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Now a prime candidate for free-night redemptions, this hotel should be on your Shanghai radar from now on. Pros: amazing attention to detail, great location for the airports and good views. Cons: The breakfasts got repetitive.
I’ve had my eye on the JW Marriott Shanghai at Tomorrow Square ever since Marriott dropped it from Category 6 to Category 5 at the beginning of March. This was a really significant development, as this hotel is now eligible for Marriott free-night-certificate redemptions, which can only be used at Category 1 to Category 5 properties. As luck would have it, I was already planning a spring trip in Shanghai, so I decided to book a four-night stay and see if this JW Marriott would be more impressive than my last experience with the brand.
Cash rates at this property were not cheap at all, but given that this was likely to be my last year as a Marriott Platinum elite, I decided to bite the bullet while I was still earning 15 points per dollar. My four-night stay ended up costing 8,269 CNY (about $1,300). If I’d redeemed points for my stay, I would’ve had to use 25,000 per night, since it’s a Category 5 hotel.
This was easily the most expensive hotel stay I’d ever booked, but I felt pretty happy with the return I’d be getting. I booked using my Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card to earn 5x points per dollar, in addition to the 15x I’d earn as a Marriott Platinum member. I also earned 2,000 points thanks to Marriott’s quarterly MegaBonus promotion, for a grand total of 28,000 points worth $252, according to TPG’s latest valuations.
The JW Marriott was on Nanjing West Road, one of the busiest streets in Shanghai, and just a block away from People’s Square. Most importantly, it was right next to a metro station that reached both Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) and the smaller Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA). In classic Shanghai fashion, there were both local eateries and high-end shops surrounding the hotel, including a Maserati dealer attached to the building.
I arrived at the hotel late at night after taking the train in from Hefei. The building, the eighth tallest in the city, was incredibly imposing.
Once inside, I was directed up to the 38th-floor lobby to complete check-in.
I was surprised to find that there was no dedicated check-in line for Marriott elite members, but there was also no wait, so I checked in immediately. As seems to be the norm at Marriott properties, I was offered a one-category upgrade to a corner king room but not to a suite. The agent said that I could have an upgrade to a studio suite if I wanted it, but he recommended I stay in the corner king room for the superior views in two different directions. I took his advice, for better or worse. The views were phenomenal, but there was low cloud cover over Shanghai during my entire trip, so I was only able to enjoy them for a brief time.
I’m not sure if it was because I checked in late or if there was a language barrier, but I was given no explanation of the features of the hotel. I had to specifically ask about the timing and location of breakfast, as well as where the gym was.
My corner king room was on the 56th floor. The door opened to a long hallway and the door to the bathroom.
The views from the bathroom were just as amazing as from the room itself. I really enjoyed some of the more unique features in the bathroom, like the massage faucets on either side of the shower.
There was also a dial next to the sink that let you adjust the TV volume, in case you wanted to listen to the news while getting ready in the morning.
Down the end of the hallway, the room featured a large, comfortable king bed.
A pair of slippers was waiting for me when I arrived, in addition to a little jar of candy on the nightstand that was restocked daily.
There was also a Nespresso machine, as well as apples and chocolate. I wish more hotels would put fruit in the rooms, especially given how much fried meat I ate on this trip.
Overall I found the room to be comfortable and well-designed, but there was one small thing that bothered me. There was no master light switch anywhere, and definitely not one by the bed, like you’d find in many high-end hotels. This meant every morning and evening I had to turn off the lamps, bathroom lights and hallway lights one by one.
Food and Beverage
With my status, I was able to enjoy free breakfast daily in the hotel’s 59th-floor executive lounge. Much like my room, the views here would’ve been spectacular if the weather had been cooperating.
Inside the lounge was a staircase leading up to what the hotel claimed was the highest library in the world. (And it is, indeed, recognized as such by Guinness.)
The breakfast spread was solid, starting with snacks and daily newspapers at the entrance.
There food represented a good mix of western and Chinese options, such as breakfast meats, fried rice, noodles and several different kinds of dumplings.There were also plenty of cold options, including breads, cheeses, pastries, salad and fruit.
The food was all fine, though not always as hot as it should’ve been and not nearly as high-quality as some of the meals I ate while out and about in the city. There also wasn’t any variety from day to day, so by the end of my stay I was getting a little tired of the same breakfast.
One interesting thing happened, which I’ll chalk up to the language barrier. On my first morning, I asked one of the servers for a cappuccino, which you can see in the above picture. Even though the foam on top was a thick solid layer that felt more like Jell-O, I happily drank it. The next morning I asked for black coffee and was brought the exact same cappuccino-like thing, buried under a blanket of hard foam.
The hotel had five cafes and restaurants. While I didn’t sample any of them, I received an email a few days before my stay informing me that as a Marriott Platinum member I would receive a 20% discount at any of them. I passed by the lobby lounge every day as I switched between the ground-floor elevators and those that connected to the guest rooms.
The space was comfortable for lounging, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Even though I didn’t order anything, I ended up sitting there a few times while waiting to meet a friend.
The hotel had a gym on the fifth floor, and I liked that the guest elevators could go straight down so I didn’t have to switch and walk through the lobby in sweaty workout clothes (even though they didn’t go all the way to the first floor).
The gym was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen at a hotel, with high ceilings, city views, and at least 30 treadmills, as well as plenty of free weights and machines.
I also can’t speak highly enough about the service at this hotel. Although it was professional and a little distant, the attention to detail was incredible. Doors were held open for me every time I entered or exited the building, and there was always a doorman waiting to call the elevator up to the lobby or down to the ground floor for me so I didn’t even have to push a button.
What really impressed me, though, was the housekeeping staff. It wasn’t just that my clothes were folded every day when I came back or that they restocked water bottles, it was the little touches, like the large drawer of toiletries in the bathroom.
The only one I ever touched was the tiny mouthwash in the back, and when I ran out on the third day I came back to find another one sitting next to my toothbrush on the sink. I didn’t have to call downstairs and ask; they clearly noticed I was using it and restocked it in a convenient location for me. It was the same with the shampoo and body wash. I moved them from the shower to the bathtub one day, and when I came back there was a second set waiting in the shower so I wouldn’t have to exert the tremendous effort of carrying these tiny tubes two feet.
I had a hunch going into this stay that this property was way too nice to only be a Category 5, and I was right. While cash rates aren’t cheap, this hotel is now a good value for award stays and a phenomenal use of Marriott free-night certificates. Considering the prime location, fancy building and comfortable rooms, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
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