For those who hate to read, here's the short version first:
GOOD: spacious, luxurious rooms; great views; boardwalk to the beach; proximity to Portland; friendly staff; free, abundant parking; everything clean and new.
BAD: Generic, character-free exterior; pool closes at dusk; staff not always accurately informed; very high rack rate; daily $7 resort fee, which doesn't seem to cover anything other than the seldom-open small swimming pool; no ice machines; elevator buttons don't light up when you press them (weird!); some door-slamming going on; no bathroom blower vent
Now for the details:
This hotel has recently been renovated, and everything is new. It looks like they demolished whatever was there before and replaced it.
We were thus the first ever to stay in our room, and the room itself was absolutely gorgeous. We had a gas fireplace, a gargantuan marble bathroom with dual sinks, and a glass-enclosed shower about 8 x 5 feet. There was a nice leather bench at the foot of the bed and soft robes in the closet. We had a sweeping view of the Atlantic out the window. The towels were fluffy, and there were L'Occitane bath products supplied, to my wife's delight. ("They charge $20 for just these three little bottles in the store!" she told me.)
What I didn't like about Inn by the Sea were a host of small annoyances and its overall generic McMansion feel. (But the rooms were so nice that I can't bear to give it just two stars.)
Notice that I call it a hotel and not an inn; this is a large, resort-style compound, where you could easily imagine corporate retreats being held. It's luxurious and spacious, but it ain't quaint. I actually found the manicured fescue all around a bit off-putting.
The first small annoyance was the fact that the pool closes at dusk. Dusk! There is to my mind no finer time to go for a swim than just after sunset, when you've spent the day running around and don't have to worry about sunburn. So I have no idea what the reason is behind this policy; there's no lifeguard, so you're swimming at your own risk even during the day. (Needless to say, the Atlanic near Maine is too cold to swim sans wetsuit in year-round.) I could see closing it at 10 or 11 to avoid having pool noise disturb guests in the middle of the night, but to close at sunset is baffling and exasperating.
In addition, the guest computer wasn't set up at all. (I had called the front desk, and the young lady gave me directions to it, evidently unaware that it was still a theoretical guest computer.)However, the same front-desk girl let me use her computer there behind the counter to check my e-mail--which was nice of her, although I felt a bit awkard doing this. I must say that they were very pleasant and had great attitudes. Still, it doesn't take much to set up a measly computer in a hallway. There is wireless access in the rooms, but I don't take my laptop on vacation--do you? I cut them some slack because it was their first night opening after renovations, but management should make sure that every amenity advertised is actually there.
Another small point was that there are no ice machines; you have to have someone bring ice to you. So you better bring plenty of $1 bills for tipping.
One doorman gave me bad directions to go to the Lobster Shack. You actually take the large paved road that goes into Two Lights State Park--the fifth right turn off route 77. (Be warned that the lighthouse is now privately owned and inaccessible to the public. A shame.)
There also seemed to be a lot of door slamming fairly late into the evening at the Inn. I'm not sure if this was from guests or staff, but I do know that on our first night there, we saw housekeepers doing their thing after 9 PM--which is a major, super-duper no-no in my book. No one nearby wants to hear them knocking and calling out at that hour.
On the plus side, parking is free and plentiful, the Inn is an easy drive from Portland. And as I said, the room itself was nearly perfect--spacious, spotless, with a great TV, a great view, a palatial bathroom (but with no blower vent! Agh!), and quiet. The maid service left cookies and a card with the next day's weather on it--a nice touch. There's a coffee maker in the room with some pretty good local coffee.
The highlight of this hotel is the boardwalk to the beach. The beach is not a white-sand Caribbean thing, but you hopefully know that already. The Atlantic is dramatic and kind of forlorn. But walking on the beach is very nice, and there's a state park right next to the hotel, where you can barbecue during the day. That would be a nice daytime activity for a family, in fact.
I would probably be disappointed if we'd paid the standard rate of $289 for our fireplace room (the cheapest type of room). However, my wife booked our stay with a free night via the Historic Inns of America book, and we also got an opening night discount. So we paid just over $200 for both nights. All in all a pretty good deal. If they fix the quirks I mentioned, you don't mind the sterile exterior, and you get some kind of discount, then this hotel can be a decent value.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- After a multi million dollar renovation the eco luxury Inn by the Sea is Maine's premier beach destination. Located on a mile of unspoiled beach guests enjoy intimate dining in the ocean view Sea Glass celebrating Maine fare, relax in the spa or fireplace lounge. Spacious redesigned suites, rooms & cottages w oversized bathrooms, or full kitchens, or fireplaces. Child & Pet friendly! 5 acre indigenous garden,pool, bocce, fire pit, golf nearby. 10 mins to Portland. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Inn By The Sea Hotel Cape Elizabeth
- Inn By The Sea Maine/Cape Elizabeth