Boston’s newest 5-star hotel has slot machines and roulette
According to the Forbes Travel Guide, which has rated properties since 1958, five-star properties are “exceptional, often iconic properties with virtually flawless service and incredible amenities.” Anonymous inspectors evaluate “up to 900 objective criteria”. Hotels cannot purchase their place on the list. These incognito inspectors pay their own way. Hotels do not know when they are inspected.
Perhaps most notable about Encore’s arrival on the 2022 list is that the resort opened at a particularly trying time for the hospitality industry. Even before the $2.6 billion project was complete, Steve Wynn, whose name was originally set to sit atop the 27-story building, was ousted as CEO of Wynn Resorts amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The world went into lockdown just months after Encore opened and the casino was shut down. Through two years of pandemic-enforced shutdowns, curfews and restrictions, Encore has managed to beat stiff competition to earn its stars.
To put it into perspective, popular luxury hotels such as Langham Boston, XV Beacon, the Ritz-Carlton and InterContinental Boston have each been awarded four stars.
A few weeks ago I started hearing rumors that Encore Boston Harbor might get five stars from Forbes and I was surprised. OK, I was shocked. I reviewed the hotel shortly after it opened in 2019, and while I thought the spacious room was quiet and well-appointed (read beige), I never thought, “This is definitely a five star establishment!” It was time to review.
Like the Forbes detectives, I walked in anonymously and paid the nightly rate (it was $340 a night and I stayed for two nights). I didn’t have the list of 900 objective criteria used by Forbes inspectors, but I arrived armed with an article from Forbes (“What makes a Forbes travel guide five stars?”) which gave me some things to look for. The article breaks down five-star qualifiers such as beautiful beds, supreme service, thoughtful room amenities, genuine interest, and exceeding expectations.
I knew from previous experience that Encore Boston Harbor had a proven track record in bed comfort, linen quality, room amenities (an iPad and Alexa can control everything in the room), and the quality of the tub and shower. What I hadn’t noticed was the attentiveness of the staff. With a focus on service, I checked in earlier this month with knives.
The check-in process was very smooth. The receptionist treated me better than my own family and he helped me make dinner reservations. The service problem came later that evening. I called the front desk at 8:30 p.m. and asked for turndown service. This seemed to take them by surprise, and a slightly annoyed employee said he would check with housekeeping, but explained that my request may have come too late. He put me on hold and when he came back he said housekeeping might come by.
It seemed to me as strange as a business that runs 24 hours a day, frequented by night owls, is thrown off by demand. The aforementioned Forbes article explained that one of the things inspectors look for are special touches, such as maintenance personnel hanging up a stray jacket or carefully wrapping a charging cord when servicing a room. I went to work leaving charging cords in my room and my jacket on my bed. When I returned, the bed had been made up, slippers placed on each side and the towels had been replaced. But the bin wasn’t emptied, the jacket wasn’t hung up, and the cords weren’t rolled up.
It’s a level of nitpicking I never would have thought of on my own, but I was following the Forbes playbook. Another trick I often use to judge hotel service is to call the front desk and say I forgot my toothbrush, razor, or both. There were small drawers in my bedroom bathroom that already contained a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, so I used the razor excuse. Shortly after I called, an attendant showed up with a smile with three razors, two small boxes of shaving cream, and more toothbrushes and mouthwash. Score!
The next day, I deliberately left my room messy and left for the day. When I came back it was absolutely pristine. The charging cables were collected and neatly stored, that damn coat was hanging up, and everything was spotless. He more than made up for the night before. The only other issue I could find – and I looked high and low – was that one of the towels had a small ink stain. It was clean and the ink stain was small, but I was there with the motto WWFD? (What would Forbes do?). I repeated the process my second night: A request for turndown service, a need for more razors, a bucket of ice. . . anything you can think of, I asked. All results were flawless. Aside from the glitchy first night, Encore passed the challenges I threw.
My experience has rivaled nights at some of the best hotels in Boston, and I’ve worked harder with the staff at Encore than at any other hotel I’ve stayed at. I had previously dismissed Encore because it is a casino. When I put aside my snobbery, I saw things a little clearer. Encore’s spa also earned five stars. I did not have the opportunity to test the spa.
Even if you consider the entire Forbes hotel ranking system a bunch of hoo-ha classists and have no intention of staying at any of these properties, keep in mind that it’s important for a city to have these offerings for eyeing wealthy tourists. Boston as a vacation destination.
“With the return of travel and the arrival of more and more direct international flights into Boston, there are people who are absolutely looking for rooms in luxury hotels,” said Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s an imported draw. We will strengthen our marketing efforts in places like Japan and the Middle East, places where many of these customers come from. If they are looking for five star hotels, it is important to have the possibility of offering these rooms.
Forbes 5 Star Hotels in Massachusetts
Chatham Inn (Chatham)
Forbes Five Star Spas in Massachusetts
Encore Boston Harbor Spa
The wellness floor at One Dalton