Hotel Quick Takes: Cliff House, Red Jacket, The Setai and more

Hotel Quick Takes: Cliff House, Red Jacket, The Setai and more

BY Chris M. Walsh | January 1, 2020

This appears in our debut, Fifty Grande Magazine #1, the Hometowns issue.

One part hotel review, two parts comments section.

Cliff House 

591 Shore Rd., Cape Neddick, Maine 03902

Maine rightly conjures images of quintessential New England summers: miles of long sandy beaches and wavy dunes occasionally interrupted by jagged jetties that extend to historic lighthouses. It’s beautiful. If you’re never been, you should visit. That said, Maine has always been like a Bob Dylan record for me: everything in the culture at large — or my friends — tells me it’s beyond exceptional, and if I don’t understand this — really fucking get it in a deep way — then my life is sad and I’ll die having not lived. Look deep in the eyes of those who opine on the remarkable beauty of Bar Harbor beaches or the genius of Blonde on Blonde, and you’ll see the same fevered faith. I was recently in Maine for a wedding, calibrating my expectations to tune out the New England hype machine and OH MY GOD THE CLIFF HOUSE IS GORGEOUS. It’s stunning. This is what Maine every place should be like. The hotel is perched on southern Maine’s Bald Head Cliff in a way that makes it more part of the view than in a position to experience a view. It first opened in 1872 and went through a massive renovation three years ago. And it overlooks — yup! — a lighthouse. The aha moment comes just after you walk through the main entrance and you’re greeted by the lobby’s three-story wall of glass — it tees up the postcard-worthy money shot: miles of ocean that extend to the horizon in all directions. Once upstairs, the room felt like a hotel room is supposed to feel — way better than my apartment. There’s a nautical theme throughout; just go with it. There’s also a spa, wellness center, and pool, of course. GO.

Courtyard by Marriott 

32 Exchange Terrace at Memorial Blvd., Providence, R.I. 0290

At the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, comedian Seth Meyers said, “It’s so amazing to be in Washington, D.C. All this history, all these amazing buildings, and yet here we are at the Hilton.” That’s my reaction each time I’m in a Courtyard by Marriott. It’s like everyone said, “This is the best we’re gonna do,” and we’re good with that. It’s clean. The staff is consistently friendly. And because this is Marriott’s business traveler–targeted hotel — if you’ve stayed in a Courtyard by Marriott, you know the vibe is “insurance convention” no matter the day or city — it’s optimized for efficiency. If you need a fast checkin, Wi-Fi that works, and a fast checkout before an early meeting, this is your place. Plus, sometimes the front-desk team puts a tray of warm cookies in the lobby. I had five last time I was here. 

Doubletree by Hilton

4431 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. 33410

It’s sweltering outside as I lunge through the Doubletree’s sliding glass doors into the air-conditioned lobby like a runner at a marathon finish line. I make a mental note that the person in charge of the AC is doing a fantastic job, and if my hotel stay ended here, I’d have a glowing review for them. While checking in I have that moment I often do when traveling — I think something’s wrong when the gent helping me is being nice. He works here, but why’s he being sooooo nice? A second later I realize that I’ve yet to adjust my expectations to the “outside of New York City” (or “normal”) level, where members of the hospitality industry don’t often take an adversarial approach to customer service. After checkin I step out of the elevator on the third floor and — the air is MOIST. I quickly become too distracted by what’s happening with the hallway colors to be agitated by the chilly wetness in the air. The decor can only be described in shades of beige: the ceiling a lighter shade than the walls, the walls a slightly lighter shade than part of the carpet, which mingles in a couple of neutral colors — black, brown, dark blue — with the darkest beige. As I walk toward my room I assume the all-consuming beigeness was a carefully crafted plan cooked up in the research lab at Hilton HQ. A quick Google search later and I now know beige to be a “conservative” and “flexible” color that invokes feelings of “relaxation” and “calm.” Is it possibly a tactic to balance the moistness? Though I’m not sure the subliminal color therapy is working, it’s tough to root against relaxation and calm. I’m also distracted by the free cookie and two waters in my hand that Nice Front Desk Guy gave me. I asked him if there was a promotion going on or something, and he told me that giving cookies was “their thing.” Tough to root against that too.

The Red Jacket Beach Resort & Spa

1 S. Shore Dr., South Yarmouth, Mass. 02664

I’ve been coming here on and off since I was a kid. My family visited the Cape most summers, and we stayed here when finances would allow. Later on in life, after a bunch of years not going, our larger family decided to start visiting the Cape and the Red Jacket again, mostly because there’s a bunch of stuff for kids — indoor and outdoor pools, activities, shows — but also because it has a nice beach setup and is close to things to do. It’s a great place to stay for all those reasons, though I’ve never seen a room here that amazed me. Never. I’ve stayed in about 10 different Red Jacket rooms over the years, at a handful of price points, and seen another 10 or so. No “THIS IS AMAZING” moment. What is cool though is there’s enough to do to keep the whole family busy, which is usually why mine has stayed. When you look around, it seems like that’s why everyone is there — there’s a sizable contingent of kids. You can set your watch to the time (4 p.m.) that a handful of impromptu lawn sports — cornhole mostly — will break out on the grounds. You may get the sense that parts of the hotel have seen better days — certainly the rooms — but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

The Setai

2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Fla. 33139

The Setai is one of these ultra-luxe places you should splurge on every once in a while for the pure sake of OH MY GOD IS THIS PLACE NICE. It’s so nice. And expensive. It was like $600 a night. When I checked in the staff was so considerate that I felt uncomfortable. I almost said, “I appreciate it, but I live in NYC, so if you urinate on a sidewalk, I’ll feel right at home.” The room was spacious, modern, and clean. Lots of light. Hardwood floors. The bed was big, soft, and comfortable. Lots of pillows. Crisp sheets. Twin vanity sinks in the bathroom area were a nice touch. It’s easy to lose a day lounging around one of the three large pools, with the servers and the towel team casually manning the area. Each pool is set at a different temp — 75, 85, and 90 degrees — with the warmest being the kid pool. There was clearly an unspoken rule that everyone understood: Hot people hung out at pool one, not-as-hot people around pool two, and anyone with kids (us) were Siberia-ed to pool three. Whatever. It was still fun. An unsuspecting model — or rather, a person I can only assume was a model — meandered to pool three, got splashed by kids within 10 seconds, and quickly retreated to the collective hotness and safety of pool one. While there, I spent a lot of time thinking, “Who are these people who stay at the Setai?” Then at dinner, I realized that my dentist was sitting next to us with her family. We then bumped into her 100 times over the course of the next two days. So, to answer my own question: The Setai clientele is hot people and NYC dentists.