Ken Shane

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I grew up in pre-casino Atlantic City. So when news reached me of a new, non-casino hotel on the city’s famous boardwalk, I was interested to say the least. The fact is, The Chelsea is the first non-casino hotel to be built on the boardwalk in many years. I quickly decided that a visit was in order.

The Chelsea was created by joining together two older hotels. The old Holiday Inn has been re-imagined as The Chelsea’s “Luxe Tower.” The tower features 218 non-smoking guest rooms, and five suites. Most of the rooms have ocean or bay views. The “Annex,” on the site of the old Howard Johnson’s, has 113 rooms, and offers a lower cost alternative. The entire hotel has been renovated in a style that is intended to evoke the Atlantic City of the ’50s and ’60s. The designers made sure that the overall effect is subtle, employing just the right accents to put the visitor in mind of an earlier era.
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Among the amenities are two new restaurants. Teplitzky’s serves comfort food and offers a full bar. The restaurant’s name pays homage to the kosher hotel that originally stood on the Howard Johnson site. It is a classic hotel coffee shop and cocktail lounge. Chelsea Prime is a very stylish steakhouse that returns the diner to the lavish Atlantic City supper clubs of the 1940’s. The upscale restaurant is dramatically lit, and features spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean from its fifth floor location.

The Chelsea’s oasis of calm is the Sea Spa. Various massage styles and body treatments are offered. There is an open-air saltwater pool, and a fitness center that includes the basic equipment necessary for a workout. The fitness center can be accessed 24 hours a day.
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There is no doubt that The Chelsea is directing their appeal to a younger, more active demographic. Toward that end, The Fifth (on the fifth floor of course) has been created. Among the elements included as a part of The Fifth are the C5 nightclub for after dinner drinks or dancing, the Living Room, which as the name suggests is a cocktail lounge offering comfortable seating for socializing, and the Cabana Club – an outdoor pool area that features an island bar, music provided by dj’s, live performances and events, and private cabanas that offer plasma screen televisions and stocked mini-bars.

I visited The Chelsea in May, a couple of weeks before the start of the summer season. Many of the amenities are only open on weekends until the summer begins, so I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of them.
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I did have a clean, spacious room, with lovely ocean views. The service from the hotel staff was first rate. I have a couple of relatively minor quibbles. The promised wireless in-room Internet service never arrived, despite several calls to the hotel’s third party provider. The shower area has a nice look, and the hotel offers the standard shampoo and soap products, but there are no shelves in the shower area, forcing you to place the products on the shower floor, which can get kind of annoying when you have soap in your eyes. The location of the electrical outlets in the room could be better too. The only convenient place to plug in a laptop or mobile phone for recharging was on the floor beside the bed.
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As I said, these issues are relatively minor, though for me, and I’m sure other people, access to e-mail and other Internet services is more and more important. It won’t be hard for the young hotel to put these items in order. The Chelsea offers very reasonable rates, even during the high season. It’s a great alternative to the cacophony of the casino hotels, but if it’s gaming you want, there are numerous options that are a short boardwalk stroll from the hotel.

I’m not much of a fan of the casinos. I am a lifelong fan of Atlantic City however. The world famous beaches remain beautiful, and there is just enough of the city’s grand tradition remaining to keep me coming back. The Chelsea is all at once a return to a better time in the city’s life, and a breath of fresh air. I’m rooting for it to be a success.