I chose to spend the night in Panama instead of a 7 hour redeye down to Buenos Aires on a 737 – and it was definitely the right call. For some reason, my life seems to be revolving around Panamá in late 2011. Went there in September as part of the giant around the world trip, and was my first visit. Just over a month later, I went there on a milage run. Now, I was overnighting there in order to save the company lots of cash. Funny how these things work out.
Anyways, for the overnight I chose the same hotel I’d stayed at the past two trips, despite the fact it was in excess of our allowed travel budget. I decided I’d rather pay the difference out of the per diem and stay at a hotel I knew I liked and would be comfortable in rather than risk something new on a short over night. It was definitely a good call from my perspective.
Le Meridien, Panama City
The last two times here, we discovered the hotel car to the airport was only $3 more than the shady taxis at the airport, so we’d used that. This time, I decided to call ahead and see if the same rates applied from the airport. Yes they did, and they’d meet me in baggage claim. Sweet! Uneventful drive to the hotel in yet another Panamanian downpour. Driver was reasonably good, not reckless, spoke good English, and no complaints at all. Well worth the extra 10%.
Check-in was quick, and just like the last to trips was upgraded to a “Gold Suite” – actually to the exact same room I’d had the previous trip. No complaints there. When checking in, I made a point of asking the hours of the executive lounge, because I planned a couple glasses of wine before dinner. No problem, she told me the hours, etc.
Headed to the gym for a quick workout, and have to say it was quite disappointing. Bare minimum hotel gym with 3 or 4 cardio machines and just about as little in the way of weights. I managed to get in a (barely) adequate workout, but I guess I can’t complain too much. I just hoped a higher-end hotel like this would have a better gym. I’ll give it adequate at best.
Showered up, and went to the lounge…which was locked. Went to the front desk and…surprise…it’s closed today. Huh?! On a Monday? “You can drink at bar.” Ok…went to bar, had a glass of wine, then decided to make sure at the desk: “what is included at the bar?” “You have drink.” I decided this was getting nowhere, so I switched to my rather poor spanish and didn’t get much farther. “If you want drinks, you have drinks.” “Can I have food?” “Yes you can have food.” “Do I have to pay for food?” “Yes, you have to pay for food.”
Ok, this was productive, lol. Ended up sitting at the bar nearly two hours doing work on my laptop, and had three glasses of wine, and was never presented a bill…so I guess it’s whatever you want to drink? Never did figure that out, but never did get billed either. By this point the downpour still had not let up, so I decided it was a room service night.
Ordered a burger and ice cream from room service, which came with the incredibly low tab of around $15 and was tasty…no complaints. It was quick, good quality, and all-in-all great value for room service.
On the room, it was great with an absolutely huge bathroom. Based on my last two stays this was why I came back here, and as usual wasn’t disappointed.
The lounge was open again the next morning for a light breakfast, which was just enough to get moving. Despite being empty, however, like my previous stays service in the lounge was quite slow. I’m not sure how much is a factor of only one person working, and how much is a factor of them just being casual, but every time I’ve been in this lounge it’s been pretty empty yet service has still been incredibly slow.
Then…the checkout drama. I feel I need to explain. The last two stays, a couple days after checkout, my AmEx was hit for a charge of just over $2 for a room service Snickers I’d never touched. First time, fine, accident. Second time exact same thing? I got the feeling they were operating a scam. Not sure the reason (maybe because of my loud complaints the last two times) but this time…no Snickers charge so far. Whew. Overall, this will still be my #1 choice should I end up back in Panamá.
Park Tower, Buenos Aires
I was debating between this hotel and the hotel I’d stayed at my previous trip – the Sheraton Libertador. Actually the debate was if I should hotel hop every night to get a 500 point SPG platinum bonus. Then, SPG offered a triple points promo for longer stays, and my decision was made. Our local office advised against this hotel, saying it was in a boring area, somewhat dangerous, and there were just much nicer choices. Well, we’d see. A few thoughts…
Was informed that for a 10 night stay there were no suites available, but they’d upgraded me to an “executive corner deluxe” which was actually as big as the junior suites on the second to top floor. I have to say, if this wasn’t a suite, you sure could have fooled me. It was bigger than many junior suites I’ve seen in other hotels, and the layout was very perfect I have to give the room (and upgrade) a 9 out of 10 minimum…almost a 10. The only thing (as you can see below) are the extremely strange paintings in the sitting area! Lots of Luxury Collection hotels feel too “grandma/old lady” for me, but this one was actually quite a good balance.
The best part was, with one night left I was called my the general manager and told there was good news and bad news. The bad news is “a president” was checking in the next day to the Presidential Suite on the top floor, and required the entire flood below him to be vacant. The good news, they were moving me to a proper suite on a lower floor. In the end, I didn’t feel the suite was much bigger, but they certainly made up for it by providing a very nice “we’re sorry” gift when I arrived. Additionally, I had packed my bags and the porter moved everything for me. They really did great service recovery here. Pity I only had one night to enjoy it!
Food and Restaurants
I’m not a big breakfast person, so only sampled the breakfast buffet on my first and last days there. This definitely ranks as one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve seen anywhere, with a huge selection in a very nice room. Tons of meats and cheese, pastries, cereals, etc. I don’t remember seeing any hot options, but it’s possible they were available for order…I wasn’t interested so really didn’t notice.
I had room service one night, which for Argentina was outrageously priced. Over $30 for delivery of a club sandwich…yes, it was tasty and convenient, but the price was absolutely outrageous. I didn’t try any of the restaurants, so can’t comment on those.
Service was twice a day, with housekeeping in the morning and turndown somewhere around 7-8pm. In addition, the butler usually stopped by around 6pm with an evening snack, some of which I’ve pictured below. They made a great snack after the gym, since nobody seemed to eat out until 9pm I definitely needed it! You’ll notice there are only eight snacks….obviously none the first night since I arrived late, and then one random night I never got one…no clue why. Maybe the butler forgot?
The reception/concierge service was efficient on the few times I sought them out, but they definitely weren’t friendly or outgoing in that American way. I can’t fault them because they did respond to anything I asked, but a bit more warmth and personality would have been welcome.
That said, this will definitely be my go-to property next time in Buenos Aires!