Hotel Review: A Wonderful Room at the W Shanghai – the Bund
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To The Point
It’s pretty as a picture and filled with light in a location that’s close but not too close to the action, but this hotel’s rooms aren’t for the shy. Pros: trendy dining and bar outlets, friendly staff. Cons: offbeat location, room design favors form over function.
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I spent three nights in Shanghai at the end of a recent trip to China, and while I stayed the first night at the St. Regis Shanghai Jingan, I decided to conclude my trip at the W Shanghai – The Bund, which opened in July 2017.
The W Shanghai was just over two months old when I stayed there at the beginning of October. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the flashy new, 374-room, 35-suite property, and it was a major national holiday, which I think is why rates were rather high at the time, starting at nearly $400.
The lowest rate I could find was $385 per night for a Wonderful Room, which came to $449 including charges and taxes. There was one smaller category, Cozy, but none of those rooms were available for my dates. As an SPG member, I qualified for an exclusive flexible rate that was actually $5 cheaper than the regular flexible rate and would still allow me to cancel up to two days before my stay.
I briefly considered spending more on a Cool Corner Room with a view of the Bund waterfront area, which would have been $501 per night, but in the end I decided against it. My Wonderful Room was only marginally less spacious at 495 square feet compared to the Cool Corner Room’s 560 square feet, and I could always walk outside to experience the city.
I earned three Starpoints per dollar, thanks to my SPG Gold elite status. I considered using my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or my Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express to earn an additional two points per dollar for five points total per dollar. Based on TPG’s current valuation of Starpoints, that amounted to a 13.5% return on spending. In the end, however, I decided to use my Chase Sapphire Reserve instead and earn three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on top of the three Starpoints per dollar.
One final consideration for booking the W — other than the cool factor — was that I wanted to maintain Gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest (and automatic Marriott Rewards Gold elite status as well). At the time, I only had six stay credits under my belt, but I needed to hit at least 10 for Gold. Thanks to the Starwood Preferred Guest promotion running during my stay dates, though, I earned double stay credits both for my reservation at the W and my single night at the St. Regis Shanghai. So with two stays counting for four, I knew I would hit that 10-stay mark during my trip and secure Gold status for the following year. And sure enough, the same day I checked into the W, I got an email from Starwood Preferred Guest congratulating me on re-qualifying for Gold.
The hotel was a Category 5 property where award nights cost 12,000 to 16,000 points each, or cash and points awards cost 6,000 points plus $110. But I looked at the flexible-dates tool for both pure points and cash and points awards and found that points awards were only available on select dates in November and December 2017 (not beyond that) and that there were no cash and points awards available for the next year!
I arrived at the W Shanghai at 1:30pm since I had just been staying at the St. Regis the night before. I took a taxi between the hotels, which took 20 minutes.
Though the W Shanghai bills itself as being on the Bund, it’s actually north of it in the Hongkou district and not far from the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal. If you’re hoping to stay right on the Bund, you might want to book somewhere farther south, like the Fairmont Peace Hotel, the Peninsula Shanghai or the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai. Personally, I didn’t mind being a tad removed from the tourist hordes you find roving the Bund, and it was only a 10-minute walk to get there.
There were several bellmen and a doorwoman on duty when I pulled up, and they immediately sprang into action, asking if they could take my bag and directing me to the bank of elevators that would take me up to the lobby.
The ground, second and third floors contained events spaces, while the lobby was up on the fourth floor. The number four is an unlucky one in Chinese lore (it’s a homonym for “death”), so the hotel actually called this the W floor.
The elevators were like pink cubes and set the tone immediately as they whisked me past a white and red light sculpture that spanned several stories of a narrow atrium.
The elevators opened up right onto the lobby, with a concierge desk (complete with French bulldog sculpture, if Miles and Hootie ever want to stay here) and two reception desks to the right.
There was also a cart with cups and carafes of cucumber and citrus water to which you could help yourself.
No other guests were waiting, so I was checked in immediately. One of the hotel’s managers apologized that my feather-free room was not yet ready, but said that it would be soon. Otherwise, he said, I could have a regular room immediately. I said I could wait.
In the meantime, he and the check-in agent thanked me for my Gold status and gave me a house-made chocolate bar with a buy-one-get-one-free cocktail coupon inside.
I left my bags with them and went for a walk around the Living Room, W’s version of a lobby. There was a lounge area with white furniture.
Then WOOBAR, with lots of purple and fuchsia accents.
As well as glassed-in booths.
Then I headed to the Kitchen Table restaurant for lunch on the outdoor deck, and before I’d finished my first course, the manager came by with my key and said my luggage had been delivered to the room.
Once I’d finished lunch, I headed back past WOOBAR to the bank of elevators leading to the guest rooms.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t scored an upgrade, but I wasn’t too upset because I knew my room was still going to be nice and large.
My room was up on the 36th floor, which was actually the 32nd floor considering the omission of floors 13, 14, 24 and 34.
It was a Wonderful Room with a king bed, and as I mentioned, it measured 495 square feet.
When I opened the door, the bathroom was past a sliding wooden door to my right, through which I could see the bedroom.
The bathroom contained two sinks.
There was a standalone tub with a black stool next to it.
The shower and toilet were each in their own stalls with mirrored tiled backsplashes.
The shower had both an overhead shower head and a handheld one mounted on the wall.
As is the W brand standard, the bath products were by Bliss.
The toilet was a Toto.
It came complete with all the fun controls.
The bathroom had two light settings controlled by switches in the entry hall. One was “bright” and the other was “relax.” Neither was actually bright enough to shave by properly. I know I sound like a (crotchety) broken record, but I always find W bathrooms to be way too dark.
To the side of the sinks was another sliding glass door with shading on it that only slightly clouded the view. And remember that the bathtub was in the middle of the room and the shower door was completely transparent, so if you were staying with someone, you couldn’t expect any privacy. Luckily, the door to the toilet was opaque.
I walked through to the bedroom.
The bed was a king and dressed in fresh, white linens. There was also some sort of artistic cushion set arranged on it that I couldn’t really understand. At the foot of the bed was a bright orange bench.
The bed had an enormous curved wooden headboard with a panel of controls for the lights and shades on either side and nightstands below those.
The controls were all easy to use, and it was nice having a set of both sheer shades and blackout shades.
Those shades came in especially handy since the skyscraper next door had bright lights flashing different displays for most of the night.
But the room lighting was, well, weird. You couldn’t turn off all the lights without hitting the master switch, so the room and bathroom lights were always on in one of the presets. It seemed like a big waste of electricity.
On the side closest to the bathroom, the nightstand held a speaker, a clock and two complimentary bottles of water (though after I left a note for housekeeping asking for more, they stocked my room with six). This side also had a large lamp mounted in the headboard. There was a socket with a plug and a USB port.
On the other side was the TV remote, another USB port and a telephone with W’s signature “whatever/whenever” button that you could press for anything from housekeeping and room service to concierge suggestions. Basically, it was the one-stop shop for guests’ needs. I always find it works pretty well.
The lighting controls were interesting. There were settings for “bright,” “relax” and “escape.” “Bright” was indeed bright, with all the lights on the room turned up to the fullest, while “relax” was softer and very nice. Curious, I hit the “escape” button. At first it turned the recessed ceiling lighting blue, then the second time it was red. It was like being in a nightclub without strange people bumping and grinding on you.
My favorite feature had to be the wall of windows that wrapped around one full side of the room, along which was set a wide orange bench with pillows for just lounging and hanging out.
Thanks to the curvature of the building, the windows let in a ton of light, and though my view mainly looked out over the river and neighboring buildings, if I craned my neck from the side of the room farthest from the bed, I could see the skyscrapers of Pudong. There was a set of plugs and A/V inputs here, so it made for a great place to get work done.
Across from the bed was a marble-topped table with a single chair and a blue velour stool.
A sign warned guests that smoking would incur a 5,000 CNY ($750) fine, though that did not seem to have deterred a previous guest, judging by the faint smell of smoke.
This whole side of the room was paneled in white and yellow with a 48-inch television mounted on the wall. There was a bar shelf with booze and glasses, and below that, a Nespresso coffee set.
One of the drawers held smaller bottles of liquor and snacks, then below that was a drawer with a kettle and more cups.
There was also a refrigerator in one of the cupboards holding beverages including juice and sodas.
I also really liked the trash-recycling combo.
To the left of the mini bar and television was a closet with a gigantic sliding door. If the door were open, the light was on, even if your master switch were turned off, so I had to close it to sleep. It had a shelf, hanger space and a couple drawers, including one with the room safe.
As an SPG member who’d booked through the Starwood site, I got free Wi-Fi, which worked well throughout my stay.
Overall, I had a really great experience in my room. I loved the enormous windows and all the bright colors in the room, and the bed was as comfortable as always. I would have liked lighting controls that were easier to operate, but that was just a small gripe.
Food and Beverage
I didn’t spend a huge amount of time checking out the hotel’s various dining outlets, but I did try to eat there a few times. As I mentioned, I had lunch right after check-in at the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, the Kitchen Table. The restaurant contained a small café and bakery for pastries.
The main indoor dining area had a mix of round tables and two-tops along a banquette.
Guests could stop by the open kitchen to see what was cooking.
I decided to have lunch on the outdoor deck near the pool since the weather was so temperate. (As a side note, the WET outdoor pool has since been closed for winter.)
There was a mix of restaurant-style tables and sofas around low tables for more casual eating and lounging.
Though the lounge furniture was nice, it was already displaying wear and tear, notably cigarette burns.
There was also a cloud of smoke drifting over the outdoor seating section from the adjacent smoking area.
The deck fronted the outdoor pool.
Because it was cloudy, no one was lounging there, but the views were spectacular.
The Kitchen Table menu was a mix of continental and contemporary Asian, and the prices were high, with many main courses topping $40 a plate.
I went light and started with a cauliflower bisque with slow-cooked egg and caviar.
Then I had slices of tuna tataki with a tangy apple-sesame emulsion.
Both dishes were delicious, and I paid about $30 total for my meal.
The following day, I had appointments, so I decided to order room service for a quick lunch. The person I reached via the “whatever/whenever” button suggested the fried pork chop with noodles as typically Shanghainese. The dish was tasty, but very, very fried, so it was heavier than I expected.
When I got back from dinner the first evening, I decided to have a cocktail at WOOBAR.
I chose one of the signature drinks, a sesame oil-washed Negroni with gin and Campari. It was not cheap at 128 CNY ($19), but it was made in front of me and served in a glass case with smoldering herbs to infuse it with extra flavor. It was delicious.
The bar was nearly empty because it was a Wednesday night and a national holiday, but the bartender told me it got packed on weekends. You could order food here too, including burgers and other simple dishes.
The W had another bar out on the pool deck called WET Bar.
There were more people having drinks out there and taking in the city views.
The hotel’s final dining outlet was a Cantonese restaurant up on the sixth floor called YEN. It was more of a fine-dining setting, and I didn’t have the chance to check out it or the speakeasy-style LIQUID AT YEN bar during my stay.
If you headed from the lobby toward the elevators to the guest rooms and kept walking, you arrived at the hotel’s two other major amenities, the AWAY Spa and the FIT gym.
The spa was decorated all in white and was tranquil with huge locker rooms. Though many W spas use Bliss products, this one also incorporated VersaSpa, Intraceuticals and Comfort Zone products into treatments like a fruit-based detox facial and a collagen-and-contouring body wrap. Treatments ranged from 290 CNY to 2,980 CNY ($44 to $450).
There was also a small salon section, though it wasn’t manned while I was there. The spa attendant I spoke to was well-informed about the products, telling me in detail about each. Though my time was too short to book a treatment, she did have me thinking about it!
The FIT center had its own set of locker rooms, which led to the indoor WET pool.
The indoor pool was bustling every time I was down there, with people swimming laps and families taking their kids for a dip.
There was a small spinning studio.
The gym itself was spacious, with a wall of windows and plenty of cardio machines and weights.
I thought the whole FIT and AWAY complex was great, and it felt secluded from the party atmosphere of the rest of the hotel without being too hushed.
I also want to mention the service I got at the hotel. A few days before my stay, I got an email from a W “insider,” their laid-back version of a concierge, asking what she could do to “amplify” my stay. I asked about city tours and restaurants, and she and her colleagues were quick to reply with suggestions, even getting in touch directly with a tour operator when I hadn’t gotten a response.
They, along with everyone else I interacted with at the hotel from the front-desk staff to the bar and restaurant workers, the spa attendant and the man at the gym desk, were all personable and helpful, and they made the stay that much better.
One final amenity to mention: a colorful concept shop down in the lobby.
Though I didn’t see anything too useful like, say, toiletries, it was selling interesting stuff including ceramics and china, jewelry and apparel.
And whatever these woven things were.
There was one minor service downside, though. I had to check out early in the morning, and I was running late, so I was dismayed when I got down to the lobby to find no one at the reception desks. I had to call out until a young woman finally appeared from the back office.
She apologized and set to work immediately checking me out. I asked her to call the bell desk to call a taxi since it took about five to 10 minutes every time I’d needed one and I didn’t have much time to spare. She continued pulling up my reservation details and typing away for about a minute, though, and I had to interrupt her to insist she call the taxi since I knew it would take a while. She asked, “Oh, you want it now?” I had to say, “Yes, please, call it now,” and then make sure that she did.
I had not been asked which Gold welcome amenity — 250 points for a free drink — I wanted when I’d checked in, so I asked if I could have the cocktail from WOOBAR taken off my bill instead of getting the points. She asked if I were an SPG Gold member. I’d been checked in as one, but she said my SPG number was missing from my reservation. I’m glad I checked! Once she put it on there, she then took off the tax from the drink rather than the drink itself (as a side note, you only get up to $15 credit for your welcome drink here, which at least took a big portion of the price off my bill). I pointed out the error and she reworked the bill a third time, finally getting it right.
All told, it took 15 minutes to check out, and even then the taxi had not shown up when I got downstairs. Because it was early and I didn’t want to have to deal with both a taxi and the maglev, I decided just to take a taxi all the way to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). With no traffic because of the national holiday, it took 40 minutes and cost me 175 CNY ($26). Luckily, I was in time to check my bag and get through security.
Check-out aside, I had a really nice stay at the W Shanghai. The hotel felt fresh and new, the service was friendly and outgoing, and the room was spacious and bright. I would’ve appreciated more light and privacy in the bathrooms, but for a solo traveler it was fine. The restaurant prices were expensive, even for Shanghai, and the food was decent if not remarkable.
The location was more removed from the Bund than the hotel’s full name would imply, but I actually found this to be a bonus, since it meant I was out of the way of the traffic tangle you usually find in that part of town. I’d definitely stay here again, but I might wait until room rates go down.
Have you stayed at the W Shanghai? What did you think?
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