This is the fourth in a series of posts chronicling my January 2018 trip to Colombia. You can read an overview/preview here.
My first night in Medellin was at the Ibis, a very cheap, basic property. I’m not doing a full review since I was there only about 9 hours, and it was an unremarkable stay- a small, but clean and adequate room.
I was really looking forward to spending the next two nights at the Intercontinental Medellin. I’ve had a lot of really wonderful experiences at Intercontinental properties over the years (19 different properties before this trip if I’m counting right), and have come to expect a high level of service and a bit of luxury. One thing I’ve also liked is that I’d never really have to fight for my promised benefits as an Ambassador over the years. Since you have to pay to join the program, that’s a good thing. The benefits aren’t the most extensive, but the reliability matters. To me, the program has 5 main benefits: Room upgrade, welcome gift, water and fruit, and late check-out on stays, and a certificate for a buy-one-get-one night on a weekend stay each year. Despite a pretty extensive travel schedule in 2017, I’d only stayed in one Intercontinental – in Malta – and hadn’t had any weekend stays in other places with Intercontinentals. With my certificate expiring at the end of January, Medellin made sense to use the certificate, even though it is not a particularly expensive property—with rates under $100 a night. To maximize the value of the certificate, which has to be booked at the somewhat higher Ambassador Certificate rate, I booked myself into a Junior Suite for an extra $15.
In the end, I was slightly disappointed with my stay at the Intercontinental Medellin, on three factors: service, facilities, and location. None were bad per se, but I would likely stay at a different property if I returned—probably closer to Poblado, either in the new Marriott, the Four Points, or a non-big chain property.
Getting to the property isn’t so easy. It is not near any metro stop, so I took an Uber from the Ibis up into the largely residential, leafier hills of Las Palmas. There is some shopping and restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, but it’s a pretty car-based area. Uber is technically illegal in Medellin and the car was pretty janky, so when I pulled up to the security gate to get onto the property, there was a bit of an issue. I guess I didn’t look like a guest, in casual clothes riding in the front passenger seat, and I mixed up the word for appointment and reservation in Spanish so it took awhile to convince the no-English-speaking guard I was a guest.
The hotel looks very 1970s from the outside, but the reception/bar/lobby area is modern and all black. Check-in took a full 20 minutes, which is a particularly insane length of time given: (1) it was well after check-in time, and (2) there was literally no one else checking in. I don’t know what this guy was doing. When I handed in my BOGO Ambassador certificate—which on its terms must be handed in at check-in, both he and the supervisor looked like I handed him a tinfoil hat. But this is a program that has been around for years, and the hotel has been an Intercontinental for years. Unlike, say a Hampton Inn, the relatively small number of Intercontinental properties means there is no excuse for every front desk to know what the certificate is for and how to process it. Indeed, I’ve never used it in the US, and never had a problem before. Here, after conferring with a colleague in the back office, they insisted they needed to re-run my credit card before I could go to my room, because I needed to pay right then and there. Certainly, that is not a term of the Ambassador Weekend Rate, and there is no legitimate reason why your elite customers need to pay in advance. Whatever.
My room was on the fifth floor. The hotel is kind of an X shape, with the elevators at the center, and my room was at the end of one of the appendages, alas with no view at all. I had been upgraded from a Junior Suite to a Suite, and I’m not sure how big of a difference it made. It was basically a regular room with a small living room on the other side of the wall. The whole room felt very closed off and dark, despite it being new furniture and carpets.
The living room was in the corner, with a desk facing out onto the parking lot, and a cheap navy futon-like couch backed against the other window, which looked at another building. There were hardwood floors, an old-fashioned side chairs, a gold and glass coffee table, and a dresser slash entertainment center. The furniture in the room looked like it was furnished with leftovers from other hotels, as the style and colors of the various pieces didn’t match (including different colors of wood).
The bathroom was a bit dated, with faux marble and brass, and was the size of a standard bathroom, with shower stall. One thing I noted was there were fewer toiletries than typical at ICs, which was confirmed when I stayed at the Intercontinental Cartagena and had a dental and shave kit, among other items, in the room.
The bedroom itself was fine, with two built in closets and what clearly was meant to me a makeup vanity but was now just a random cutout. The bed was very firm, and there was a second entertainment center/dresser and a small armchair in the corner. There was an area rug over the hardwoods.
Often, when I’ve checked into a room at an Intercontinental, there’s a welcome letter, and the welcome amenities awaiting me. If not, it usually comes within the next hour or so. After all, it’s a welcome amenity. Here, there was a practical reason I wanted my amenity – the only bottled water in the room was for sale at $5 a bottle, so the free water I was entitled to would have been nice. Alas, nothing.
I went to the gym which was a bit disappointing – one big room with equipment piled on top of each other. A whole wall is open to the pool, which looks nice. But there was no water readily apparent, and a lot of the equipment like dumbbells was behind an only-sometime staffed counter. There were only 5 plates total for the bench press, which is not much. Oddly, the lights were off, and it was very dark, and I had to ask someone to turn them on which seemed silly at 5pm.
Also silly- there was no one at the concierge desk at 5:30pm, and though I stood there waiting a bit, no one else offered to help me.
At 8:25pm, my welcome amenity was delivered. It was not what it was supposed to be. As per the letter and the terms of the IC program, it’s supposed to be water, plus fruit or a snack, plus a local gift. Local gifts have been fabulous – including a lacquer plate in Saigon, bottles of wine lots of places, a jar of dulce de leche in Buenos Aires, artisanal salts in Malta, and a Jesus keychain in Panama City. Here, the only amenity I got was a plate of supermarket cookies wrapped in saran wrap – the same cookies on offer for free in the lobby – and the water. I didn’t actively complain but its bad. Since the cookies didn’t come until dinner time, I did not eat them, though I had a few in the morning as breakfast. Alas housekeeping took them all away that evening. Also for breakfast, I tried to make coffee, but the in-room coffee maker had only little filter pods to use– even though it is not a machine that uses pods, but rather a traditional basket. So, it didn’t come out so good.
I didn’t try any of the food and beverage at the hotel, and didn’t get to enjoy the pool. The weather was not pool weather when I was at the hotel, but the pool and tennis courts both looked very nice, as did the seating around it.
The other thing of note is the taxi system. There’s a company that runs the taxi service for the hotel, and it’s quite expensive (though, yes, nicer than a regular taxi). It was about 2x as much to get from the hotel to the bus station than it was to come back in a metered yellow cab. The car to the airport was 80,000 pesos – 25% more than either the white airport taxi or a regular taxi would have been. Trips into Poblado were still cheap, thankfully, as you’ll be relying on those to get to the area you want to be in the evening. Unfortunately, due to the gated entrance and location, you’re not going to be able to get another taxi easily, even using one of the taxi apps.
In all, the hotel is fine, but there’s no real reason to stay at the Intercontinental Medellin as opposed to one of the many nice hotels in Poblado.