Hotel Viking: Newport’s Place For S’mores, Superstars & Service
It never fails. Every time I begin feeling the urge to arrange my summer travel plans, my thoughts immediately return to Newport, Rhode Island. The beauty and tranquility of Newport combined with the exceptional scenery - boasting sailboats, sand, and some of the most astounding homes from a bygone era that you will ever see - calls to me, as it does so many others, making it one of the hottest vacation destinations in New England. Visitors come from all over the world and include the well-known faces of the rich and famous.
What I discovered this past winter, however, is that Newport isn’t just for summertime sightseeing but year-round enjoyment, especially when one has the enormous privilege of laying her suitcase down at Hotel Viking. Being a guest of Hotel Viking is an experience words that can not fully be put into words, although, obviously, I have to try. Not only does this place operate with a completely honed team of incredibly friendly folk, they offer sumptuous meals, a rooftop bar, and S’mores, which you can create and cook over an open fire off the main restaurant. Everything from their elegantly decorated lobby, to their pool and exercise facilities, to their lovely gift shop, to the gin on their shelves is top draw. And so is the consideration they hold for your experience with them. One minor glitch during one of my stays at Hotel Viking, and they comped me half my bill. If that doesn’t speak “customer service”, nothing will. And “No”, you can’t blame their generous response on this review as they had no idea who I was at the time nor the extent of my following. It was this final straw that qualified this establishment to me as “worth my time” and “worthy” of a feature.
At the center of all the enormous class and courtesy is Robert Burnetti, General Manager of Hotel Viking since June 2015. In his interview below, he shares with you what makes this hotel so special and even clears up the rumors about the ghosts. Yes...I did say ghosts! Enjoy getting to know him and this majestic hotel.
Share your personal mantra and how that impacts your management of Hotel Viking (as your hotel does not miss a beat).
Truly care about how you make people feel. Whether it is a guest or co-worker. At the end of your encounter, make people feel good.
How large is your team? And how do you motivate them to be so incredibly helpful and genuinely nice.
We have about 140 team members. We work hard to create a great place to work. If people enjoy coming to work I know they will perform up to the high expectations our guests have. We are committed to enriching the history of great service we are known for.
What do you pride yourself most on with regards to Hotel Viking?
I am proud to be part of this team. There is a lot of history here and several of our team members have been here for a long time. I am proud to be writing the next chapter in the history of this great hotel.
How many guests do you serve per year? How many events do you hold per year?
That is a tough one. We are humbled by the amount of people we welcome to the Hotel Viking. We really don't count. We consider every guest experience an event. What I can tell you is that 2016 was the busiest year we have ever had.
Name some famous faces who have stayed at Hotel Viking.
Hotel Viking, of course, respects the privacy of all its guests. Several famous faces who have made it public that they stayed at Hotel Viking include President and Mrs. Kennedy, Bob Dylan, Will Rogers, Ella Fitzgerald, Joan Baez, Mimi Farina (sister or Joan Baez), Johnny Cash and June Carter, and many more including people currently in the public eye, but again - our first priority is their privacy.
They say that Hotel Viking is haunted. Explain.
The stories of the hauntings at the hotel are just for fun. Some folks say they hear a party going on - but my guess is that is because there may be a real celebration happening at the time.
Who thought up the weekend S’mores feature at the hotel?
The outdoor fire-pits and fireplaces were added in 2016 as part of the hotel’s renovation. We offered S’mores once or twice and when we saw how the faces of adults and kids lit up, we knew we wanted to make it a winter tradition.
Finish this statement, "You should stay at Hotel Viking if _________________.”
..if you love charming neighborhoods, historic hotels and exploring spectacular coastal scenery and amazing architecture."
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
For me personally, I am fortunate to be the parent of a son with autism, so that is special to me. It is like discovering a whole new world with the coolest tour guide ever. I try to do what I can to support the RI Autism Project. I also have two rescued dogs. I agonize over the helpless animals who need a fur-ever home. Professionally, I spend time at the Boys & Girls Club of Newport mostly working with kids on educational initiatives. The Hotel Viking was named Business of Partner of the Year by Child and Family Services of Newport County. We are especially proud of that. They have been around for 150 years helping local families. We were built by the families of Newport 90 years ago so we feel a special bond with them.
When all is said and done, how do you want The Viking to be remembered by your guests?
Hotel Viking has always been Newport’s hotel. Money was raised by locals to build the hotel and over the past 90 years, the hotel has hosted weddings, meetings, celebrations, birthdays, fundraisers, and so many milestones for our guests and the community. Just about anyone you speak to who grew up in Newport knows someone who got married here, worked at the hotel, or has some connection with Hotel Viking. We love that and want to be remembered for all the great connections we have made in the community.
Suffice-it-to-say, if you didn’t book your reservations midway through reading this article, I’d do so today. The rooms fill up quickly and every weekend holds a new opportunity to relax, refresh, and recharge at the only hotel that has conquered Newport as it should be, in my opinion. To stay anywhere else would be a step down.
Many thanks to Robert Burnetti and Watkins PR for making this interview possible