Intercontinental tagged posts

Blogging Post-Trump and Hotel Review: The Lovely Intercontinental Wellington

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This is part 4 in a series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.

**This post was composed prior to the earthquakes in New Zealand this week, which I will address in my next post.

Preliminary note:  I was traveling in New Zealand – specifically, on a boat/bus trip from Doubtful Sound to Queenstown, as I watched the frightening, disturbing election results roll in. I was alone, and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more alone in my life.  For the first time in my life, I actually wonder whether I’ll face hate crimes as a Jew or as a gay man.  My career is a civil rights attorney is likely massively to be altered, and I have no idea if or how long I will stay in my job working for the federal government.  At first I thought how silly blogging about hotels seemed in light of the fear that is filling many Americans – and I can attest, many in foreign countries – right now.  But I realized that for me, one reason I started blogging in the first place was as an escape.   Those who have been readers a long time may know that I was much more active on this blog when I started it five years ago, and now it has become nearly exclusively trip reports.  Part of the reason was that my life in New York five years ago was so stressful that I needed to sit and write as a release, whereas the past three years ago I’ve had a generally positive working environment.  Now more than ever, it’s a personal coping mechanism for me to look at travel and blogging – not because I won’t be working hard on the civil rights front, but precisely because I will be.  (I’m also going to sprinkle in some of what I heard in NZ after Trump’s election.)  Now, onto the hotel review.

As I’ve said before, Intercontinentals are my favorite hotel brand, and I’ve enjoyed them since my first work trip – to San Francisco – in 2009. They are consistent, they honor the benefits of the Ambassador program as they are supposed to, the rooms are comfortable, they generally have good gyms, and the staff is typically accommodating.  Yes, I pay for my status, and unlike other programs, lounge access or breakfast isn’t a benefit, but they still have always impressed me. They’re also more understated than the ostentatious St. Regis or Ritz-type properties. The marginal utility of what those hotels offer me over an Intercontinental is practically nil.

Intercontinental Wellington

Intercontinental Wellington

One benefit of being an Ambassador member is an annual buy one, get one free certificate for a weekend at any Intercontinental.  This is a really smart benefit from IHG’s perspective, as it actually incentivizes spending money.  In my travel plans, Wellington was the city where it seemed the best use, as the Intercontinental is one of the city’s best hotels, and was rather pricey.  I was staying in Wellington three nights, though.  So even though I probably could have used my annual Chase IHG free night award at a pricier property given the rates weren’t bad on Thursday night, I decided to just combine the three nights for one stay.

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A Little Report from Berlin

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My report from Berlin is going to be fairly brief. Not only was I just in Berlin two years ago, but I stayed in the exact same two hotels as I did last time: the Intercontinental and the Grand Hyatt.  Both were excellent last time, both were excellent this time.  The only difference was cash rates at the Intercontinental were nearly three times as much as they had been 2 years ago on the same weekend, so I spent two nights there using points.  I then used my Hyatt Category 1-5 annual Visa cardholder certificate at the Grand Hyatt Berlin for my last night again.  I’m not going to do a full review of the properties again as there was nothing appreciably different.  Check out my review of the Intercontinental Berlin here and my review of the Grand Hyatt Berlin here.  If you’re interested in more of what to see and do in Berlin, I’d recommend this post as a supplement to my 2014 report, available here.

Berlin and the River Spree

Berlin and the River Spree

As I did last time, I took the public bus from the airport to the Zoo Garden station and walked about 10 minutes to the Intercontinental.  The stay was really just lovely, and reminded me why I’ve stayed at about 20 different  Intercontinental properties (with return visits to several) over the years: the consistently good service and treatment of elites.  (And I generally find Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas underrated too!).  This stay was no exception.  At check-in, I was asked how my trip was, and told “Welcome Back.” While this should be a no-brainer at any hotel, I’m rarely asked these questions as a Hilton Diamond.  Although I was on an award stay, I received the same upgrade I had two years ago, and was proactively offered a 4pm checkout.  Just after I checked out, I realized I had left my passport wallet in the room, and the front desk clerk profusely apologized to me, as if *they* had done something wrong.  Good job, Intercontinental Berlin.  It makes me excited for my upcoming stay at the Intercontinental Wellington.  (And note, I did not have a free breakfast or lounge access, yet still came away feeling like a valued guest of the hotel.

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A Brief Sao Paulo Stay and the Intercontinental Sao Paulo

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Due to a series of events, my short time in Sao Paulo provided even less time to experience the city than I had planned – I didn’t explore the nightlife, restaurants, or museums at all really, and only saw a few of the main sights. Part of it was how late I got to my hotel on the first night, but there were also work crises that took up a good portion of my time there, rainy weather, and problems with my phone which required multiple trips to a market that sold tech accessories and a wipe of my phone. But what I did experience I enjoyed, and Sao Paulo was unlike any other part of Brazil I’ve been, with the feeling of a bustling mega-metropolis and a great energy. Plus, my stay at the Intercontinental was fantastic.

The Intercontinental Sao Paulo

The Intercontinental Sao Paulo

Pulling up at the Intercontinental late at night felt really good after my days in bug-infested Morro de Sao Paulo. It was shiny, clean, and fancy. The lobby and common areas were sleek, modern, and well-maintained. I had reserved two nights at the hotel on points at a rate of 40,000 a night. Just before my trip, the rate dropped to 35,000 points a night, but there were no award nights left at that point, and my attempts at asking IHG Reservations to adjust me the difference went nowhere. The hotel is in the Jardins area of Sao Paulo, which is relatively safe, clean, and fairly convenient to get around.  The concierge an front desk staff were helpful and friendly, and the hotel felt like  a retreat from the busy city.

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Hotel Review: Intercontinental Sydney

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For my second two nights in Sydney, I stayed at the Intercontinental Sydney. The hotel is the older of two Intercontinentals in the city, but more centrally located. It was a short walk from the Radisson, a bit closer to Circular Quay, the Opera House and the train, but a little farther from the restaurants and shopping of the CBD.  I don’t have a lot to say about the Intercontinental, but it was very nice.

Intercontinental Sydney

Intercontinental Sydney

The hotel was definitely a 5-star hotel, feeling much more luxurious than the Radisson. It wasn’t cheap. The Ambassador Weekend rate was 419 AUD a night – about $320—far more than I’d typically pay. But it was a good use of my annual BOGO certificate, as $320 for two nights was a great deal.

Architecturally, the Intercontinental is stunning – an old building with a new tower built into it. The lobby level features a massive atrium in the older building, while the rooms were actually in the tower. The entrance was a little hard to find, as the main entrance is a car only entrance, but I found the pedestrian entrance and got to check in.

Old part of the Intercontinental Sdney

Old part of the Intercontinental Sydney

Atrium

Atriu...

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Hotel Review: Intercontinental Berlin

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For my first three nights in Berlin, I stayed at the Intercontinental Berlin, near Tiergarten in the Western part of the city. I really enjoyed my stay, and highly recommend it.

Getting to the hotel from Tegel was very easy. I took the X9 bus from right outside to the terminal to its terminus, Zoo Station, and then had an easy 10 minute walk down Budapester Strasse to the hotel. Even with traffic, the whole trip took about 45 minutes, and I bought a day pass for all of Berlin’s public transit for 6 Euros at a machine at the airport.

The Intercontinental Berlin

The Intercontinental Berlin

The outside of the Intercontinental is modernist and plain, with two separate towers connected by a shorter main lobby area. The lobby area was large, with a jazz lounge with live music in the evenings. Also on the main floor was another bar, and several event/conference facilities. In my days there, there was both a Bar Mitzvah and a wedding, both of which had fun DJs and crowds to observe. At check-in, I noticed there was an area dedicated to a Nike-sponsored athletic event. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but throughout the stay, I saw a lot of rather attractive men in workout attire. I later learned they were long jumpers and high jumpers for “Berlin Fliegt,” a 4-country meet held at Brandenburg Gate.

Lobby of the Intercontinental Berlin

Lobby of the Intercontinental Berlin

Check-in was prompt, and the agent mentioned how nice an upgrade I got twice. I had booked a Superior room, the lowest level room, for only 79 Euros a night, which is pretty cheap for an Intercontinental. Within a day of booking, I had been upgraded based on my Platinum Ambassador status to a Deluxe room, a one category upgrade – which is guaranteed. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to my room. Based on my research, I wasn’t expecting to be offered lounge access or anything, though reports suggested a discounted rate of 39 Euros, which includes breakfast and substantial evening food. I didn’t come to Berlin to stay in the hotel, though, and Berlin is a pretty cheap city. Lounge access wasn’t mentioned at check-in, but I was offered breakfast at a “discounted” rate of 27 Euros.

When I got to my room, I found the ...

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Hotel Review: The Panama City Hotel Scene and the Intercontinental Miramar Panama

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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.

Intercontinental Miramar Panama

Intercontinental Miramar Panama

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...

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Trip Report: Westward Ho: The Autobahn, Melk, Berchtesgaden, the Intercontinental Berchtesgaden Review, Nazis, and Salzburg

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We had decided that we didn’t want to spend our entire time in Austria in Vienna, so we rented a car for our last two days and head west from Vienna.  I had read gushing reviews of the Intercontinental Berchtesgaden (in Germany) on another blog (which did not mention that Berchtesgaden’s main claim to fame is being a Nazi retreat), and Berchtesgaden is about a half hour from Salzburg, which I’d also heard is quite lovely.  There are a few different routes from Vienna to the region, but we took the least scenic, fastest one along the Autobahn, a little over three hours.

We picked up our rental car from Sixt right in the lobby of the Hilton, which was super convenient, and even found out that we had been upgraded from a BMW 1-series to a 3-series.  Since I don’t drive a stick, my boyfriend was happily the sole driver on our sojourn.  The car was great, and once we got out of the city, it was a pretty straightforward drive on the Autobahn.  NB:  Contrary to my boyfriend’s thoughts, unlike Germany, there is a speed limit on the Austrian Autobahn, though we didn’t see anyone pulled over at any point.

Besides a stop at a very traditional rest stop with a cafeteria style eatery, our first stop was Melk, about an hour west of Vienna and an easy turn off the Autobahn.  The main site in Melk is the Melk Abbey, or Stift Melk in German.  Sitting high above the town of Melk, it is a gorgeous and historically significant site overlooking the Danube and Wachau Valley below.  Built in the 18th century, the baroque abbey has survived a lot (Nazis, other despots, etc.) and continues to operate a school to this day.

Stift Melk

Stift Melk

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YWW Does East Asia: Trip Report Part 3: The Intercontinental Asiana Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Review

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Our first two nights in Ho Chi Minh City were spent at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon.  Intercontinental had been running a great deal in Southeast Asia for the Winter, with 35% off rates, including internet and breakfast.  I generally have had wonderful experiences at Intercontinentals, and as a Platinum Ambassador, often get great treatment.  The property had great reviews, and was about one-third the cost of the Park Hyatt Saigon, the only hotel in town consistently rated better.

Corner Room

Corner Room

The hotel was right in the heart of District 1, and we made it from the airport in about thirty minutes.   Before I arrived, I had already seen I had been upgraded to a Corner Deluxe Room.   Check-in was a little wonky, as the desk clerk’s English wasn’t amazing and she had us wait for a bit for an unclear reason.  But soon we were headed to our room, which was high up with a great view of the hotel’s pool.  The room itself wasn’t particularly large, but the bathroom was almost the same size as the room, with a large shower, a free-standing tub, and room to just dance or something.  There were universal outlets throughout.  The décor was very modern and the hotel was generally spotless – with the only exception being a room service tray that remained outside our neighbor’s door for a full day.

Pool view from the room

Pool...

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Trip Report: 24 Hours in Paris and the Intercontinental Le Grand Paris Review

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The Seine

The Seine

When I initially booked my stay in Paris, I was going to stay at one of the Radissons, using a free night certificate.  I was able to get a free night at the Intercontinental Le Grand, though, one of two Intercontinental hotels in Paris, on a successful best rate guarantee claim, so I figured I’d use the Radisson night somewhere else.

The best thing about the Le Grand, by far, was its location.  The Roissybus from DeGaulle stops literally a half-block away.  The metro is right there as well, but I didn’t use it all my entire brief stay.  The weather was mild, and I found myself walking about the City in different directions.

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Trip Report: My Amazing Stay at the Intercontinental David Tel Aviv

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After a fun night out on the town, including a dinner featuring more types of sausage than I’d anticipated being  served at my maiden meal in Israel, I checked out of the Crowne Plaza and grabbed a taxi to the Intercontinental David, for what was my one paid stay in Tel Aviv. (My reservation was for a buy one get one rate, using my annual Ambassador voucher good for weekends – a benefit that alone is worth the cost of Ambassador status.)

The Intercontinental is a much grander property than the Crowne Plaza, but in a slightly  less central location, on the South end of the beach, set apart from most of the beachfront hotels but right next to the Dan Panorama.  (A short walk from the hip neighborhood of Neve Tzedek though.)  It’s a big, 24-story, luxury hotel...

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