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How Oyster Rates Hotels

About Our Pearl Ratings

Our pearl rating system is a hotel classification system that applies consistent, uniform, objective standards to every hotel we cover. It does not reflect how much Oyster reviewers personally liked the hotel or the value we think it offers. We know that all travelers are different, and have different needs from a hotel, so we don't classify hotels based upon what we think you should or shouldn't like. Our pearls are rooted in objective data, focused largely on the amenities and services the hotel offers. The most important criteria are:

  • Quality of the amenities (pools, gyms, business centers, etc.)
  • Services available (room service, concierge services, bell staff, etc.)
  • Quality of the rooms, particularly the beds, bathrooms, and technology
  • Cleanliness and overall condition of the property as a whole

Pearl ratings are not fixed, and they are subject to change if the hotel undergoes a renovation, closes or opens relevant features, or adjusts the services offered.

Guidelines We Follow

To better explain the decisions behind our pearl system, here are some of our guiding principles:

  1. Classifications are consistent across locales: A four-pearl property in Jamaica will be very similar in quality to a four-pearl hotel in New York. The collection of amenities might be different -- the one in Jamaica most certainly has a pool; the one in New York, most likely will not -- but you can expect them both to be clean, comfortable, elegant places to stay that offer comparable services.
  2. Pearl ratings are made independent of price: In other words, we don't take cost into account when assigning a pearl rating. Put simply, hotel prices change dramatically from one day to the next, and while one hotel might seem like a better value one day, its competition might drop its rates and become the better deal the next day. In order to ensure our pearl ratings are reliable, we needed to base them on more fixed criteria. Naturally, you will see that more expensive properties have higher pearl ratings. This is not because we liked the more expensive properties more, but rather because more expensive hotels traditionally offer more features, like 24-hour room service or salon-quality bath products. We use the Bottom Line and Oyster's hotel review in order to better communicate the relative advantages and disadvantages of selecting one hotel over its competition, so that you can decide for yourself which hotel is right for you.

We hope that our pearl ratings are a useful tool for sorting through and weeding out hotels that fail to meet your specific standards. If you are confused by the rationale behind our pearl-rating system, or feel that a different set of criteria would be more helpful when choosing your hotel, please write to us and let us know what you think.

Pearl Rating Definitions

One Pearl

These are the no-frills crash pads that don't offer much more than a bed for the night. A one-pearl hotel might be a youth hostel with communal bathrooms and restricted entry after a specific point in the evening. We do not generally cover one-pearl hotels.

Two Pearls

Two-pearl hotels have few to no features. Some of them will be severely flawed hotels -- those with cleanliness issues, poor or nonexistent service, or distinctly uncomfortable beds. For an example, check out the blood stain on the comforter and the tubs of bleach next to the pool at Haddon Hall in South Beach.

Three Pearls

At a three-pearl hotel, you can expect a fairly clean, comfortable room in a hotel with all the basic amenities. Often, an up-to-date Sheraton, Doubletree, or Courtyard by Marriott hotel will fall into the three-pearl standard. A good example is the Holiday Inn in Miami Beach, which "has the basics -- pool, fitness center, and free Wi-Fi -- but the rooms, especially the bathrooms, are a bit worn."

Four Pearls

At four pearls, you'll get more than the basics -- a large beautiful pool, for example, or some designer highlights around the property or in the rooms. Maybe even a spa. Many chains' luxury brands are four-pearl hotels, like Starwood's Westin New York at Times Square, which features "a high-quality gym, a business center, a spa, a steakhouse, 24-hour room service, and enormous rooms with famously comfortable beds."

Five Pearls

Five-pearl hotels are the best of the best. They're immaculate, sure, and have an extensive list of phenomenal amenities: Almost all will have luxury spas, state-of-the-art fitness centers, and renowned restaurants. The gorgeous rooms will have up-to-date technology, top-notch beds, and beautiful bathrooms. For example, the exceptionally sexy Setai in South Beach, and the Oscar de la Renta-designed Tortuga Bay hotel in the Dominican Republic, are both five-pearl hotels.

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