What Makes a Hotel Great? The Sentinel Hotel Has That Answered

What makes a great hotel? Luxury bedding, robes and slippers, great toiletries, a spa-like bathroom and lots of space? I’d argue that it’s all of that. But what makes a great hotel standout in a sea of luxury hotels boils down to one thing: SERVICE.

What makes a hotel great? Service!

The historic Sentinel Hotel in Downtown Portland

At the five-star hotel level guests expect all of the amenities. They only notice them when one is missing. The only way to stand out is with the details and the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon just wowed me this past weekend.

what makes a hotel great?

A bed you want to dive into is part of the equation.

I had a Bridgetown Parlor Suite, a two-room suite located on the top floor of the West Wing that had access to “The Room at the End of the Hall.” This mysterious sounding room was a small room that offered hot and cold non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and light breakfast fare and a space to sit and read the paper while listening to classic jazz. My room featured all the amenities I would expect a luxury hotel to offer including a mini-bar filled with made in Portland food and gift items. I imagine a business man too busy to shop bringing home the local olive oil for his sweetie and laugh.

What makes a hotel great

The Room at The End of The Hall

The Sentinel would have been simply just another great hotel I had stayed in if it had not been for service. It started out when I got sick my first night and my friend went to the hotel bar the following morning to see if she could score me some ginger ale. The bartender immediately asked if it was for someone with a stomach ache and she said yes. He said that if he added bitters to the ale it would help, so he did, handed it to my friend and said “No charge.”

What makes a hotel great

My own craft cocktail!

Several hours later I called the front desk to see if the restaurant might have gluten free toast. They informed me that they didn’t carry gluten free bread, but said they would send someone to Whole Foods to get some. Whaaaat???? Forty-five minutes later a tray arrived at my door with two pieces of toast, jam, a loaf of gluten free bread and a glass of soda water. Mind you, I never said I was sick, merely asked for bread. When the bill came at the end of the stay there was no charge for this! When was the last time you stayed at a hotel that would do a grocery store run for you…and not charge you???

What makes a hotel great

Not exactly the meal I was planning in Foodie Portland!

The final act of service happened when I did the unthinkable…left my Mac power cord in the outlet when I checked out. The hotel was able to locate the charger and then offered to send it to me next day air…you guessed it…no charge!


While the cost of all of these things doesn’t add up to a lot in the big scheme of things, the PR value is huge. I mean, it caused me to write this entire article on the Sentinel, and you can bet that when anyone asks me where to stay in Portland, the Sentinel will roll off my tongue. And in today’s socially networked world, the word-of-mouth value of stories like this do more than an expensive ad buy might.


At the five-star or higher hotel level it is a GIVEN that your hotel room is going to be pretty amazing, the only way hotels can distinguish themselves is through details and giving unexpected great service. The Sentinel knocked it out of the park.

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