Overview: An in-city, boutique hotel that misses the mark on a luxury experience
Strengths: Rooms (excluding bathrooms), location
Drawbacks: Service experience, bathrooms, Virtuoso is an afterthought
Notable: Room service has access to their in-house steak house (great), but brought me someone else’s order (not great)
A two-night business trip brought me back to Boston several weeks ago. Having frequented the Ritz Carlton (review) and Four Seasons in Boston over the years, this time I decided to try another nearby property that has intrigued me for some time – the XV Beacon Hotel.
Located a block from Boston Common, the XV Beacon has the hardware to be a great boutique hotel. There were enough service lapses during my recent stay, however, that I cannot recommend the property at present. That said, with further refinement of their approach to service, for those looking for a boutique hotel experience in Boston, this property could eventually become a strong one.
I arrived at about 7:30pm. My first impression was that this property could be a slightly lesser Capella DC (review). Like the Capella, the lobby was quite small, but both shared a very warm feel. Regrettably, that is where the similarities ended and the bloom quickly came off the rose.
I was checked-in quickly and efficiently. Despite booking via a Virtuoso agent, there was no acknowledgement of the program at check-in and certainly no offer of an upgrade. I was assigned to a Contemporary Classic room (their third category of rooms), which was the category that I booked. Knowing from my booking confirmation that the extra amenity was a food and beverage credit, I didn’t ask any questions about the program either.
How hotels don’t acknowledge Virtuoso at check in with a simple note explaining the details of the program at their hotel remains beyond me. The lack of acknowledgement on the part of the hotel is a signal to me that they don’t particularly care for or about the program.
No one offered to help me with my bags or to show me to my room.
The room itself was quite nice and had a residential feel to it.
The bed was quite comfortable and the fireplace provided a nice ambiance.
Being a corner room, there were windows on two sides, which really helps the not-in-a-hotel feel, in my opinion. Views from those windows, however, were uninspired.
The room had a harman/kardon stereo system. It was turned on when I arrived and set to a station playing music my 11 year old son enjoys. The system sounded nice and I found a station that I liked.
A small welcome amenity was waiting for me.
The bathroom was a bit small, but not unreasonably so when you consider this is a small, boutique hotel. While it included a whirlpool tub (how do they clean them?), the shower was designed with a partial glass partition which was designed in such a way that it was functionally impossible for me not to flood the floor. Each day, I used several towels to absorb the inch+ of water that accumulated outside the shower.
After getting settled in (and taking some photographs), I called down to room service to place an order. The hotel has a steak house called “Mooo” located in the lobby. Room service has access to the full steak house menu. Intrigued by the steak house potential and not just the usual club sandwich, I ordered a bone-in filet minion with an accompaniment of marrow butter. I had a $100 F&B credit via Virtuoso and thought a good steak and a beer would be a good way to spend it! I was told the delivery would take 30 minutes.
Come 50 minutes, the food had not yet arrived. I called down again was told “[they] were slammed” and the steak would be up shortly.
Indeed, about ten minutes later, the waiter arrived at room. He brought in the trolley and presented the food. The waiter was clearly very hurried, but also very friendly. He was apologetic for the delay, also noting how busy they were.
What he delivered, unfortunately, wasn’t what I ordered. It was a steak, but without a bone. I lifted the steak that was delivered with my hands to see if somehow the bone was in a spot that I couldn’t see. It wasn’t.
The waiter quickly realized his mistake, and told me that my order was on the other trolley, just out in the hallway. He took the original trolley away and quickly rolled in a second one. Indeed, this second one was the correct one.
In all my hotel stays, I don’t recall a waiter visibly bringing two separate trolleys for two separate orders. I would wager with a high degree of confidence that the erroneous steak was delivered directly to the rightful owner. I wasn’t intending to touch someone else’s food, but I’d strongly suspect they got the steak that I handled.
The steak itself was very good and it was prepared exactly to order. The marrow butter was a nice treat.
The next morning, I called to place my breakfast order before going for a run. After two attempts to contact room service, each going 10+ rings, I called the front and explained that I couldn’t get an answer from room service and asked them to take the order and relay it on. This request was met with, “I guess so.” The second morning, room service answered and took my breakfast order in the normal manner.
Both days, breakfast arrived while I was out on my run. It was left in my room per my instructions. I was pleased with the quality of the food for both breakfasts.
Other Features and Services
The hotel has a house car, providing complimentary transportation within a reasonable radius. Unlike most other hotels where you can’t book the house car in advance (and therefore can’t actually rely on the service), XV Beacon allows you to reserve the car. The result, in my case, was even two days out, the car was reserved by another guest for each time I’d need it.
Had I known of the pre-booking option for the car, I may have called a few days before I arrived to secure the rides for the times I needed them. Drawing a comparison to the Capella DC again, that property pro-actively contacts guests in advance of arrival to see if they can offer any concierge assistance. It would be a welcome development if this hotel followed that same pro-active communication approach.
For this stay, I ended up using Uber whenever I needed a ride. I find the service to work very well in Boston.
The hotel had a small gym but no pool.
Check out did not go as smoothly as I’d like and became a negotiated affair of sorts. Departing at around 8:15am, the front desk was unstaffed. (How is the front desk left unstaffed?) There was someone at the concierge desk, so I walked over to them (they hadn’t offered to help) and asked if they could check me out. The individual at the concierge desk (presumably a concierge, but without Clefs d’Or visible) said she was able to and presented me a copy of my bill. None of the Virtuoso credits had been applied to my bill (two breakfasts and the general F&B credit).
When I asked the individual if she could process the Virtuoso credits, her response lead me to conclude she had not heard of Virtuoso before and asked what it was. I explained the breakfast credits and F&B credits to her. She called someone internally to confirm these charges could in fact be removed and ultimately did remove them after a bit of time fussing with her computer. A simple check-out when there is no queue should not take in excess of ten minutes and I shouldn’t be forced to explain Virtuoso upon check out.
I consider it best practice for hotels to process the Virtuoso credits overnight the night before check out. Some hotels remove the charges complete from the account while others provide a line-item credit. Either approach is fine – but the “make the customer ask for it,” which does happen perhaps 10-15% of the time for me, is unacceptable. This was the first stay where I had to explain the program itself!
I realize that this was the concierge checking me out. That said, at a boutique hotel, certainly one that is comfortable to have the front desk unmanned at 8:15am, staff should be cross trained in basic functions and all be able to pitch in.
My Uber car was waiting outside. (Thankfully he didn’t leave while my departure was being completed.)
* * * * *
This property has the potential to be a very nice, in-city boutique hotel. The rooms are done very nicely (except for the shower issue) and offer a feel very different to the Ritz or Four Seasons. With some meaningful improvement to service, this would be a strong offering in Boston. Until the service standards are improved, however, this isn’t a property I’d recommend staying at.
XV Beacon Hotel
Telephone: +1 (617) 670-1500