The Washington Times - June 3, 2008, 11:49PM

By Lisa M. Ruth

Tampa, FL (May 2008)…You leave your marathon meeting exhausted and rush to the airport. The flight to Tampa now leaves at 6pm instead of 2pm, out of gate 4A instead of 6D. First class is full, so you are stuck in the back of coach, in a middle seat, squished between an extra large passenger with no sense of personal space and a chatty grandmother concerned about irritable bowl syndrome.


The airline loses your luggage. Your carry-on handle breaks, so you lug your bag to the curb, where you break your left heel getting into the cab.

After a very short ride from the airport, you walk through the glass and stainless steel doors of the InterContinental Tampa, and find yourself in an oasis of tranquility and comfort. Luxury, and excellence envelope you, chasing away weariness and anxiety, and you find yourself in a very, very good place.

The Intercontinental Hotel, Tampa (Photo by Lisa Ruth)

Here is where excellence truly is the standard. Every facet of the hotel is impressive. The sophisticated, elegant property seamlessly weaves sleek marble and glass, funky art deco, and plush textiles into a singularly superior experience. The staff is outstanding, knowledgeable, and impossible to fluster.

Susan, the clerk on duty when we checked in, was a stellar mix of professionalism and warmth.

The InterContinental is striking from the second you enter. The lobby features dark stained woods, modern marble check-in stations instead of traditional counters, and nautical blue-and-white accessories. Glass elevators overlook the 11-story atrium, anchored by a large fountain and framed by chrome-tinted glass windows.

Shula’s No Name Lounge is nestled on one side of the lobby, and its open, raised setting invites guests to enter and relax.

When you step off the elevator to your floor, chic, comfortable surroundings greet you. The ubiquitous hotel “hallway art” is usually not worth noticing, yet I found myself admiring the painting on our floor, an example of the designer’s attention to detail.

Pad down the hall and you find the crowning jewel of the hotel, the guest room. The InterContinental recognizes that lovely lobbies are nice greetings, but that superior guest accommodations make a perfect stay. And the hotel delivers.

Guest rooms reflect the overall décor of the hotel, with luscious linens and contemporary, stylish accents. I love the art deco mirror and platform sink in the bathroom. Each room has a flat screen television, Ipod docking station, wireless Internet, and a well-stocked mini bar. The hotel also offers nightly turn-down service and complimentary bedtime chocolates.

While all those guest room accoutrements are wonderful, the highest accolades go to the bed itself. The feather topped mattress, abundant pillows, and luxurious linins create a relaxing haven for weary travelers. And I found it extremely difficult to remove myself from such a sublime bed.

The hotel also offers a pool and a fitness room.The rooftop pool is located on the seventh floor of the hotel, and provides expansive views of Tampa Bay and downtown Tampa. The well-equipped fitness room is open 24-hours.

Shula’s Petite Filet with Pepper Cream Sauce (Photo by Lisa Ruth)

Shula’s, owned by legendary football coach Don Shula, provides two dining options on site.

Shula’s Steak House specializes in premium Black Angus beef, but also offers seafood specialties and an amazing molten lava chocolate cake.

The restaurant is themed after the 1972 Miami Dolphin’s “perfect season,” and wait staff presents the beef selections on a menu printed on a football. The casual Shula’s No Name Lounge offers cocktails and appetizers, while multiple flat screen televisions broadcast sports and news events.

The InterContinental is sophisticated luxury at its best – comfortable, confident, posh and sleek.

Overall rating: exquisite.

The main goal now is to find an excuse to go back.

Lisa is an associate editor and writer for Donne Tempo Magazine and will continue her search for the perfect hotel!