Hotel News We Noted: April 19, 2013

As we bring you this week’s “Hotel News We Noted” column, we must first take a moment to share our thoughts with the people in and affected by this week’s events in Boston and in West, Texas.

If you’re joining us for the first time, “Hotel News We Noted” is a weekly column bringing readers the best, oddest and most interesting news of note from the hotel world each week. We welcome reader tips via comments and email, so feel free to send us a note!

Hotel Security: Hotels In Boston Tighten Security
Earlier this week, we shared some basic safety tips for travelers both home and abroad, but we also have word that hotels in the Boston area have tightened security in response to the bombing earlier this week at the Boston Marathon. Hotel Management has reported that the Mandarin Oriental underwent a forced evacuation and, due to an “abundance of precaution,” Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, Loews, InterContinental and Westin have upped security measures. Nearly all hotels have waived last-minute booking fees as well. Hotels in New York and Washington, D.C., have also upped security to some degree.

Unique Hotel: World’s First “Chocolate Hotel” Opens
A 13-room hotel in Bournemouth, near Dorset, has opened, featuring cocoa-themed rooms, cooking classes and a chocolate bar serving boozy cocoa-inspired cocktails, the Daily Mail has reported. The family run hotel is dubbed perfect for “hen nights and girlie get-togethers.” Guests paint their portraits with chocolate and enjoy sugar-high inducing amenities like chocolate fountains installed at the foot of each bed. The hotel is relatively affordable as well – £170 gets guests the “best suite” and single rooms start at just £65.Fit for a Princess: The Goring Wins “Top Afternoon Tea” Award
The Goring hotel, perhaps best known to Americans as the hotel where Kate Middleton stayed on the night before her wedding, now has a new honor. The hotel was awarded one of the highest accolades from the UK Tea Guild, The 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award. Now in its 28th year, The UK Tea Council’s Tea Guild Awards are considered to be The Oscars of the tea world. The Goring was judged by anonymous tea inspectors on 16 categories including décor, efficiency of service, tea appearance and flavor. Want to try for yourself? It’s relatively affordable, starting at $49 per person USD.

Hotel Opening: The Graham Georgetown
Washington, D.C., has had a busy few weeks with hotel openings, and now the Georgetown area boasts a new boutique hotel, The Graham. The revamped and renamed hotel offers just 57 rooms (all suites) plus a rooftop lounge called The Observatory, which will be the only public rooftop lounge in Georgetown. Expect a popular cocktail lounge, A.G.B., Bvlgari spa products, a 24-hour gym and a prime location off to M Street.

[Image Credit: The Graham]

A Blogger On Lockdown At The Marriott Long Wharf In Boston

Last night, I posted a photo from Boston this week that I took on Tuesday near the Common and close to the site of the Marathon bombings. The city was starting to feel normal again, and the signs of what happened on Monday were of the positive variety: restaurants offering free meals for first responders, guerrilla fundraisers for the victims and families, and everyone showing their Boston pride with Red Sox shirts and caps.

We went for dinner in the North End, waiting on the street for a table to open at one of the popular Italian restaurants. While we stood outside, several special police vehicles pulled up to the corner to investigate some boxes left on the curb. They quickly cut into them, found them uninteresting, and moved on. Usually the sight of bomb squads would cause some alarm, but moods were light (“Don’t they have robots for this?”) as we had all adapted quickly to heightened security. Earlier in the day, I had stumbled upon a few bright spots in the North End: a gorgeous Peace Garden in full bloom and a small alley gallery of saints.

I spoke to the caretaker of All Saints’ Way, who has had visitors from every country in the world (and will quiz you on what church you attend at home), but he reported fewer visitors this week after the “terrible thing.” Too bad, regardless of your thoughts on faith or religion, it was a perfect place to reflect and try to regain some feelings of hope and peace.

We were awoken this morning with a call from one of my husband’s colleagues; the office was closed today, due to a citywide lockdown. We turned on the news, took to Twitter and Reddit for updates, and began following the story that seemed like something out of the movie “The Town.”

Early lockdowns were just for the towns surrounding Watertown, but soon all of Boston was included. Our hotel, the Marriott Long Wharf, has put up signs to inform us that all MBTA and Amtrak service had been suspended, but did not call us to inform us of the developments. Needless to say, we’re still abiding by the lockdown requests from officials and staying indoors.

Our plans today were to check out of our hotel downtown and rent a car for the weekend, checking into another hotel outside the city, but now I was suddenly extra grateful for the leftover pizza and pastries from last night. The hotel has closed except to registered guests, and we were again grateful for the Starbucks in the downstairs lobby, open for business and fully stocked. Hotel security advised us to hold on to key cards if exiting the building, as all visitors will be checked on the registry list and bags searched.

Looking outside, traffic was light and the city seemed a bit quieter than usual on a Friday morning, but one dedicated construction worker remained with his backhoe, digging up dirt. As the morning wears on and media outlets are stretching out their old news and vaguely relevant interviews, life is starting to move on. You can see planes in and out of Logan Airport, and my husband’s colleagues were able to rebook their flights for this morning, though taxi rides were delayed by vehicle searches on the road. Taxis began trickling in and out of the queue outside the hotel about an hour ago, but most guests are still coming and going by foot. My baby (late to bed and to rise) finally awoke, and we changed the TV from CNN to Sesame Street.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the suspect will be apprehended peacefully and the lockdown lifted, so Boston can get back to healing, and we can get back to showing our support to the city’s businesses and people.

[Photo credit: Meg Nesterov]

Photo Of The Day: Boston Running Shoes

Hello from Boston, my hometown and location for the week. I arrived Tuesday, just about 24 hours after the horrific Marathon bombings, and found the city somber but also kinder and gentler than usual (hardly any cars honking). My first stop was Boston Common, for a walk through the park and gardens. Though the streets were lined with news trucks, and there were more than a few police officers out on patrol, the city felt like any other spring afternoon. On Beacon Street, where thousands of spectators watched Monday’s race, I spotted this house with some special decorations on their window boxes: running shoes, left out to support Marathon runners. This is a tradition that locals do each year, but it felt especially poignant now, along with hundreds of runners still wearing their Marathon jackets around the city. Boston is tough, Boston is resilient, and Boston is open for business; come visit and show your support.

Share your Boston memories with us in the Gadling Flickr pool or on Instagram for another Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Meg Nesterov]

American Airlines Flights Snarled By System Outage And Airport Shutdowns

It’s a bad day to be flying with massive closures and flight delays across the country due to a series of technical problems and security breaches.

First up, American Airlines announced that all of its flights would be grounded until at least 5 p.m. CT. An FAA spokesperson said the system-wide outage is the result of computer problems. The airline, which has been besieged by complaints via twitter, says it’s working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile in New York, part of LaGuardia Airport has been evacuated after a suspicious package was found in the central terminal building. According to Bloomberg, emergency services and the city’s bomb squad are on the scene but there are no further details regarding the incident at this point.

And finally in Boston – where security has been tight ever since yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon – an aircraft is under investigation. US Airways Flight 1716 has been stopped at Boston Logan Airport because of security concerns, although the exact nature of the threat is unclear.

All of this adds up to gridlock across the nation, with hundreds of flights grounded and passengers delayed, stranded, stuck on planes or unable to make flight reservations. The series of airline troubles come at a bad time for a country already on edge following yesterday’s tragedy on the east coast.

Update: 4:04 ET: NBC News reports that a suspicious package at Dallas Fort Worth has been investigated and determined to be a small tire.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Simon_sees]

Fees Waived, Heightened Security At Boston Airport After Bombings

The world was shocked and saddened to hear about the Boston Marathon bombings yesterday, but what does it mean for people flying in and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport? Two things: flexible rebooking schedules and increased screenings.

USA Today is reporting
several carriers have instituted flexible rebooking policies for those scheduled to pass through Boston. American, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, United and US Airways have all instituted exceptions, most of which cover customers flying through Boston between Monday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 17. Although exact rules vary by airline, the waivers generally allow fliers to make a change to their itinerary without paying the customary fees or resulting fare differences.

Thomas Glynn, CEO of the Massport agency that operates the airport, told the news outlet there is also heightened security on surrounding roadways, on the airfield and in terminals – which means travelers should plan for longer security lines at the airport. According to ABC News, FlightAwaredelays reported 30 to 45 minute delays on Boston departures Tuesday morning.

[Photo credit: Joseph Williams / Wikimedia Commons]