Allure Chocolat (aka "Boutique Arsenal") is a beautiful new hotel with incredible service and only a five minute walk to the old city clock tower. It's everything we hoped it would be.
+Beautiful new hotel:
The finish and attention to detail is very good. Opened in late 2012, everything looks and feels brand new and high quality.
- The rooms are gorgeous, slightly small but compensated for by wonderful high ceilings. Our king bed was huge, the A/C worked perfectly, and our room was very quiet despite being near the elevators. The room window looked out on a small vertical garden which was bright, private, and serene.
- The only negatives were small and forgivable: the rainfall shower head sprayed sideways as well as down, the batteries for the safe's lock were dead, the phone didn't dial to Reception, and the wifi in the room was intermittent (it worked great everywhere else in the hotel except in the pool area). These are minor problems and easily fixed, but I include them for completeness's sake.
- The rooftop deck is a great place to hang out. The infinity pool looks out over Boca Grande and is the perfect temperature. The back terrace is private and comfortable, and we spent one evening out there streaming a movie on Netflix completely uninterrupted. The gym is small - two ellipticals and one treadmill - but there were never more than two of us there at a time. The pool area could use a couple more lounge chairs in the late morning, but it typically emptied out around noon anyway.
+ Incredible service:
Being a boutique hotel, there are only a few dozen rooms and correspondingly only a small group of guests at any one time. Therefore the service can't help but feel personal, however the staff's commitment and follow through went far beyond our already high expectations and elevated this hotel to a rare and extraordinary level.
- The premier example is the staff's response to Delta losing our bags on the way to Bogota, which created a cascading headache through to Cartagena. Not being strong Spanish speakers this could have become a challenging problem for us were it not for Cristina at the front desk - she became personally invested in finding our bags, and spent an enormous amount of time on the phone and web tracking them down and ensuring they made it to Cartagena. (BTW, if you are not booking your plane tickets through AmEx and buying their cheap baggage insurance, you are truly missing out.)
- The rest of the staff were similarly friendly and dedicated to making our stay as enjoyable as possible, and were flawless in following through on each of our requests accurately and promptly. I cannot stress enough just how excellent the service is!
- Upon arrival we were immediately welcomed with a cool juice and Bon Bon and immediately made to feel at home. Upon departure Kadir at the front desk personally loaded our luggage in the taxi.
- Breakfast is included and full of fresh fruit, breads, cheeses, eggs, etc. If you get up early enough, instead of the buffet you can get your eggs cooked to order.
+ The location is highly ideal:
Getsemani, Allure Chocolat's neighborhood, doesn't itself have much going on, but the rest of Cartagena is very close.
- The old walled city with all its history, restaurants, and pure charm is literally a five minute walk away. I found this distance to be perfectly balanced between convenience to the city and retreat from its more hectic traffic and noise.
- Everything else you would likely want to see is only a short cab ride away. And not just short, but cheap: for example a cab ride to Castillo San Felipe is just $3, a ride to the airport $5.
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