December 23-25, 2016
Room Rate: 150 USD
I was making plans to be in Boston to see my family for Christmas weekend, and was picking between a few SPG properties. I had initially booked the Westin in the Seaport area to be close to where my sister lives, but after finding a great deal on the Liberty Hotel in the West End area thanks to SPG’s Cyber Monday deal, I changed my plans and opted to stay at the Luxury Collection property instead.
The Liberty Hotel, Luxury Collection
Neighborhood: West End
Spa: No (though offers seasonal Saturday Yoga)
Make a Green Choice: Yes
Bar and Restaurant On-Property: Yes – Clink (Seafood), Alibi (Bar), The Liberty Bar (Bar), and Scampo (Italian)
Room Rate Range: 200-400 USD
Looking for a Snapshot of the trip? Jump to the Takeaway
We arrived at the hotel at around 9:30 PM on a Friday night and pulled up to the Liberty Hotel, the site of the former Charles Street Jail. They’ve retained much of the historic exterior – including the famous rotunda.
Without a doubt, the exterior is stunning – if you can say that about a former jail, I suppose.
As we walked into the hotel, we found ourselves behind a cluster of people heading to the Alibi, a bar located on the first floor of the building. After making our way around them, we took the escalator up to the lobby level. The lobby was also abuzz with several bar guests, this time from Clink (located on the lobby level). Many of the guests were sitting and drinking at the lobby seats and more than a few inebriated people stopped us to talk to us about our dog, asking to pet him.
As we were waiting to be checked in, the front desk associate had made a mistake when assigning us a room, so it took him more than a few minutes to get us set up. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much normally – had we not been constantly approached by drunk strangers about our dog (though they had good intentions – they wanted to meet him).
A line of people waiting to check in formed behind us, so another front desk agent came out to assist. I noticed her offer sparkling wine to the guests she was checking in, though we were not offered this. I asked my sister, who had stayed at the property before, and she confirmed that all guests are offered sparkling wine at check-in.
At this point we had been stopped by enough people about our dog that we just wanted to go up to our room, so I didn’t end up asking about the wine. During the entire check in process, the front desk associate didn’t give us the usual rundown about the hotel, specifically, where we might find amenities we might be interested in using. It’s highly unusual, since most of this stuff is basically scripted.
Our room was located in the tower of the building, which was located in the back. I’ve stayed as a few Luxury Collection properties, and I’ve always loved that someone walks us to our room and gives us the details about the property – usually a little bit of history about what the building used to be. I was actually looking forward to this, given the unique background of the building, but this time, we were left to our own devices to find our room. I realized that every other Luxury Collection property I’ve stayed at has been an international one, so I’m not sure if this something extra that they do outside of the country, rather than something to be expected.
We passed a hallway, which was designed to look like old prison cells. I really liked the thought that went into the look and feel of the hotel – it’s clearly meant to emulate its historic past.
Our room was located on the 12th floor. The elevator banks were a little more, um, normal, in contrast to the prison bars downstairs, but it was nice nonetheless.
When we got to our room, we found that our room key didn’t work. I went back downstairs to get it taken care of and fortunately it worked on the second try.
L-R The Liberty Hotel lobby hallway, 12th floor elevator bank, 12th floor hallway, Room 1209 exterior
When the front desk associate checked us in, he let us know that we had been “upgraded” to an accessible room. This usually means more space (even if the room isn’t necessarily larger – though sometimes it is), though I soon realized while there was more “accessible space”, the room wasn’t necessarily bigger. As I entered the room, I walked down a short entryway, with the bathroom on my left and a connecting door to my right.
As I entered the room, I found the desk at the end of the entryway (and a seemingly out of place flat screen TV). I loved the design in the room – like the industrial looking lamp, the bare-looking gear clock, the Boston and prison inspired pieces on the wall, the clock images on the carpet, and the scales of justice on the desk.
The desk was right next to the floor to ceiling windows (which was great since we had a pretty decent view of the city) and an overstuffed chair. The pillow with the tally marks counting down the days to release was a nice touch.
The minibar came equipped with some wine, liquor and barware. The minibar drawer revealed an impressive selection of snacks (though I opted to skip these).
The refrigerator had your standard alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages – though more wine that I usually see (not that I’m complaining).
The safe was located under the bedside table on the left side of the room. Unfortunately, it didn’t work (this seems to keep happening to me), but since we had such a short stay (and were going to be out of the room for most of it), I didn’t end up calling to have it checked.
The Deluxe Room came with a king sized bed, which was incredibly comfortably. I particularly liked the pillows, which were plush, and just the right amount of firmness.
The bedside tables were unique – the one on the left side was an industrial red metal one, while the table on the right was metal and kind of looked like an old-school safe (how apt, given the contents).
On the wall behind each bedside table were a couple power and USB outlets (my favorite!).
Walking back into the entryway, I found a skinny door, which at first I thought was a locked heater room or something of the like, but turned out to be a very narrow closet. The contents were the standard hotel items – an iron, a spare robe, hangers, and a luggage rack. It was plenty of room to hang our coats and a couple outfits, though I couldn’t imagine staying in this room for much longer than that (since there were no drawers).
The bathroom was generously large and came equipped with a bathtub, a sink (which was nicely lit, though extremely lacking in counter top space), a toilet, and Molton Brown toiletries. (All of which I assume the property’s former residents did not have easy access to.)
Since the room was an accessible room, there was plenty of space in the middle of the bathroom, and the tub had plenty of handle bars to grab on to. The tub came with a handheld shower head, and I’m sorry to report that the water pressure was noticeably weak. As I mentioned earlier, the bathroom was supplied with Molton Brown toiletries, and came with large pump bottles. The shampoo and conditioner were placed by the shower head while the body wash was installed on the back side of the tub.
On the side opposite the tub was the toilet. No bells and whistles here, just your standard toilet.
The hairdryer was (randomly) hanging by the towel rack – honestly, if I didn’t go looking for it I would have probably missed it.
The prison theme continued through the bathroom with some framed keys hanging on the wall.
At check in, the front desk associate made it sound like the accessible room would be an upgrade, but for someone who might not need this type of room, it felt like a bit of a downgrade. While the room had plenty of spacious areas, there were also plenty of inaccessible nooks and crannies, and I’m not sure how someone in a wheelchair or anything like it would be able to make use of some of the room functionalities. The room also lacked drawers, bathroom counter space, and a built-in luggage rack that the other rooms seem to have. If you plan on staying here, I would definitely recommend requesting a regular room over an accessible one if possible.
The hotel is without a doubt, one of the most visually stunning properties I’ve stayed at. They’ve done a fantastic job of preserving the Old Boston charm (if that’s the right way to describe a former prison), while modernizing everything.
One of my favorite parts of the hotel was the “catwalk” area, which were the walkways that were exposed to the lobby, where there was plenty of seating for guests to hang out (assuming a bar patron hadn’t taken up all the seats). Access to the catwalk can be challenging to find – you’ll have to access it through the elevators near the ballroom.
While there was a concierge on-site, he was not particularly forthcoming, nor seemed too keen in helping me when I approached him to inquire about snagging and umbrella on a rainy Boston day. He let me know they were downstairs with the valet, and seemed to quickly brush me off (though there was no one else he was trying to help). When I got down to the valet, no one was there for a good 5 minutes. When someone finally did show up, he couldn’t find the umbrellas.
Moreover, it seemed the lack in overall customer care didn’t seem to be limited to just me – as I was trying to figure out how to access the catwalk area, I found a guest wandering around on the 3rd floor (sparkling wine in hand, by the way), who approached me asking where his room was – 1503. While it’s pretty clear to me that this room would be on the 15th floor, clearly it was not to this guest – and I’m not sure how the front desk failed to at least let him know this.
I mentioned I had trouble with the key functioning after check in. On our second day, we came across the same issue, so I went down and had the card reprogrammed. Well, it turns out that that they associate had programmed the key for the wrong room and sent me to the wrong room. While it was careless of me to forget my room number, I went in and opened up the room and immediately realized that none of my belongings were there – the luggage and clothes all belonged to someone else. I immediately backed out of the room (thankfully no one was home) and rushed back to the front desk for the right key. Needless to say I was mortified! From a security standpoint though, this does concern me – and the front desk associate didn’t seem to be alarmed at all.
I was surprised to find that in terms of amenities, the hotel only had a gym. Very surprising for a Luxury Collection property since they tend to cater to leisure travelers.
Due to our very short stay, we didn’t get a chance to eat at any of the restaurants. I had previously had brunch at Clink last year, which was good but overpriced (though as expected for a hotel). According to our cab driver (and my sisters), Scampo is very popular and pretty good. I’ll have to stop by next time I’m in town.
The property is located in Boston’s West End area, by Massachusetts General Hospital, right on the Charles River. The immediate area looks a bit unimpressive – though the Charles/MGH T stop on the red line is located right across the street. However, walk about five minutes east (less, really) and you’ll find yourself in Beacon Hill, easily one of the most charming neighborhoods in Boston.
If this is your first time visiting Boston, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the Fanueil Hall area and the Boston Public Gardens, though a bit further from Prudential Center. Even so, the T gets you to most places a first-time visitor would want to see.
While the hotel is no doubt beautiful, I was very unimpressed with the service – it was definitely not up to par with just about any other Starwood property I’ve stayed at, and definitely lacking in attention to customer care that I usually experience at Luxury Collection hotels. The hotel seems to be more focused on the restaurants on-site, which I’m sure is a big revenue driver for them. As a result, the guests suffer, as the lobby is overtaken by drunk bar patrons. When reviewing airlines, Arun often refers to the hard product (the parts of the trip that isn’t impacted by variables like the crew or food served – so seats, bathrooms, etc), and the soft product. Typically, if the hard product is dated, it can be made up for with a great soft product – from great food to warm flight attendants. Needless to say, while this hotel was incredibly strong in the hard product side of things, it was severely lacking in so many soft product areas (disinterested employees, lack of spas or other extras). I’ll likely be skipping this property the next time I’m in Boston.
Check In: 3/10 – Long wait, front desk associate did not offer us sparkling wine, did not walk us to our room, nor did anyone provide us basic information about the hotel.
Elite Recognition: 5/10 – A minor upgrade (to a higher floor, though I don’t know that I’d consider the accessible room an “upgrade”) and no welcome gift.
Room: 8/10 – The room was very nice, though if it was a true accessible room, I’m not sure how a wheelchair would be able to maneuver around some of the tight corners.
In-Room Technology & Entertainment: 8.5/10 – Large TV, outlets by the bed (including USB ports!), plus the standard free wifi.
Staff: 5/10 – Compared to other Luxury Collection staff, the staff here was very impersonal and not particularly keen to help.
Location: 8/10 – Right across the street from a T stop, plus walking distance to the very cute Beacon Hill area.
On-Site Dining: 10/10 – Plenty of options, though we didn’t have time to try any of these. According to my sisters, the restaurants are very popular in Boston.
On-Site Amenities: 6/10 – There was a gym, and it was pretty underwhelming.
Hospitality Services: 6/10– Concierge seemed pretty busy when I approached him and brushed me off pretty quickly.
Hotel Appearance: 10/10 – I mean, it’s beautiful.
Overall Rating: 69.5/100 (70.5%) ★★★★★
On one hand – at least we had a good view.