Thursday, December 26, 2013

InterContinental San Juan

Hotel Stay Details
Hotel: InterContinental San Juan
Dates: December 17-19, 2013
Rate Paid: $181/night (incl. taxes and fees)
Stay Points Earned: 6,630 IHG Points
Regular Promo Points: 6,000 IHG Points
Big Win Promo Points: 74,700 IHG Points

For our final two nights, we went back to the InterContinental San Juan where we first started our Puerto Rican vacation a week earlier after first arriving on a late flight from New York City.

While we could have had Starwood benefits if we stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan, we had read that Sheraton property was in quite shoddy condition, even if it were located ideally in Old San Juan. Having already achieved Starwood Platinum status for 2014, we didn't really need any more Starwood stays this year, but IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group) had an attractive promotion going on for Q4 2013 called The Big Win, where my father would earn up to 91,700 IHG points (worth up to $900 to him). So booking two nights at the IC San Juan was a no brainer.

As mentioned in another post, my father's customized Big Win promotion (from August to December 2013) was structured as follows:
  1. Try 1 & Done: 1,000 points for staying at any IHG hotel
  2. Stay More & Earn More: 6,700 points for staying a total of 5 nights
  3. Explore Our Brands:  22,000 points for staying at 3 different IHG brands
  4. Book With Us: 2,400 points for booking 2 stays on IHG's website/mobile app
  5. Survey the Win: 100 points for taking a 5 minute online survey
  6. Live the City Life: 12,000 points for staying in 2 of select city/metro locations
  7. Spend It To Get It: 1,500 points for paying for 1 stay on your IHG credit card
  8. Big Win: 46,000 points for completing all 7 tasks
By the time we were heading to Puerto Rico, he already had completed 3 nights at a Holiday Inn Express and a Hotel Indigo, thereby completing #1, #4, #5, #6 and #7. He also had partially completed #2, #3 and #8. Upon completion of the 2 nights at the IC San Juan, he would complete all the tasks and earn the rest of the bonus (a whopping 74,700 IHG points).

Location of the IC San Juan was ideal for a stay the night before your flight as it's a 5 minute taxi drive to SJU Airport (fare is fixed at $12 + $1 fee/bag). In fact, you can see flights landing on the runway from your room if you're facing the lagoon side.

The hotel is located right next to the El San Juan Hotel (a Hilton hotel) and Casino and a 10 minute walk down Isla Verde Avenue to reach the glamorous Ritz Carlton San Juan (a Marriott hotel). There's plenty of small restaurants, bars and shops along that street, including a convenience store and a decent diner right across the street.

To get to Old San Juan, you can either take a $21 taxi or take the public bus (just $0.75 per person). We decided to take the bus into town and then a taxi back. Thankfully, the IC Hotel concierge informed us we needed exact change, so we exchanged $3 for 12 quarters before we left.

Check In
We arrived early from our Vieques flight/drive from Ceiba Airport, so it was only 1:30PM when we arrived to the InterContinental. Official check-in wasn't until 4PM, but they accommodated our early arrival (perhaps due to my father's IHG Platinum status) and checked us into a room. The front desk agent had my father sign a few things and initial our rate and departure dates and then handed him the room keys.

Unfortunately, the room that they assigned us was a King Bed and we needed Double Beds. After going back down, the front desk agent seemed confused and flustered, but eventually talked with a supervisor and told us we could just relax in that King Bed room until a Double Bed room became available.

Also due to my father's Platinum status with IHG, we received a few coupons to welcome us to the hotel. First, we received a 10% off coupon for dining at the hotel restaurant (no thanks!). Second, we received a $25 Match Play coupon for their casino downstairs. While my father originally thought it was $25 worth of free gambling, it was actually $25 in MATCH, meaning if he bet $25, he could double the bet to $50 using the coupon.

Wireless internet was free for everyone. Though we had the option of paying extra for "High Speed," the regular wireless was just fine for our needs (and much much better than the wifi at the W Vieques).

Since our actual room wasn't going to be ready for a while, we left our luggage in the temporary room and went to have a quick lunch at Mi Casita across the street. After a traditional Puerto Rican lunch (pork chops and beef mofongo), my father and I decided to check out the InterContinental pool and beach scene.

Pool & Beach
Unlike the W Vieques which really catered to young couples on a romantic luxury vacation, the IC was more accommodating of all traveler types, including the four college women's basketball teams that were staying at the hotel. The place was full of giant amazon women from Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Georgetown and Georgia Tech. Thankfully, the players didn't hang out by the pool because that would have made my abnormally short father feel even more inadequate.

As you can see from the photos, the pool area is massive and there were plenty of seats for everyone to enjoy without having to play the "put your towel down" game. However, the weather was slightly too cold (only 80 degrees) to truly enjoy an unheated pool. We did spend a lot of time laying on the beach and in the hot tub though!

The property is more kid friendly than our W Vieques was. In fact, they have a playground right by the pool area as well as a Kid's Club, though it was closed and only for kids 4+ years old.

Our Room
Around 3PM we received a call from the Front Desk letting us know that our Double Bed room was available. We went upstairs and moved our luggage to the new room. As you can see, it was pretty basic and clean. The hotel wouldn't be my first choice for a vacation getaway with so many other (better) properties nearby, but for our 2 night stay to earn our IHG Promotional points, it was just fine. In fact, our AAA rates were pretty attractive ($97 for the first night and $171 for the second), but after taxes it ended up averaging $181/night all-in.

We did have a chance to check out the casino (but no photos allowed). It was rather basic - as if they never planned to have a casino, but realized all their competition did, so they retrofitted one into the property. They had 8 tables (including blackjack, roulette and poker) and a lot of slot machines. To be honest, we don't really enjoy gambling (well, I'm only 2 years old, so I'm speaking for my parents). But if we did, the InterContinental's casino isn't where we'd go unless we wanted an airport casino type of experience.

We didn't try the hotel restaurant (given we had Mi Casita for cheap breakfasts), but we did have dinner at the attached Ruth's Chris Steakhouse just outside the lobby. Fortunately for my father, he could put the Ruth's Chris tab on his room, so he earned hotel points for his steak dinner.

The lobby was quite nice and welcoming. Despite the amazon women all over the place with their over-sized baggy shorts and ginormous sneakers, the hotel had a beautiful Christmas tree and nice bar areas as well as a wine bar on the side.

Check Out
We did have an issue with our bill on the final day. Instead of using the $171 rate we booked, they applied a random $333 rate, which made our bill a lot higher than expected. Upon checking on the cards that my father initialed/signed when he checked in, the agent confirmed that our rate should have been $171 for the final night. She adjusted the bill, but thankfully my father was anal enough to check the bill carefully and also sign/initial for the correct rate when he checked in. Though, to be honest, he didn't really look at the details when he initialed the rate.

And when we arrived home, my father got an email from IHG. Now, we were 74,700 IHG points richer!

For booking the 2 nights (that we'd need anyway) at the IC San Juan (as opposed to other hotel chains), we will now earned enough points to stay almost 3 free nights at a $250-300/night hotel like the InterContinental Berchtesgaden that we stayed at this past May.

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