Considering that we do not yet know if, when and where we will go on vacation over the holidays this year I found myself looking back in the way-back machine and remembering our time at the Park Hyatt Shanghai. I found a never-before posted review of the property which I have posted here. This leaves just the Grand Hyatt Shanghai as the only Hyatt property I have not covered in the city (though Matthew did recently). Here’s what it is was like at one of the highest hotels in the world (the highest at the time).
We grabbed a taxi from Shanghai Pudong International Airport and said Park Hyatt several times in English – they should have known exactly where we wanted to go. There were taxi rates to many major hotel chain properties prominently displayed on the LED screen with the distance and how much you should pay as a standard rate. In the heat of the moment when we mentioned the hotel name, the driver said “Ok, ok” but it became clear once we were loaded into the vehicle and driving away that he had no idea where our hotel was or what we were saying.
Enter T-Mobile and Park Hyatt Service. I decided to call the hotel which T-Mobile makes cheap and easy for me to do, by charging me somewhere around $.20/minute, but I don’t have to do anything else. There’s no painful changing of my plan to an international option, no special dialing, just fair and easy.
I dialed the hotel and they first answer in Mandarin Chinese and then do the same greeting in English. I explain that I am in a taxi and the driver needs directions. They don’t necessarily process what I am saying, but I just hand the phone to the driver and the two of them took care of the rest. The driver handed the phone back and 40 minutes later we pulled up to a driveway that we didn’t quite expect. Imposing Chinese bellboys donning long gray coats looked every bit the part of guards from the Emerald City out of the Wizard of Oz. They were a combination between communist era industrialism and modern chic trend. This was our first impression of the hotel and largely this became the theme of our stay.
Bell staff gathered our bags and walked us around the corner to a very basic entrance: simple, and luxurious. We then glide into the elevator and shoot skyward some 90 floors to the lobby. When the doors open, the sight (well into the evening) is impressive. Behind the check in counter is a lobby that feels more like a massive living room, alive with friends and strangers scattered around. Some were having cocktails, others on their iPads or laptops. The lights were dim, it felt like a club that is too expensive for me to get into; but with the lights so low, the city glowed behind the glass.
Checking in late we were treated to a run-of-the-mill service. I reached out to the hotel because we really wanted a suite for this stay simply because it was a remarkable hotel. While there weren’t any available at booking, upon asking one was opened up for me and I was grateful. It helped that we were in the property for just one night (en route back to the States) and didn’t need to burn our (then) Diamond Suite Upgrades for six nights straight. It’s rare we would use such a special upgrade for such a short stay, but this was an aspirational property for us.
The front desk wasn’t really bothered about anything, they didn’t make it special, and I would actually say they were generally apathetic. They didn’t offer anything at check in for my [Diamond] Status and so I called them when I got to the room and had a look around. Sometimes they leave something for you in your room with a letter. We looked and there was nothing. I called back to the front desk and was told that if I wanted a diamond amenity, I would have to stay two nights because they don’t bring it for one night stays. This would be the first and last time I had heard that. I balked at it and they said they would send something by. They never did. What’s worse, I followed up on it when I got back to the states with [then] Hyatt Gold Passport because at least I should have gotten the 1,000 points instead and they had lied on their reservation notes. They claimed they did stop by with an amenity and would not give me the 1,000 points.
It seems pretty stupid to me, to start a war with a [Diamond] guest over something as small as milk and cookies (I later found out this was what they claimed to send to us). The room would make up for their ineptitude but not their attitude.
Behind Door #1
We needed to switch lifts to go down to our room on floor 83, the bellboy showed us which elevators take us where. He showed us to our door, and the hallways had the feeling of a high-end resort. The use of light and colors give the space a feel of refinement and class, I expect nothing less from a Park Hyatt property.
The bellboy opened the door and let us inside. To our right was a guest bathroom with just a toilet. I say, just a toilet because I wouldn’t want to confuse this with a full on bathroom with shower or tub – which it didn’t have. But it was my favorite kind of toilet, Japanese-style with heated seat, automatic lid opener and closer, a built-in bidet with various options. I also like that a separate toilet is offered and that it’s far away from the bedroom portion of the suite.
To the left as the room starts to open, we were greeted by a very long table and desk. It might have been 12-15’ long and was a great work space. There were some local guide books in English, lots of outlets, and for working professionals the separation from the bedroom would be ideal. There was also a chair towards the windows that made it feel like you were reading from on top of the world.
The rest of the room opens up and provides gorgeous views of the bund, a large couch and table, tv, and even an audio system. There was also a small area to make coffee and the space felt more than sufficient. I only wish we had more time there.
Keeping with the theme of stunning floor to ceiling windows, the bedroom did not disappoint. The king size bed had a big, heavy duvet and begged us to sleep in. We obliged. There are some structural supports that interrupt the room, but they somehow just seem stylish and not annoying like they might elsewhere. The staff also did a great job of having a crib already made for our daughter, though this has been a consistent positive for the Park Hyatt brand. We never have had the heart to tell anyone that our daughter, since the day she was born, has not spent one night in a crib.
The bathroom was split between the vanity, sink, shower and elevated tub with the toilet again separated into another room at the end of the hallway. The sink/vanity were good, no complaints there, but the shower and tub are impressive. There is a lot of space in the bathroom and it features premium body wash, and shampoos, as well as a rain shower head and room for two if you are so inclined.
Odds and Ends
The mini bar is in the bedroom along with the safe. I thought the placement of the minibar was a little strange, but it’s worth noting that they stocked it with serious booze, including Macallan 12 single-malt whiskey. It is certainly head and shoulders above other properties in Asia, a top-tier hotel all the way through.
Off the bedroom suite opposite the bathroom there was a second door to the exterior. It goes out into the normal hallway and could be easily confused for your front door. What is strange to me is that staff seemed to knock on either door when delivering something or offering turn down service. I found this so odd, and then as we were headed out to breakfast, without thinking we used the bedroom door instead of the front. For staff deliveries and room service, any interaction really with a hotel employee should be at the far entrance on the living room side of things, but we did find the bedroom door convenient for coming and going. There was more than one occasion, however, where we would hear the doorbell and go to the wrong door which is a little annoying. Definitely a first world problem, but something that is easily correctable by hotel management.
One of my favorite Diamond amenities is the free breakfast when staying at Hyatt properties, and many of the Park Hyatts like this one, don’t have space for a lounge because they are boutique properties in high-end locations. Therefore, breakfast is in the restaurant which is almost always better than an executive lounge.
My one tip if you are staying at this hotel and want to enjoy breakfast, do not, by any means, show up towards the end of it. We were there at 9:30 and breakfast finished at 10AM, by the time we arrived though everything was pretty tired. I worked in the restaurant business for a number of years in every role including management and the places I worked would take last orders up to 10 minutes after the posted time. If we closed at 10PM, we would still take orders at 10:10PM because you never want to disappoint a customer over something as stupid as a few minutes. I don’t expect everyone to share that philosophy, but they were picking things up at 9:30 when we walked in the door and when we asked where some items were we heard, “finished”. If you only want to serve breakfast until 9:30, just make that the cut off but if it says until 10AM, I expect until 10AM.
It might be standard for some hotels, certainly in Europe, where we have stayed and this was our first trip inside the mainland. But this is also a Park Hyatt, the top of the line for one of the best chains in the world, and certainly top to bottom the nicest in my opinion. The rest of the hotel was brilliant in design, location, but this was not the only area where service was under par.
The restaurant in which they serve breakfast (if you can get there more than 30 minutes before closing) was stunning. The ceiling had to be at least 40 feet high with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Bund and greater Pudong (the central business district). The restaurant appeared to have a combination of traditional western options and then a fully staffed Chinese kitchen with dumplings, noodle dishes and the ability to make omelettes and eggs fresh to order. It looked like it would be a $60 breakfast, and the pastries that were left out were good. We waited for coffee for about 15 minutes, and the check never came which was fine because us it was comped as [Diamond now Globalist] members.
Where It Falls Short
Service suffered. It just felt flat, whereas the service at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin in Hong Kong, or the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica were exceptional. Those are all to be considered inferior brands, but it was almost as if they had the New York, “We don’t have to go above and beyond” syndrome. Check-in was fine, but not particularly welcoming. The dual door was weird only because staff didn’t come to just one of them so you never knew where they were when they rang. The breakfast service was described above in detail, no one was concerned with the experience we were having, no one seemed to put in the effort.
When we did need a cab downstairs, the bell staff spoke such limited English that they could not get us a cab that would take us to the “Bund”, “River” or “Shops”. We ended up walking there and ultimately finding the Bund river and some high-end shopping, but we shouldn’t have to walk with our infant in January because the hotel doesn’t have some basic English words understood. I am aware that we were in China and that things are not the way they are in the States, but if I go to Paris as a dumb American and ask the bell staff for a taxi to take me to “Eiffel”, “Tower” or anything close to “Louvre” and they are unable to understand me then they should probably not work for an American hotel chain. I am the first to take responsibility for learning the country’s language for which you are visiting. I have Mandarin CDs but have not yet gotten to the part for “Take me to your most tourist centered portion of the city” so I guess that could fall on me more than them – perhaps Lucy has. However, I doubt I would be alone in this regard.
Where It Shines
The location for business is key. There are three huge, iconic skyscrapers in the central business district, Pudong, and this hotel is 90 floors up in one of them.
The hotel is beautiful, design is superb and there are lots of little thoughts and touches around every corner. I don’t have any complaints about the room itself which was stunning and spacious. It was a view from heaven, looking down on the river with the slow-moving barges sliding down the Bund, miniature cars and trucks making their way along still harder to see streets and alleys. The cost was also reasonable at just over $200 on the night that we stayed, though I have seen rates in the $400s as well for standard rooms and without the benefit of a suite upgrade, our room ranged up to $3,200/night.
It’s a great hotel, with some minor changes it could be excellent. Your experience may vary.
Have you stayed at this property? Do you have another favorite and if so, why do you prefer it to the Park Hyatt Shanghai?