As part of my United 1K Challenge I headed to Shanghai for a quick status run. I wanted to stay in some new properties as I had previously stuck to Hyatt and hadn’t spread my wings beyond the brand. Once I had a reason to look around, I hit top-tier status with Hilton, SPG/Marriott and IHG (proof positive that changing the Hyatt Gold Passport program cost them business). I wanted to try the top-tier of the Marriott program and Ritz-Carlton fit the bill, I was excited to stay at their Pudong (central business district) location.
Above the IFC mall in the heart of Shanghai’s business-heavy Pudong district, the Ritz-Carlton Pudong offers premium views and an excellent starting point for commercial meetings. While I prefer the neighborhood of Xiantandi, for leisure stays, there is no better location for business visits to Shanghai, and its proximity to the Bund is enviable.
China, Shanghai Shi, Pudong Xinqu, LuJiaZui, 陆家嘴世纪大道8号 邮政编码: 200120
+86 21 2020 1888
I arrived a little early from the St Regis Jingan. It was perhaps 2PM but the hotel was very full and I had been selected for an upgrade due to my status, but the room wasn’t ready. I was there prior to checkin but not by a lot and after waiting in line for a few minutes I closed the gap between my early arrival and a normal checkin.
I don’t mind waiting for a better room and waiting until actual checkin is fair enough, but I think what is frustrating is that I still had to wait in line to find out that my room wasn’t ready and I would have to come back and wait in line again to checkin.
I occupied myself in the mall downstairs for more than the hour I was asked to, picked up some souvenirs and came back up the lift to the Ritz high-rise lobby where my luggage had been safely kept locked away. I checked in and my luggage was brought to my room a few minutes after I had made myself comfortable.
Bruno Mars would be quite comfortable at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong. While I am not an interior designer, the hotel was an odd mix of tacky, upscale and a little dated. I know that as I re-read what I have just typed it probably doesn’t sound possible to achieve high-end upscale design along with dated and tacky elements – which is why I will submit visual evidence.
I try to judge hotel rooms by their layout more than their décor. I am not always successful in this regard, but in three years when someone else opens this review the walls may be a new color but structurally it’s rare a hotel really starts to knock down walls to make changes.
This room had great bones. Wrap around floor-to-ceiling windows gave a variety of views of the Bund and the Central Business District – Pudong. Some space was underutilized and some unusual choices were made. There were plenty of places to look out the window – which were home to fantastic views, but then the bathroom was a little crowded.
It also seemed like some areas were up-to-date while others were really in need of a refresh. It was strange because I couldn’t tell if I liked it or loathed it. For example, the lights on a chain like my grandmother had in her Floridian condo, is this a contemporary take or the taste of a 70 year-old woman in 1995?
To the left of the entry is a limited area for a coffee machine, to the right, a toilet that passes through to the bathroom. I do like the flexibility of a guest toilet without inviting them into your personal space in the bathroom by way of passing through the bedroom; however, I prefer the guest toilet feature of other hotels in Shanghai. The toilet is also not a Japanese toilet – a pet peeve considering that nightly rates were between $280-400/nt.
Through the water closet you can access the rest of the bathroom with tub, shower and dual vanities. The tub is an elaborate clawfoot resting in the center of the bathroom. If you are a person who values such things, the bathtub is an event unto itself. Centered in the room with a separate curtain surrounding it (should one desire to take a bath in privacy while someone else uses the rest of the room) the tub is to be the focal point of the room. Admittedly I did not use the tub but I could see the appeal, assuming the doors and curtains are open, you could soak with a view across the Bund with the city in the background, but not in the same way as the Hyatt on the Bund for example (with a view of Pudong instead).
The shower is large and featured both a standard shower head and rain shower head. Inside was a mostly fog-less mirror which was helpful when I shaving in the shower. This seems obvious, but it isn’t as most showers (even in premium locations) don’t include them at all, and in other properties (like the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester, review coming soon) there is a mirror but it instantly fogs making it worthless in every regard.
The vanity space is huge and helpful.
Had they traveled with me, my family would have loved the entire suite – enough space to stretch out and most of it useful and beautiful. The couch against the wall wasn’t the strongest choice and I would have rather had something opposite the TV but it feels like I’m splitting hairs.
There are a few bars in the property but the most impressive (at least in the summer and during fair weather) is Flair on the 58th floor and is China’s highest rooftop/alfresco dining experience. They offer an indoor/outdoor space with excellent views of the Bund and the Shanghai skyline.
Service and product were to a high international standard for any busy must-see bar in the world. Servers and bartenders were busy, the host stand was scrambling to stay on top of their available real estate and given the proximity to Chinese Valentine’s day and the reputation of the bar – they were doing pretty well to get guests in and out of the venue. My seat was indoors facing the glass directly looking over the outdoor area and onto the river. Consider booking in advance if you anticipate a stay during holidays or on weekend. Manager Sinclair Huo made the rounds and some recommendations for me to try, he was personable and was certainly trained in the Ritz hospitality school – world class customer service approach.
Just off the lobby and reception is Aura restaurant and jazz bar. High ceilings, wall-to-wall windows and a casual upscale setting was where I had dinner during my stay. The Ritz burger featured Wagyu beef and was absolutely delicious if not slightly overpriced. It is the Ritz-Carlton so a higher price is expected even if it’s beyond what is warranted. If I recall, the burger was close to $25-30 with tax and tip.
From time-to-time, though I am in a place I love eating food I crave, I need a break. The Ritz provided that for me and was worth the extra money to have a perfect burger just the way I wanted, ordering in English. It was easy and great and that’s worth the premium.
The reception staff was very clear that breakfast was offered for Platinum members in the lounge. I thought I would ask any way whether or not I could take breakfast in the restaurant, they indicated that it would not be included with the my room as it would be in the lounge. After my expensive burger the night before I thought I had better eat for free in the lounge.
Made-to-order eggs, and some other menu items were available. There was a nice mix of Eastern and Western options, hot and cold food as well. If you’re familiar with Asian five-star hotel lounge breakfasts, this one was fairly standard. For those who normally occupy the Courtyard, Hyatt Place and Hampton Inns in the states, they will be in seventh heaven with fresh eggs, in-house from scratch doughnuts, even a salad bar. For those who are accustomed to international hotels in Asia, this is less than what I would have expected from the Ritz-Carlton. I am not going to whine about completely edible food and enough variety to make me full and happy, but it wasn’t special when compared to the competition.
I popped down into Scena (Italian restaurant by night, international breakfast in the morning). It looked like a notch above and in retrospect I don’t think I would have paid full whack for it, but the views were amazing, the variety far greater and execution looked better too. I was clear, I ate out the night before and didn’t want to blow another $40-50 on it, but if I hadn’t I might have made another choice – it looked pretty solid.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention Alejandro, a host within the lobby of the hotel. I am unsure what his position actually was, but he found me while I was waiting to checkin from the elevated reception high above the city of Shanghai. Dressed in a suit with an ear piece he was not concierge, nor reception staff and did not wear a management tag.
My new Spanish friend was helpful and courteous as he apologized for a slight wait to checkin. As it was the night before the equivalent of Chinese Valentine’s Day, the hotel, the restaurant and the lobby were all packed tight. He made chitchat and asked me about the US, my travels, we talked about Spain and Iberco ham until I was next in line and slid my ID across the counter.
Alejandro had asked me about my stay while I was checking in for my single night at the property. We discussed the options to get to the airport in the morning and I had told him I anticipated taking a taxi. He discouraged me and suggested I tried the bullet train. I was open to the concept and he talked me through it.
Hours later in the evening, Alejandro called and asked if he would be able to deliver something before his shift ended. I agreed and greeted him at the door where he presented me with a panoramic sketch (offered in their gift shop) of the Bund on Shanghai and written directions to the airport via metro and bullet train. I stay in plenty of five star hotels but service like what Alejandro offered from a three minute conversation in the lobby is rare.
Mainland China is a mixed bag of reasonably priced luxury to overpriced for those who want to splash out just for kicks. I liked the hotel and the room was large, premium and fair for the price just about anywhere else in the world. When compared to the St. Regis Jingan for about $50-100/nt cheaper, I just couldn’t see staying here on a leisure stay. For business in Pudong, the Park Hyatt Shanghai is available for a little less money and the style is more inline with my preferences.
If you are a Ritz-Carlton fanboy, I am sure you would point to the shape and view from the room, the location above the mall below and position within the heart of Pudong as reasons why the property beats the competition. And such a fanboy would be right, those are all huge benefits, but for some of the highest costs in the city, I didn’t find the hotel to be updated enough to justify spending more than other newer hotels in the same area or far cheaper in the leisure areas of the city.
Do you think this hotel is worth the extra cost over similar top-tier competitors? Is this just what I should expect from the Ritz-Carlton brand?