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You May Draw My Bubble Bath Presently, Jeeves

May 01, 2000|SUSAN CARPENTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seeing the popularity of butler-drawn relaxation baths at its Asian locations, the Ritz-Carlton is expanding the indulgence to its 35 U.S. hotels today--with a uniquely American spin.

In Asia, where relaxation baths are common, the Ritz has been offering fairly traditional versions, scented with jasmine, sandalwood and flowers, for a year. The imported baths, however, are a bit more, well, unusual.

The "Politico Bath" in Washington, D.C., for instance, comes complete with balloons, streamers, confetti, a dollar-bill sponge that expands when wet, and a half-donkey, half-elephant rubber toy.

"Everyone takes the election and politics so seriously. We wanted to have fun with it," said Ellen Gale, spokeswoman for the Ritz in D.C.

In November, the hotel will tailor the bath to suit the personality of George W. Bush or Al Gore, whoever wins the White House, and change the toy to the victorious party mascot.

The Philadelphia hotel is offering the "Independence Bath," with soft pretzels, mustard and a glass of locally brewed beer. This fall, the hotel will tie baths to local events, like the Vincent van Gogh exhibit opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in October. The bath will include a Vincent vodka or Van Gogh gin martini, made from premium Amsterdam liquors.

Returning home? The Marina Del Rey Ritz near Los Angeles International Airport is offering a "Jet Lag Bath" for weary travelers from Asia, the East Coast or across town, with aromatherapy bath oils, fresh juices and sliced fruits. Those traveling with children may want to order them a "Mr. Bubble Bath," which comes with washable body paints, chocolate milk and homemade cookies.

"Part of the Ritz-Carlton credo is to liven the senses of our guests, and this really does that," said Scott Rom, vice president of the hotel's rooms division.

"Romance Baths," like the one in Singapore, where the hotel bathrooms' octagonally shaped windows overlook downtown, are very popular, Rom said. Since Valentine's Day, a handful of U.S. hotels have offered a "Romance Bath" drawn by a white-gloved butler, who then scatters rose petals across the bubbles for an "American Beauty" type effect.

To embellish the experience, the San Francisco Ritz offers additional "bath enhancements"--champagne, vine-ripened strawberries with freshly whipped cream, hand-made chocolate truffles, even a CD of mood music.

"I was a little on the nervous side," bath butler Marlon Hirsh said of the first time he prepared a romance bath at the Marina del Rey Ritz. "I didn't want any funny stories to be told afterward."

OK, so butler-drawn relaxation baths aren't for everybody. But for Ritz guests, who pay between $165 and $1,150 a night, the baths, which average $35, might look like as good of a deal as a meal from room service.

Expense aside, there is the modesty issue.

"Some people are uncomfortable with someone else in their room, even if they are in a bathrobe," said Gale, of the Washington, D.C., Ritz.

Those guests, she said, are free to order the baths and take their ingredients home in a free tote, though they'll have to leave the butler, balloons and streamers behind.

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Susan Carpenter can be reached at susan.carpenter@latimes.com.

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