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Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena, Colombia
Room 2502
August 16-19
Room Rate: $168 USD/night

 

Introduction

So we’d booked our tickets to Cartagena, but where would we stay? Staying in a hotel in the walled city will cost you notably more, but that’s where all the sights are. Bocagrande is a little outside of that, but notably cheaper, and taxis are cheap and plentiful. As I was traveling with a group of friends, the collective decision was to stay in Bocagrande, and we ended up picking the InterContinental Cartagena on the recommendation of a few friends.

 

InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

Neighborhood: Bocagrande
Pool: Yes
Concierge: Yes
Spa: No
Bar and Restaurant On-Property: Yes, located in the lobby level
Room Rate Range: $100-$200 USD

Check In

After a fairly painless flight with minor delays, we landed just shortly after 1pm in Cartagena. Thanks to the longest immigration line I’ve ever seen, we somehow managed not to arrive at the airport until about 3pm. We pulled up to the blue and green hued building and entered to the street level entryway. The main lobby is located upstairs, the downstairs is limited to a seating area and a desk for the bellhop and security guards.

 

The main lobby area was brightly lit and flooded with natural light – and wonderfully blasted with AC. There were a few seats sprinkled throughout the lobby, though the main seating option was a set of ottomans, laid out in the middle of the room.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

Check in took an oddly long amount of time – the front desk associate went through the whole script of benefits of the hotel, and tried to upsell us to a better room. I’m a Platinum IHG member, and it’s disappointing that they don’t upgrade members to better rooms. They did put us on a higher floor and asked if we preferred to have “bay view” – which she made sound like the more appealing option (more on that later). As a Platinum member, I was offered a measly 500 points or one complimentary drink… even though there were 2 of us staying in the room. PS – if you thought having IHG status meant a complimentary breakfast, you’d be wrong – you have to book the room rate that offers this (which I didn’t)

After the longest check-in in my life, we finally made our way up to our room on the 25th floor. The elevators moved quickly fortunately, though the noise the elevator makes when it arrives isn’t terribly loud, so it’s pretty easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

We finally made it up to our floor over to our room, which was located halfway down the hallway. This is going to sound odd but the hallway smelled… damp. Not sure how to explain that, it just… did.

Our door was accessible with a tap key card, and the room came equipped with a doorbell and light to signal if we wanted privacy or housekeeping. The one downside was that the door had a tendency to hang, so if you didn’t pull or push it shut, the door stayed open – very unnerving after returning from a day out and finding your door ajar.

The Room

As with most hotel rooms, the main space was down an entryway, past the bathroom. The room opens up to two double beds and a small living space at the end of the room.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

The beds came with two smallish (smaller than the standard pillows I’m used to seeing in hotel rooms) pillows and one decorative cushion. As we began to settle in and unpack we noticed the sheets were either remarkably cold or… damp. It didn’t smell as damp as the hallway, but there was definitely something a little off.

The room felt nice as we walked in, but the longer we stayed, the warmer the room felt so we tried to turn down the AC, and soon realized it wouldn’t get colder than a certain temperature no matter what you set it to. Definitely annoying given how hot it is outside.

The bedside technology was nicely updated – plenty of outlets, plus an iHome with a USB port to plug into.

A small loveseat sat right by the window – perfect for relaxing after a long day of sight-seeing. There was also a desk right across from it, along with a built-in luggage rack that doubled as a bench if you so pleased. The room came equipped with a large flat screen TV situated right across from the two bed, mounted right on the wall, which gave the room a little more space.

The room also had a chest of drawers which oddly felt a little shallow. I tend to unpack a little when I travel and found the drawers a little difficult to close after storing a few pieces of clothing.

The room came with a coffee machine as well, fully stocked with coffees and sugars. Tucked away below it was the mini bar, filled with plenty of snacks (wafers and nuts) and drinks (sodas, liquor and beer).

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

The closet was located by the entryway and was nicely sized closet. It came equipped with an iron and ironing board (which I used – it got the job done) and a safe. The safe was interesting – you could lock it with a normal code, or with a credit card (hope you don’t lose that credit card!).

That bathroom was nicely sized, about 1/3 of the size of the entire room. The bathroom door unfortunately didn’t close all the way, and since I was sharing the room with a friend, I found it to be a bit annoying. However, that being said, I did appreciate that the toilet was in its own room, so two people could be feasibly in the bathroom at the same time.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

The shower area was aptly sized given the spaciousness of the bathroom. The shower had pretty good water pressure, but annoyingly took several minutes to heat up. One genius point I have to mention – there were two hooks mounted on the shower glass on the outside and on the inside. At first I thought this was silly, but then I realized how useful it was when I went to hang my wet swimsuit – it was nice not to have my suit drip on the bathroom floor. The bathroom of course was stocked with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and soap, but wasn’t extraordinary, so if you love extra moisturizing conditioner, I’d recommend bringing your own.

The bathroom sink counter was wonderfully larger and easy for two people to share (large enough for an extra sink, though wouldn’t have as much counter space). In addition to the usual sink toiletries, there was also a small box containing q tips, cotton balls, and the like. There were glasses on the sink, though I much prefer cups sealed in plastic. The underside of the sink had more storage space, and held some spare towels, toilet paper, and a hair dryer (which was a notch better than the dinky hair dryers you usually find at hotels).

As I mentioned, the front desk associate really sold us on the “Bay View” room – here’s a tip, the ocean view room (though she didn’t call it that) is probably more breathtaking since you can see the sun set and rise on that side. The bay view room gives you a (well) view of the bay… and other high rises.  One of my friends had an Oceanside room and it looked far more picturesque than our view.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

Hotel Appearance

The hotel had an updated, modern feel, which you could see through out the property, like in the tall lines, and use of geometric shapes used to adorn the restaurant. It felt a little bit like an aloft hotel… which is a little disappointing given that this is IHG’s top hotel chain. Even so, I appreciated the bright colors used throughout the property (like in the fabric of the seats in the business center) –  very reminiscent of the the vibrant palette of colors in Cartagena.

The pièce de résistance of course was the infinity pool. It’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset into the pool.

Hotel Review: InterContinental Cartagena de Indias

While the pool had ample seating, around the pool, the seats in the pool were of course the prime time spots – I suggest scoring one of these if they’re not occupied. The pool has a shallow wading area before it dips into the deep side, so it’s a great place to submerse yourself into if you aren’t interested in swimming. There was also a smaller pool, which looked like a jacuzzi, but didn’t seem to function (nor did it have warm water) – a bit of a disappointment.

 

It’s worth nothing the hotel bar has a small seating area that over looks the pool – and it’s 2 for 1 drinks during happy hour, so it was a really nice way to watch the sunset over cheap drinks.

Location

The property is located about a 10-15 minute taxi ride away from the walled city, which is where you’ll likely want to spend most of your time exploring. It’s located in Bocagrande, a fairly touristy area filled with high rises and shopping centers. The shopping center located next to the hotel wasn’t particularly nice, but there was a drugstore in it, so we were able to easily pop in to buy bottled water. Oh and there’s a casino in the same building of the hotel, if that’s a thing for you.

While the beaches in Cartagena are not particularly nice, the hotel is located right across the street from the water, so if you don’t have time to head to one of the private beaches or islands, you do have an option. Be prepared to be approached by locals selling goods and the like.

The Takeaway

While the pool was one of my favorite parts of the hotel, aside from that, I wasn’t too much of a fan. It’s disappointing that this is IHG’s top offering among their brands – while the hotel was nice, it felt a little like it was trying too hard to be hip, despite the fact that it clearly had modern updates.

Now, I could have looked past this, the damp feeling of the sheets, plus the air conditioner that never got cold enough, and the too-far location made this a no for me. The pricing on the property is very reasonable though, and an uber to the city center costs less than $10 USD, so if you’re price conscious, it might be a good choice. I would consider checking out the Hyatt Regency, which is located about 5 minutes closer to the walled city, and costs about the same as this property if you book a few months out.

Hotel Appearance: 7/10 – Updated, but felt a little cheap. Major points for the infinity pool though.  
Room: 7/10 –
Nicely sized, but the room just never felt cold enough and felt… damp. Wish I had a room facing the ocean though – do not opt for the “bay view” room, no matter how much the front desk talks it up!
Staff: 7/10 –  Really nice, but conversations felt scripted (and lengthy as a result). 
Location: 5/10 –
Pretty far away from where you’ll want to spend your time, though taxis are not terribly expensive. 
On-Site Amenities & Hospitality Services: 5/10 –
Nothing here. No free breakfast either for IHG status-yielding guests. 
Overall Rating: 31/50 (62%)
★★★★★

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