Combining the end of a mattress run for Marriott Platinum status and the only trip of my United 1K status match, I thought I would stray from my old mainstays and get a little wild. The St. Regis Shanghai opened just months ago, and now that they have had some time to work out the kinks, I wanted to see how the brand performed.
Why the St. Regis?
One of the key reasons I status matched to Marriott was to achieve SPG’s Platinum status as a result of having Marriott’s. Starwood Preferred Guest is still a separate loyalty system though the chain and subsequent program are both owned outright by Marriott and I wanted to take advantage of their shared status and separate benefits while I could.
I have long loved SPG hotels but found them often out of budget for leisure stays, limited in breadth (they have just a fraction of the number of locations compared to IHG, Hilton or Marriott) and they are virtually useless for me for business purposes. I just don’t travel for work where they have properties with a few rare exceptions.
The St. Regis is the pinnacle of luxury not only in the SPG brand, but legendary among hotels worldwide. I have never stayed in one of their properties, but it seems like the first place I would want to try out my SPG Platinum status to secure the finest room available and really see what’s possible with the chain.
Expectations were set precariously high.
In Jing’An just two blocks from the west side of Nanjing Road, this property feels like it is in the middle of everything for leisure stays. The property is close to the well-connected Metro line 12 and about 40 minutes from Pudong International Airport, 20 minutes by taxi from the Pudong Central Business District. Be advised that Google does not work in China without a VPN, and even in the rest of the world, this hotel is too new to come up by name so use the address below.
1008 Beijing West Road
Phone:+86 21 6257 9999
After being greeted by bell staff in the driveway, I was given a ticket for my luggage and led to one of four alcoves to the right of the lobby. Seated in a Chesterfield, I handed my documents over while the sweetest young lady processed the paperwork.
As a Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum Elite (matched from Marriott following my challenge) I was upgraded to a suite. A named suite. Instead of just getting a room on a high floor – they are all high floors – or a corner King, I was given the Caroline Astor Suite.
What I found to be really impressive about this process is that SPG makes such a habit of upgrading their most frequent guests that they have a key sleeve ready-made. Even if I could not tell I had been upgraded, forgot what I booked, or just forgot the benefit exists – having the key sleeve reinforces that it took place on my behalf. Maybe the IHG folks should spend a weekend at the St. Regis and see how treating elites should be done.
Carol, supervisor of the staff butlers showed me around my room. Seeing my reservation in advance and that I am American, she anticipated that I would like the room a little cooler than their Chinese clientele and turned the air conditioning on before I arrived. Despite my ardent Americanism, I’ll switch to centigrade for a moment. It was 34 degrees (94 Fahrenheit) outside and she had cooled it to 24 degrees in the room. It was a generous effort that I appreciated, though she underestimated this American’s desire for an icey room. I cranked it down to 18 (64 degrees). Sadly this was one of the few elements of the experience that didn’t deliver, in fact it was never close, but I wasn’t sweating in the room so it was good enough.
Entering the room, to the right there was walk-in closet, large and luxurious. Robes and slippers were available as was a laundry bag and a price list for processing items. The St. Regis offers to press up to two items daily for Platinum guests, excellent for a traveling business person. As I was on a leisurely status run, I would love to be able to count on this service but for washing and drying two items, not just ironing. The closet featured two Chinese vases behind glass cabinets which seemed thoughtful. At the St. Regis it seemed like the small luxurious touches were important, it wasn’t just a five-star property with a walk-in closet, it could be unique.
One odd design feature that I didn’t quite understand, somewhat similar to the Park Hyatt Bangkok, was the need to cross from the bathroom into a common area to the closet. The helpfulness of having a walk-in closet is the ability to walk-in and get dressed. That’s a luxurious feeling and adds to the experience. Having to get dressed to get to the closet detracts from it. While this is far closer than the Park Hyatt Bangkok (we had to cross the dining room, living room with guests there and there was no way around it) – this one was just opposite the bathroom and the staff had left a robe hanging in the bathroom for this purpose.
I was alone, there were no guests, it wasn’t an issue. But without any place in the bedroom or bathroom to put clothes, it does beg the question as to why they wouldn’t have tried to rearrange that a bit. Both the Park Hyatt Bangkok and the St. Regis Jingan are new properties so this isn’t an issue of converting older designs. This was a new plan and for the life of me, I can’t understand why it makes sense to architects. I am not a designer or an architect so I welcome their informed comments. I am just a person who doesn’t want to walk through the suite with guests there in a robe out of the shower. When on a group trip, this does happen from time to time.
Set against the wall in the living room, the desk was large enough for two laptops. It was sleek, and patterned with a textured faux snake skin. The living room was large and I did spend some time in there on the couch, it was rather comfortable. The butler coffee service (included with the room) was served on the coffee table and the welcome amenity was also set here. The couch would have been large enough for three in a cozy setting or plenty of space for two.
The bathroom exceeded my expectations; it would have exceeded my wife’s expectations – it’s celebrity-level. There’s a double vanity and a separate powder table. My daughter Lucy would have loved to sit there and put on her mother’s makeup.
In the center of the room is a huge, simply designed soaking tub. Hidden in the narrow wall between the bathroom and the bedroom is a TV inside a fogless mirror.
The shower had both a handheld sprayer as well as rain shower head. As this was my first stay at a St. Regis, I had not tried the toiletries before. Laboratoire’s Reméde were of course premium but they weren’t my taste. While Brad at Travel Codex practically writes sonnets about hotel toiletries, I limit my praise to just one brand, Le Labo. The shower was amazing (toiletries withstanding).
For those of you that follow the blog from week-to-week, you will know that I am a fan of a Japanese toilet. When five-star hotels in Asia don’t install them or skip them after an interior update, it makes the experience seem a little cheap to me (Matthew agrees).
The St. Regis Jingan hotel has Japanese toilets. That’s not really enough though. They have incredible, remote-controlled Japanese toilets. I actually removed this toilet’s remote from its holster on the wall just because I could. It’s not only that they have a Japanese toilet, but rather the best toilet I have ever seen. I was taking conference calls in there, I ordered room service to the toilet. I never wanted to leave. The door was also shaded class and closed to separate from the rest of the bathroom – always appreciated.
Inside the Caroline Astor suite all the rooms have pocket doors. If a guest so desires they can keep everything open or can close spaces off for privacy.
At the foot of the bed was a small couch, perfect for putting on shoes or taking them off. The many decorative pillows that littered the bed (I am not a fan, clearly) were set along the bay window for turn down service and the shades were drawn.
The bed was perfect and very comfortable. There was a lot of light that came in from both the living room and the windows running from about three feet from the floor to the ceilings. International plugs were at the bedside, plentiful and convenient.
On the 55th floor, the lounge has an impressive view of the city and hosted a few guests each time I stopped by. I was occupied during the evening of my visit so there was no need to spend much time there, and I ate breakfast downstairs in the morning.
The atrium just outside of the lounge held a bar and a huge library full of books to suit… eccentric interests?
It was impressive, and beautiful, but I never once saw a guest seated in the atrium nor the bar occupied by staff. It seemed like a terrible waste of such a beautiful space.
Off the lobby on the main floor was Social, one of the hotel’s largest restaurants, this one serving international cuisine. I was seated, asked for my room number and told there would be no bill and that I should help myself (I selected breakfast as my welcome benefit over the points of course). I was offered coffee, juice – whatever I liked – my waiter/attendant was quick and helpful.
Some properties, even five-star hotels like this one, limit your breakfast options essentially taking away a portion of the benefit given to the chain’s most frequent travelers rather than enhancing it. This was not the case at Social. I was encouraged to try everything, I was not given a limited menu, the staff wanted me to have a great experience and that did in fact enhance my experience.
Without going through every item on the buffet (I will include many of them below), it was all fairly amazing. It was a far cry from the expensive breakfast I had the day before and had they charged $50 for brunch with champagne (Social offers this from 11-2 on the weekends) and seafood – it would have been worth it.
The food quality was great, service was excellent and even though I showed up a little late into breakfast, I wasn’t hurried along nor were other guests near me that arrived after I did.
While I didn’t have time for a swim, I did ask permission to take some photos from the staff. They were at first hesitant but accommodated as long as I did not include any other guests in the images – there was one person at the pool, you won’t see him here.
The pool was located in the basement with the spa and the gym. Somehow, despite being below ground, there was a skylight that made the pool seem like it was quite high in the building. Showers, lockers and steam rooms were available in the changing area. As I walked through to snap some photos, there was another guest changing so I didn’t take any of the locker room. There was also a female cleaner walking through the room picking up towels as the guest walked around nude – she didn’t bat an eye, he didn’t bat an eye… whatever. My prudish American nature had me looking away from the man, and thinking that I would have sheepishly covered my parts had I seen her walk in. But the woman, about the age of my mother, had clearly seen everything before, so maybe it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I just can’t imagine this happening in the States of course.
I didn’t have time to check out the boutique, the patisserie or the Drawing Room, but it was clear that this was a place to see and be seen. The Drawing Room was at the end of the lobby flanked by Social and the lifts. The doors were 20′ high by my estimates and added opulence and grandeur in a place that was tastefully gushing with it already. Suitable for coffee, tea, or drinks, the Drawing Room was incredible to look at even if you don’t have time to sit down for a cup.
I was recognized when I checked in as a Platinum on the heels of my recently completed Marriott challenge then matched to SPG. Most hotels get this part right, but it’s the distribution of the associated benefits that seems problematic. I didn’t have to ask for an upgrade (though I would have), I didn’t have to arm wrestle for breakfast or lounge access, I was given a welcome gift in my room – they just nailed it.
The welcome I received at the St Regis Shanghai Jingan is what makes all of the nights in TownePlace Suites and Fairfield Inns across the Midwest worth it. This is what makes status great, the payoff in key hotels where you are treated like royalty. If Marriott emulates SPG as integration continues, they will have my business on a regular basis going forward.
My experience at the St. Regis Jingan was the closest thing I have ever had to a perfect stay. If you find yourself in Shanghai, do yourself a favor and leave Pudong, stay here, and never ever leave.