Spring break for my ninth-grade daughter Diz was scheduled for the middle of April. Since we had such a fantabulous off-season getaway at the Maryland beach resort town of Ocean City in November ‘16, a return trip during the week long spring vacation off was a no-brainer - so in February, I researched our options. We wanted to do our own cooking, so having a kitchen in our room was top priority. We also wanted to find a hotel that had an authentic O.C. feel, and preferably some history as well.
Courtyard by Marriott Ocean City Oceanfront, Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Ocean City, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel - Ocean City Oceanfront, and Hampton Inn & Suites Ocean City/Bayfront-Convention Center - all of which are on or near the boardwalk - were all solid choices. But upon further examination, each had deal-breaking limitations:
Courtyard by Marriott Ocean City Oceanfront, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel - Ocean City Oceanfront, and Hampton Inn & Suites Ocean City/Bayfront-Convention Center don’t have kitchens in their rooms.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Ocean City has kitchens, but only in their pricier rooms.
While very nice, the rooms and facilities of these chain hotels are indistinguishable from one another.
There’s little about the hotels’ decor, design, or "feel" that has any connection with Ocean City or Maryland’s iconic Eastern Shore.
After passing on the branded hotels, we took a look at O.C.’s popular independent properties, and that’s when we discovered the Commander Hotel & Suites.
Appealing details about the Commander included:
The family-owned hotel has been part of the Ocean City landscape since 1930.
It recently completed a $5-million renovation.
It’s ranked number seven out of 103 hotels in Ocean City by TripAdvisor.
It’s situated right where the lively part of the O.C. boardwalk begins.
It’s a five-minute walk from a CVS and a two minute drive from Ocean Gateway, which is a key O.C. route that leads to Tanger Outlets, Food Lion supermarket, and other retail locations that are useful to vacationers.
Ratings-wise, the numbers were boomin’ and the reviews were exceptional:
The Commander seemed to have everything that we were looking for, so once the school day was over on the Thursday before Diz’s break (which marked the official beginning of the vacay week), we (me, Diz, and my wife Sue) finished packing - and on Friday morning, we aimed our Rav4 for the big O.C.
The Commander’s renovations include enhanced landscaping, pool improvements, and a gorgeous new side porch - which is perfect for reading, hanging, or catching a cool breeze.
A local painter has created a beautiful and very creative mural on the hotel’s outside wall. In the Commander’s lobby and main building, additional local artwork celebrates Ocean City’s vibrant history and energy.
Complimentary coffee, tea, and lemon water throughout the day - as well as really comfy chairs in a bright, sunny corner - make the lobby a great place to relax and recharge.
The design and layout of our rooms in the Commander's Cabana building was warm and open. The beds had lots of comfy pillows and an incredible mattress (Simmons Beautyrest Meg Luxury Firm) that gave all of us deep, comfortable, and highly satisfying sleeps.
The modern kitchen had a full-size refrigerator, lots of counter space, and all the accessories we needed (utensils, cookware, dishes) to prepare and enjoy our meals.
The bathroom was bright and well-ventilated, with a powerful showerhead and dispensers of Olive Branch Natural Body Care products that were AWESOME.
Additional noteworthy aspects of the unique Commander experience include...
Indoor and outdoor pools to keep families busy and active
A pair of heritage O.C. eateries on premises: the Fractured Prune (featuring fresh doughnuts with indulgent flavor combinations) and Grotto Pizza (a popular local chain)
Complimentary on-site parking
Complimentary summer activities for kids, such as visits by clowns, pirates, and jugglers as well as outdoor family movie nights (see what’s happening and when on the Commander’s events calendar)
Complimentary beach yoga classes
A free app with discounts and coupons for popular O.C. restaurants, water sports rental companies, bars, clothing stores, and more.
Based on our fantastic weeklong experience at The Commander, I highly recommend making it your base of operations during your trip to Ocean City - whether you're solo, a couple, a family, or group in pre-season, on season, or post-season. Here’s why:
The Commander offers clean, attractive, and well-maintained rooms.
The hotel’s lobby, main building, and grounds are bright and spotless.
The customer service of the front desk and housekeeping staff is friendly, attentive, and professional.
The Commander delivers excellent value, and perfectly captures the lively, welcoming, and unpretentious feel of Ocean City and the Eastern Shore.