This is the second of a short series about my December 2017 trip to Mexico City. You can read the first post here.
As mentioned in my first post about my Mexico City trip, this trip was built around the need to spend a night at an IHG property. There are many in Mexico City, and probably should have gone with my inclination of using my annual Ambassador Weekend BOGO certificate at the Intercontinental in Polanco. Instead, I’ll be using that at a much cheaper property in Medellin next month and decided to save money by spending one night at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Zona Rosa, and then one night at the nearby Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel. Both hotels were fine, but neither was great. One of the benefits of these hotels, as opposed to staying in Polanco, was the proximity to gay nightlife. But since I was under the weather, I didn’t make it out either night.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Mexico Zona Rosa
Because I was scheduled to arrive in Mexico City at 5:15am, I had reached out to the hotel a few days in advance about the possibility of early check-in. They offered me free check-in at 10:00am, or I could pay half of the nightly rate for earlier. Since I was already feeling sick, and knew there wouldn’t be much to do between 6ish and 10am, I opted to spend the approximately $45, which was a huge mistake. As covered in my last post, my flight got diverted and delayed, so I didn’t arrive until 11am. When I had arrived, the hotel had already set it up as a two-night reservation, so I had to pay either way. Even worse, it will screw up my plan for the Priceless Experiences promo and will cost me $50 – you get a $50 reward card if you have your qualifying two-night stay at a Holiday Inn, but $100 at an Intercontinental, and whichever is first governs.
The hotel is in a quiet, residential area of Zona Rosa, right by the Wax Museum, and I found it fairly charming. It’s a pretty small, unassuming building from the street. You walk in and immediately have to climb a long set of stairs leading to a set of doors and a small check-in desk. There is no lobby to speak of other than the restaurant/bar, which I’ll get to later. Not an impressive arrival experience and in need of a renovation.
Check-in was a little aloof. I mentioned that I missed the first “night” of my reservation due to the airport being closed and got no reaction. I was offered a choice of a salty snack, water, sweet snack, or a drink voucher as a welcome amenity (usually points is an option), and went with a water bottle- not realizing there would be water bottles in the room as well.
The hotel had six floors and I was on the fourth. The room was kind of a suite, I guess, but a really bad layout. You walked in and were in a small room with a desk and desk chair and a wet bar, and a randomly placed end table.
Then to get to the bedroom you walked through a bathroom-ish space with a sink and mirror on one side, and a door leading to a tiny tiny room with a toilet and shower – so tiny, I couldn’t sit on the toilet with the door closed. Then there was the bedroom, which was spacious enough, recently renovated, and pretty standard. From the website, it seemed clear this wasn’t an upgrade.
This probably was one of the worse rooms in the hotel because it faced the street, whereas many rooms were in the back. When I tried to nap, I was woken by noise from the street and from the function the hotel was hosting in its event space on the ground floor. At night, the same thing happened at around 1am. So that was unfortunate.
There is a small gym on the top floor, next to what seemed like more event/conference rooms, and a balcony that must be seasonal. It didn’t have much, but was about what I expected.
So, I had originally thought I’d have dinner at the hotel restaurant since I needed to spend some money there, but the space was so dull, cold, and uninviting that I couldn’t imagine passing up on Mexico City’s delicious food to eat there. I thought I’d get a drink at the bar before heading to dinner – but there aren’t actually any seats at the bar, and the restaurant had a total of zero guests, so that would have been weird. I ended up having breakfast there in the morning which was not expensive – about $5 for an omelet and $2 for coffee – but the food was not good. Eat elsewhere.
Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel and Towers
The Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel is only a fifteen-minute walk from the Holiday Inn, but is completely different in every way. It’s a gargantuan hotel, right on Paseo de la Reforma, a wide boulevard that cuts across Mexico City, and situated amongst lots of tall buildings.
I got to the hotel at 11:15am, and made my way through the very large, Christmas-y and dated lobby to the check-in desk. I was told that my room on an SPG floor wasn’t ready yet, so I could either have a “regular” room, or come back later for my “upgraded” room. I didn’t need to use the room so said I’d come back, left my bags, and came back at around 3:30pm. At that point, no one said anything about issues with the room, and gave me keys to a room on the 7th floor, which was in the “Classic Tower.” I had to ask about lounge access, which I am entitled to as a SPG Amex Business credit card holder, and got a little bit of push back, and was required to show her the card – which isn’t how it’s supposed to work.
As I went to the far elevators to the “classic” tower, I saw the 7th floor was not listed as an SPG floor, though about five other floors were. That seemed odd. And when I went to my room, I was quite disappointed, as it was small, dingy, and looked like it had been last been updated in 20 years. There was no view and it looked over the roof of another part of the hotel. Now look, it would have been fine. But what really bothered me was that they knew I had waited for the room I had been promised, came back, and then didn’t even mention the downgrade.
So I went back downstairs and asked what happened. They said the room on the SPG floor wasn’t ready so that’s all I could have. I explained that the issue was they didn’t even mention it, but they said “well rooms aren’t ready yet.” “When will it be ready?” “Check-in is at 3pm.” “It’s 3:45pm.” The agent then said “Well we can give you a room in the new tower, but it will be a Queen bed not a King.” Fine, I guess. So then I walked to the elevator for the Reforma tower, and it was like being in a completely different hotel. It wasn’t some crazy luxury, but just what you expect when booking a major chain’s property in a world capital. The room was quite small, though, and the whole experience rubbed me the wrong way.
I figured I’d check out the lounge (also in the Reforma Tower) and perhaps speak to a member of the staff there about it. The woman was incredibly friendly and helpful, and offered me a King-sized bed in the Reforma Tower in about 30 seconds. I did have to go back downstairs to the initial agents to get a key, and the difference probably wasn’t worth it, but when I get going on my principles….
The new room was lovely, but not some insane suite upgrade or even anything with a view (many rooms at the hotel have views of the Angel of Independence statue on Reforma). It had a larger bathroom than the Queen room, an armchair, desk, and king-size bed. The bed and the shower pressure at the Holiday Inn were actually better.
The gym, which is on the main floor near the elevators to the Classic Tower, was huge and well-maintained with a large variety of equipment, spa and stretching facilities, and a total of zero people other than me. Sheraton at least is keeping up to its brand standard there.
The other thing that was excellent was the Sheraton Club (lounge). There was a modest evening reception, with chips and very good guacamole, two kinds of canapes, wine (gross) and beer, soft drinks, charcuterie, and some desserts. I’m not sure if you can order other drinks, and no one approached me until the very end, when I was presented with a bill with dummy prices reflecting every drink I had served myself, then zeroed out. Not sure if this is for tips, but weird for that to be your sole interaction with staff.
In the morning, I called down for late checkout as an SPG Gold, which I was given with no argument. Breakfast at the lounge was excellent, with a full eggs-to-order menu, welcoming services, and nice views towards Chapultepec Park. There was also a small hot buffet with tamales, scrambled eggs, beans, veggies, and hash browns, plus cheese and meats and incredible pastries.
One other thing I’d note, I was not offered my SPG Gold Welcome Amenity at check-in. If I had, I would have selected 250 points. Instead, the hotel assigned my in-room internet as my amenity – which they’re not supposed to do, and which I was entitled to in addition to my welcome amenity, since I’d booked at SPG.com . It has now been three emails to the hotel and SPG to try and have this remedied, to no avail. They keep saying it needs to be “researched,” which is disappointing.
In all, I have mixed feelings about the Sheraton Maria Isabel. It’s a huge business/conference style hotel, and the rooms in the Reforma tower are perfectly nice, the gym is good, and the Sheraton Club is great. But the shenanigans about the room and the issues with the welcome amenity, combined with the fact that the public areas of the hotel were always crowded and dated, discourage me from staying again if I was in town, given how many comparable options there are. Whatever you do, avoid the “classic” rooms.