Personal service propels Ritz-Carlton Chicago to top ranking

A post-lunch trip to the spa/health club finds it unremarkable in size or décor. But a deep-tissue massage from Romanian-born, Europe-trained Livius Cazan is world-class. (When a massage costs $135 for 55 minutes, it should be.)

Next comes a walk around downtown to see how the Ritz measures up to the other Four Seasons and three competitors. Staffers are friendly when addressed at competing properties, but only the doormen at the Four Seasons Chicago and The Peninsula give unsolicited greetings. Public spaces at the newer Four Seasons Chicago, owned by the same realty company that owns the Ritz, are more intimate and less grand than the Ritz's, and its recently renovated rooms tend to be more expensive.

Back at the Ritz, a room-service dinner ordered at 8:34 p.m. arrives in 29 minutes — a minute earlier than promised — on a linen-draped table with heating compartment. The roasted organic chicken in red-wine sauce, served on Villeroy & Boch china, is fork-tender.

There's a message from a night-shift front-desk staffer checking that the construction noise has abated (it has) and apologizing again.

Then, personalized attention goes to the max. A man identifying himself as a hotel security staffer calls to say a server saw a guest believed to be from this room drop sheets of notebook paper in the lobby earlier. May he bring them up?

As this guest's stay nears an end, a contact lens pops out somewhere on the bathroom floor, counter or sink. It's hard to resist the urge to phone the front desk for help. Somebody would come up. And they'd probably find it.

E-mail kyancey@usatoday.com

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