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Review: Hilton Cartagena Hotel
Review: Sofitel Cartagena Hotel
Review: Avianca Lounge Cartagena Airport
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Review: LAN Lounge Bogota Airport
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As I explained in the introduction post, we spent the first night at the Hilton Cartagena, given that the Sofitel was sold out for that night. Our rate at the Hilton Cartagena was a reasonable $140 per night. While that’s not cheap, it’s also not bad by American standards.
For what it’s worth, this is a Category 6 HHonors property, meaning a free night here costs anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 HHonors points per night. I value Hilton points at ~0.4 cents each, so in our case paying cash represented a better value than redeeming points, when you factor in the number of points we earned for our stay.
The Hilton is located about 15 minutes from Cartagena Airport, and it’s more of a beach resort than a city hotel.
As we pulled up to the hotel we were directed to reception by the friendly bellmen. I can’t figure out whether the hotel is 20 years past its prime, channeling coastal Florida decor, or a bit of both, but it does feel a bit more shabby than it does chic.
The lobby is two stories high and open, with plenty of lobby seating.
The decor in the lobby simply doesn’t match, in my opinion. They clearly tried to spruce things up with some modern furniture, but it just ends up looking weird against the dated backdrop of the rest of the lobby.
I had to wait for about 10 minutes before I was helped at reception, and then the check-in process took another 10 minutes. It really does blow my mind how inefficient the check-in process is in some countries. Fortunately the associate was friendly, thanked me for being a Diamond member, etc.
We were assigned an oceanview room on the 6th floor, room 650. The hallways are quite bright, and we had an easy time finding our room.
I was pleasantly surprised by the room, given that the rest of the hotel is quite dated. Our oceanview room featured an entryway, with closets on the right and the bathroom on the left.
The first thing I noticed about the room was that it mostly had bare floors. While it’s perhaps not the nicest looking surface aesthetically, as a germaphobe I sort of love that, since presumably it’s easier to clean.
I also appreciated that the bed had six pillows. As is the norm at Hilton, I didn’t find the mattress to be great, but it wasn’t terrible either. I have no clue why Hilton doesn’t create a desirable brand standard mattress.
Opposite the bed was the TV, along with a desk with a rolling chair.
Then over by the window were two chairs facing into the room.
Back towards the front of the room near the closet was the minibar and single-cup coffee machine.
The bathroom was pretty standard for a Hilton — it featured a sink, toilet, and walk-in shower.
Toiletries were provided by Peter Thomas Roth (not to be confused with Peter Thomas from Real Housewives of Atlanta).
The shower featured both a rainforest head as well as a handheld one. Unfortunately the handheld one was basically broken, as water was leaking out of it.
The views from the room were beautiful, though I was sad about the lack of a balcony. That’s sort of an essential feature of any oceanview room, in my opinion.
I should note that I’ve read a lot of complaints about the wifi here in the past, though I had no issues. No, it wasn’t super fast, but it wasn’t terrible either.
Upon dropping stuff off in our room we headed up to the club lounge, located at the far end of the 10th floor.
The lounge is on the small side, though didn’t seem to be overcrowded. There were about five tables, and then a few other types of seating.
There was also a small business center with two computers.
The food selection in the evening was pretty abysmal. Perhaps not by US standards, but by international standards it was disappointing.
In addition to self serve beer and wine, there was also a coffee machine.
The food spread consisted of fresh veggies, thinly sliced wraps, several types of bread, dessert, and two hot options.
The two hot options were pizza and some sort of unlabeled meatballs.
While the food spread wasn’t great, the decor was the depressing part of the lounge. You had an amazing view, but unfortunately the lounge felt more like the lobby of a funeral home than a place you’d want to spend any time in at a beach resort.
In the morning we accidentally had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. I thought I had recalled the associate at check-in say that Diamond members could have breakfast in the restaurant or lounge. As it turned out, I was confusing it with the hotel I had stayed at prior to that. So we ended up paying for breakfast, though it was only about $10 per person, so wasn’t bad (I love prices in Colombia!).
The restaurant was casual and had a bit of character.
The breakfast spread was very good, with all kinds of bread, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc.
Unfortunately I didn’t really have a chance to check out the pool or gym. We landed in the evening, went into town for dinner, and had to check out by 8AM so we could go on our tour. From there we checked straight into the Sofitel.
The location of the hotel is a bit off, unless you want to sit on the beach. Frankly you’ll find nicer beaches than in Cartagena, so I can’t imagine wanting to go here as a beach destination. There’s nothing in the immediate area otherwise, and it’s about a 10-15 minute taxi ride into the old town. Ultimately that’s not a big deal, especially given how cheap taxis in Cartagena are.
I found the service at the hotel to be pretty bad, though. I had to ask three different staff members before they could tell me where an ATM was. Bizarrely the hotel doesn’t have one, and the nearest one is in a shady, dark area, a couple of blocks from the hotel.
Also, we couldn’t find the restaurant when we were looking for breakfast, and I had to ask four times before I got someone who directed us to the right place. Most staff members spoke good English, so I don’t think it was the language which was the problem.
Hilton Cartagena bottom line
For someone looking to earn or redeem points in Cartagena, the Hilton is a fine option. When we first booked our trip I was wanting us to stay there the whole time, so I could earn points and we could get status benefits. And the hotel was fine — overall it was a bit better than I was expecting, actually.
However, after staying at the Sofitel, I can’t even begin to say how much better it was. Unfortunately it was also significantly more expensive.
So while this is a fine hotel, I can’t imagine returning after having stayed at the Sofitel. Stay tuned for that…