Trendy Getaways: Home Suite Home

Not Born a Hilton? Who cares, when you can buy a piece of the Ritz? The 411 on the boomlet in to own (part of) the fantasy

THIS COULD JUST be the perfect vacation. I feel like I’m in my own home, sitting on a sink-into-it couch so comfortable, I’ve already kicked off my shoes. Or I would feel like I was in my own home, if my Center City rowhome was outfitted, as my oh-so-temporary home at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, is, with a professional chef in a Viking-clad kitchen, several private balconies overlooking Seven Mile Beach, and Orlando Bloom. No, not on the flat-screen TVs mounted above each of the condo’s three marble bathtubs, but right there, on the other end of the sofa, taking a break from premiering his latest film on the island.

Somewhere far out over the Caribbean, a thunderstorm is exploding fireworks against the backdrop of another pink sunset. But here in the spacious living room of this $8 million condo, a butler is pouring chilled champagne and passing hors d’oeuvres at an impromptu cocktail party, just like the ones you would host all the time, if only you possessed your ideal vacation home — and a butler.

The fantasy is shared: A recent survey found that nine percent of homeowners already own a second residence, and that one-third of single-home owners anticipate purchasing a vacation home. Some are envisioning a seashell-decorated Shore house. But others in our amenities-crazed times are picturing, well, 24-hour room service and other indulgences that upscale hotels are increasingly offering in newly constructed “residences.” Sure, they’ve got concierges on call, a fleet of loaner BMWs, crewed Intrepid powerboats and lifetime golf memberships. But perhaps their greatest luxury is how little they require of you. Fueled in large part by consumers’ desire to have a second home that’s more vacation and less work, residences offer staff to attend to everything from security to decorating, housekeeping, cooking … for a price.

At the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, owning the dream will cost you anywhere from $3.7 million for a 2,400-square-foot furnished space to $44 million for a 20,000-square-foot penthouse. (The penthouse owners won’t have to settle for a shared BMW. A custom Rolls-Royce Phantom is included in the asking price.) Only 16 of the 69 Grand Cayman properties are still available for purchase as of press time, but similar residences are under construction in more than a dozen other destinations from Turks and Caicos to Maui.

For the slightly less rich, the decadence can at least be sampled. Some residence programs, including the Ritz-Carlton’s, assist owners who want to lease their properties — and lower a little overhead — through long-term rental arrangements, which typically have a 30-day minimum. In Grand Cayman, you get all the same amenities as the owners for $15,000 a month off-season and $25,000 a month in-season. Similarly, Marriott’s foray into this luxury market, its Grand Residences (in Keystone, Colorado, Lake Tahoe and London), can be purchased as permanent getaways or on a fractional (read: time-share) basis. Two hundred thou, plus annual dues of around $900, will get you 21-plus days a year at the Edwardian-style 47 Park Street in London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood. And Starwood hotels offers flats-for-sale-or-rent through many of its brands, the St. Regis and W among them.