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The Luxury Hotels of Charleston, S.C.

The Luxury Hotels of Charleston, S.C.

Old Nov 1, 14, 8:05 am
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The Luxury Hotels of Charleston, S.C.

Well, I guess I'll bite the bullet. Mods, if you care to important all those Charleston posts from the "cities with culture" thread, that would probably enhance this thread a lot. Otherwise, a Charleston thread is long overdue.

Writing a full review later, but just wanted to give a quick take on Belmond's Charleston Place.

Long story short, this slow-and-steady room renovation is a huge boost to my perception of this hotel. I still don't think it's 5*, but I definitely think it's a viable contender for 'must stay' places in the area.

Pros:

- One of the easiest check-in's I've had in some time
- Newly renovated room is gorgeous [but not flawless]
- Staff is more than accommodating
- New bedding is a huge improvement from the old
- Furniture has been updated
- Great hotel sauna & pool

Cons:

- A few quirks with housekeeping [I hate how they make the beds here]
- The spa/fitness center is the most dated I've seen in eons. Reminds me of an Eastern European spa - but not the good kind [think Warsaw, not Budapest]
- The lobby is still a mess / feels like a Convention Center, still...

All in all I'm pleasantly surprised by the updates. They haven't touched a single thing in the lobby [except adding BELMOND to everything] - and that's fine - but the rooms are a huge improvement.

Do I think they're 5 star? No. But I do think they've moved from a solid 4* to a 4*+.

Pictures to come.

Side note/interesting: Dean Andrews, now the owner of Zero George hotel on George and East Bay streets, was the director of operations in North America for Orient-Express from 2000 to 2008.
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Old Nov 1, 14, 9:17 am
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The Luxury Hotels of Charleston, S.C.

Pretty much my experience as well. Probably best hotel spa in Charleston proper (even though it is very dated). Location seals the deal for me. Back in January at wentworth though.

Fdw

Last edited by FlyingDoctorwu; Nov 1, 14 at 1:40 pm
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Old Dec 9, 14, 6:14 am
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For a full review with pictures, click here.

Belmond Charleston Place Review:

Introduction

The Belmond Charleston Place is easily one of the South's most iconic hotels. To this day, the name "Charleston Place" is synonymous with the city itself. Tell someone you are going to Charleston, and inevitably you'll be asked, "are you staying at the Charleston Place?" However, the hotel has more than name recognition. For quite some time, this was the only luxury hotel in the whole city, and to a certain extent, this is still the perception today.

Being that the hotel was built in the mid-1980s, with the only major renovation occurring in 1999, the hard product started to decline in recent years. Starting around 2003-2004, there was a noticeable slump in the quality of the hard product. Furnishings were beat up and looking old; bathrooms were out of date, the carpets were dull; the place was just looking tired. It got so bad that myself - and a lot of people I knew - avoided the place altogether. What was once a five-star hotel turned into a three to four star hotel, at best.

Luckily, someone got the memo. The place was remodeled again in 2008, and in 2013 they started a three-year, multimillion dollar renovation. The recent remodels have been an enormous improvement. I'd go so far as to say that the hotel, now refreshed, is back to being one of the premier hotels in Charleston's Historic District.

Virtuoso

The Belmond Charleston Place is a Virtuoso preferred supplier.

Your Virtuoso amenities include:

For 2014 & 2015

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
$100 USD Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay
(not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
Early check-in/late check-out
subject to availability

Other Virtuoso properties in the area:

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Location

The Charleston Place is, quite literally, in the middle of it all. Whether you're a first time visitor or a long time resident, it's hard to get over how ideally situated the hotel is.

Lobby

Frankly, I can't think of a single aspect that I like about the lobby. I'm just not a fan. My issues:

- The lobby is cold, almost sterile
- There are vast areas of empty space with very few places to sit
- Registration is relatively small [compared to the lobby as a whole] & the layout feels a bit awkward
- Tourists use the lobby as a cut-through from Meeting Street to King Street [and vice versa]. Said cut-through creates a convention center styled madhouse throughout the day.
- And lastly: the lobby doesn't set the tone for a five-star experience

The best thing going for it? One of the cleanest public restrooms in the whole city.

Accommodations

The Charleston Place has 440 rooms consisting of five room categories:

Deluxe Rooms

Premier Rooms

Junior Suites

Club Rooms

Signature Suites

One Bedroom Suite [both Club & off-Club]
Parlor Suite [both Club & off-Club]
Chairman's Suite
Presidential Suite

And the breakdown of those 440 rooms is as follows:

320 Deluxe Rooms
80 Club Level Rooms
40 Suites

The Club occupies the top two floors and offers a private concierge service, along with a wide array of "enhanced services, amenities and cuisine."

BEDROOM:

My wife & I were booked into a newly-renovated [2013] Premier Room. Overall, we were very happy with the renovation & the room was lightyears beyond the drab pre-renovation rooms.

The room was clean, spacious, and comfortable. The in-room artwork & furniture [especially the wardrobe] went above and beyond the old Charleston Place interiors.

BATHROOM:

The bathroom was probably the biggest post-renovation improvement. The shower was a good size and the water pressure was noteworthy. The lack of a soaking tub may be an issue for some, though.

Takeaway:

- As previously mentioned, the renovation is a huge improvement over the pre-2013 Charleston Place.
- Rooms are generously sized and well-apportioned. There is almost a "suite" feel to a standard room, which is obviously a plus
- Bathrooms are solid - both in design, space, and amenities
- There are still a few minor misses, but overall the room does the trick

Dining

THE PALMETTO CAFE:

Palmetto Cafe is the in-house option for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. In full disclosure, I can't speak to the food here [after dozens of stays, I've yet to eat here...Charleston is a really good breakfast city, by the way].

CHARLESTON GRILL:

The Charleston Grill is probably the hotel's biggest asset. This Southern/French restaurant is nothing short of a culinary gem [in a city filled with culinary gems], and boasts not one menu, but four: "Pure, Lush, Southern, and Cosmopolitan." While the concept sounds kitsch [Four menus? Titles that belong in South Beach?], it's executed exceptionally well. For those booked under a Virtuoso rate, this is the place to use your $100 Food & Beverage credit. Seriously.

THE THOROUGHBRED CLUB:

Ah, the Thoroughbred Club. While I happen to enjoy the place, I am fully aware it may be a bit pretentious for most people looking to grab a casual drink. That said, it's hard to argue that they have one of the more competently staffed bars in the whole city. How about the bar snacks? According to my wife, "they make one hell of a nut mix."

Grounds, Pool, & Spa

GROUNDS:

The Charleston Place is known for their grounds. But is that a good thing?

To be clear, the outside & facade are beyond reproach. It's the inside that leaves a negative impression on many. The place turns into an absolute madhouse because the lobby and corridors double as a high-end shopping mall. Not only that: people use the these halls to escape the outdoors. From May until October, tourists are escaping heat - and for the rest of the year, they're escaping the cold. So whether those passing through are shopping or not, the lobby [and halls] of the Charleston Place have a really bad "convention center" feel to it.

That said, on a calm day, the grounds are perfect: you have "the mall" to yourself.

POOL:

The pool is nothing short of gorgeous. I'm not suggesting it even comes close to Park Hyatt Tokyo's Sky Pool, it definitely has the same vibe when you first walk in.

SPA:

While I really appreciate the fact there even is a spa [an extremely rare option in downtown Charleston], I feel this one may be due for a bit of an upgrade. It feels like the locker room at your local country club, far from an "award winning" spa at Charleston's premier hotel. For a hotel of this size it should be bigger, and for a hotel of this reputation - a Belmond hotel - it should be a little more cutting edge.

That may sound a bit harsh, but my thoughts on the spa are not all bad. Over the course of a three day stay, we came here three times. We didn't get spa treatments, but we did partake in a few exceptional sauna experiences. Unfortunately, the steam room was not hot enough to use.

Service

My experience with the hotel's soft-product, whether that be service, food, or spa treatments, was very limited. We did order room service twice, and both times the service - and food - was more than acceptable.

Conclusion

I'm not ready to say that the Charleston Place is back on top of Charleston's hotel scene [a hotel scene that's booming in terms of luxury options]. That said, it's pretty damn close, and calling this property a "top 5" in Charleston is a no brainer. I wouldn't hesitate to come back.

For the record, as improved as the Charleston Place is, I'd still check availability at Zero George and/or Wentworth Mansion before ever booking myself at the Belmond as a first choice.
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Old Dec 9, 14, 6:39 am
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Great review.. I too was pleasantly surprised by Charleston Place. I know back in the 90s it was managed by the Omni so the pedigree isn't the greatest. Any ideas what the future plans for their renovation are? Will it extend to the lobby/common areas? The pool and spa would definitely benefit. I found the mural by the hot tub very very odd...

The breakfast credit for Virtuoso is quite low and we ended up needing the F and B credit to just cover the full cost of breakfast during our stay. Did you have a chance to check out the club lounge? I don't really see the point of one in Charleston (like you said there are so many good options in CHS) but just curious of the offerrings.. they were hard selling it to people on check in (but I didn't get the sell, probably due to the virtuoso inclusions already). Note that I think they fill a lot of their rooms with 3rd party bookings I think, primarily because it's such a big hotel.

I would be hard pressed to pass on Charleston place now that the rooms are an acceptable level. I still love Wentworth Mansion but the location is so convenient, especially when one's only in town for 2 nights....

FDW
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Old Dec 9, 14, 6:51 am
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Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
Great review.. I too was pleasantly surprised by Charleston Place. I know back in the 90s it was managed by the Omni so the pedigree isn't the greatest. Any ideas what the future plans for their renovation are? Will it extend to the lobby/common areas? The pool and spa would definitely benefit. I found the mural by the hot tub very very odd...

The breakfast credit for Virtuoso is quite low and we ended up needing the F and B credit to just cover the full cost of breakfast during our stay. Did you have a chance to check out the club lounge? I don't really see the point of one in Charleston (like you said there are so many good options in CHS) but just curious of the offerrings.. they were hard selling it to people on check in (but I didn't get the sell, probably due to the virtuoso inclusions already). Note that I think they fill a lot of their rooms with 3rd party bookings I think, primarily because it's such a big hotel.

I would be hard pressed to pass on Charleston place now that the rooms are an acceptable level. I still love Wentworth Mansion but the location is so convenient, especially when one's only in town for 2 nights....

FDW
You're right: it was an Omni well into the mid-90s (I think Orient-Express bought it in '95).

As far as renovations are concerned, I think they finally understand that one refurb every decade probably won't cut it. They did a 2003 renovation and just started a 3 year renovation. I think phase 1 alone is $9 million in renovations.

I didn't get to talk to staff about what exactly is being covered in this multi-phase renovation. That said, I'm curious and I'll be reaching out to someone there shortly to see what they have to say.

Whatever the changes are - I welcome them.

I'd agree that the spa is a huge must for a future renovation. I mean really, the place was dated, small, bordering on plain bad.

I thought the pool area was really pretty - at first. But after visits 2 and 3, the charm started to wane, and I'd agree they could improve this a bit as well.

For breakfast: Virtuoso comes with Continental breakfast for 2 daily. That includes: Ricotta Cheese Blintz with Berry Compote, Caramel Brioche, Assorted Breakfast Pastries, Oatmeal, Seasonal Fruit and Berries, Yogurt, Cereals, Bagels and Toast, Choice of Juice and Hot Beverage.

I know it's not a popular idea here, but I'd skip breakfast at the hotel altogether. Charleston has way too much good food to sit inside. I know this isn't a viable option for many, especially on a short stay, but walk outside the lobby doors and you'll find a place serving better food at half the price.

As for the club. I saw it...it's decent. Reminds me a lot of the RC Georgetown. The issue is: no matter how good the club is...who the hell wants to sit in it in Charleston? Too much good food/drink outside the confines of the hotel. I've had a club room before and I don't believe the cost is justified. At all.

My biggest complaint about this place - besides the dated spa - is the lobby/convention center nature of the place. It almost feels like the lobby of the Bellagio sometimes. There are zero places to sit, you're butting arms with passerbys not even staying at the hotel, it's insane! I doubt they'll ever be able to fix this, and I doubt they even care.

Yes, Charleston Place is at a much more acceptable level now. I wouldn't hesitate to come back. Still prefer Zero George
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Old Sep 9, 16, 6:58 pm
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Any recent news and/or experiences out of Charleston?
The Dewberry bills itself as a luxury boutique
The Spectator?

Has Charleston Place managed to renovate their lobby to seem less like a cold convention center?

Must get back to Charleston

FDW
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Old Sep 9, 16, 7:28 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
Any recent news and/or experiences out of Charleston? Dewberry
I'm watching this hotel with a boat load of interest. I remember the building quite well, and am shocked they are managing to roll out a hotel here. I figured it was due to be demolished at some point.

Very cool space, a la Mad Men...very 1950s exterior. Interior looks VERY nice, love the look of the bathrooms.

Haven't had a chance to visit but I'm looking at a lot of first-hand pictures coming out of this place. Impressive.

What's interesting is:

- They're rolling out rooms floor by floor. I believe they started by rolling out 3 floors, and they just opened a handful more.

- They were running a rooftop bar for quite a while...and when a neighbor spied/heard what was going on up there, they complained to the city. Apparently Dewberry didn't have a permit to run a rooftop bar. Currently being battled out at city hall.

http://www.postandcourier.com/201609...out-more-rooms

Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
The Spectator?
Just voted #2 hotel in the world by T+L, right under Nihiwatu. While I try not to give these lists too much credit, that's a pretty incredible feat for such a new hotel out of this part of the globe.

I haven't stayed there yet (plan on going in October), but I've sent clients...very, very happy; solid if not spectacular feedback. My wife and I did hit the bar/use the lobby, and I liked it. Almost had a 'Siam-feel', in an aesthetic/decor sense. Bar was well-done, and the drinks were delicious.

That said, as you and I know, Charleston will never have the service you'd find in, say, Asia, even Europe, so I'm guessing such positive feedback is due to Charlestonian-style service, F&B, room product, etc.

Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
Has Charleston Place managed to renovate their lobby to seem less like a cold convention center?
Nope; something tells me they won't be renovating their lobby anytime soon either

Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
Must get back to Charleston
Welcome to my life. Half considering moving back, half considering buying into this place.

I love Charleston as much as a human could ever love a city.
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Old Sep 12, 16, 1:32 pm
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Thanks for the updates Ben... might have to try some place new on my next trip back... I still have my place at the Baker House if you're interested in a pied a terre....

FDW
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Old Sep 12, 16, 2:54 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingDoctorwu View Post
Thanks for the updates Ben... might have to try some place new on my next trip back... I still have my place at the Baker House if you're interested in a pied a terre....

FDW
Wait...you own an apartment/condo on Colonial Lake?

Is that similar to what I'm contemplating with buying a piece at Gentry?

How do you like it? Pics/details much appreciated!

For what it's worth, I lived on Colonial Lake for 3 years. Corner of Beaufain & Rutledge (right near the Baker House - it's called Berkeley Court.)

And yes, I'm in the same boat - looking to try new hotels (Dewberry, Spectator, etc), while also wanting to stick to what I know I like (Zero George).
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Old Sep 12, 16, 4:01 pm
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I did a report on Zero George last year but the pics aren't showing up for some reason. Really liked it and would go back. My one qualm about the place is for the price of the rooms (and there aren't many rooms) you would think the staff would at least recognize you during their wine/cheese hour instead of being asked each evening if we are staying there.

"yeah we are. you waited on us last night to". Wanted to say it, didn't.
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Old Sep 20, 16, 8:52 am
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I have substantial business interests in Charleston, and am there 2-3 per month. Why I haven't yet purchased a home in the area is beyond me, but....

Anyway, I have a love/hate with Belmond. I actually like the proper feel of the public spaces. The suites are great. Technology, bathrooms, quality of linens, etc. All very nice. My biggest issue with the Belmond is the amazingly noisy rooms. You hear absolutely everything that goes on in the hallway.

Anyway, I've stayed at most every hotel downtown. If I'm in town for more than 2 days, I have begun staying at Restoration. Quirky, but tremendous space with full kitchens and most with washer/dryer.
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Old Sep 20, 16, 9:04 am
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Originally Posted by gold23 View Post
I have substantial business interests in Charleston, and am there 2-3 per month. Why I haven't yet purchased a home in the area is beyond me, but....

Anyway, I have a love/hate with Belmond. I actually like the proper feel of the public spaces. The suites are great. Technology, bathrooms, quality of linens, etc. All very nice. My biggest issue with the Belmond is the amazingly noisy rooms. You hear absolutely everything that goes on in the hallway.

Anyway, I've stayed at most every hotel downtown. If I'm in town for more than 2 days, I have begun staying at Restoration. Quirky, but tremendous space with full kitchens and most with washer/dryer.
Totally agree with Restoration. Love their old building (vs. the new build) - the kitchens are incredible. Sub zero fridges, full marble table tops, full 4 seater table. Even the one-bedroom suites have two bathrooms. Incredible.

But yeah, I'm in your boat: in Charleston so much I'm started to look for places to buy....
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Old Oct 13, 16, 7:36 pm
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Just stayed at/sited two of Charleston's newest hotels: the Grand Bohemian, and the Dewberry.

Will post a bigger/more detailed review in the near future, but I will say I was absolutely blown away by the Dewberry.

Until I can find time to review these 2 properties, here are my pictures from each:

Grand Bohemian Charleston

The Dewberry
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Old Oct 28, 16, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by pricesquire View Post
Just stayed at/sited two of Charleston's newest hotels: the Grand Bohemian, and the Dewberry.

Will post a bigger/more detailed review in the near future, but I will say I was absolutely blown away by the Dewberry.

Until I can find time to review these 2 properties, here are my pictures from each:

Grand Bohemian Charleston

The Dewberry
Very curious to hear your thoughts on both. Walked from Restoration to Hank's the other night, and passed the Grand Bohemian. Loved the little mini-garage they had off of the lobby, and my colleague and I were intrigued by the space. Hadn't ever given it much thought prior....
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Old Oct 29, 16, 7:23 am
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Originally Posted by gold23 View Post
Very curious to hear your thoughts on both. Walked from Restoration to Hank's the other night, and passed the Grand Bohemian. Loved the little mini-garage they had off of the lobby, and my colleague and I were intrigued by the space. Hadn't ever given it much thought prior....
I like them both for their own reasons. If I had to pick one of the two for an upcoming stay though...I'd definitely go with the Dewberry.

I think the only truly 'negative' with the Dewberry is the exterior. If you're familiar with Charleston, you can spot this building from a mile away, as it is the city's mid-century Federal Building. The exterior/facade is truly ugly, in my book.

That said, once you walk in, it's a night/day difference. Very beautiful and well-done space.

I will say that those who aren't a fan of minimalism and/or modernism won't love much of the hotel. While there are areas that are 'classically Charleston' - i.e., the breakfast area - the rest is quite stark.

Overall, a very chic and well thought out property. Every inch of the place has a reason behind it - no single square foot of this place hasn't been thought out.

I'll add that it has a very masculine aesthetic. Very 'Mad Men'.

On the other hand, I think the Grand Bohemian was a very cool property as well. Night and day different, though. The GB feels very much like you're sleeping in a gallery - very 'art centric' - very comfy.

I will say that, while it is a great property - you can just 'tell' it's more of a 4* place. I can't put my finger on the 'why' behind it, but you get the feeling that it's a bit more of a 'typical hotel' vs. the Dewberry. (For instance, the GB has your run of the mill check-in desk, while the Dewberry has mobile check-in via iPad and in-room check-in as well.)

Kind of rambling...but those are my thoughts as of right now
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