Are you one of the growing number of travelers who has heard from a friend about the pleasant time they had while staying in a B&B on their last vacation or business trip. Perhaps you have read about B&B experiences - good and bad- reported in the general and business press and you're now seriously considering staying in a Bar Harbor B&B - but you're uncertain just what to expect. We hope that this page of Frequently Asked Questions will help you decide if the B&B style of lodging is the right choice for you and what to expect during your stay.
--The members of the Bar Harbor Bed and Breakfast Association
The single most important thing to know about a B&B stay is that it is part of your vacation or travel experience. A B&B is not just a "hotel with pretty rooms"; it is a different style of lodging In a resort area such as Bar Harbor you will find that the decor, policies, procedures and innkeeper style are oriented towards vacationing travelers, most making reservations well in advance, since these make up the great majority of our guests. In fact, most Bar Harbor B&Bs are only open seasonally (even fewer Bar Harbor hotels/motels are open in the winter). We are all happy to accommodate business travelers although short stays and short advance notice limit our ability to do so during the busiest time of the year.
Industry surveys and our experiences as innkeepers have indicated that the following questions are on the mind of many people who have not yet tried staying in a B&B. While we try to provide a general response to each of these questions you should be aware that Bar Harbor B&Bs differ widely in each of these areas. You can expect to get information about these characteristics from a B&Bs web site. If some of these considerations are of great importance to you and you do not get enough information from the inn's web site we recommend that you discuss the issue with the innkeeper before making your reservation. An important first step in a B&B stay is for the innkeepers and guests to have shared expectations about the B&B experience.
B&Bs come in many sizes, shapes, and styles. This great variety is one of the attractions of B&Bs: they are an enjoyable alternative to the 'one size fits all' hotel/motel. On the other hand it takes some effort on the traveler's part to choose the particular B&B for their stay. The Bar Harbor Bed & Breakfast Association defines a B&B as "a highly individual lodging establishment with the character of a private residence which serves breakfast on site and offers travelers accommodations and personal hospitality." The style of a particular B&B arises of course from its size, architectural style, and decor - but even more importantly from the style of the personal hospitality provided.
A word about the word "Inn". At least in Bar Harbor, there is no specific meaning attached to the word "Inn". The very largest hotels as well as some of the smallest B&B's use the word "Inn" as part of their names. B&B owners may opt for the word "Inn" simply because it sounds better in the name.
If you would like to learn more about the variety of lodging that is provided under the name "B&B" we suggest looking at the definitions and distinctions among B&Bs as set forth by the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), the professional society of B&B owners. The PAII terminology is not used consistently by innkeepers but we believe you will find the distinctions used by PAII to be helpful in choosing your B&B since the distinctions are ones that have been found to make a difference to travelers. Nearly all Bar Harbor B&Bs fall into PAII's "Bed and Breakfast Inn" category.
You can expect complete privacy in your room. If you are seeking to minimize interaction with other guests you can do so by choosing a large room, perhaps a suite which allows you to comfortably retire to your own private space. Selecting a B&B with a more restaurant style breakfast seating arrangement can minimize interaction at breakfast. If the inn is described and pictured to have little public space (parlors, porches with many chairs, etc.) the extent of interaction among guests is reduced. Finally, larger inns tend to have more of a "small hotel" atmosphere; very small inns tend more to the "private home" atmosphere. There is something for every taste.
Keep in mind, however, that the social element - interaction between and among guests and innkeepers - is the principal distinction between the hotel/motel lodging style and the B&B lodging style.
Probably not. Shared bathrooms were the norm when B&Bs were first introduced to the U.S.; private bathrooms were found only in the most expensive B&Bs. Things have changed. In the U.S. today fewer than 5% of B&B guest rooms lack a private bathroom. The fraction in Bar Harbor is much less than that 5%. The demand from the traveling public for private baths has led B&Bs to create private bathrooms by doing whatever is necessary to squeeze them in. In smaller buildings in particular this can lead to some very small bathrooms - except for the guest rooms that make use of the house's original bathrooms. Just as each guest room in a B&B is different from every other guest room in that B&B, the same is true of the bathrooms. The largest bedroom may have the smallest bathroom and vice versa. If bathroom size is important to you be sure to discuss your preferences with the innkeeper. The retrofitting of bathrooms frequently means that there is not sufficient room for a bathtub. If you want or need a tub rather than a shower only be sure to talk with the innkeeper.
Although shared bathrooms are rare in Bar Harbor B&Bs, not all bathrooms are en suite, that is connected directly to the bedroom. Bathrooms "down the hall" - but still private - are not uncommon. Most guests prefer an en suite bathroom, so choosing a bedroom with a detached bathroom is a good way to save some money on lodging. Guests in rooms with detached bathrooms are usually provided with robes for use during their stay. Again, talk about this with the innkeepers before making a final choice of rooms.
No, you will not be required to talk with strangers at breakfast. However, these interactions with your fellow guests will probably turn out to be one of the most useful - and enjoyable - features of your stay in a B&B. This opportunity to interact with fellow guests is by far the most frequently cited reason that people give for their preference for B&Bs rather than hotel/motels. These conversations are the source of good, current restaurant and activity recommendations - suggestions made by travelers just like you. This information proves to be so useful to guests that most innkeepers expend some effort to provide an environment conducive to such guest interaction.
If you're not a "morning person" you should investigate the breakfast arrangements of the various B&Bs you're considering. You will find that most B&Bs provide information about their breakfast on their web site. Breakfast is, after all, the second "B" in "B&B". If the innkeepers talk about the "wonderful full breakfast served at our dining room table" they're saying that they provide a leisurely breakfast and that everyone sits together at a single table. In such a setting you may find it somewhat awkward not to engage in conversation with your fellow guests - especially if they turn out to be B&B regulars who value such breakfast table conversation highly. A B&B that describes its dining area in words or photos as tables for two would be a better choice for people not at their best before their third cup of coffee. On the other hand most B&B dining areas are small enough that guests can easily talk between tables if they wish to do so.
Again, the final piece of advice is to discuss your preferences with the innkeeper. The single most important goal for an innkeeper is to make his or her guests comfortable during their stay.
As mentioned above, there is great variety among Bar Harbor B&Bs and this applies to the technology connections provided. Some inns aim to provide a restful, "unplugged" escape from the everyday world of work. These inns may have only one telephone for the shared use of their guests, no television anywhere in the inn and one internet connection. At the other extreme some B&Bs provide a telephone, TV, VCR and computer connection in each guest room. Probably the most common TV situation in Bar Harbor B&Bs is to have a TV in a public room of the inn.
In-room telephones are unusual in Bar Harbor B&Bs. Most inns provide a telephone in a public area; local calls can be made at no charge and long-distance service is provided via calling card or credit card.. If you are bringing a cellphone you should be aware that not all cellphone companies provide service in the Mt. Desert Island area. Check with your cellphone service provider before your arrival in Bar Harbor if cellphone service is critical to you.
Although Bar Harbor is a major resort it is also a small town in rural Maine. High speed internet connections are just now becoming available in Bar Harbor. Few B&Bs have high speed connections, even for their business computer. Be aware that none of the nationwide internet service providers (such as AOL) have local access telephone numbers in Bar Harbor. Connecting via these services requires a toll call and in-state toll calls can become expensive. Check with the innkeepers about their policy for charging such toll calls. Toll-free connection numbers will, of course, work just fine.
There are two other options in Bar Harbor for internet connection. The Bar Harbor Library provides public access (closed Sunday and Monday). During the spring, summer and fall there is a cyber café in Bar Harbor providing high speed access - and food!
If TV/telephone/internet connections are important to you we recommend that you discuss your needs with the innkeepers before making your reservation.
There is no accounting for taste. All members of the Bar Harbor B&B Association have the character of a private residence, some modest others quite grand. The decor reflects the innkeepers' personal taste rather than the standards of a nationwide hotel/motel chain. Each B&B is different and this adds to their appeal. It also adds yet another variable to be considered in your choice of a particular B&B. The traveler's task here has been greatly simplified by the advent of the web. You should now expect to see actual photos of the inside of a B&B. This provides good clues as to the particular decor. Are there too many "little things" all over the rooms?, or are the rooms "too sterile?. The fact that you will see such variety simply means that there is interest in the traveling public for a wide variety of styles.
Bar Harbor became a major resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s, during the Victorian and the Edwardian periods. Most of Bar Harbor's B&Bs were built as private residences during that period. There is a certain romance associated with this era; staying in a house of that period is an added attraction of Bar Harbor B&Bs.
If you would like to know a bit more about New England domestic architectural styles we suggest visiting the style guide. The most commonly found styles in Bar Harbor - and in Bar Harbor B&Bs - are Stick, Shingle, and Queen Anne.