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On his most recent trip to Asia, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen stayed at The St. Regis Beijing for three nights. Here is his review of the experience.
While my main destination on a recent trip to Asia was to be Sri Lanka, I had to find the right connections from my flight on Hainan Airlines from Los Angeles to Changsha. It turns out that Beijing was my best option, and my award ticket to Colombo from there left me three days to spend in the Chinese capital, so I started looking around for hotels.
Booking the St. Regis
Just as I was beginning to arrange my travel, Starwood Preferred Guest announced a promotion — guests who booked a three-night stay at participating properties in Asia and Australia and paid with a MasterCard would get the third night free.
It turned out that several Beijing properties were participating, including the W Beijing Chang’an, and the St. Regis Beijing. I looked into room rates at the St. Regis and they seemed too good to pass up. I could use my new Citi ThankYou Premier card, which is a World Elite MasterCard, and earn not only Starpoints but also three Citi ThankYou points per dollar since hotels are in the travel bonus category. This would help me meet my minimum-spending requirement for the sign-up bonus, plus I’d be earning double the Starpoints and getting a 500-point bonus thanks to Starwood’s Take Two promo.
Standard-level Deluxe rooms were going for 967 CNY (~$149) per night at the special rate, but I decided to go for a room one level up, in the Executive Deluxe category for 1,033 CNY (~$159) per night (normally 1,550 CNY or $238 per night). The extra $10 would get me an extra 86 square feet and I had a feeling that, since this was over the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, I might get upgraded even though I’m just an SPG Gold elite member.
I went ahead and booked three nights in an Executive Deluxe room for a total of $477. Now, if I’d had a Citi Prestige card, I actually could have double-dipped with the free nights and gotten five nights for the price of three thanks to the card’s 4th Night Free benefit. I could have booked the special SPG promo rate but for five nights since the SPG promo had booked the stay as two nights instead of three. In order to take advantage of the Prestige card’s benefits, I would have had to add on another two nights (so it looked like I was paying for four nights and then the fourth night would be taken off the bill). It’s a little complicated, but if you happen to be staying in Beijing for that long, this could be a nice way to save.
My total bill ended up being $604 because of some meals and business services, so in the end, I earned 1,812 Citi ThankYou points and 2,260 Starpoints — 604 based on the cost of the stay, another 1,104 with the Take Two promo (double the Starpoints plus 500 extra), 302 Starpoints thanks to my SPG Gold 50% elite bonus and an additional 250 Starpoints thanks to my Gold check-in amenity bonus. Not a bad haul overall.
I arrived in Beijing just before midnight, thankful we only taxied for a few minutes so I could get on a bus to the terminal and walk right out through the baggage claim (I’d already gone through customs and immigration in Changsha).
I got in the taxi queue and it took about 20 minutes (a lot of flights had apparently just landed) but finally got a ride. Though I had a map with the hotel pulled up on my phone with all the street names in Chinese, the driver still didn’t know where it was, and the taxi-stand attendant tried explaining but he still seemed not to get it. Luckily, I had a good signal and I called the hotel and asked the person at the front desk who picked up if she could give the driver directions. He spoke with her for about 30 seconds and we were on our way. The drive took about 30 minutes since there was no traffic at that time of night, and cost me about 120 CNY ($18).
The lobby was completely deserted when I arrived, but there was a single agent at check-in and he had been expecting me. He took my credit card (the same Citi ThankYou Premier card that I’d used to make the booking) and my passport, had me fill out a form and that was it. He informed me that they’d been pleased to upgrade me to a Diplomat Deluxe room (one category above the one I’d booked, and the largest of the room categories before you get to the suites). I was given my room key, shown to the elevators and that was that.
The Diplomat Deluxe Room
Almost as soon as I’d shut the door behind me, there was a knock. It was the on-duty butler who asked if he could show me around the room. I said sure and he gave me a quick tour of the facilities.
The room was quite spacious at 538 square feet. There was a small entry foyer into the main room. Along the closest wall was a small sitting area with a loveseat, two chairs and a coffee table upon which there was a welcome amenity of bottled water and a bowl of apples.
To the left was the work desk with an ergonomic chair and some universal adapters. Across from this on the wall between the two windows was the minibar and a wall-mounted 42-inch LCD flat-screen TV.
On the far side of the room was the king-size bed with a nightstand on either side and a coat stand.
The room felt really large, but I think it could have been laid out better. There was just a lot of empty space in the middle that felt wasted. The two windows on either side of the wall didn’t let in enough light to illuminate the room at any point without the help of all the lights. It just kind of felt dark, though I was happy for the extra square footage.
To the left of the bed was the closet with glassed-in drawers, the safe and plenty of hanger space.
Just beyond that was the bathroom. It was bright and clean, all in marble and though it felt large, I actually thought the layout was kind of terrible. On the right side of the door was just a single vanity with barely any counter space for my toiletries.
On the left side was the glassed-in shower, which was pretty spacious and stocked with Remede products.
Beyond the sink was the bath tub and on the other side of a small partitioning wall was the toilet, on the same side of the room as the shower. This was the real issue. There was not really any floor space — not that I was trying to do a jig or anything — but it just sort of felt cramped. You had to practically stand on the toilet to open the shower door, and the tub took up so much of the room there wasn’t space for much else.
That said, it was a nice space overall, and for one person, it was quite roomy.
The St. Regis is known for its butler service, and guests get a few complimentary inclusions. You can have tea or coffee service at any time of day so I had my butler bring French press coffee with cream and sugar every morning. I also asked for extra bottles of water once and my room was stocked with tons of them for the rest of my stay. They also offered to press five items of my clothing, though since I’d just arrived, everything was still pretty fresh and I passed.
I ordered room service a couple of times. My first order was for breakfast on my first morning, when I got what amounted to an egg burrito (it was fine, but not worth ordering again). Then I ordered a bowl of dan dan noodles with minced beef in soup the following afternoon. That was pretty tasty.
Other than that, the hotel actually has quite a few food and beverage outlets, but the hours were either limited or they were closed altogether due to the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. The lobby features an area called the Garden Lounge where you can grab tea, drinks and small bites throughout the day. Across from reception is a little café called the Rui Pastry Shop that has sandwiches, salads and pastries at the entrance to the Garden Court restaurant.
This is the hotel’s all-day dining outlet and features changing buffets throughout the day as well as a mixed menu of Chinese and Western dishes. You could get things like my dan dan noodles, but also a club sandwich (which was pretty good).
The hotel has a high-end Italian restaurant called Danieli’s on the second floor that was closed the whole week I was there. Down the hallway past a men’s clothing shop was the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, which was also closed at the time. You’ll also find a Cantonese banquet-style restaurant called Celestial Court, where you can dine with big parties in private rooms.
Past reception, along a corridor that leads to the spa, gym and St. Regis Residences wing, there is a bar called The Press Club Bar, which served classic cocktails in a club-like atmosphere. Again, it was closed until the Friday I departed.
Both the gym and spa are located in the St. Regis Residence wing, which is a totally different building. The gym is on the ground floor and was pretty large with a bunch of weights, exercise equipment and aerobic machines.
The gym also had a huge indoor pool for laps, a spa Jacuzzi and even a small upstairs bar.
Down one level, you’ll find a locker room (where I actually took a steam, a dip in the hot tubs and got showered and changed before my late-night flight) and the Iridium Spa, which has six treatment rooms. Supposedly the water in the spa is piped in from a hot spring 1,500 feet below the hotel.
On the 18th floor, the hotel has a club lounge it calls its Business Center. Yes, you can do things like have flights reconfirmed and documents printed but beware — you only get five free pages per day and then they start to charge! The space also serves little snacks and refreshments throughout the day and hosts a happy hour from 5pm–7pm with free cocktails, wine and small bites. The best part: All guests have access, not just executive room, suite guests or SPG elites.
While the Business Center was empty most of the time, when I went at 6pm one evening, it was full of families, probably because the free small bites were mini-hot dogs that seemed quite popular with the kids. While it was a bit more hectic than your average club lounge, it was still a nice amenity to be able to take advantage of.
While I couldn’t beat a room of this size and the level of service I got for the price, I don’t think I’m going to be visiting again anytime soon. The room felt quite dated already at this point and though it would have been nice to be able to try some of the other restaurants, I can’t say I was sorry they were closed.
The fitness center was nice enough, and the pool and locker room are nice draws if you want to use them. Having business services on hand was also particularly helpful for me since I was working from the hotel and did need to print some things out.
I do want to stress that the staff I interacted with were all very friendly, professional and efficient. The concierge helped me get around — I took the local subway to a nearby park for a temple fair during Chinese Lunar New Year and also went to a restaurant down a rather clandestine hutong (narrow alley). The reception staff were also very helpful — they confirmed a late check-out of 5pm right away when I asked for it on my second day, assuring me I’d still be able to use the fitness facilities and even helping me with suggestions for what to do during Chinese Lunar New Year. All the restaurant and room service staff as well as the various butlers I met were likewise very friendly and cheerful without being overbearing.
It just feels like this hotel needs a little love and a bit of a makeover, but it’s in a pretty central area and the discount I got through MasterCard plus the overall bonus points all made staying here worth it to me. This time.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
|Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Credit Rating|
|N/A||15.49%-19.49% Variable||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.||0%||Excellent Credit|