My husband and I just returned from the Homestead over the weekend of May 11-14, 2012. We chose this place to have a relaxing, quiet vacation to celebrate my birthday and Mother's Day, to enjoy the spa, and to reconnect with each other. We were taken in by the photos of the beautiful grounds, the "excellent food" and the idea of a service oriented resort who would lavish us in the lap of luxury. We drove 5 and a half hours through the Allegheny Mountains, on roads that took us through two national forests, and some of the most beautiful, rugged, rural terrain that the mid-Atlantic region has to offer.
By the time we got to the resort, we were taken back by the beauty of the place as we approached. However, in this case, appearances were deceiving.
Upon walking in, after getting over the grandeur of the great hall, I got the distinct impression we were being sized up as to our wealth and background. We checked in, and it was evident at that point that some guests were more important than others. We were told to go to the Concierge desk to get our reservation printouts, as everything required a reservation - even dining. At the same time, a very "preppy" WASP-ish couple were checking in also. I noticed they received, instantly, a key to the minibar, told about the resort, given a map and directions and a list of activities going on through the weekend, and multiple offers of help and advice.
We had our printout thrown at us, and were told nothing - not about the resort, not about the activities going on, and certainly not about where to find anything in the complex.
Upon going up to our small standard room (which had a great view - of a concrete roof), we found no pen, no map of the resort, and no breakfast menu. The wallpaper was peeling, and there were no shams on the bed. The pillows were yellowed and old and the bedding had old stains on it.
Still, we dressed and went down to dinner at the 1766 Grille. We were lead to a nice table with a great view. Service was slow, and our food was lukewarm. The tableside cooking was mostly ignored by the people who were receiving it, and the unenthusiastic efforts of the staff performing it was evident. At one point the waiter came over and asked if we had our desserts yet, when we had not received our main courses.
We retired to our room and woke up with backache from the rock-hard mattress. Our trip was about to take a distinct turn for the worse, though. While getting ready, my husband found a bed bug running around in our sheets. He grabbed it up in a napkin and took it downstairs to give to the manager.
At this point, I was ready to leave. The duty manager offered us an upgrade to a suite if we would stay: something that was supposedly offered with our package anyway, but we were not given it upon check in. Upon her assurance that the CFO of the Resort just checked out of there and it was bed bug free, we accepted. They took the bed bug and sent it to a 'lab' for analysis. She also sent up a bottle of Prosecco and six chocolate covered strawberries. This was the last contact with any management. The difference between the room below and above was staggering: Breakfast menu, a pen and paper in the room, shams on the bed and clean sheets and pillows. We had a view of the front of the resort, overlooking the lovely grounds.
At this point it was time for our spa experiences. The Spa facilities themselves are rather nice but a long walk away from the Great Hall. I felt bad for people whose rooms bordered along the main corridor where people were walking to and from the spa. A good tip for anyone above a size 20 is to bring your own robe, or spa outfit, as I did, as their robes will not fit properly.
When I came out I was told by the attendant just to sit and wait on the lower floor. I was not told about the showers or the upstairs lounges. I learned about them from the people behind me who came in, and were ushered in like royalty and told all about the shower facilities, and steam and sauna, and upstairs lounges. So I went upstairs to help myself to the more comfortable lounges. I was really getting the vibe that I was not wanted at this resort, from the looks the mainly 50+ clientele were giving me, to the attitudes of the staff, and the lack of help given to us throughout the stay.
The resort caters to, and welcomes one kind of client: 50+ genteel Southern old money and their families. They're happy to take your money otherwise, but don't expect on a warm welcome, good treatment, or service of any kind. I found out about their Living Social deal from others, and I feel bad for people who bought into this, as the resort is nowhere near diversified or cosmopolitan enough to welcome people of all sizes, shapes and races, nor do the old timers welcome you. I cannot remember the last time I felt so much of an outsider and unwelcome and pre-judged. Certainly not the sort of experience I wanted for my birthday, nor the experience we wanted for our first vacation in five years.
The food was bland, uninspired, and shortcuts were taken. It's obvious the ingredients were not local sourced, or farmed, which is a pity given all the lovely dairy and livestock farms around the place. Fresh seasonal food does not appear on the menu or anywhere at The Homestead. In the main dining room, half of the dishes have the same-tasting risotto. It would not surprise me to find it shipped in ready-made from Sysco and reheated. I felt like I was eating at a Kitchen Nightmare in the making.
1. Jacob the reflexologist is an AWESOME person and very good at what he does. Highly recommended.
2. They have the best French pastry chef this side of France. Authentically done Pain au Chocolat at Martha's Market and croissants as good as in Paris.
3. The grounds are beautiful.
1. If you are not to their set demographic you will experience rudeness, looks of distaste and disgust and prejudice from the concierge and staff
2. If you stay in a basic room, expect to be treated cheaply, have dirty linens, and watch out for bed bugs.
3. The food is bland, dated, insipid and uninspired with no emphasis on fresh, seasonal or locally available produce. It is certainly shipped in.
4. The resort 'nickle-and-dimes' you on everything with hidden service charges, gratuities and other expenses. Most of the fun activities are not included in a Homestead Your Way package and require an extra charge.
5. Martha's Market will sell you a "breakfast sandwich" for $6.00 that is a Jimmy Dean ham and egg muffin - and they have the audacity to leave the sticker on the package so you know you've been ripped off and it's not something fresh or made to order. The Sausage Biscuit is a no-name brand from Sysco. (Again, they leave the sticker on!)
6. The resort shops are utterly, shockingly, painfully overpriced and you have no alternative but to buy at their inflated prices if you need something (like a swim suit) as the nearest town with stores is over 20 miles away.
7. Service is non-existent if you are not to their demographic. No turn-down service at night. (honestly? I've had turn down on cruise ships and paid less for the trip than this weekend) Cheaper rooms are non-hygienic and not cleaned properly. Decor is peeling and chipped and well-worn. In cheaper rooms the window ledges have a coating of soot/dust on them. Carpets throughout the resort are threadbare and worn.
8. After finding a bed bug in our room, and the initial meeting with a manager, we were not contacted at any other time to find out how we were doing. An upgrade to a suite - when our package said we should have that anyway - is absolutely NOTHING for the misery and inconvenience and potential nightmare that a bed bug infestation causes. I am currently in the process of getting every single piece of clothing and luggage we took with us deep-cleaned to ensure we are not bringing eggs or larvae into our house.
They can't get the basics right, they hold on to an elitist attitude, and they are opening a water park in the hopes of attracting families and different kinds of guests? Honestly, if you can't even get the minor things right like clean rooms, equal and excellent service to all guests, good fresh food, and a well-maintained interior, you have no hopes of getting anyone but the gentrified old folks who have graced the halls from time immemorial - ESPECIALLY not expecting prices like $2400 for four nights in a standard room.
I feel utterly, completely ripped off, insulted, degraded and victimized by this "resort experience". I will never go back. Don't make the mistake of going there either.
PS: This dish is still proudly on display in the parlor - they don't hide their racism or racist past at all.