A Superior Suite and Inferior Service at the Intercontinental Boston

I walked into the hotel and straight up to the checkin desk. I was asked for my name and I handed over my credit card. They asked for my drivers license.

I know that internationally I’m frequently asked for a passport but I wish hotels would not card their elite members, they should at least feign knowing who I am and welcoming me rather than asking me to prove that I am who I say I am. This is hardly an issue I have with the Intercontinental Boston as such, just an observation.

When I first became a Royal Ambassador member, one of the benefits that was explained was that they keep my credit card on file, I would never have to do the usual check-in formalities. That never turned out to be the case, and I don’t remember seeing that in any materials more recently but admittedly I haven’t read the brochures in several years.

I chose the Intercontinental Boston because it was close enough to the convention center where the Global Business Travel Association’s conference is being held, and it wasn’t sold out. Since I was speaking Monday morning and needed a Sunday night stay, I came up on Saturday and figured I would use a free weekend night certificate. I presented that certificate at check-in as well.

I was then told that my room wasn’t ready. They offered to store my bags.

Now, it was 2pm. Royal Ambassadors are guaranteed 8am check-in. But they had upgraded me from a club room (the highest level you can book with a free weekend night certificate, the days of booking the Presidential Suite this way are gone) to a Superior Suite. They told me they were sold out and all other suites were taken, so couldn’t simply move me. Now, the proper thing under the rules of the program for them to do would be to assign me to a standard room to use until my room was ready.

But I didn’t push. Instead, they gave me a key card for the lounge and I went upstairs.

I had plenty of work to do anyway, that was more than fine. I grabbed a bottle of water, plugged in my laptop, and sat down to get some work done. I connected to the internet and was prompted for a password. So I started walking around the club lounge looking for an internet password. I couldn’t find it. I called down to “Instant Service” and I waited. And waited. And waited.

After 15 minutes someone picked up the line.

They initially told me there was no password, but I knew that wasn’t right so I pressed. After waiting on hold for a few minutes they came back to let me know the password — which I should have been smart enough to guess, ICBoston. Hah.

I spent the next couple of hours diligently plugging away. At 4:45pm I received a call that my room was ready and someone would be bringing up a key. I asked if they would look into what they’d be able to do for me, for not having a room available. They credited $50 to my room.

Intercontinentals tend to have plenty of suites. And not just junior suites or executive suites, but real suites. And Royal Ambassadors get upgraded to those. The drawbacks of the program are just how inconsistent it can be, each hotel pretty much makes up its own policies — sometimes they go to great lengths to upgrade Royal Ambassadors, other times it is a fixed 2-category upgrade — which for hotels without lots of room categories, this can be great, and it can also be exceptionally good for properties that don’t cap the level of upgrade you can attain — you can work with the hotel to know exactly what room you book will yield in terms of an upgrade. It’s how I would up in the Presidential Suite at the Intercontinental Manila on a cheap friends and family rate. The program has gotten more restrictive though as it has attempt to enforce ‘consistency’ — no upgrades on reward nights, often no upgrades on friends and family rates, sometimes no upgrades on free weekend night certificate stays and those stays can now only be booked in a club room as the highest possible category.

I went down to my room and was impressed. It was a superior suite with a huge bathroom and a guest bath, a very large bedroom, a desk area, a dining room and a large living room. And there was even a bunch of wasted space.

The club lounge had hours posted of 7:00am – 9:30am during the week for breakfast, with beverages and chips and the like midday while the club is unstaffed, and then evening cocktails and snacks from 5:30pm – 8:30pm. On the weekend breakfast ran 8:00am to 10:30am.

I admit, that’s a bit late for me to have breakfast starting, especially since the lounge is actually closed from 8:30pm until breakfast and you can’t get yourself a self-serve cappuccino.

The first evening I happened back from dinner and went straight up to the lounge for the end of service, making it upstairs at 8:10pm. And boy, the offerings were completely cleaned out. There were a few finger sandwiches left, no desserts. No great loss, I certainly don’t need the calories, I was mostly interested to make sure I saw what was on offer.

The next morning I did go down to breakfast, and there was fruit and cheese and breads and smoked salmon, all fine.

I worked in the suite for awhile and then around 10:30am I headed out. I called down to ask that the room be made up while I was out, and they told me it wouldn’t be a problem. At 1:30pm I returned and the room had not been cleaned. But oddly there was a bottle of water in the room’s entryway that I had not left there. I put up the ‘do not disturb’ sign since I’d be in for a bit. They came to clean the room, saw the sign, and called me (what part of do not disturb did they not understand?).

Around 4pm I left again, called down to have the room cleaned (I had been told that I would need to do this before 5pm if I wanted service). When I returned in the evening the room had kinda sort of been cleaned, there was trash still lying about, plastic from the bathroom soap was still there, the room had gotten a quick once-over, I imagine my room was the thing standing between housekeeping staff and their home or evening plans.

I did make it up to the lounge that night, before heading out to dinner, so there was plenty on offer.

Upon returning to the hotel Sunday night I called down for an early wakeup call. I also asked about getting a pot of coffee sent up in the morning from room service. They told me that it was not possible to pre-order, I would have to call down in the morning. But my goal was to avoid that — calling and then waiting for delivery. What I wanted was coffee to come shortly after the wakeup call.

Moments after hanging up I got a call back, telling me that if I called room service directly rather than ‘instant service’ then I should be able to pre-order to pot of coffee. It seemed like it would have been easier for them to arrange it directly, but I spoke to room service and they did set it up for me.

The next day I was back to breakfast in the lounge, and off to the Global Business Travel Association’s conference where I was speaking. I asked for 4pm checkout so that I could leave my bags at the hotel and possibly change before flying home. When I arrived back at the hotel around 3:30pm I found housekeeping cleaning the room. I mentioned that I was checking out shortly, and she said that her manager told her the room had to be prepared for the next guest. Odd. Fortunately, she left the room so I could change and I did indeed checkout by 4.

I stopped by the desk for a receipt and asked to have them e-mail it to me. They confirmed my email address, but nothing arrived. I need to follow up for a copy.

All in all the hotel was a great value on a free weekend night certificate, with lounge access and a giant suite. But they really seemed to have a lot of service issues, across the board. If I needed to be directly in that area again I would stay there, but I wouldn’t be especially excited to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Personally, I’d be really upset if that’s the service I got at an IC. I’m a little surprised you didn’t speak up a some more.

  2. Ouch. This could have been a 5-star stay combined with the nice upgrade they gave as a RA .. but their (lack of) service certainly made your stay/review much less fruitful. It’s a shame when service is such hit-and-miss but honestly I have got that impression at a few different IC properties. Not sure of the reason. By the way I would have been very upset if housekeeping had entered/cleaned my room without my permission (while I was still the registered guest for the room with my belongings IN the room) but looks like you took it lightly. Good for you but may be you should have said something to the manager upon check-out!

  3. I’m right now at the IC in Kansas City. my service has been great, but I’m envious of the lounge spread. it’s been weak here – 104F and there has been no cold bottled water in the lounge all day. The housekeeping maid just brought me 2 bottles, though. 🙂

  4. Sorry to hear about the service you received.On my stay on Patriot’s day weekend, I couldn’t have asked for better accomodations and service. I had 3 rooms reserved and all were ready upon arrival at 1:00 P.M.
    The lounge was very well stocked morning and evening and it’s open on weekends, something hard to find at hotels these days.
    Perhaps you just were a victim of a rash of misfortunes and caught them at their worst. This property has now become my favorite place to stay when in Boston.

  5. Gary you’ve become more and more DYKWIA by each hotel visit! Not a nice character for a great blogger and an executive.

    Disappointed on this one.

  6. @YVR604miler – please tell me more about what leads you to think that? I didn’t insist on my status benefit of early check-in, but I did say something when no room was available for me until a couple of hours after designated check-in time. No ‘DYKWIA’ about that, is there?

    I didn’t complain to the hotel about poor housekeeping or about housekeeping trying to turn my room while I was still in it. I didn’t complain to the hotel about lack of food in the lounge during evening service hours, nor about it taking too long for them to answer the phone (15 minutes!) so that I could have an internet code.

    I simply noted these issues, sharing with my readers the gist of my experience, and where I thought they fell a bit short of their potential as a top-end property.

    I realize I did not even not in my review, about housekeeping, that when I checked into the room the toilet wasn’t fully cleaned. I won’t share the details of that one, actually…

    But if there’s something about my review that rubbed you the wrong way, I’d love to know what it is?

  7. Hello Gary, 

    My name is Carlos and I am the Director of Front Office at the InterContinental Boston. We sincerely apologize for the service challenges you experienced during your recent stay at our hotel. We strive to provide our guests with high-quality service and in this instance we clearly fell short.

    I have shared the details of your review with our management team and we are working on ways to make sure the check-in and housekeeping issues you mentioned do not happen in the future. Also, you will receive a copy of your receipt shortly.

    Thank you for your comments and the opportunity for us to make necessary improvements to our service. If you would like to further discuss the details of your stay, please feel free to contact me at carlos.orihuela@ihg.com. We value your loyalty as a Royal Ambassador and look forward to exceeding your expectations during your next visit.

    Best Regards,

    Carlos Orihuela 
    Director of Front Office
InterContinental Boston 

  8. This is absolutely a great review! Thank you for the details and photos, so entertaining. I will bookmark your blog. I am going to stay in IC in Boston soon so this was very helpful.

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