(USA TODAY) -- The manhunt for the surviving Boston bomber has kept travelers from entering or leaving the city, forcing hotels to take care of locked down guests and waive penalty fees for those who are canceling their plans.
For the second time this week, most hotels - including Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Choice chains - have waived penalty fees for travelers who can't or have chosen not to make it to the city.
Travel in the region has come to a virtual standstill. Amtrak has stopped service between New York and Boston indefinitely, airlines are letting travelers cancel plans to fly to Boston without any penalties, and mass transit in the city was shut down until Friday evening. With most restaurants and shops closed, even travelers who have a way to travel to Boston are choosing not to.
Members of the Kansas City Royals team, for instance, were riding out the crisis inside an unidentified hotel, according to MLB.com. So were the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had been in town for a National Hockey League game against the Boston Bruins, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Hotels were stepping up security and taking care of stranded guests during the day-long lockdown. They were doing so with fewer employees because so many were unable to make it into work during the day. Managers were pitching in to clean rooms and run the front desk, said Sarah Lee, a spokeswoman for Choice Hotels.
David McCaslin, president of Northwood Hospitality, which runs Revere Hotel Boston Common, said the hotel was also operating with a skeleton crew. Because restaurants nearby were closed, the hotel restaurant and lobby bar had to accommodate a steady flow of guests.
"Some people are doing jobs they don't normally do in order to take care of guests," he said.
The hotel has had more cancellations than normal for the weekend and is waiving penalty fees. Those who remained were allowed to leave the hotel, he says. But there was little to do on the streets. Staff members set up more TV's in the lobby so that guests didn't have to stay in their rooms, he says.
"Most people are staying in the hotel and eating in the hotel or just socializing in the hotel," he said. "They're actually very stoic and talking about it. There is not a crisis or panic."
Drinks and yoga
Kimpton's Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, Mass., wasn't serving free cocktails, but its nightly wine hour went from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., double the usual time, said general manager Michal Penek. Beer, light refreshments and sandwiches were added to the usual menu.
The hotel put board games out in its living room and lobby so guests could pass the time playing Scrabble, Yahtzee and cards. Light refreshments were available all day, "allowing our guests to hang around if they don't want to hang in their rooms," Penek said.
The XV Beacon in Boston is allowing cancellations without penalties and also offering preferred rates to those who have to extend their stays. Parking fees were being waived for guests whose cars are stuck in the garage. Guests were also getting complimentary beverages and phones calls. The property's Lexus house car was being used to chauffeur employees and guests. And a private yoga instructor was on hand to offer yoga and meditation.
Stranded hotel guests seemed more bored than scared at hotels across the city during the lockdown.
Susan Moerder, science dept chair at Francis Parker High School in San Diego, was on lockdown at the Embassy Suites near Logan Airport with her three students during the day. They had arrived Thursday night for an experimental biology convention. About 30 students and their chaperones from four other high schools were also stuck at the hotel.
"We're just kind of bored," she said. "We're just waiting it out. It's just interesting to see teenagers try to figure out how to be creative with their time when they don't have their toys in front of them or their school books."
The hotel let them use a conference room to practice the presentations they hope to still be able to make this weekend. Then they ordered pizza. By the afternoon, they were trying to figure out what to do next. On the agenda: a game of charades.
"It's just kind of the same people sitting around the lobby all day long," Moerder said.
Ana Luisa Muñoz of Chile was stuck at the Longwood Hotel with about 100 other women in Boston for a global women's leadership conference.
They were all there on a scholarship so their sponsors made sure they were getting food and water throughout the day. The hotel gave them a conference room to hang out in with security watching over them because they are foreigners.
"They were not expecting we were going to spend all day in the hotel," she said. "In the morning they have 100 women asking for food, and some people didn't come to work."
Nonetheless, she says, everyone was in good spirits and the hotel was treating them well. "The hotels are doing their best," she said.
Penalty fees waived
Many other Boston-area hotels have waived penalty fees for cancellations. Among them:
Wyndham: The 12 Boston-area hotels that operate under a Wyndham brand have waived fees, said spokeswoman Christine DaSilva.
InterContinental Hotels Group: The company has stepped up security at its 25 Boston-area properties and is waiving the cancellation policy for guests traveling into and out of the area through April 21. "The safety, security and comfort of our guests are top priorities," IHG said in a statement.
Hilton: The parent of chains such as Hampton Inn, Doubletree by Hilton and Hilton has waived fees for travel to its 36 Boston-area hotels.
Marriott: The company's eight hotels under the Marriott, Renaissance and Ritz-Carlton brands have waived fees. It will review the waiver policy "as the situation unfolds in the Boston area," said Marriott spokeswoman Lucy Slosser.
Choice: All Choice properties in Boston are waiving cancellation fees and relaxing policies "this week and in the coming days," said Lee. Some hotels are allowing flexibility for late check-outs so people won't have to pay for an extra night, she said.
Hyatt: The chain is waiving cancellation fees for its hotels in Boston and Waltham.
Fairmont: The hotel company waived fees for its Fairmont Copley Plaza.
"Hotels are focused on security and providing whatever comfort and services guests need to get through this," said Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's hospitality school. "They're extra aware that their guests are going through stress. They're concerned about their safety."