Monday, September 14, 2009

Hotel Review: Courtyard by Marriott, Ocean City Maryland (MD)

This is Marriott’s first ocean front property in Maryland – in fact, I believe this is the farthest north beachfront Marriott on the eastern seaboard. The property is a Marriott Rewards category 5, the same as Marriott’s Virginia Beach locations which, for those of you looking for a beach trip from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, DC are the next closest Marriotts. We visited in August and were able to secure reward nights for Wednesday – Saturday. Currently, the property is practicing the standard Marriott 6pm day of arrival cancellation policy, so we found availability varied greatly – to find the Friday night, it took about a week of watching the Marriott website. The morning we were checking out, I noticed that Saturday evening had also become available – likely due to the lousy weather that had moved in.

Location: The Courtyard opened in mid July of 2009 after construction delays that forced them to miss the start of the summer season. The property is located on 15th street, smack dab in the middle of the excellent Ocean City boardwalk which stretches from 1st to 27th st. It is easy to locate, as it consumes the entire block between Baltimore Ave and the boardwalk (Atlantic Ave if you look on a map). From pictures, you will see the hotel is 5 stories, but the top floor is actually condos, leaving only 3 floors of guest rooms (4 floors in the front) – a total of 91 of them. I am not positive, but from one of the Ocean city guidebooks I suspect that buildings south of 20th street may be height limited, which would explain why Marriott chose to build a relatively small property here.

Amenities: Parking while free leaves a little to be desired – the main lot is at ground level below the hotel which is raised above – which makes for many tight squeezes around support beams, etc. If you are skiddish about tight spaces, or have a big SUV, there is an open lot located just across the street. There aren’t any tickets or gates; the lot is enforced via passes you place in your window after checking in.

The main lobby is open and airy with a modern European feel. It is located on the 3rd floor, you will find a long staircase or elevator from the main level parking lot. The typical Courtyard amenities are present, including a few kiosk machines where you can surf the internet or print boarding passes, numerous reading nooks, and the pantry to stock up water, snacks, etc.

Just to the left of the two front desk stations you will find a plasma display that is actually a touch screen – you can scroll around a map of the area and view recommended attractions and restaurants. In the lobby you will find complimentary coffee served in the morning, in addition to machines located in each room. While the hotel doesn’t have bellhop services, they do have luggage carts available in the lobby that you can use to load/unload.

Pool: The pool is advertised as “indoor/outdoor” – from the photos you will see it is indoor with large doors that are kept open during warmer months – it is average in size and features an attached hot tub and color changing lights. Next to the pool is a section of

single and double lounge chairs and umbrellas that are quite nice and a four top table. On the far end of the elevated section of lounge chairs is a fountain play area, which is great for kids.

Rooms: Our check in was typically smooth, and we were assigned a king room on the 4th floor. The King room was quite spacious and had a couch with a pull-out bed, 32” LCD TV, and a balcony with two chairs. We arrived to

our room to find it had not been properly cleaned and smelled of smoke, which is prohibited in all Marriott properties in the US.

The front desk manager was able to accommodate us in an accessible room which lacked a balcony, but was very clean. After one night, we asked about the availability of balcony rooms and were offered an ocean front room with two Queen beds, which we accepted. By observation, it appears all but four or five of the rooms at the property have balconies. Three of the balcony rooms overlook the pool area, which is not much of a view – the remainder are either ocean facing or have ocean views. See the picture of the emergency exit

map – the red dot on the bottom was our ocean facing room – the room at the left corner features a wrap-around balcony, so there are ten ocean facing rooms on each level, with four levels that gives you 40 of 91 rooms with ocean facing views – a pretty decent ratio. Ocean facing rooms on the first floor share a large patio area – in addition to the two chairs found in balcony rooms, there are two or three tables and umbrellas as well as a few lounge chairs which guests moved around at will. All of the balconies have glass instead of bars, which makes for better ocean views from the room. There are fairly bright white lights located between each balcony (which you can’t turn off), so the hotel has a glow at night.

Each room at the property is equipped with a small refrigerator (half-height, no freezer), microwave, and coffee maker. The entire property boasts complimentary wireless internet, which we found to be sufficiently fast in both of our rooms.

The beds are quite comfortable, typical Marriott quality. The 32” LG LCD TV is equipped with HDMI and VGA connections, so you can easily connect a laptop or gaming device. The hotel cable has your typical channels plus HBO – sadly, only a few of the local channels were in HD, wasting the quality of the TV. In-room movies and room service is also available, and Papa John’s is a short 1 mile drive (or they deliver) for those nights when you want to stay in. The heating/air conditioning unit is digitally controlled and hidden in the wall – it was noticeable when running, but nothing like those horrible window units in some older properties.

The hotel’s restaurant is the Captains Table – located just off the lobby. We noticed that their breakfast business seemed quite brisk – most breakfast items were reasonable (in the $5-$7 range). We stopped in for lunch and had a blackened chicken salad ($13) and a bowl of Maryland crab soup ($6). The salad was ok, consisting mostly of romaine and iceberg lettuce – the chicken was quite good. My wife reported the soup as being excellent, though it hadn’t been thoroughly heated. You are able to charge your meal to the room, though you will only earn Marriott points on your room rate (per Marriott policy since this is a Courtyard).

The beach immediately in front of the hotel is very nice – for those who know Ocean City, the beach gets wider as you get further south – at 15th street it is about average. There are beach entrances on both ends of the hotel, and during our mid-week summer visit it was fairly easy to locate good spots on the beach. At the north entrance to the hotel, there are stairs leading directly to the pool area and a small shower / foot shower for washing off the sand – though during our visit the drain had become clogged with sand so it was more like a sandy pool for your feet. There is also an entrance that leads to an elevator, making coming and going to the beach very easy.

Overall, the Courtyard Ocean City is a welcome addition to the Marriott family. It provides a great place to use your points for a beachfront stay in a terrific location. See the Marriott website to book a room.

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