Maybe I expected too much. While in the main we enjoyed our three-night stay at the Four Seasons in Baltimore, the experience left me with more questions than answers. A Baltimore native who left for stints in NY & LA then returned for another 8 years (and then left again), I have a deep love for the city. Our curiosity about the “new” (relatively speaking) Inner Harbor East, plus our love for really good hotels, led us to the Four Seasons, which indeed is located in this quite newly-created, and quite prosperous, part of the city.
Strictly speaking, we travel a lot internationally and tend to stay with chains like Sofitel, Park Hyatt, Banyan Tree, and Fairmount. We’ve stayed one other time at a Four Seasons (in Philadelphia) and came out of it feeling kind of beige. Bottom line this time: Super-beige.
Here’s what I liked: The hotel is in the midst of Baltimore’s most interesting dining scene and the waterfront has been beautifully redesigned. It was a pleasure to walk around, encounter a great mix of locals (all with dogs in tow, it seemed), and also tourists. Last visit to Charm City I stayed at the Hotel Monaco, part of the Kimpton Group, and while I loved the hotel it didn’t feel particularly safe to walk around the neighborhood. So great advantage here.
Service, as befits Four Seasons’ reputation, was certainly earnest. I appreciated that a concierge was able to book us a last minute reservation in the hard-to-get Charleston (she apologized for the fact that we’d have to eat in the lounge but noted that it was her favorite part of the restaurant and I agreed, great choice, and Four Seasons had access we wouldn’t have had otherwise). The valet team sprang to action every time you approached the doors. Nice.
What I thought was lacking from a Four Seasons property: A big turn-off at check-in when we were the product of an up-sell to a better room. Mind you, it was a romantic weekend getaway and we’d chosen our room (a balcony with a partial water-view) because of the balcony, but I thought the approach was awkward, potentially insulting if my husband would have cared, and tacky. Seriously, feel free to send us an email a few days prior if you have the better rooms available but don’t put on the pressure at the check-in desk.
Our room was adequate. Meaning: Whoever did the décor decided they neither wanted to offend nor inspire. It was boring. Beige and beige color scheme. Nice lighting. Tricky TV (and no info book from the hotel which, as we learned on check out, was available via the Tricky TV. Too little too late). The horrendous auto-mini-bar, which automatically deducts your bill if you move something. At this level of hotel, that’s just – here’s that word again – tacky. We did move stuff around for our own things, and there was no problem at check out (appreciated) but why even go there???
Internet was $9.99 a day, not outrageous, but per device, and in an era when hotels are offering free Internet altogether (am thinking of the last hotel I stayed in, a lovely Radisson Blu in Zurich), a bit cheesy. Plus it was pretty slow for a new hotel.
More nickel & diming: No complimentary bottles of water or chocolates at turndown (we had turndown two nights out of three), small bottles of L’Occitane toiletries (Four Seasons can’t try for toiletries that are more upscale or at least unique?) were limited to the shower, valet parking – mind you this is Baltimore, not New York, San Francisco, Miami’s South Beach or Chicago – was $40 a day. Also curious: great balcony, and if you looked off to the east (which was lovely, sitting in a chair out there) the view in our partial-view room was awesome. But why just one chair?
The last thing that really turned us off, and this is a classic “first impressions” conundrum: On arrival, we headed to Four Seasons’ Michael Mina restaurant/bar for a late lunch. After standing at the hostess station, unnoticed, for way too long, we finally took seats at the bar. The bartender, who must be an A-list bartender for the restaurant as we saw her there on Saturday night as well, was too busy talking to a pal than to attend to the admittedly light crowd (there was another duo having drinks who kept trying to wave her down to get the bill). Beyond service, when my husband ordered a chardonnay, she poured him a glass and moved on without a word. Later he discovered that the unnamed chardonnay cost $19 a glass. I don’t know about you but if I’m spending $19 a glass I want to be forewarned. It had better be special.
We did not return to the restaurant or bar. Fortunately this part of Baltimore is ground central for the Tony Foreman/Cindy Wolf empire of restaurants (Charleston is the signature place but also worth trying is Cinghiale and Pazo). We didn’t mind at all spending more than usual for a glass of wine in those establishments for two reasons. One: You had a choice between a cheaper version. And two: when you ordered the expensive stuff you were treated to the story behind it.
We also loved Fells Point’s options, including the Thames Oyster House and the Vino Wine Bar, which were within reasonable walking distance.
It’s not fun to feel negative about a hotel. Maybe I expected too much. This hotel wasn’t superb and it reflected its locale disappointingly. Right or wrong, the experience reminded me of the difference between U.S. airlines and the really good ones in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say Four Seasons is United. It’s no British Airways (Sofitel) or Singapore (Banyan Tree).
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.