiest extras are sampled in the lounge. From the filling breakfast (starts at 7 a.m.) to sumptuous desserts (concludes at 10 p.m.), it’s obvious that one of the club’s central goals is to keep you satiated. But if you’re expecting basic snacks and bland hors d’oeuvres on the tables, prepare your fork for seafood gumbo, po’ boys and other locally inspired dishes throughout the day.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the kitchen struts its stuff even more by providing live cooking stations where hotel chefs whip up everything from Southern-style potato salad to shrimp jambalaya. And should you have cravings after the stoves have shut off for the night, sneak downstairs for a selection of cookies, candies and Zapp’s potato chips that’s so impressive you almost want to share your secret with the other guests.