Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Correspondence with a guest

During December, we had an interesting correspondence that occurred via email between a guest who was inquiring about a visit in December around Christmas, and our clerk you responded, Jessica Herrick. I thought the exchange was so interesting because of the amount of time and detail that Jessica went to to help this guest have a great stay, so we have scrubbed out the particulars, and offer it to you to read.

There is some very helpful information in it, that might help you plan an off-season visit to Salem. This is one of the best times to come, when our shops and attractions and restaurants (and our hotel) are not besieged with the October visitors (always makes me scratch my head when I see people waiting in line to get in to the same places that they can just walk in to the rest of the year -- when I see folks here in October.)

I hope you enjoy reading these emails.


Email Correspondence to and from a guest:


Hi, Merry Christmas:

My family lives and works on the Florida Gulf Coast. We would like to explore Salem over Christmas on a ‘road trip’ as a surprise to my wife for her birthday. But where to go and what to do? I imagine most everything ‘touristy’ in Salem is closed for the Holidays. I have traveled the world, but never have been to New England.

Looking for lodging and the Hawthorne Hotel might be just the ticket. Unconfirmed but tentative dates are December 23rd through the 26th. Can you help with suggestions? Why should we stay at the Hawthorne Hotel? Thank you so much for any suggestions or ports of call you might think of.



Dear Guest:

Thank for your considering the Hawthorne Hotel! First off, I would start with the question: Why NOT Salem?

Salem is a wonderful little city that is rich in maritime history, as well as strong connections to many other ports in the world. You should take the opportunity to read up on some history of Salem prior to coming. A good brief would be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_Massachusetts.

Salem is most commonly known for its “witch history”, which definitely ties into some of the touristy things. However, I would classify Salem as one of the most charming early seaport cities that has magnificent architecture. Salem has done a wonderful job in the past 10 – 15 years to try and preserve the ‘downtown’ area. In doing so, Salem has remodeled many older buildings to keep their antique touch, but also adding some modern commodities to the city which make it a wonderful place to bring families for short vacations. I would also consider checking out the city of Salem’s website: http://salem.com/Pages/index.

Regarding the overnight stay the three nights, I have one of our deluxe Derby rooms which has two queen size beds with a small sitting area, full bathroom with an exterior view either overlooking the city or the common for the rate of 151 plus tax per night. I also have a room a little smaller called out Crowninshield Room with two queens and a standing shower with an interior view for the rate of 141 plus tax per night.

The Hawthorne Hotel is directly located in downtown Salem, Massachusetts. We are the only full-service hotel in Salem. We have restaurants on the premise, as well as Room Service to your room. Our Tavern serves a lounge-style casual lunch or dinner. Nathaniel’s is our fine dining room which serves breakfast and dinner daily. We also offer a business center, a fitness center, and free wireless Internet. We do not have a pool on the property, but we do offer free YMCA passes to use their two pools. Please browse our website at www.hawthornehotel.com for a complete listing of menu options and amenities.

I would think that because of the holiday, most of the shops would be closed for Christmas Day, and some might be closed for Christmas Eve. Otherwise, I would think that every other day the stores would be open.

Please do not hesitate to email back regarding additional questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you soon and helping to plan your vacation.

Jessica Herrick
Front Desk
Hawthorne Hotel


Dear Ms. Herrick:

Wonderful! Thank you so much for your excellent email.

I have two quick questions before choosing the Hawthorne Hotel. First, the Derby room overlooking the city sounds ideal. However, I do have a problem with smoking and pets. I smoked for over forty years, then had severe medical conditions at a very young age which ended my smoking career. I have no problems with others smoking, but find ashtrays, lighters, or the great smell of tobacco in my room too tempting! I have also developed a serious reaction to pet dander from pets being in the room before. (Wouldn’t you know that I am a pet lover…) I have no doubt that your rooms are doubly cleaned top to bottom – but I dare not take the chance. Is there such a thing as an ash-tray removed Derby room, with some history of no recent pets? The room does not have to be sterile, just reasonable. I cannot have pet hairs awaiting an opportunity to jump me from beneath a missed chair or couch cover.

I am so looking forward to this trip – your email has convinced us that Salem is the perfect setting for our trip. Thank you.

I will book by phone or fax as soon as I can verify the 23rd to the 26th of December as being the dates. I look forward to your response.



Dear Guest:

I completely understand your concerns. All but one of our Derby rooms are non-smoking – so that will not be a concern. Regarding the pets, we are a pet-friendly hotel and our pet floor in the sixth floor. For the most part, the other rooms do not house pets unless on special circumstances. In your reservation, I can absolutely put notes stating your concern, and I can be sure that you will not be on the sixth floor at least. We can also notify housekeeping to make sure they do an extra deep cleaning in the room prior to your arrival.

Jessica Herrick
Front Desk
Hawthorne Hotel


Ms. Herrick:

We are so looking forward to this trip. Many thanks to you.

I had to tell my wife about her birthday surprise because she and our daughter are like two squirrels in a bag of peanuts. They are both into the Salem Witch Trials things, and my daughter almost could not contain herself. Half the fun is seeing those two chasing their tails around the trees in preparation for the trip.

I will solid up the dates and call the reservations folks there tomorrow. Again, with a big thanks to you!

If you wouldn’t mind, could we email you later in the week and ask you what else might be cooking around Salem from the 23rd to the 26th of December? We are an older couple with a teenage daughter. All three of us are into Christmas lights, Old English anything, and snow. We don’t drink a lot, but may sing off key in the shower if it makes someone else laugh. My wife does not enjoy the water – go figure, considering we live on the Coast of Florida. I’m interested in ‘go fast’ boats and my daughter will swim, dive, drive, or study anything is it begins with the word ‘water’. I would love to see some of the ‘tall ships’ if any are open or even close by that time of year.

Thank you every so much… Merry Christmas!

I’ll be calling reservations tomorrow.



Dear Guest:

I will not be here tomorrow, but I am sure that one of my wonderful colleagues would be more than accommodating to you well. I will be back to work next week and at that time I can personally answer any questions that you have regarding the town and things that might be of interest to do while in town.

Our signature ‘tall ship’ is called the Friendship. It is located on Derby Wharf. It is a replica of one of the ships that used to regularly travel back and forth to the Chinese/Asian coasts to trade for silks, gold, and other valuable to bring back to Salem. It is a symbol of the rich maritime history that Salem has. On the other hand… I don’t know where to find any ‘fast boats’ per se. I think it might be hard to spot one on the harbor now, especially considering how cold it is!

You may call 1-800-729-7829 to make your reservation for this December! And it’s unbelievable that December starts tomorrow.

Jessica Herrick
Front Desk
Hawthorne Hotel


Dear Jessica:

I talked to a great person over at reservations named Jamie. She booked our room for the 23rd – 25th of December.

Couple of things: Could you add a day (the 22nd: You got us hooked!), and help with the non-pet non-smoking room overlooking the city that we had talked about? I hope that I am not asking a lot, but Jamie quoted the $ 151 a day, which you had also quoted, and said that there were no discounts available. I was wondering about whether anything offered for the retired military, student discounts, or for AARP? I currently do not have a membership, but I might consider joining. Jaime did not send the verification because she knew I was going to add and/or subtract dates with you.

Okay!!! Please think about what my family can do there on those dates around Salem?? I’m sending copies of this email to my family. My daughter is interested in Anthropology.

The Friendship is already on our target list, as well as maybe Old Ironsides in Boston? What about anything ‘archaeological’ around for my daughter? Day trips to the North and West of Salem are within consideration. I know that you are hampered by Christmas holidays and cold weather… Just looking for ideas? Perhaps, not all will pan out, or maybe I will quit my job and move to New England. We are looking forward to meeting you and your colleagues at the Front Desk of the beautiful Hawthorne Hotel.

Please, do not make fun of the matching Hawaiian shirts upon arrival. 

PS: What about food? Cost is not an object. Seafood is not special considering that we live on the sunny Floridian coast.



Dear Guest:

I have added the evening of the 22nd to your reservation. I will be sure to you the confirmation in a few moments. In your reservation, I have added notes ensuring the pet-free smoke-free room.

You mention that you are retired military personnel? Do you have a military ID? If so, I think we might be able to do an additional discount for you. If you have AAA or AARP, I could do a 10% discount off the rate, bringing the rate to $136 plus tax for each night. Unfortunately, we do not have student discount, but I second that it would be a great idea.

My suggestions for things to do besides visiting the Friendship would be to stop by the House of Seven Gables www.7gables.org. We have a world renowned art history museum located in downtown Salem called the Peabody Essex Museum.. It is a beautiful museum! And it is definitely something worth seeing, if the family is interested in some historical art artifacts. The focus of the museum is on international influences between Salem and Asia. There was a huge interest in Asian export for a long period of time, making Salem very wealthy. www.pem.org. My personal favorite exhibit at the PEM is the Ying Yu Tang House. It is a house that has been imported from a rural district in China. This house is significant because it allows for learning opportunities about Chinese culture. This house fostered generations of family members, immediate and extended members. The house was taken apart piece by piece, preserve, and then rebuilt here in Salem. You can actually go into the house and explore most of the rooms yourself. I would definitely suggest this for your daughter.

I have also mentioned that most of the shops and everything else are open throughout the day. There are many wonderful restaurants, which I will go into more detail later on.

On Monday, December 22nd at 7pm, there is a play “The Christmas Carol” hosted at a local theatre in downtown. Tickets are $22 a person. It might be something fun to do with the family.

On Thursday, December 24th there is a Christmas Caroling event here in the hotel from 5pm to 10pm. Donations will be accepted to go towards local charities in the area. Sounds like it’s going to be a fun time.

Through January 11th, there is another play in Beverly, a neighboring town, that is showing High School Musical 2 at the North Shore Music Theatre. Not sure if this is something that might be of interest to your daughter. Just another thought.

We also have an AWESOME Christmas Buffet Brunch. It is something that I highly recommend. We have sittings starting at 11:15am and going until 2pm. We also offer a Christmas dinner. I know for a fact that we are drawing close to selling out. Brunch is hugely popular here, so much so, that we nearly sell out almost every Sunday. It includes music and tons of food. The spread that we have is consistently impressive. So please, consider it. And if you choose to go, please call soon to make reservations. The direct line to Nathaniel’s is 978-825-4311.

Otherwise, there are tons of wonderful restaurants in the area. I’ll shy away from seafood since you are from Florida.


Bella Verona – Very small, very quaint restaurant located right across the street from the hotel. Authentic pasta. Very good. Very reasonable prices as well.
The Grapevine - Southern Tuscany Italian style that primarily uses local organic ingredients. Also very good, but just a different style of Italian. It is located on Congress Street.


The Lyceum – Located on Church Street. They have a French influence on their menu, but they offer a wide variety of things to eat. I have never heard anything bad about this restaurant.


Asahi – The only Japanese steakhouse in the Salem area, but highly recommended.


Captain Waterfront Bar and Grill – They do seafood, but they offer other things on the menu as well. Their steaks are desirable. They have a wonderful view of the harbor from their top deck.
Nathaniel’s – Here in the Hawthorne Hotel. They offer a little bit of everything as well. Our own personal fine dining spot.
Salem Beerworks, Fresh Taste of Asia, In A Pig’s Eye, Witches Brew, Victoria’s Station, Tavern on the Green, The Old Spot…. I feel like I am forgetting quite a few. I’ll think more on it.

Not in Salem:

Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott MA (10 minutes away). It is very good. You can do a mix and match with your fine dining options, which I think is the coolest thing ever. You can sit right over the water. Picturesque.

Day Trips:

I would suggest going to the following places if time permits: Newburyport, Rockport, and Gloucester. They all have similar things in common with Salem. They are all small coastal cities that have been major waterways during earlier times, and they currently focus on local merchandise. Salem, as well as other destinations, encourages small local commerce. So you get these little quirky fun shops all over the place that are a ball to explore. I like to shop, and if nothing else, I’m sure that the ladies will as well. I also know that you are planning a Boston day. There are lots of things to do in Boston for sure. It’s easy enough to leave your car in our lot and take the train in that way. Just a suggestion.

I welcome the questions.

Jessica Herrick
Front Desk
Hawthorne Hotel

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