ACK and You Shall Receive
This booking service will make your Nantucket stay just right.
It’s the Tuesday of the last week in July, and you need two rooms on Nantucket for this coming weekend, during the height of the season. You can try to go through one of the online booking agencies, but it’s complicated, because one of the rooms is for your teenage son and his female cousin, so there needs to be some accommodation for privacy, and also, is there a pool on the premises? And do they offer gluten-free breakfasts? And exactly how long is the walk to town because you’re just getting over a sprained ankle?
It really would be better if you could speak to someone by phone.
But who you gonna call?
You’re planning a getaway of seven days or longer and have a budget that stretches anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 a week. You want luxury accommodations in absolute privacy and a lead on a concierge service that can score you an in-house chef, a sunset cruise guided by an experienced captain, an in-home mani and pedi, and various other amenities.
Or you want to set up lodging for your wedding guests or your family reunion. Or someone of note (we can’t say who, but it would blow you away) needs a personal protection service in addition to utmost privacy.
Who you gonna call?
Bruce is Bruce Harrison of Nantucket Accommodations. The company caters to the hoi polloi (like me, the one with the kid and his cousin, who always waits till the last minute), but also meets the needs of a more rarified crowd. The business has had a number of owners over the years, but Bruce has largely been its voice since the mid 1990s. Originally hailing from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he came to Nantucket in 1981 to work for a summer at the White Elephant — hospitality is in his blood — and then forgot to leave.
Manning the phones from an office across the road from the island’s airport, Harrison enjoys the challenges of helping people find what they need, whether they’re procrastinators who don’t plan ahead or those who book in advance. And you can drive him as crazy as you want with particulars. He doesn’t seem to mind — nothing ruffles him — and those who call him know this because he never makes you feel rushed.
Perhaps that’s why he’s able to say, “We have so many returning customers season after season. We have fun with them and have become almost friends with them over the years.” He calls what he does booking.com with a human connection. It’s an idea whose time came — and went — and now, thankfully, has come back. Talking to a real live person brings unparalleled benefits.
What’s particularly great about the service (besides the fact that the hotel or B&B where you end up staying absorbs the cost of the booking fee) is that because Harrison lives on the island, he is familiar with every single space he rents. He is not telling you about it from what he has gleaned by glancing at a brochure. For instance, when he let me know that our room would be facing the pool, I was anxious because I didn’t want to have to hear any pool noise at odd hours. But he assured me that the building was set far back enough from the pool that I wouldn’t, and that I would appreciate the landscaping, as opposed to the nondescript parking lot that I’d see if he put us on the opposite-facing side.
He was right. We were set way back, and the landscaped premises were lovely to look at as we had our coffee on the balcony each morning. The kids enjoyed being able to walk to the center of town in 12 minutes to do what kids do — see and be seen.
Some of the way Harrison works his magic is by managing people’s expectations. In many cases, that includes preparing them for a B&B experience when they might be used to hotels. Nantucket Accommodations can make reservations at virtually any of the island’s boutique hotels or full-service resorts if rooms are still available in those kinds of lodgings. But if they’re not and people want to come to the island nonetheless, he prepares them for the fact that staying in a B&B is going to be more intimate, less arm’s length. Nantucket Accommodations has a relationship with 95 percent of the B&Bs on the island.
But it’s not just about B&Bs and hotels. Nantucket Accommodations has a number of exclusive relationships for private home rentals and co-brokes for others with all the island’s real estate agencies. That part of the business isn’t about catering to people who just want to stay a few nights but, rather, about serving those with more serious budgets who want to rent a place for a week or more, including high-profile people who need to keep a decidedly low profile while on island and might have very different requirements, not just for the accommodations themselves but for discretion.
Bruce can take your wish list as far as your check book will allow. For instance, for $35,000 a week in high season, you can rent an ultra-private retreat plus guest house on four acres atop the moors with what Bruce calls “rather commanding views out to the ocean.” There’s even a 360-degree widow’s walk for amazing sunrises, sunsets, and meteor showers. The six-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bathroom house (with a media room, heated saltwater pool, and in-ground hot tub) sleeps 12, while the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath guesthouse on the property (with its own private driveway) sleeps seven. (It cannot be rented separately to another party; your privacy remains intact.)
If a mere $19,000 weekly is what your budget will permit, you’ll be good to go in a century old, completely updated beauty that has beamed ceilings and sleeps 10, with panoramic ocean views of its own and rose – and hydrangea – strewn gardens to steal away to when you want to ditch the other nine.
Prices come down into the teens and even lower — for instance, to $8,200 a week for a two-bedroom townhouse on Nantucket Harbor done up in soothing whites with spectacular views out to the water, especially from the dining deck. There’s even a ranch that sleeps six on the island’s west end for $2,600 weekly. It’s just a seven-minute walk from there to Madaket’s rollicking surf, and you can rinse off in the outdoor shower when you get back.
No matter which home you rent, if you’re looking for concierge service, Bruce will connect you to the company’s liaison for Key Concierge, a five-star service that can do anything from the mundane (buy and deliver the groceries, pick up prescriptions, have bicycles brought to your doorstep) to the sublime (engage an in-house chef to cook for you and waitstaff to serve the meals, turn you into Thurston Howell III on a 95-foot private yacht, or order up an in-home massage). The firm places a concierge right on the island for each season so that whenever you arrive, your stay can pretty much be as indulgent as you wish. Guests at Nantucket Accommodations are able to log right into the company’s own branded microsite on the larger Key site.
Before choosing a home to retreat to, check out the virtual tours of the very high-end residences on the Nantucket Accommodations website, nantucketaccommodations.com. A couple of the virtual tours aren’t plain old videos but interactive installations that allow you to go forward, backward, or up or down a staircase to zero in on a feature that looks particularly interesting to you. You can even see the entire home as if it were a dollhouse with the outside walls cut away yet with all the furniture in place to give you a really good sense of what the place feels like when you’re in it. Think of it as a super easy-to-use video game that offers an augmented sense of what you’re signing on for.
The virtual reality feature appears on the site because Nantucket Accommodations owner Kenan Giguere, also an island resident, owns Giguere Interactive. It’s a company that specializes in immersive media, using Matterport Service Provider (think 3D technology) to make you feel as if you are there. (Giguere is currently in discussions with island museums so that people will be able to “visit” them and explore exhibits from home.)
A few other things to know before you book. First, Bruce can engage in some pretty hire-wire reservation acrobatics, including finding temporary housing for construction crews and other teams of workers, booking lodgings for private flight crews (Nantucket has the second busiest of Massachusetts’s eight airports), and even making arrangements for wedding or reunion guests. “A lot of people put us in their save-the-date info as a source of lodging reservations,” he says. If you call him directly with enough advance notice, he may be able to book blocks of rooms in certain establishments, depending on the season and the availability. He has pulled some pretty remarkable rabbits out of his hat.
Second, if you absolutely must take your laptop with you to get work done in between massages, you can rent office space through another of Giguere’s companies, My Office, at nantucketcoworking.com. Eight workspaces are available, each with a private, lockable desk. There are also printers, a microwave, fridge, and 24-hour access with electronic locks. “We get a lot of stockbrokers in there,” Giguere says. “They’ll bring in several monitors.” (Somebody has to earn the money that pays the concierge service to hire a cook who steams the lobster tails and takes them out of the shell for you, right?)
Finally, if you book a stay through Nantucket Accommodations, Bruce can get you a $15 discount on a round-trip ticket for the high-speed ferry out of Hyannis, operated by the Steamship Authority. The savings are enough for a couple of ice cream cones at the ever popular Juice Bar right in town on Broad Street.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you in line there. I’m pretty sure the concierge service can’t guarantee getting the ice cream back to your rental property before it melts.
To reach Bruce Harrison at Nantucket Accommodations, call (508) 228-9559. Visit nantucketaccomodations.com for more information.