Hotel Review: Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Airport Westshore, Tampa USA, 18 – 20 September 2015

Hilton Garden InnCheck-in/Check-out

This was really quick. I checked in the night before using the Hilton app, and when we arrived, we were in a rush. I literally picked up the keys at the front desk, and we were in our room within three minutes of parking our rental car. Check out was equally painless. We just returned the keys, and were informed that the items we got during our stay would just be charged to my registered credit card, so there was no paperwork. I am digging this, for sure.


Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Airport Westshore is a short, 5-min drive from Tampa International Airport, and located in the Westshore Business district of Tampa. Despite its proximity to the airport, we didn’t hear any noise (we had a 7th-level room facing the airport), so the noise insulation is pretty good. There is plenty of shopping and dining options nearby, so as far as convenience goes, it’s pretty awesome. It is also near the freeway, so if you are trying to cross into St. Petersburg or Clearwater for its beaches, it is also highly accessible.


We booked a non-smoking 2-Queen room. It was spacious, with two Queen beds, a substantial work desk, and a lounge chair by the window. The bathroom was a little bit tight, but worked fine. There was a Keurig coffee maker in the room, mini-fridge, and microwave. My main complaint is that the A/C was kinda noisy. They also stock Neutrogena bath products. Waffle iron at Tampa Hilton Garden Inn


As a Hilton Gold, I had the option of getting a hot breakfast for 2, or 750 points for my stay. Since we were staying for two days, and there were two of us, I thought it was good value to go with the breakfast.

The breakfast ends at 11 am on weekends, which is kinda nice for the weekend sleep-in. It wasn’t super duper awesome, but also, no complaints. They had four hot stations, with your standards of breakfast sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes. The oddball in this mix was pizza. They also had regular cereals, pastries, breads, yogurts.

The awesome thing? Waffles! They have a waffle iron on premise. We probably rolled down for breakfast at 9.30 – 10 on both days, and it was pretty empty by that point, but the buffet was still well-stocked.

I know this is a strange comment, but boy, their coffee was good! I was expecting something pretty bad, but damn, the coffee was good!

If only every morning began with a nutella waffle!


I didn’t have any real interactions with the staff, which is probably a good thing, since the last couple of times, I had interactions mostly because there were issues with the room.

So I am going to say that this Hilton Garden Inn is a well-oiled machine.


They had an outdoor pool and a smallish gym with about three machines. I didn’t have time to use either of them on this trip.

One of the neat things they have? They put out different complimentary beverages at different times of the day; coffee and tea in the day, and iced tea/fruit-infused water in the evenings. I really enjoyed grabbing a drink for the room, or a coffee for the road as I was heading out!


It delivered up to expectations. I paid 188.50 USD for two nights. I was kinda happy with the return on points for this stay. I used my Visa Signature Reserve card, alongside a triple point promotion for weekend stays with Hilton, tagged on with the Hilton double-dip, and Gold benefit. This yielded close to 10000 Hilton points – enough for a one-night category 2 hotel stay, or 2 nights at a category 1 hotel.


Hotel Review: Hampton Inn Panama City, Panama, 5 – 9 September 2015

King bed room at Hampton Panama CityLocation:

El Cangrejo

This is the older gambling district of Panama City, so you can find casinos like Wyndham’s Veneto, and Crowne Plaza’s casino within short walking distance. As the casino district, there are also lots of late night eateries, e.g. Niko’s, and a bunch of others around the casinos. It is also between two of the metro stations, making public transportation easy. There are also bus stops running in front of Via Espana, one of which serves Tocumen International Airport. Rey’s supermarket is also within short walking distance. So, there are many amenities within a short walk from the hotel.

Hampton Panama CityCheck In/Check out:

There were two couples in front of me at check in at 2.45 pm. There was just one guy manning the counter, so that took a while. I used the time to take photos of the lobby. I was given the room that I booked – a non-smoking King bed room, but I was given the accessible room on the lowest floor (Level 1) on a 10-level building, so that was rather annoying.

I checked out at 5.45 am for my early flight, so suffice to say, there was nobody there, and so the check out took all of 1 min.

King bed room at Hampton Panama CityThe room:

I booked into a city-view King room. It had a ‘city’ view, but at the first level, I really couldn’t see much. The room was very spacious and clean, and the bed was comfortable. I liked that their power plugs are updated with USB chargers.

King bed room at Hampton Panama CityThe bathroom was also very spacious. I am not sure if this was a standard thing, or because this is an accessible room. They stock neutrogena bath products. The drainage of the room had some issues. The shower stall had a tendency to flood, and because it was an accessible room, they couldn’t have the shower area sunken in, so that made for a whole lot of fun. I also had an issue with the toilet plugging up on the second day.

They provide a “coffee maker” in the room, which is once again, slightly misleading. I did not use it, but it looked more like a hot water boiler more so than a coffee maker. They did make packs of instant coffee and tea bags available.

Buffet breakfast at Hampton PanamaBreakfast:

The breakfast was actually pretty good. They had at least four hot stations, and my favorite part – a waffle maker! The waffle maker was very popular, but the make-it-yourself waffle was a total crowd pleaser. They had your usual breads, cereals, and also, drip coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and two-three juices.


It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. I called for the toilet to be unclogged, and left the room after the phone call. Perhaps a plumber came by and knocked, and didn’t enter when I didn’t answer, but regardless, my toilet wasn’t unclogged that evening. It only got unclogged when I left the room for the day. But for what it’s worth, this was the only place that I stayed that acknowledged my Hilton status, even if it didn’t mean much.

Swimming pool at Hampton PanamaAmenities:

They have a pool at the roof top, which closes at 11 pm. It seemed very popular. As I swim to exercise, and am a lap swimmer, I decided against it – didn’t want to kill families having some fun in the pool. They also have a gym beside the pool. It was smallish, but adequate.

Other stuff:

They do have a kitchen, so you could order room service, or eat in the dining area. The entrees (e.g. pizza, pasta) were around 10+ USD, which is slightly pricey, but also somewhat reasonable for Panama City prices.

One of my favorite things about this hotel is, from 9 pm – 11 pm, they put out coffee, tea, and hot chocolate for guests in the lobby area. So if you are just coming in from your day’s adventures, it is kinda nice to have a hot beverage before turning in for the night. Or maybe you just need your late night caffeine fix for gambling.


I am not sure how long this hotel will remain a category 1 hotel. But at 5000 Hilton points, it was a pretty good deal. Generally, casino hotels in Panama City aren’t very expensive, but hey, if you can just spend 5000 Hilton points, and not pay anything out of your pocket, it’s hard to argue with that.

Hotel: Waldorf Astoria, Panama City, Panama, 04 September 2015

Waldorf Astoria Junior King Suite

Waldorf Astoria King Bed Junior Suite

This is technically not a Miles & Points post, as I did not make a redemption, but oftentimes, it is worthwhile to check out some of your credit card benefits. If you check out my earlier post (How I will be staying a Waldorf Astoria for free), it would make sense why I booked into the Waldorf Astoria Panama City, despite the fact that I could have used my fifth night free benefit for my subsequent Hampton Inn Panama City redemption.


It is one block from the waterfront, and a pedestrian park of sorts, which is supposed to be popular with locals. There are also many malls, restaurants, etc. located around the hotel. There are also some large boulevards near the hotel, so if you are taking public transport, that is an option.

Booking with Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection

In this instance, I would say that booking with Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection completely won out over booking directly via Hilton. With Hilton, I would have only gotten complimentary Wi-Fi, which is something that Visa Signature offers in any case. By booking with Visa Signature, I got two added benefits – complimentary continental breakfast, and $25 F&B credit. Benefits:

      • Best available rate guarantee
    • Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
    • Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
    • Complimentary continental breakfast daily
    • $25 USD food or beverage credit
    • VIP Guest status
    • 3PM check-out upon request, when available


I booked a Deluxe King Room (79 USD + taxes), and while I was checking my HHonors app the night before I was due to arrive, I noticed that my booking had changed to Junior King Suite, so I guess I got upgraded. If you ask me, I think this is more a Visa Signature benefit, more so than a HHonors Gold benefit. So far, I have had no luck getting better rooms with my status (think low floor rooms). I might be using the Visa Signature Hotel collection booking more often from now on, as there is no real benefit from booking directly with Hilton. Needless to say, I was very happy with my upgrade, as I was given a much larger room (55 sq m) on the 18th floor. When I asked the front desk for a late check-out, I was also offered a 2pm check out.


I was the only person at the check-in counter, so that was rather painless. I did have to confirm my Visa Signature benefits with the front desk, including the complimentary continental breakfast, as there was some confusion as to whether I was going to get that. I was also assigned a personal concierge, who was supposed to attend to me, but I never used the service, so … Double vanity and tub at Waldorf Astoria Junior King Suite Bathroom of King Bed Junior Suite


I was given room 1807, a Junior King Suite that is located across from the elevator. The views weren’t spectacular, as there was construction right in front of the ocean-facing side of the Waldorf Astoria. The room was large (55 sq m), with a work desk, sofa, lounge chair, walk-in shower with rain shower and hand wand, double vanity, and tub. They also use Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries.

The room is also stocked with a Nespresso machine, and 6 nespresso pods, 3 Arpeggios, and 3 Decaf. How the machine was situated made it slightly awkward to load the machine with bottle, but I had my platypus water bottle with me, so that eased the water loading part of it.

There were a few surprises for me – for one, I generally expect to find a folding luggage rack in hotels, but I didn’t find one in my room. It was not a big deal, as I just put my luggage on one of the benches in the room. A second surprise was, I couldn’t find slippers. In other premium establishments, generally slippers are provided, so that came as a surprise to me. Those weren’t big issues for me, so I didn’t call down to request for them.

One last thing to note, as the confusing phone/phone directory. I wanted to order room service, so I clicked the quick dial button, which just went nowhere. I then had to flip through the hotel directory, and there were two different numbers associated with room service. Weird.

Was given free macaroons :D :D :D

4 pm macaroons? Oh yea!


I thought it was awesome. I stayed in my room most of the time, working. And when I did not engage the privacy button, every couple of hours or so, there would be some goodies sent to my room. At around 3.30 – 4 pm, I was given a plate with three beautiful macaroons, which served as the perfect counterpoint to a shot of espresso. And at around 6.30 pm or so, the staff gave me some Lindt candy when I opened the door. Weird phone wiring aside, room service was good as well. I ordered an Angus burger, cooked medium, and it arrived, as expected, within the 30 min time frame stated. I had no issues with the food either.


They have a pool, and a jacuzzi area beside the pool. The pool is probably about 20 yards long. If there weren’t construction right in front of it, it would probably be a whole lot nicer. It wasn’t the cleanest pool on earth, as there were leaves and whatever else might fall into an outdoor pool located on the 7th level of a 36 story building. It was a lap pool of sorts, but the short distance made lap swimming somewhat annoying.

Pool service was great. I was given a beach towel within the minute that I arrived. But I guess in all fairness, there were less than 10 people at that point.

The pool is outdoors, so if it rains, I think its utility will be fairly limited.


It is not one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in, but it is definitely the best hotel that I have ever stayed in for like 79 USD. And if I actually receive that 75 USD Visa gift card in the mail when I get back because of the promotion, it is really hard to argue with everything that I got for essentially … 14 USD – staying at a Waldorf Astoria junior suite retailing at 229 USD, some 6000 Hilton points, and free dinner and breakfast.

Minor note: The $25 F&B credits does not include service charge/tax on your food order, so to maximize it, order to up the maximum value of $25. The taxes are extra, and will not be covered by the F&B credits.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.17.35 PM

I paid $14 for this!!

Hotel: Hampton by Hilton Usaquen, 31 Aug – 04 Sep 2015

Hampton Inn, UsaquenHampton by Hilton Usaquen

Address: Carrera 7 no. 118-30 Barrio Usaquen, Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia

Phone: +57 1 7469555

I stayed at the Hampton by Hilton Usaquen recently. The Hampton by Hilton joined the Hilton family very recently – like 1 week before my stay. Generally, I had a great stay – they still have things they have to work out, but they have a great, responsive staff, and they should be an excellent option once they get the whole place running.


Usaquen. It is a nice, safe neighborhood in the northern edge of Bogota. If you are taking public transport, it is easy to get around to different parts of town like Chapinero or La Calendaria. The neighborhood is also home to some colonial architecture, the Hacienda Santa Barbara shopping mall, and is a short walk to lots of cool dining establishments, e.g. La Hamburgerseria. So if you don’t want to venture too far for food, it makes this place a great option. There is also a direct bus to/from the airport in front of the hotel (M86 from the airport, K86 to the airport).


I booked into a Queen room (non-smoking) with refrigerator. The room was a nice size, but the bathroom was a tad small. The shower, in particular, involved some maneuvering to avoid freezing like a popsicle, or getting scalded. Otherwise, the bed and bedding were nice, and I had a good night’s sleep. The room also comes with a coffee-maker, which is slightly misleading. It mostly boils water, and you are given sachets of instant coffee powder. I used some of them up, and they were replaced the next day. It is a nice benefit to have on the days I worked in the room. Although a refrigerator was advertised, there was no refrigerator to be found. I didn’t ask about it because I had no need for a mini-fridge during my stay. I did make use of the in-room safe, which is not a great idea, mainly because it is too small to store a laptop. In terms of shower products, Hampton by Hilton Usaquen provided Neutrogena products. I thought they were decent. Wifi was provided and worked well in my room throughout my stay. Overall, it was a nice, clean, spacious room. Bogota, Colombia

Queen Room

Bogota, Colombia

Queen room

Bogota, Colombia


Bogota, Colombia

Shower – with neutrogena products


As a Hampton, they provide a hot breakfast as part of the rate. It was a pretty decent buffet breakfast, and in the four days that I stayed there, there were some slight variations. There were the basics: breads, pastries, cereals, juice, fruit, yoghurt, ham and cheese. Apart from that, there were also three hot stations, which rotated a bit on the four days that I was there. They also have a hot drinks maker. The coffee was slightly iffy (more like a mocha), but it did the job. There was also a selection of teas, and two fruit juices. The breakfast was fairly substantial. It is nothing to write home about, but it did its job. Bogota, Colombia

Breakfast area

Bogota, Colombia



The service was excellent. On the first night, I had some drainage problems with my shower. I mentioned it to the front desk the next morning, and when I got back in the evening, the issue was fixed. There were many buenas dias every time I walked by anyone, and some of the management staff would also stop during breakfast to hand out chocolates, thanking me for my stay. If they keep their responsive attitude, they will go far.


Yes. Located on the top floor, a little bit small. Nothing fancy. Just a couple of your regular machines. They do have windows where you can get views of the mountains surrounding Bogota.

The lowdown:

As mentioned, this place just joined the Hilton family of properties. Well, I would say they were not completely guest ready. As mentioned, there was no fridge in my room. On the second night of my stay, I noticed that they just added decorations to my room when I was out for the day. It seemed like they were rolling out rooms as they became ready. There were a couple of days when I was in my room during the day (~4 pm ish), and I could hear construction going on. The ground level outside the lobby still had empty storefronts in the process of renovations, preparing for rental.

In sum:

While this property is taking reservations and putting people in rooms, it is still in the process of becoming 100% ready. But the staff they have seem excellent, and that should go a long way into making this property an excellent one.

How did I pay for this?

I got 40000 Hilton points in a recent sign-up bonus, but had used 20000 of that booking another Hilton property. As a Category 2 Hilton property, I did not have enough points to book this with points outright. I made this booking using the Cash & Points option, so this cost me 16000 points (4000 points x 4 nights) and 326000 COP (~80000 COP a night). That worked out to about 25 USD a night out of my pocket. If I think of this property as a 25 USD per night property, it was a complete steal in my opinion. Bogota, Colombia

Area behind Hampton by Hilton Usaquen