Review: InterContinental Geneva

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Review: InterContinental Geneva
Review: W Verbier
Review: Huus Hotel Gstaad

Ford and I recently spent nine nights in Switzerland, as we flew into Geneva and then visited Verbier and Gstaad. Ford is a skiier, while I’m more of a walk around cute towns and then sit inside and drink hot beverages while on my laptop kind of guy. So I’ll be reviewing the hotels in the order in which we stayed at them.

Staying in Geneva

We weren’t really planning on visiting Geneva, per se, but rather Geneva is the closest major airport to Verbier. Since our flight was only scheduled to arrive into Geneva at around 5PM, it made sense to spend a night there and then take the train to Verbier early the following morning. That ended up being a great idea, since we misconnected at Heathrow, so only arrived into Geneva very late at night, and then left early the following morning to Verbier.

Booking the InterContinental Geneva

Switzerland, including Geneva, is outrageously expensive. As a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist, the options are pretty limited. The only hotel in Geneva belonging to either of those groups is the Hotel President Wilson, which was over $500 per night for our date.

This was one of those situations where it was ideal to use the anniversary free night certificate that comes with the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. The card has a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), and then you get an annual free night certificate valid at virtually any IHG hotel on your account anniversary every year.

Originally I was just going to use it for the Crowne Plaza Geneva Airport, which would have cost over $300 if paying cash. However, I saw there was also an InterContinental in the city, so figured we might as well stay there since it would cost us the same. After all, originally we thought we’d arrive in the evening rather than late at night, so the plan was to go into town, have dinner, etc.

A paid stay at the InterContinental would have cost over $500 (and if redeeming points it would have cost 45,000), so redeeming the free night certificate from the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card was a spectacular deal, since my real out of pocket here was the $49 annual fee. This is also the perfect example of how there’s value in this certificate for someone who isn’t loyal to IHG. Some people say “well I only like to stay at [insert brand].” I’m usually the same, and in this case that would have left me with a single $500+ per night hotel to choose from.

InterContinental Geneva review

This review will be fairly short, because we ended up arriving at the hotel around midnight, and left at around 9AM, so we basically slept and showered.

Our taxi drive from the airport took about 10 minutes and cost 30CHF. Maybe during the day there would have been a cheaper way to get to the hotel, but after our rough travel day, we wanted to get to bed ASAP.

The InterContinental has a beautiful lobby that spans two floors. When you enter through the revolving doors, there are seating arrangements on both sides of the main walkway, with cozy fireplaces.

InterContinental Geneva lobby

InterContinental Geneva lobby

InterContinental Geneva lobby

InterContinental Geneva lobby

At the end of the long hall is the reception area.

InterContinental Geneva lobby

InterContinental Geneva reception

Even though it was midnight at this point, we received an exceptionally warm welcome. I was thanked for being an IHG Platinum member (even though it doesn’t get you much at InterContinentals), and while our check-in was processed, a bellmen asked if there was anything he could help us arrange for tomorrow. I mentioned our plan to take the train to Verbier, and he explained that the bus to the train station leaves from right in front of the hotel, and he gave us (complimentary) bus tickets to get there.

It was an impressive check-in experience, despite the late hour.

From reception we turned left, and then towards the end of the hall and to the right were the elevators leading to guest rooms.

InterContinental Geneva lobby

We took the elevator up to the 11th floor, where our room was located.

InterContinental Geneva elevators

Upon existing the elevator we turned left, and then our room (#1107) was to the right.

InterContinental Geneva hallway

Our free night certificate booked us into a superior room, and that’s exactly what we got.

InterContinental Geneva floorplan

The room featured an entryway with the bathroom to the left and some closet space (with sliding doors) to the right.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room entryway

The room was a pretty normal size, with a comfortable king size bed.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room

Then by the window was a side table as well as a couch with seating for a couple of people.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room couch

Across from the bed was a long counter which had a desk with a rolling chair, as well as the TV.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room desk

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room desk

Next to the desk was the minibar and in-room coffee & tea. One thing I find cheap for a $500+ per night hotel is that they don’t have a real coffee or espresso machine in the room, but rather just have a kettle with instant coffee. Based on looking at the room descriptions on the hotel’s website, all the non-base rooms have espresso machines, which makes it all the cheaper that they make the distinction in such a way.

InterContinental Geneva in-room coffee & tea

InterContinental Geneva minibar

To the right of that there was a built-in luggage rack.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room luggage rack

Overall I thought the room’s decor was generic, though it did have a few cute touches, like this picture frame and some books.

InterContinental Geneva Superior Room decorations

The bathroom was on the small side, and the number of mirrors in the bathroom made me feel like I was at a W Hotel. There was a sink, toilet, and a shower/tub combo.

InterContinental Geneva bathroom

InterContinental Geneva shower

The entire bathroom, including the shower head, felt quite basic for a luxury hotel.

InterContinental Geneva shower

Toiletries were from Agraria, and were agreeable.

InterContinental Geneva toiletries

The room didn’t have much in the way of views. The hotel isn’t right near the lake, so views from most rooms are just of nearby buildings. In our case, we had a view of a parking lot.

InterContinental Geneva room view

Wifi in the room was fast and free, though I didn’t use it much.

While we didn’t use them, the hotel’s spa and gym were on the second floor. The spa was by Clarins.

InterContinental Geneva Clarins Spa

The gym looked alright.

InterContinental Geneva gym

InterContinental Geneva gym

After getting a good night of sleep we showered and took the bus to the train station to start our journey to Verbier.

InterContinental Geneva bottom line

We didn’t have enough time to fully experience this hotel. What I can say is that we got an exceptional value here, since we basically paid $49 thanks to the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. That’s an incredible value, and in Geneva you couldn’t even get the worst hotel for that price.

The (limited) interaction we had with employees at this hotel was impressive, and the room was comfortable. However, while I thought the lobby area felt high end and luxurious, the rooms themselves didn’t. I thought the design felt a bit sterile and cheap, and there were some features missing that I’d expect at a luxury hotel. To me, InterContinental is an infinitely confusing brand as I can’t figure out whether they view themselves as a luxury brand, or whether they view themselves as a midscale brand. Who knows.

I couldn’t imagine spending $500+ per night to stay here (in fairness, $500 doesn’t go as far in Geneva as elsewhere), though I’d absolutely recommend this place using an anniversary free night certificate.

I’m curious, who do you guys view as InterContinental’s competitors? Is it supposed to be luxury brands (like St. Regis), one notch below that (like JW Marriott), midscale brands, or what?

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  1. That room reminds me of a lot of places in Japan you can have for about JPY10,000 (~USD100) per night booking through Agoda last minute. It’s small, cramped, and ultimately basic. Nothing about that room says luxury other than the price. And maybe the overabundance of mirrors in the bathroom. You got a great deal by using your free IHG night, but any person paying even a deeply discounted rack rate should feel swindled by the IC brand.

  2. Well, really kudos for you to arrive at midnight and leave at 9AM and still take pictures of every place inside the hotel. The location of this hotel is really not where you wan to be in Geneva so I would pass it unless you are there just for a shower and a bed like you were.

  3. I think they gave you the $49 free night certificate room. For $500 a night I am not impressed. Look forward to the rest of your reviews.

  4. I agree with Santastico. I wouldn’t have been in the mood to photograph the gym had I only had 9 hours at the property. You’re a champ as usual.

  5. Yikes that’s not a luxury/high end room IMHO. That said I’m loyal to IHG because of the IC brand. I have the Ambassador thing with them, which pays for itself. I live in L.A. so I have 7 IC’s within a days drive. I do agree that they can tend towards having a great lobby/staff experience, but their basic rooms really are basic. The Ambassador level helps with that as I always get the upgrade.

  6. Lucky, I am a little surprised you aren’t Ambassador. I rarely stay at IC’s, but I decided to splurge on it two years ago. I got more than the points cost’s worth redeeming the BOGO at IC HK GS (I know the rates are inflated, but still saved around $200, plus a double upgrade). Last year, I again redeemed points for the renewal, and after the 10% points rebate, Accelerate Task Bonus, and Renewal Bonus; I only was out 6,600 points.

  7. Stayed here with our children for a night using free night certificates. Our request for connecting rooms was honored and we were able to check in to our rooms early-just before noon. The International Red Cross Museum is within walking distance and is quite interesting- it also has a nice, inexpensive cafe where we had lunch. We returned to the hotel late afternoon and were able to enjoy the lovely outdoor pool area for a time. Bus stop to lakefront area and airport are located right in front of the hotel- about 10-15 minutes to either of those places. All tourists staying at the hotel receive complimentary bus passes.

  8. With the town full of UN Staff and International bankers, I never really enjoyed any of my countless stays in Geneva (even being one of the former category of people). The entire town has that sterile feel to it, and I found that any and all of the hotels followed suit!

    The saving grace getting to and from the airport is that you could do it for free with the public transport visitor pass every hotel hands out, with a quick jump on the train that was a whole 10-12 minutes long if I remember correctly.

    Enjoyed the pics!

  9. How’d you and Ford get to Switzerland? Sounded like you flew AA biz to LAX via London on the return, is that what you did on the outbound too? Anything worth reviewing? 🙂

  10. I’d say that “superior” room desk was vintage 1956. And that soiled chair has probably been used by 10,000 people.
    They must have put you in that room on purpose or you got cheated.

  11. I agree that Intercontinental has an identity crisis, but then again, so do most IHG Brands. What is a Crowne Plaza sussposed to be? How about a Holiday Inn?

    I think IHG’s strategy is honestly to be the worst-in-breed. Ensure each brand is the cheapest in its category and hope that it can be the low-bidder on business/government contracts and Priceline deals. It’s not a bad idea actually.

    Of course, they need a few flagship properties to legitimize each brand. The resulting hodgepodge results in the inconsistent quality you speak of, but it’s not limited to Intercontinental.

  12. While strictly speaking the only SPG hotel is the President WIlson as you mentioned, (and not that great a value as a Category 7 at 30,000 points), the Hotel de la Paix, a Ritz Carlton, is only 50,000 Marriott points = 16,667 SPG, which is a great deal given the typical $500 rates and it’s in a great central location right on the lake.

  13. Wow, $500 gets you THAT — even in Geneva?! I would be none-too-pleased to receive that type of room for that price.

  14. I am based in Geneva, and get a taxi from the airport often, a 20min drive can easily be over 50CHF. Uber is the way to go in Geneva, plenty of cars, and you can usually score a Mercedes Uber X, plus it’s half the cost!

  15. WOW. Just WOW. They call it a luxury hotel?

    I personally stayed in a couple of recently built Holiday Inns and they have 90% identical rooms. The only luxury ‘perk’ of this IC comparing to H Inns is a bookshelf.

    Actually I recall a Holiday Inn Bali (a new resort in Nusa Dua) room was so much better and looked more expensive and well though than this IC.

  16. From my experience, hotels in Geneva and Bern are lackluster in contrast to Zurich. We generally preferring renting a house just outside the city for that reason.

  17. Agree with you about the brand identity crisis. On one hand you have hotels like the InterContinentals Singapore, Porto, Mauritius, etc. which are Tier 1, fantastic hotels. And then there’s the middle, like Times Square, Boston, Lisbon, which are solid **** types, and then there’s the IC Frankfurt, IC Wellington, where you wonder what you paid for

  18. In case you’re ever back and spending time in Geneve, there is a free train pass from GVA to main train station (Cornavin) available to those holding a valid boarding pass. Machine is just before passing customs.

    And don’t forget the free TPG pass available to hotel guests.

    What you’ll use all this free transport to see in a city as mind-numbingly boring as Geneve is a very different (and valid) question.

  19. I’ve never considered InterContinental to be a luxury brand. To be honest, they’re not even exactly comparable to JW. I’d say they’re more comparable to a Marriott property, so more midscale, or maybe a Renaissance or Design Hotels property.

  20. I am surprised how “superior room” look like @Geneva Intercontinental. I stayed @Crown Plaza Geneva last May since its less points redeemed but my room was better than yours IMHO.

  21. We used our two IHG annual free nights at IC Geneva, and thought it a great deal…after we got over the shock of the size of the room. We went to Geneva to visit the UN and a couple of related agencies. We were thrilled to find the most convenient hotel happened to be available to us with our IHG certificates.

    They did give us a room with a great view of the lake and the mountains one the other side. The concierge was sweet and helpful beyond description. She really knew where to eat well for cheap (relative to most of Geneva), how to use the free transit passes efficiently, what to see, less expensive lake cruises, etc. She was totally comfortable with our cheapskate ways. We are swimmers and loved the pool–one of the the very few hotel pools large enough for really swim some laps.

    IC hotels are indeed quirky and inconsistent. I find we need to look closely in advance, each time. I think sometimes one gets a lot for the price, and other times not much. Our favorite was the Amstel in Amsterdam. They treated us like family members.

  22. Thanks so much for this review! We just got back this week from Geneva. Like you, my husband and I are Starwood loyalists. We originally booked at the President Wilson, but changed plans when we realized it was a bit off the main strip. We switched over to 3 nights at the Mandarin Oriental. Even though it was $700 a night for a standard room, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Although we did walk by some of these other hotels and wondered what they were like. It’s always great to get a peek in, so thanks!

  23. Geneva is the most expensive city in Switzerland, in every respect. What makes it so expensive is the combination of luxury tourism, in particular from the Middle East, and the UN induced government travel. Governments all have special contracts there, but they often don’t leave too much capacity to the free market.

    On top of that, the IC is the first choice for security sensitive meetings/conferences, for several reasons, including the short distance to both the airport and the UN. Whenever POTUS comes to town, he stays there …

    So I guess there are not too many good reasons to stay there …

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