I had written a really thorough review of my stay at the Intercontinental Miramar. I lost it. So here is a less thorough one reconstructed by memory.
There is no shortage of hotel options in Panama City. All of the major international chains have at least one hotel downtown, and there are many others in the nearby beach areas. There are also two very large non-chain luxury properties, the Trump Ocean Club and the Hard Rock (a pseudo-chain?). As a result of all of these options, in the 6 weeks between when I booked my airplane tickets and when I traveled, I had no less than five different reservations. Whoops!
The first reservation I made was for my last two nights – a reservation I actually made and kept, for the Radisson Decapolis in Panama City. I booked using points, and as a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa cardholder, I paid the super cheap rate of 28,000 points for two nights. I could have paid for a third night, but given the options, that would be no fun.
First, I made a reservation at the Waldorf Astoria – which is brand new and was going for about $110 a night – probably the cheapest I’d ever seen a Waldorf Astoria. It looked great, had good reviews, and seemed luxurious. . .
But $110 isn’t as good as free. I also had a certificate for a free night at a Marriott, category 1 through 5. Marriott has a bunch of properties in Panama City at that level, but the nicest appears to be the Marriott Panama. So I booked that.
But free isn’t free. My low status with Marriott means I’d be paying for internet or anything else, plus I could use the Marriott certificate somewhere else. And then the IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks list came out. For those not familiar, IHG regularly releases a list of hotels that are available to be redeemed for the bargain rate of only 5,000 points a night – which costs about $35. I had never found a hotel in an area I was interested in on the PointBreaks list before, but sure enough, the Crowne Plaza Panama was available. It seemed pretty comparable to the Marriott, and I’d get free wifi as a IHG Platinum Elite member. I have plenty of IHG points, and sure enough, the Crowne Plaza Panama was available on PointBreaks. Not a luxury property, but good enough for one night.
5000 points isn’t really free either. And a few weeks before I left, I found a low rate for the Intercontinental Miramar Panama – lower than on Intercontinental’s own website – which meant it qualified for IHG’s generous Best Rate Guarantee program: a free night if you find a lower rate for an identical room. I had wanted to stay at the Intercontinental, but the rates hadn’t been worth it. So this worked out great. It also ended up providing a great contrast to the Radisson, in that was a real 4-star property, albeit one showing some wear.
The Intercontinental is located right on the water, on an odd plot of land situated between the two directions of traffic on Avenida Balboa, between a parking lot and a huge condo complex. It’s a few blocks from the restaurants and nightlife of Calle Uruguay, and very close to the Le Meridien and Waldorf-Astoria. The lobby looked very similar to the Westin Zagreb and other older Intercontinentals I’ve stayed in, with a marble floor and very Old World feel. I checked in without issue, and was given an explanation of my Platinum Ambassador benefits, including an upgrade, free wi-fi, and lounge access.
My room was beautiful, and had been very recently renovated, with a more modern décor. There was a small sofa and sitting area, in addition to a large desk and workspace. The highlight, though, was the great view of Panama Bay.
Waiting for me in the room was the standard fruit and bottled water amenity for Ambassadors, along with my welcome amenity – which is the one complaint I have about the hotel. At first glance, it looked like a cute souvenir keychain. But on inspection, you see it not only says Panama, but “Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece. Filipenses 4:13” Yes, a bible quote, which translates to “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” (I did not know there was a book of the bible called the Philippians.) I thought this was an inappropriate welcome amenity. Put aside that I’m not Christian, even if I were, I still wouldn’t want a religious souvenir. I understand other countries may have different mores about religion, but I’ve never received a religious gift at a hotel before. I could maybe understand if it was as a small local hotel, but I expect differently from the Intercontinental.
Anyways, the room was very comfortable. In the evening, I headed to the gym, which was very confusing. I followed the signs for the gym, which led to a hallway, with a room of cardio machines through a door on the left and a confusing set of buzzers. I buzzed one and nothing happened, but someone else came by and pressed the other one, and we were let in. There was a spin class going on, and I got the feeling it was a gym being used by rich people in Panama City.
I headed to the Club for the evening happy hour spread, and it was desolate. It seemed it had formerly been used as a much larger space, and included a large bar that was no longer in use. It was dated and really could use a renovation. There were three guests, and three staff members. As soon as I entered, the waiter offered to get me a drink, and he was attentive the whole time. The food spread was decent, with some cheese, finger sandwiches, croquettes, and a weird potato and hot dog kebab. In the morning, the staff/guest ratio was about the same, though it was hard for me to get a second cup of coffee. The spread was mostly continental, but also had some eggs and potatoes.
Overall, the highlight of the property was the room. If I were back in Panama City, I would definitely consider the Intercontinental Miramar again.
Stay tuned for my review of the Radisson. Short version – I wouldn’t stay there again unless I really needed to burn some points.