I stayed at the InterContinental New York Times Square as a Platinum Ambassador: Here’s what it was like
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During the promotion, you could earn 20,000 bonus IHG points if you enrolled in Ambassador by March 31 and completed two qualifying nights at participating InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent properties by April 30.
If you value IHG points at 0.5 cents each as TPG’s valuations do, this promotion could effectively drop a yearlong Ambassador membership from $200 to $100. Sadly, registration ended for this promotion on March 31. However, InterContinental runs enrollment promotions several times a year, so stay on the lookout for future promotions.
When I visited New York City in March for a work meeting, I decided to try out the InterContinental Times Square since it was the least-expensive InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent hotel in the city for my dates. The two-night stay would help me earn the 20,000 bonus points and let me test out my new Ambassador membership.
I was excited about this stay since it would be my first as a Platinum Ambassador. But in the end, I think I would have been happier elsewhere.
Here’s the story of my stay at the InterContinental Times Square in March.
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Technically, InterContinental Ambassador perks are available regardless of how you book (except for InterContinental properties in French Polynesia). This even includes bookings made with online travel agencies like Expedia and Hotels.com. But since I needed the stay to earn the enrollment bonus, I booked directly with IHG Hotels & Resorts after clicking through an online shopping portal to earn extra rewards.
I booked an advance saver rate that allowed free cancellation until six days before arrival for $287.50 per night. Interestingly, when I booked, superior and deluxe rooms had the same advance saver rate. Of course, I booked the higher category to snag a better room.
I earned 26,877 IHG points on my $575 stay, including the 20,000-point bonus from the enrollment promotion.
The $437 of qualified room spending is from the room rate before the taxes and fees. Meanwhile, the $21.43 qualified spending beverage charge is presumably a $17 minibar purchase after taxes and fees. However, I’m unsure where the $1,036.40 in total spending came from, as my total bill was $575.
One day before checking in to the InterContinental Times Square, I received an email from a guest relations agent at the hotel. The email noted that the hotel is “running with limited services due to the current global climate” and stated that The Stinger Bar and in-room dining would be closed on Sunday and Monday.
The email said The Stinger Bar would be open daily for breakfast and that I’d still get the following benefits as a Platinum Ambassador:
- One-category upgrade.
- 4 p.m. late checkout.
- $20 Ambassador food and beverage credit (items from the minibar are eligible).
- Daily mineral water (which you may take from the minibar).
I was bummed to learn that The Stinger Bar and in-room dining would be closed for all but the last morning of my stay from Sunday night to Tuesday morning. But, since I needed the nights for the Ambassador enrollment promotion (and couldn’t cancel for free), I went ahead with the stay.
I’d booked a deluxe king room, but the hotel gave me my one-category upgrade to a Sky View room before check-in. I noticed the upgrade in my IHG app around 2 p.m. on my check-in day. Superior rooms are on floors three through seven, deluxe rooms are on floors eight through 19 and Sky View rooms are on floors 20 through 36.
When I arrived, the Ambassador check-in area on the right-hand side of the lobby was unstaffed. There was no line at the main check-in counter, so an agent immediately greeted me. She mistakenly insisted my reservation was for just one night instead of two until she checked her computer more carefully.
She noted my Platinum Ambassador status and said the hotel had upgraded me one category to a Sky View room. And she granted me 4 p.m. checkout when I asked, as this is a guaranteed Ambassador perk.
She handed me a card stapled to my room key sleeve, noting the facility fee inclusions. After doing so, she reminded me that the on-site restaurant, bar and room service are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Here are the three inclusions of the $33.27 ($29 plus taxes and fees) facility fee:
- $20 daily credit good for the minibar (must be used by midnight each day).
- $20 laundry credit per stay.
- High-speed internet service.
As a Platinum Elite member, I already get complimentary internet access through IHG Connect (and I didn’t see a higher-speed option). So, I paid $66.54 in facility fees to get $60 of credits that I didn’t need or particularly want on my two-night stay. And, since the laundry credit is per stay instead of per night, the nightly value provided by the facility fee decreases the longer you stay.
As I mentioned earlier, my Ambassador status snagged me a one-category upgrade from a deluxe room to a Sky View room. But, as I was in town for work, I spent most of my time in the room working or sleeping.
The desk had easy-to-access power outlets, but the desk chair was wobbly. As for the bed, I found the pillows fluffy but the mattress overly soft — I slept much better during my subsequent stay at the Hotel Indigo Miami Brickell. The bathroom was well stocked but I would have enjoyed a bathtub in addition to the shower stall.
Using the laundry credit
The $33.27 nightly facility fee includes a $20 laundry credit per stay. Although I didn’t need any laundry service on my two-night stay, I looked at the laundry price list. My goal: Use the $20 laundry credit as fully as possible without going over.
I opted to wash a bra, underwear and socks for $17. I wasn’t sure whether additional taxes would be levied on the laundry service. But, as my final bill didn’t list any laundry fees at all, I presume I succeeded in not going over the $20 credit.
Interestingly, you’ll have to pay a 50% surcharge for overnight service even if you have a one-night stay. Likewise, you’ll have to pay the 50% surcharge if your stay falls over the weekend or a holiday, or if you submit your laundry for collection after 9 a.m. on your last weekday.
Luckily, I could use the Monday-to-Friday same-day service to avoid the 50% surcharge by leaving my laundry for collection on Monday morning. I called for collection as the laundry form instructed, but the line remained busy despite multiple attempts. Frustrated, I stopped by the front desk to request collection from my room on my way to work.
Based on the front desk agent’s confusion at my request, I expected the laundry bag would still be sitting in my room when I returned on Monday evening. But instead, a box of clean clothing greeted me just inside my room’s door that night. My items were nicely folded and smelled clean.
Using the food and beverage credits
For my stay, I had $60 to use in food and beverage credits:
- $20 credit for the minibar to use on Sunday between check-in and midnight.
- $20 credit for the minibar to use on Monday.
- $20 Ambassador food and beverage credit (minibar items are eligible).
The on-site restaurant, bar and room service were closed on Sunday and Monday, so my only option for the Ambassador credit outside the minibar would have been breakfast at The Stinger. But I had other plans for breakfast both mornings, which I didn’t regret after looking at The Stinger breakfast menu. The least-expensive breakfast available would have cost $26.99, presumably before taxes and service.
The minibar menu was also pretty difficult to stomach, but the prices weren’t outside what I’d expect at a luxury hotel in Times Square. On my first night, I had a domestic beer and a small pack of cookies for $17. However, the fine print on the minibar menu noted, “A 20% administrative charge (plus applicable taxes) will be added to your bill for the restocking of the minibar.” I wasn’t sure exactly how much my cookies and beer would cost, but figured my $20 Ambassador credit could cover any overage.
The fine print also noted, “Your Private Bar will be restocked daily.” However, when I returned to my room Monday night, I noticed the hotel staff hadn’t restocked my minibar. As I didn’t feel like drinking anything and didn’t find the remaining snacks appealing, I decided to forfeit Monday’s credit. My budget heart hurt doing so, but I didn’t see any point in taking items I didn’t want.
I have planned a few stays at InterContinential and Six Senses properties later this year, so my Ambassador membership and its free weekend night will likely come in handy.
Of course, once the new IHG One Rewards elite benefits begin in early June, Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members will also have improved access to updated rooms, including suites, when available. I expect Ambassadors will still get priority at InterContinental properties for upgrades, but the one-category upgrade will likely provide less value than in the past.
I was surprised that none of my laundry or minibar charges, nor the associated laundry or food and beverage credits, appeared on my final bill. So I can’t say exactly how much taxes and fees were levied on the laundry service or the minibar purchases.
And I was disappointed that the bar and in-room dining were closed both nights of my stay. Considering the Ambassador credit encourages you to eat or drink on site, I would have preferred to do so at the bar instead of in my room.
But even if the bar and room service had been available during my stay and I’d been able to fully use my credits, I still think I could find a better experience for the price paid elsewhere in New York City. Because of this, I’ll try a different hotel for my next trip, even though I have Ambassador status.
Featured photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images.
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