For this mileage run we were landing in Panama at 3:30PM, and leaving the following morning at 7AM. Our friend Matt joined us on this trip, and based on his previous trip to Panama, he recommended the Waldorf Astoria Panama City. This is a Virtuoso property, and the rate for the one night stay was $169. For that we got the following Virtuoso perks:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Buffet breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
- $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Complimentary Wi-Fi, for duration of stay
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
Furthermore, I’m a Hilton HHonors Diamond member, so I’d earn points and could stack the benefits I get for being a Diamond member.
Upon landing at Panama City Airport we were approached by several people who wanted to give us rides. When we went to the official taxi queue we were told the fare would be 40USD, which at first sounded crazy for a ~25 minute drive. Ford and I were in Colombia the week before (a few hundred miles away), and there the 90 minute drive to the airport cost ~10USD.
However, as it turns out that’s just how much stuff costs in Panama, which surprised me. It’s sort of funny how traveling to different places conditions you on what does and doesn’t seem reasonable.
Once we arrived at the Waldorf we were welcomed by the bellman and directed to the reception desk. The hotel’s lobby is gorgeous, with a lobby bar to the right, and plenty of seating in other areas as well.
The concierge desk was located straight ahead once inside the lobby.
The reception desk was to the left. There were two people being helped before us, and it took quite a while. We probably waited for about 10 minutes before we were helped, and then the check-in process took another 10 minutes. I know it’s an attempt at providing personalized service, but when you’re on a one-night stay and got off a redeye, the attempted at personalized service becomes a bit annoying. But that’s one of the many reasons I don’t envy the job of hotel front desk associates.
We were given two welcome letters. The first was for being a Diamond member, and it explained that we’d earn 1,000 bonus points, a 50% points bonus, complimentary internet, a 15% discount on the spa, late check-out subject to availability, and a complimentary continental breakfast (with the option to upgrade to the full buffet for $6).
Then I received a separate letter for having booked through Virtuoso, explaining we’d receive daily breakfast, a $100 property credit (valid on food & beverage or at the spa), a room upgrade upon availability, and complimentary internet.
Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to use the breakfast, given that our flight was at 7AM. The associate walked us to the elevator, and explained we had been upgraded to a suite in the “condo tower.”
Our suite was on the 25th floor. The hallway was spacious and well maintained, if not a bit sterile.
We were assigned suite 2507, at the far end of the hallway.
The room was more of a junior suite, as it consisted of a single large room with a king size bed, living room, and kitchen.
The kitchen was a decent size, with a fridge and freezer, microwave, stove, sink, along with plates and silverware.
There was a bar with two seats, which was useful, since the suite didn’t otherwise feature anywhere to sit and eat.
On the kitchen counter was a Nespresso machine.
Also on the counter was a welcome amenity consisting of macarons. They weren’t especially fresh-tasting, but I guess that’s not surprising given that they just sat in the room uncovered for some unknown amount of time.
The living room featured an L-shaped couch and then a loveseat. Both faced towards a TV.
The room featured a plush king bed with four large pillows. The bed was even softer than a Westin Heavenly Bed, if that’s possible.
However, this is where the room gets a bit weird. Behind the bed was a glass “window” looking at the shower, with no option of lowering a privacy partition, or anything. So whoever is in the shower is “on display” for the entire room.
Speaking of views, the hotel has a view of all the surrounding condo buildings. Panama City has a skyline which is different than I was expecting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city where the skyline is made up almost entirely of high rise condos, as is the case in Panama. The view from the room doesn’t do that justice, as the room faced a less bustling area.
Continuing with the weird bathroom setup, there was no door between the bedroom and bathroom. Not even a sliding door or anything. So whatever goes on in the bathroom is fully visible and heard in the rest of the room. For that matter, you can’t make the bathroom hot when showering, since the air will just flow to the rest of the room. As someone who loves turning bathrooms into steam rooms, I was disappointed by that.
The lack of privacy continued in the toilet. There was a glass shield separating the bathroom from the rest of the room, and it didn’t even reach all the way to the floor. So you were quite literally “on display” in the bathroom.
The suite featured a massive shower. Between the size and the glass shield, it almost seemed like a party shower.
As is the norm at Waldorf Astoria properties, the toiletries were Salvatore Ferragamo branded, which I quite like.
In the far end of the bathroom was a vanity.
Between our two rooms we had $200 worth of food & beverage credit to use. We were tired and didn’t want to go to the hotel’s restaurant, so we ordered room service to one room. We ordered three mains, some guac, and two bottles of wine (one red and one white).
Room service execution at this hotel was so bad that it was almost comical:
- I ordered guac over the phone (which was on the menu), and was informed they didn’t have any. I said I’d call back shortly after figuring out what we wanted instead. When I called back, they said that the chef could custom make some for us. Great!
- It took over an hour for the room service food to arrive, even though they said it would be there within 30 minutes.
- When the room service order arrived, they were missing a bottle of white wine, as they said they were out of it as well. Rather than calling to ask if we wanted something else instead, they simply didn’t deliver it. When we said we still wanted some type of white wine, they brought up another bottle 30 minutes later.
- When we opened the meals we realized they forgot to deliver the guac. I called back down to room service, and they said they were still making it, and it would be sent up within 5-10 minutes. It ended up arriving 20 minutes later. Guac and chips is typically a starter, so it might make sense if they coordinated that better.
- We then realized that they didn’t bring a bottle opener, and they also didn’t have one in the room, so they had to bring that up as well.
In the end room service came up to our room four times, and it was one of the most disorganized meals I had, as the appetizers, mains, and wine were all brought at different times. I would have complained about the whole experience (because they didn’t seem to “get” that this wasn’t a satisfactory way to provide room service), but by the time we had all our stuff we were ready to sleep.
Anyway, we slept well and woke up at 4:30AM the next morning, and then headed down to reception to check out. There was one person ahead of us, and it took him 15 minutes to check out. It’s ridiculous for the check-in process that early in the morning to take over 20 minutes total. From there we headed back to the airport, this time in an Uber. The Uber fare to the airport was $25. We would have taken it in the other direction, except there was no Uber close to the airport.
Waldorf Panama bottom line
Overall our stay was an exceptional value. $169 for a night with a $100 food & beverage credit, a suite upgrade, breakfast (which we couldn’t take advantage of, etc.), etc., is tough to beat. That being said, the service at this particular Waldorf was a total miss. Also, while we didn’t get to explore much of Panama this time around, I got the sense that this hotel was in an especially sterile part of town.
While the suite we were upgraded to was beautiful, I thought the bathroom setup was extremely poorly designed.
Next time I’ll skip the food & beverage credit and stay at a Starwood property where I’ll at least earn stay credits I value, and I’ll dine local instead. 😉
Anyone have a favorite hotel in Panama?