- As the US starts to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, hotels are announcing new cleaning protocols and safety measures to help guests feel safe.
- Last weekend, I spent a night at Gurney’s Montauk, a four-star beach resort in the Hamptons, a popular summer vacation destination for New Yorkers that just started reopening.
- The hotel installed hand sanitizing stations, required guests and staff to wear masks inside, and provided free masks, gloves, and sanitation wipes.
- Despite these measures and the excellent service, I wished the hotel had offered contactless check-in and self-parking instead of valet parking so I would have had fewer person-to-person interactions.
- The more than $700-a-night price tag was also hard to justify when most of the amenities – the restaurant, pools, spa, fitness center, and beach club – were closed.
- Editorial Note: Business Insider paid a discounted media rate for a deluxe oceanfront king room.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Hamptons, a collection of towns and villages on Long Island, is a popular summer vacation destination for wealthy New Yorkers. Peak season typically begins on Memorial Day Weekend, but this year, New Yorkers came to the Hamptons in droves as early as March to ride out the pandemic outside of the city.
Now, the area is reopening as the spread of the virus slows. In the last week of May, only one case of COVID-19 or no cases at all were identified in 82% of Long Island’s communities.
I spent a weekend in the Hamptons to see how businesses were handling reopening and what travelers can expect from a hotel stay.
On a Saturday night, I stayed at Gurney’s Montauk. The trendy four-star beach resort reopened on May 15 after being closed since the start of the pandemic. I found that the hotel had implemented enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing measures, requiring everyone to wear a mask while inside. But the new experience also came with some pretty extreme limitations: The restaurant, pools, beach club, fitness center, spa, and other amenities were closed.
Here’s what it was like staying at a hotel in the Hamptons during the pandemic.
Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website notes that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. “Before you travel, learn if coronavirus is spreading in your local area or in any of the places you are going,” it reads.
Gurney’s Montauk is a four-star beach resort in Montauk, the easternmost town in the Hamptons. The resort has 146 ocean view rooms, suites, and beachfront cottages.
Rates at Gurney’s currently start at about $725 for a Saturday evening. On top of that, there are taxes and fees and the 20% nightly resort fee, which would make a night’s stay in the first weekend of June a minimum of $967.
Gurney’s is known for its sceney, summertime beach parties.
As Time Out New York put it, Gurney’s is “peak Montauk,” with its “breezy beachside cabanas, nautical-striped outdoor bar and influencer-styled crowd getting tipsy to a live DJ.”
Montauk, the easternmost of the Hamptons towns, is particularly popular among millennials thanks to its beach nightlife scene.
Like many hotels, Gurney’s has added a COVID-19 section to its website that shares its plan for reopening safely.
As states and countries start to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, hotels have had to swiftly adapt to new cleaning protocols and social distancing measures.
Many major hotel brands, including Marriott, Best Western, and Hilton, have pledged to abide by the AHLA’s new Safe Stay guidelines for everything from contactless check-in to new cleaning standards and protocols.
In New York, which has been the US epicenter of the pandemic, Long Island started phase one of reopening last week, which meant that workers in construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, manufacturing, and wholesale trade could go back to work. Retail stores were able to reopen, but only for curbside or in-store pickup.
The reopening plan for Gurney’s includes the installation of hand sanitizing stations, grab-and-go and in-room dining options, and self-parking in place of valet parking.
The plan notes that while restaurants and amenities like the pool and spa are closed, extra outdoor seating areas are being used throughout the resort with social distancing measures.
I arrived at Gurney’s at about 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, the weekend after Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Weekend is typically the kickoff to the summer season in the Hamptons.
But this year, many wealthy New Yorkers came to the Hamptons as early as March because of the coronavirus pandemic, sending rental prices skyrocketing.
The parking lot was lined with Mercedes, Range Rovers, BMWs, and Teslas.
Despite the guidelines on Gurney’s website that said there would be self-parking instead of valet parking, I was waved over to the valet area immediately after pulling into the resort.
My partner, who was driving, handed the keys directly to the attendant, which made me a bit uneasy as neither of us had touched the hand of another person in more than two and a half months during the pandemic.
The attendant told us to leave our bags in the car while we checked in.
When I later asked a Gurney’s spokesperson why there had been valet parking during my stay, I was told that Gurney’s will now only valet if a guest requests it. But that was not clear to me when I arrived, as I certainly didn’t request valet parking and would have preferred to self-park.
The spokesperson added that all valet associates are required to wear masks and disposable gloves, and that they will disinfect everything they touch prior to returning the car to the guest.
From beginning to end, my experience looked very little like the usual sceney party I had seen on Instagram. The front desk staff members were wearing masks and gloves.
The hotel already had my credit card information on file, but they needed my signature. The front desk attendant handed me a brand-new pen still wrapped in plastic, and told me it was mine to keep.
I appreciated this small detail, as the pens at a hotel’s front desk are undoubtedly touched by dozens of people per day in normal times.
Gurney’s is in the process of implementing contactless check-in, and in the meantime, guests can call the front desk to complete the check-in process over the phone, the spokesperson told me. A staff member will then meet them at their room with their room key.
Signage on the floor in the lobby and throughout the resort’s indoor areas encouraged social distancing.
Most guests seemed to be abiding by the rule of wearing a mask inside.
I did notice a few people here and there flouting the rule, but if a hotel staff member saw a guest who wasn’t wearing a mask inside, the staff member immediately handed them a complimentary mask to put on.
Masked employees at the lobby café, OG Coffee & Juice, were selling coffee, fresh juices, pastries, sandwiches, salads, Van Leeuwen ice cream, beer and wine, and to-go cocktails.
After we checked in, a concierge took our bags from the car and led us to our room.
He brought the bags directly into our room. While I appreciated the help carrying the bags and the staff member was wearing a mask, it made me a feel a bit uneasy to have him touch our bags and come inside the room.
At resorts like Gurney’s, service such as this is no doubt expected. But in the time of coronavirus, I would have preferred a contactless check in, as many hotels are beginning to do using smartphone apps.
Our room was a deluxe oceanfront king with a private patio and lounge chairs out front.
The view of the beach couldn’t be beat.
The room was decorated in cool grays and wood tones with a hint of a beach theme.
The decor included nautical touches like a circular, porthole-style mirror.
The deluxe oceanfront king room I stayed in starts at about $775 a night. With taxes, fees, and the 20% resort fee, that comes to $1,033 a night. Business Insider paid a discounted media rate for my room.
In addition to the king bed, the roughly 310-square-foot room included a queen-size pullout sofa bed.
A complimentary bottle of Moet Champagne on ice was awaiting us on the dresser.
The bathroom had vintage brass fixtures and a walk-in rain shower.
Under the sink were two soft Gurney’s-branded bathrobes. A bathroom closet included an umbrella, an iron, a safe, and extra pillows and bedding.
Some of the things I found in the room seemed like holdovers from pre-pandemic hotel stays. You could buy candy like Champagne gummy bears and Swedish Fish, Tate’s Cookies — which come from nearby Southampton— chips, and candy bars.
Prices ranged from $6 for the bag of potato chips to $20 for a cell phone charging kit pouch, which I didn’t actually see at the mini-bar but I probably could have requested from the front desk.
The room also had a coffee station with Nespresso machine, creamer, and two types of tea.
Other details, however, were clearly pandemic-era additions. Sitting on the coffee table were two Gurney’s-branded amenities kids, which included masks, latex gloves, and sanitizing wipes.
After settling into the room, I set out to explore the beach resort.
I headed down the stairs near our room to check out the 2,000-foot private beach.
Lounge chairs and umbrellas lined the beach.
Beach cabanas were available upon guest request and change depending on availability. Notably, there were barely any people around.
A sign outside Gurney’s Beach Club informed guests there were no beach services in accordance with state regulations, but masked hotel staff were still handing out beach towels. The theme of closures was one I saw throughout the resort.
In normal times, the beach club sells appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and cocktails.
The resort’s outdoor pool overlooking the ocean was blocked off and covered up.
A spokesperson told me the resort’s outdoor pools will reopen on June 10.
The Seawater Spa, which offers treatments like facials, massages, scrubs, wraps, and aromatherapy, was also closed.
All of Gurney’s restaurants and bars were closed to abide by state regulations. They will reopen for outdoor dining on June 10.
The resort’s main restaurant is Scarpetta Beach, an upscale Italian eatery that also has a Manhattan location.
Its to-go menu includes appetizers like charred octopus for $23, burrata with heirloom tomatoes and eggplant for $22, and main courses like a short rib and bone marrow agnolotti pasta for $30 and gnocchetti with marinated blue crab for $34.
Tilly’s, an American bistro that’s open for breakfast and lunch and focuses on local Montauk produce, was closed as well, per state regulations.
Most of the resort’s indoor shared spaces were eerily empty.
Signs scattered throughout the resort encouraged social distancing.
The resort has multiple venues that typically host executive board meetings, weddings, and other events.
One staff member told me that two weddings had been scheduled at Gurney’s for the weekend I stayed there, but they were canceled due to the coronavirus.
As promised on its website, Gurney’s had many outdoor lounge areas that offered plenty of space for social distancing.
A few small groups were gathered here and there, but for the most part, the entire resort felt empty.
We stopped by the lobby café to pick up some to-go cocktails. At $14 and up, the cocktails were expensive, but more or less on par with my expectation.
We took them outside to the Regent Cocktail Club, where there were fire pits and freestanding heaters to keep guests warm as the sun started to set.
There were about 15 people in the outdoor lounge — the largest number of people I saw gathered in one place throughout my stay at the resort.
I didn’t see any signage out on the deck encouraging social distancing. For the most part, each separate group stayed at least six feet apart, although those gathered around the central fire pit seemed to be a bit closer.
Nobody wore a mask because they weren’t required outdoors.
There was no service out on the deck, but most people had either brought their own drinks or picked up to-go cocktails at the lobby café like we did.
Later that evening, we ordered room service from the restaurant, Scarpetta, which came within about 20 minutes. There was a knock at the door, and I opened it to find a paper bag sitting on the ground.
We ordered two different pasta dishes, one for $28 and one for $30. There was a $5 delivery fee.
Including taxes and a 18% gratuity, the total came to $79.77.
The pasta was tasty, but the portion sizes were disappointingly small. And while the flavor was good, there’s really something to be said about presentation. The packaging was simply, well, underwhelming.
The restaurant did throw in some delicious, warm cheesy bread for free. Without that, I would have still been hungry after the pasta.
In the morning, I picked up a croissant and a muffin from the lobby café, which we enjoyed on our room’s patio along with some coffee from the in-room Nespresso machine.
Checkout was at 11 a.m., but the front desk extended out checkout time to 1 p.m., which gave us a little more time on the beach.
Nobody was wearing masks on the beach, but there was more than enough space for social distancing.
When it was time to go, I found myself reluctant to leave Gurney’s expansive private beach and my luxurious room. On top of the that, the staff was extremely courteous and made me feel like I was the only guest at the resort — providing the type of service high-end resorts are typically known for.
That being said, I found myself wishing that Gurney’s had taken its social distancing measures a bit further. Contactless check-in and being able to self-park rather than interact with a valet would’ve made me feel safer.
I also found it hard to justify the resort’s price tag when most of the amenities were unavailable. On top of the nightly rate, Gurney’s charges a 20% resort fee, which amounts to at least $135 per night. And if I’m paying $30 for pasta in a takeout container, I expect it to fill me up.
Per the spokesperson I spoke to after my stay, Gurney’s 20% resort fee includes access to the beach club, chaise lounges, the swimming pool, the lounge and firepits, bikes for use, fitness and tennis facilities, free fitness classes, house cars, shuttles, sunset cruises, and custom “in-room kid’s activity kits.” But during my stay at Gurney’s, most of those amenities – with the exception of the beach chaise lounges, the firepits, and the bikes – were unavailable.
In normal times, when guests have access to beach parties, a spa and swimming pool, and multiple dining options, I would find a stay at Gurney’s to be totally worth the price.
But during the pandemic when many amenities are unavailable, staying at a high-end resort like Gurney’s wouldn’t quite be worth the splurge for me.