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As I mentioned last week, I’m a brand-spanking-new Intercontinental Royal Ambassador, due to a very generous TPG reader. Being very anxious to try out my new status, I decided to split my 5 days in Madrid to 1 night at the Intercontinental, 3 at the Westin Palace (my Madrid go-to property) and one more at the Intercontinental. In case you are scratching your head at the switch, I’ve extolled the benefits of hotel hopping in this post.
The Points and Fees Breakdown
Intercontinental encourages hotel hopping, because they give 2,000 base points (double with the current promo), whether you stay for 1 day or 20. My Starwood stay was 2 days on Cash and Points and one night at a paid rate of 199 euros. I paid for one night because a) I am severely lagging on elite status and b) I needed a third stay to get a free resort night for their current promo.
Location, Location, Location
The Intercontinental Madrid is located on Paseo de la Castellana, which is an upscale business district about 10 minutes away from the craziness of central Madrid. A taxi ride from the airport took 20 minutes in light traffic and cost 31 euros total. The hotel is located near the airport highway entrance, so it’s good for a quick exit out of the city.
Upon approaching the reception desk, I gave them my name and immediately they recognized me as a Royal Ambassador and directed me to the first-floor club lounge, where an agent would check me in personally. Nice.
Once in the club lounge, the agent began processing my one night stay. I was explained the benefits, including the lounge being open from 7am until 10pm every day and all beverages and snacks were free – except you can’t take anything out of the lounge. She also mentioned that computer use and internet was free in the lounge, but I would have to pay in the room. I don’t think she fully understood that internet was an Ambassador benefit, but I let it slide and was not charged for it. She also explained that the minibar drinks were free, but everything else would be charged.
I went up to my Junior Suite on the fifth floor and was impressed with the relatively large foyer and sunny living room. The bedroom was a bit tight, but the bathroom was large by European standards with a separate shower, bathtub and toilet/bidet areas.
There was fresh fruit and an amenity kit in the living room and a handwritten note from the GM.
It’s The Little Things
I was perhaps most excited to check out the mini-bar – for some reason the “unlimited free drinks” from the mini-bar is the benefit I’m most enamored with. Not because I’m a raging alcoholic, but the mini-bar to me is the ultimate in indulgence and is usually off-limits (unless someone else is paying). The fact that they allow Royal Ambassadors to drink whatever they want is really cool and I hope my addition to the program doesn’t make them change that benefit 😉
Since it was my first day in Spain, I was pretty exhausted after a full day on the town and my fair share of jamon serrano and ice-cold Mahous (have you seen why I love Madrid?). When I finally got back to my suite around midnight, I sank into the king bed and drifted off into my own world for 8 hours of restful sleep. To put it plainly, it was one of the best hotel beds I’ve ever slept in. And you know I’ve slept in my fair share!
When I finally made my way to the lounge in the morning, the breakfast spread was pretty impressive. They had tables with tablecloths and place settings just waiting for guests to arrive, and servers bringing around fresh juice. I ended up just assembling a plate of fresh fruit, smoked salmon and fresh bread. I also whipped myself up a double espresso with some steamed milk, which helped me out of my post-jetlag-deep-slumber (ahem, Lunesta!) haze. I had a nice table by the window and spent a solid 45 minutes enjoying my time in the sparsely occupied lounge.
La Cuenta, Por Favor
As I expected, despite all the perks, when I checked-out, the only charge on my folio was for the room rate. I hopped in the first cab outside (there were about 40 waiting) to continue my Spanish sojourn elsewhere.
Overall, my first stay as a Royal Ambassador was a success. I got a nice two-level upgrade to a Junior Suite (the standard upgrade seems to be a Club Room per the Flyertalk thread on Royal Ambassador upgrades). In fact, on my return stay Sunday night, the agent told me I was in a Club Room, but then double-checked for a better upgrade and gave me yet another Junior Suite, which was nearly identical, but had minor layout differences.
This hotel may not be perfect for a first time tourist to Madrid because it’s a little bit far from the action and it’s not on the best subway line, but overall it’s a comfortable hotel with solid Royal Ambassador treatment, “heavenly” beds (don’t tell Westin I said that) and a really nice lounge.
FYI on my Sunday evening stay, I was able to cancel my reservation which I had at 199 euros and rebook at 120 euros using the link I included on my post about Maximizing Priority Club. If you are in Europe, make sure you double-check your rates, because I’ve found some good deals. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.