- Shower-tub combos in bathrooms
- Steep nightly fee for rollaways.
- Expensive valet parking.
In the late 1980s, a $193 million development with stores, apartments, and the 230-room Boston Harbor Hotel rose up on Rowes Wharf, a then-run-down stretch of Boston's historic harbor. For a long while, the Boston Harbor Hotel was considered one of the best hotels in town. Then, like the 300-year-old wharf itself, the hotel fell out of favor. But after a $12-million renovation that was completed in 2007 and a renewed focus on service that included retraining the entire staff, the hotel is again one of the finest luxury properties in Boston.
Even though the hotel is just a few decades old, the design is opulent old Boston. Chandeliers, archways, and beautiful carpets and tapestries create a feeling of tradition and elegance. An extensive collection of antique maps, the oldest of which date back to 1651, adorn the walls. The lobby is filled with hand-carved wood furniture, Italian marble, and elaborate floral arrangements. And, as a constant reminder of the hotel's historic location, massive bay windows look out onto the marina.
The guest rooms, which start at 500 square feet, are incredibly spacious, among the biggest we found in Boston. And because they're on the 8th to 16th floors, the views of the harbor or the city could not be more beautiful. The hotel's amenities include a well-equipped fitness center with an indoor pool, a hot tub, steam room, sauna, and a full-service day spa. The restaurant is known for its extensive wine collection (the hotel's bar has the largest collection of single malt scotch in all of Boston). The service is highly professional and attentive. From the fresh fruit left out on every floor to the pampering at the gym (where workout clothes are provided), the hotel doesn't miss a beat.
All in all, the Boston Harbor Hotel ranks right up there with the best luxury hotels in Boston. The restaurant and service easily top the Ritz. The smallest room is at least 100-square-feet bigger than most rooms at the Four Seasons. And the Boston Harbor's waterfront location is more private than the heavy Boston Common traffic outside the Four Seasons. The hotel's only failing compared to other luxury leaders are the bathrooms -- without a separate tub and shower, they fall short of what you'll find at the Ritz or Mandarin Oriental.
Top-notch luxury service
Service at the Boston Harbor Hotel is as professional and attentive as it gets: highly trained concierges around the clock, multiple doormen at all times, quick room service delivery, and a considerate and accommodating front-desk staff. When I checked in, the clerk asked what time I would be checking out -- the hotel standard is generous -- and when I said I'd be staying as late as possible, he moved me to a different room, noting that there might be construction in the afternoon near the room I was booked in.
The friendly doormen immediately help with bags and refer to you by your surname. As I was hurriedly entering the hotel after a long jog (that a concierge helped me map out, no less, along with suggestions for where to get a pre- and post-jog snack), the doorman called out for me to wait. I assumed that because I had forgotten to put my shirt back on, he was going to reprimand me. Instead, he said, "let me grab you a bottle of water."
Scenic and convenient waterfront location
While the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton face beautiful Boston Common, ultimately those hotels are located on densely populated downtown streets. The Boston Harbor Hotel is on its own wharf on the east side of the city -- Rowes Wharf, a waterfront development with private residences, offices, shops, and a marina. The seaside path in front of the hotel is part of Boston's Harborwalk.
As part of the hotel's 2007 renovation, the rooms were entirely remade and refurbished, yet the look is still traditional and tasteful. The desks, for example, have a lovely antique feel to them, even though they have secret outlets and Ethernet cords plugged into drawers that might have once housed ink for a quill. More importantly, the rooms are incredibly spacious. The Superior Room, the standard, is 500 square feet -- at least 100 square feet bigger than the vast majority of rooms at the Four Seasons. And because the rooms are all on the 8th to 16th floors, guests are ensured a beautiful view of the harbor or city. A Superior Room costs more for a view of the harbor -- it just might be worth it to wake up to the stunning view.
The fitness center has an indoor lap pool, a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, and top-of-the-line equipment. It even provides free robes, shorts, shirts, and socks for guests and its many local members. The full-service day spa offers the complete range of services one would expect (massage, facials, manicures, pedicures). The best feature of all, perhaps, is the location: The views of the harbor from the rooms and restaurants are unbeatable.
A great location for families, but not the ideal family hotel
With the New England Aquarium and adjoining IMAX only a block away, and Faneuil Hall only a bit farther than that, the location is great for families. However, at the standard room rate, only king-king connecting rooms are available, not king and two doubles.
The place is kept spotless.
A seaside grill, a wine-centric restaurant, and a classy bar
The hotel has two fantastic restaurants and a classy bar. With beautiful harbor views, the casual Sea Grille is a great lunch spot. At the upscale restaurant Meritage, wine is the main focus -- the restaurant hosts the Boston Wine Festival a highly regarded food and wine pairing series established in 1989.
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