Guests here are likely to hear English spoken with an accent - a Boston accent. Owner Albrecht Kurbjuhn spent five years outside Boston, where his father served as a German diplomat. When the East opened, Kurbjuhn and wife Dagmar began to explore their expanded country. In Kühlungsborn, they were "flabbergasted" at how much the Baltic beaches and waters resemble the Mediterranean, especially Cyprus.
Amid the many empty structures, they saw one "crying to be restored" and in 1993 opened their 24-room hotel.
While Polar-Stern's three-story exterior is stark white with blue trim, inside all is light, airy and painted in pastel colors. Antiques and decorative woodwork evoke the early 1900s.
Rooms are small but not cramped and offer basic necessities: shower, phone, satellite TV, desk and comfortable bed. On drizzly days, guests can choose the clubroom to read or play board games.
A wooded "buffer zone" blocks the hotel's beach view, so there's no need to spend extra on a "seaside" room. Do, however, ask for one with a balcony—a private sunning spot with sea breeze.
There are two restaurants: the Steak-Bistro-Blow opens to a sidewalk terrace and the Grillarium, an open-air pavilion, overlooks a small beer garden. While the Bistro offers more high-end fare, the Grillarium, with its crackling fire to stave off the evening chill, specializes in ribs, chicken, pork hocks and other grilled specialities (probably reminiscent of backyard barbecues in Boston).
Guests feel part of the Kurbjuhn's extended family and service staff is especially cordial and attentive.
Daily Rates: Singles €50-65; doubles €65-95. Free parking, difficult access for disabled guests
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value: 16/20
This upscale property, which opened last June, is at the eastern end of the promenade, only steps from the beach.
Though the Jugendstil exterior blends nicely with the area's traditional architecture, some find the five-story, 100-room hotel out-of-scale and too near the beach. But guests whose rooms and balconies have dune, beach, and pier views, are unlikely to agree.
The Ostseehotel is elegant and sprawling. Its expansive, glass-domed lobby has a wall of windows that overlooks the sea. Guestrooms are spacious and, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, feel even larger. Though furnishings and layout are different for each room, all follow a maritime theme.
There are indoor-outdoor pools, a variety of saunas, steam baths, rain forest showers, and relaxation grottoes, and a full range of treatments including massage, Shiatsu, Reiki and baths in mud (choice of Dead Sea or moor) or goat's milk.
Visitors seeking charm and a family atmosphere should try smaller properties like the Hotel Polar-Stern.
Daily Rates: Singles €90-193; doubles €125-218. Handicapped accessible; special rooms for guests with allergies.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value: 14/20
The 117-room Strandhotel Fischland stands alone between dunes and nature preserve. No village, no main road, just a quiet retreat on the Baltic. Park your car and forget it: meals, saunas, massage, beauty treatments, fitness classes, tennis, windsurfing, sailing all are available on the property. One nice touch is a sauna in the dunes; get thoroughly heated and then run 100 feet for a Baltic plunge. With its many activities and a beach that runs unobstructed for miles, the hotel never seems crowded.
Built in 1968 as a "guesthouse" for political leaders, it was renovated in 1995 as a hotel. To stay in the suite favored by East Germany's last president, ask for Number 300. It offers stunning sea views from the sitting room and all three bedrooms. Guests unwilling to part with $400-plus per night (or unwilling to split the cost among two or three compatible couples) can have a well-outfitted double with sea view and balcony for a third the price. Guestrooms are spacious and feel even larger due to full-wall picture windows. About half are in adjacent townhouse apartments.
In addition to the main restaurant (including a terrace with retractable roof), guests can dine beachside. Five tables with starched linens sit atop a wooden platform behind Plexiglas walls that offer protection from the almost constant wind. This is no snack bar; it's gourmet dining with postcard views. There's also a tropically-themed (think Gilligan) grill area, where roasted whole pig is a speciality.
Daily Rates: Doubles €100-205; suites €245-470 townhouses €170-310. Breakfast an extra €13 for townhouse guests. Free parking. Rates about 20 % lower through the end of June and after mid-September.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value: 13/20
This Warnemünde hotel presents captivating views of the beach, the breakwater and the old lighthouse and is adjacent to both the promenade and the old town.
The Hübner's 95 guestrooms are spacious, modern and cheery, many with balconies. For the best sea views, choose an outside room facing west or north. For example, Number 311, a standard double, offers Baltic views that follow the beach to both horizons. Number 407, a junior suite, is a step up in comfort and size - including a balcony that rivals the dimensions of many hotel rooms.
The hotel's rooftop wellness area sits in a glass grotto under an expansive glass cupola. A deck surrounds the area, its panoramic views and lounge chairs giving the sense of being on an ocean liner. Even the sauna provides a view to the sea.
Daily Rates: Doubles €160-205, suites from €320. Handicapped accessible.
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value: 14/20
A small, budget hotel whose relatively low prices attract a mix of business travelers and "older" backpackers requiring secure, clean surroundings. The rooms are generally "cozy" but offer modern comforts such as color TV, minibar, direct-dial phone, Internet connection, writing desk and shower instead of tub.
The Verdi is next to the Petrikirche, convenient to harbor and city center but winding stairs make access difficult, especially with heavy luggage. Ask for a room off the street.
Contact: Hotel Verdi Wollenweberstrasse 28, D-18005 Rostock, telephone +49/0381/252 24 0, fax 252 24 29
Daily Rates: Singles from €52, doubles from €74. No credit cards.
Rating: Quality 10/20, Value: 14/20
On Rostock's Neuer Markt, Hotel Sonne is smack in the middle of the action and has been for more than 200 years. As early as 1824, newspapers raved about "this impressive inn" with its "elegance," "durability" and "spacious cowshed." The cowsheds are gone but the Sonne remains as impressive and elegant as ever.
The 124 rooms, which range in size from large to huge, offer specially-designed, modern furnishings and the most modern of conveniences, from high-speed Internet access to cordless phones. Some are nonsmoking and several are equipped for guests with disabilities. The wellness area features sauna, solarium and steam bath, as well as massage and beauty treatments.
The Reuter's Restaurant is recognized as one of the best in the region, with typical Mecklenburg cuisine and a 28-year-old wunderkind chef. The hotel's Havana Bar is for cigar aficionados and the Alte Apotheke is a quaint wine bar and pub.
Daily Rates: Singles about €100-140, doubles about €115-161
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value: 15/20
The Neptun has few challengers as one of the most luxurious, cosmopolitan hotels in Germany. Built in 1971 as a communist showpiece, it was once a reward and refuge for politicians, military leaders and other bigwigs. (How many hotels feature photos of Fidel Castro as a prominent guest?) Today, after a nearly $3 million renovation, the Neptun carries on its tradition of luxury - open to anyone with cash, rather than connections.
The hotel was built at an angle to the shore, so that each room has a sea view. Some corner "panorama" rooms offer nearly 180-degree views, and some luxury suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can choose from a variety of motifs, such as "gull rooms" with a slightly masculine feel, or "rose rooms" that appeal mostly to women.
A pair of restaurants—Kranich Fish and Seafood Restaurant and Restaurant Koralle—are exquisite in both cuisine and service. The 19th floor Café Panorama is Germany's highest café and its Sky-Bar the loftiest bar. On summer nights, the hotel roof is opened for starlit dancing.
Extensive spa and fitness facilities offer a wide array of services.
Daily Rates: Singles €100-132, doubles €136-268, panorama doubles from about €246, suites from €276. Many packages are available that reduce daily rates
Rating:Quality 18/20, Value: 17/20