Talk to Mark Foster, owner of the Stage Neck Inn in York Harbor, Maine, and you get the idea that luxury — that elusive, nebulous term that seems so subjective — is actually easier to define in today’s hurry-up world where, some would argue, customer service is a dying art. 

“In a society that has become used to pumping its own gas, the attention of a caring staff that is there to say ‘yes’ to your every need provides an oasis from the world outside,” Foster says. “And is what truly makes a luxury hotel special. Stage Neck strives to maintain this type of service and prides itself in this endeavor every day.” 

The Stage Neck Inn has been a premier property on the Southern Maine Coast for 40 years. It is the only property in New England to have consistently earned the AAA Four Diamond Award for Excellence from 1976, when the rating system was started, through 2012. One of the key elements in this track record is the priority that the Inn's owners have made to continually improve the property and amenities offered. The other element is the Inn's staff. Most of the Inn's key management personnel have been with the Inn for 25 years or more and are dedicated to offering a consistent, quality experience to its guests.

“Although luxury can and should be defined by a property’s facilities, we believe that service is the true marker of luxury and what sets properties apart,” Foster says. A luxury hotel should have room service, an extensive wine list, and excellent food for it to rise above the local chain hotel whose facilities may be new, but whose staff is not committed to the quality of service expected by the most demanding of customers.

Location, Location, Location

This is especially true in an area that provides such a wealth of activities and attractions; it’s amazing that such scenic tranquility and diversity can be found within an hour's drive of either Boston, Massachusetts, or Portland, Maine. The Yorks, for example, are home to spectacular sandy beaches, cliff walks, and the Nubble Light, one of America's most-photographed lighthouses. It also features one of the country's oldest English public buildings, quaint antique and art galleries, and even a zoo. Nearby are the famed Kittery Outlet Malls with more than 120 varied stores within a quarter mile radius of the Stage Neck Inn.

According to Foster, the Inn’s advantage is its outstanding location right on exclusive York Harbor beach at the entrance of York Harbor itself, where the river meets the sea. “This location, surrounded by 19th-century summer colony mansions, is unparalleled in this area,” he says. “Here you will find the beach, cliffs, ocean, and harbor melding at a spectacular peninsula. Stage Neck Inn will remain a unique property as time passes because of the very restrictive zoning that has been put in place in York since the Inn was built.”

Maintaining Excellence

The resort began as a state-of-the-art facility, and as time past, Stage Neck Inn owners have made every effort to keep its state-of-the-art status by adding a fitness facility, an indoor pool with Jacuzzi, modern meeting facilities, and two restaurants to supplement the original restaurant. Every room has been renovated with new doors, windows, hardwood floors, furniture, fine linens, and bathrooms with granite countertops. In addition, all rooms have outside patios, DVD players, stereos, and complimentary WiFi to supplement the typical cable TV, telephone, and terry-robe offerings.

One of the latest trends in luxury is the proliferation of spa facilities, and the Stage Neck Inn has addressed that trend with a new in-house spa that opened in the spring of 2007. This world-class facility offers a wide range or body, nail, and other rejuvenating treatments. 

This is all being done carefully, to maintain a balance of the small-inn ambience, convenience, and services expected at large resorts. For example, the Inn’s outdoor pool club rivals that typically found in more sizable hotels. The Inn is able to maintain the extensive facility, which serves lunch daily in the summer, because its private-club, exclusive membership is offered to citizens of the community. Red clay tennis courts, reminiscent of days gone by, are also part of the very popular pool club. 

Even such things as the Inn's daily maid turndown service, performed each evening by a turn-down maid and including refreshing towels and emptying trash, are stringently maintained; according to the Inn, many larger, luxury hotels have stopped offering this service or do so only upon request. 

Foster says that guests need never leave the Stage Neck Inn. They may dine in their choice of the casual Sandpiper Bar & Grille (which features a seasonal Outdoor Terrace for alfresco dining) or elegant Harbor Porches. Regardless of the atmosphere, they may dine on a varied menu featuring local, fresh ingredients. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served year round daily. The Inn offers what many guests remark to be the best, full-menu room service they've ever experienced.

“Running an inn like the Stage Neck Inn is like a life long love affair,” says Foster. “There is so much to take pride in. The work is very rewarding. It is wonderful to see the same guests come back year after year and then their children start the same tradition. There is no other business in the world like it where you have the ability to make someone's time very special.”

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