The Island Shangri-La goes above and beyond...
I was thoroughly impressed with the Island Shangri-La for a wide variety of reasons (some of which I’ll go into more detail about below), but it primarily boils down to exceptional service. Clearly, this is an expensive hotel, but in this case I believe the adage “you get what you pay for” holds true.
I arrived at the hotel about 10 a.m. and attempted to check in without really expecting to be able to due to the time. As it turns out, my room would not be ready until 11, but they went ahead and did all of the administrative activities, and stored my bags for me while I headed out on a sight seeing adventure. They offered me a room to use until mine was ready, but I was more interested in getting out and about so I declined. When I returned, my room was ready, and they gave me the keys. Overall, checking in was quick and efficient, and everyone was very pleasant.
That’s all great, but to be honest a friendly, quick, and efficient registration is not a high hurdle. In fact, I would go so far as to say it should be “expected” from a 5 star hotel. From my perspective, the things that make the Shangri-La stand apart are its unexpected touches.
When I went up to my room, a Deluxe Harbour View room, I was immediately impressed. The room was very traditional in style, but had plenty of space for my fiancé (who was arriving later that evening) and me. My room was situated in such a way that the bathroom was on the left as I walked in. The bathroom had intricately laid marble floors, a soaking tub, a separate walk-in shower, a commode, a bidet, one of the standard retractable clothes lines, and a telephone line. All very elegant. The touch that surprised me about the bathroom was that there was a small flat-screen TV built into the marble wall to watch as you soaked in the tub. I think the TV turned on automatically when you turned on the lights. I point that out because the TV tuned automatically to a station that played light, classical music, making the bathroom a very relaxing environment. When in the hotel room I remember thinking on several occasions how pleasant the music made the room.
On the right as I walked in were the closets. Plenty of space to hang clothes. Standard robes, slippers, iron, ironing board, etc. There were a couple of things that pleasantly surprised me about the closets though. For example there were “emergency smoke hoods” to increase the likelihood of a successful evacuation in the unlikely event of a fire. There was an oversized safe – key word is oversized – I sometimes have difficulty fitting my valuables in the in-room safe… certainly not a problem here! Also unexpectedly, they offered shoe trees. Again, nothing to write home about, but I offer those examples in support of the premise that the Island Shangri-La pays attention to the little details.
Going further into the room on the left was the minibar / refrigerator. Pretty standard – but offering “free” bottled water. Next on the right was the TV (a traditional CRT) in an armoire – we didn’t watch much television, but there were numerous stations in English including several news channels and a movie channel, among others. Proceeding further into the room on the right was the executive desk, offering high speed (Ethernet, not WiFi) internet (which could be purchased for a matter of hours or days), plugs that supported all of the primary international standards, a telephone, and desk lamp. The unexpected aspect was the 4-in-1 in-jet printer (OK, if I had done my homework and looked at their website, I wouldn’t have been surprised, but I didn’t, so I was surprised). One neat touch was that whenever we received a message at the front desk, or had a package delivered, etc, they would fax us the message so it was immediately available to us. To make sure we received the message they would also send a voicemail message to the phone.
Now we’re at the far wall, which you might know better as a window. The window was covered by the standard sheer (translucent) drapes for during the day, and a second set of heavy curtains for sleeping when you want to block out all of the light. Again, this is a little thing, but somewhat unexpected in that both sets of curtains were power operated with the switches being right by the bed, so when you wake up or go to sleep you can start or end the day gazing at the incredible view (which sadly is often times blocked by the heavy air pollution). The view on a clear day though is very nice (for a cityscape), certainly quintessential Hong Kong with a view of the Harbour and the Star Ferries, etc. Very nice view at night too.
Continuing moving left there are a few comfortable chairs and a small table with a complimentary fruit basket.
Now we’re on the left wall in the “bedroom”. There was a nightstand with a phone, clock, and notepad. Above the nightstand were the aforementioned switches that controlled various aspects of the room. The “surprise” about the nightstand was a clock that had a small automatic night light that popped on unobtrusively whenever you touch the clock in the dark.
The bed was comfortable and provided a good night’s sleep. A synthetic pillow was available in the closet for people with allergies. I guess my only “complaint” about the hotel was that when they did the turn down service, they kept only doing my side (putting out some water and slippers for me). While clearly not a big deal, they never figured out that there were two of us in the room. My guess is it has something to do with the fact that my fiancé checked in around midnight that first night, after the first turn down had occurred. I’m certain that if I had mentioned anything it would have been corrected, but it was so trivial, I didn’t do that.
Rounding out the room was a small “sofa” that doubled as a place to put my suitcase. It also had drawers in which to unpack the rest of the clothes.
OK, enough about the room on to the service.
We were in Hong Kong primarily to see the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, which I understand is currently the 2nd largest sports event in Asia. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the best way I can describe it (which I must apologize for because it doesn’t quite do it justice) is Super Bowl meets Mardi Gras (I guess that would make it the Super Mardi Gras Bowl!). Anyway, it’s quite an event, but I digress. One of our friends shattered his ankle at the event (doing a ballet move of all things). The Emergency Medical Technicians at the event did a field test on it in the morning and incorrectly told him it was just a sprain, and that he shouldn’t worry about it. Of course as the day progressed the pain became excruciating, so he wanted a second opinion. We call the hotel to get some assistance, and they sent over some crutches. When we arrived at the hotel after the event, the bell staff called him by name as he was exiting the taxi, and had a wheel chair waiting for him to take him to his room where a doctor was also waiting (the doctor had been specially paged, and actually had bags with him from his shopping trip). The doctor (who spoke English very well) could tell that it was more than a sprain and had our friend admitted to a local hospital. As it turns out, he had fractured his ankle bone (or to be more precise one of his ankle bones) and had to have emergency surgery that put him in the hospital for 5 days. That’s a story for a different time though. (The hospital itself was "different" than you would find in the US, but a very good hospital with all of the facilities necessary to quickly, accurately, and efficiently diagnose his condition and perform the fairly-complex surgery. Also, the Doctors were extremely professional, knowledgeable, and patient. Incidentally, 2 of the 3 Doctors were called in after midnight and each arrived very quickly and were eager to help. (In case you’re curious, he made it through the surgery just fine, despite going under general anesthesia and requiring 7 screws in his ankle. He flew home to Tokyo at the end of the week and is already starting physical therapy).
Enough of that though, back to the hotel. I only ate at the hotel restaurant for breakfast. It is a massive buffet style breakfast with all types of cuisine, all prepared very well. If you can’t find something to eat there, then you’re probably in trouble anyway. We went for a swim one morning (towels are available at the pool). They have one lane which means that 2 people can effectively swim laps. The morning we went, there were 5 people trying to swim, so it was a bit tight. I did like the length of the pool though. The next day we went to the fitness center instead, and it was very nice. All sorts of equipment (treadmills and elipticals – both with TVs built in, stationary bikes, weight machines, etc). When you arrive at the fitness center they provide you with earphones, and with a bottle of water, and a towel. There are also a lot of magazines available, as well as fresh lemonade, limeade, and ice tea. Very nice.
Since our friend was having surgery the morning we had to leave, we requested a late check out, which was granted without any issue. I had to head to the airport before my fiancé, so I really don’t have any insight into the checkout experience. I assume it went fine since I didn’t hear otherwise.
That’s it. In case you can’t tell, based on my experience at the Island Shangri-La, I would definitely recommend it to those of you who are seeking an upscale hotel in Hong Kong. Enjoy your visit!