Practically Perfect in Every Way: The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
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This is the Mary Poppins of hotels. My stay at Hilton's Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund was practically perfect in every way. The hotel, which spans two buildings, combines neoclassical architecture from the early 1900s with a chic, modern tower, offering visitors the best of both worlds, both new and vintage. I enjoyed the historical aspect, but also appreciated the clean, classic rooms. The Waldorf Shanghai was a relaxing spot for my family and me to come back to after busy days out exploring Shanghai.
I booked two king deluxe rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund: one for my parents and one for my husband and me. Room rates were 2,200 CNY ($320) per night or 80,000 Hilton Honors points. Considering the Peninsula just up the road was double the cost for our dates, I thought that was a solid price for a hotel of this caliber.
I reserved my room on my Platinum Card® from American Express to have the FHR benefits, and the room for my parents on my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which gave me a perk I'm coming to realize is pretty valuable: Hilton Diamond status. I was hoping to figure out which form of booking would get me the most benefits. When I booked the room with Aspire, I booked through HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard (you can also book over the phone using the code ZZAAP1) to receive up to a $100 credit for incidentals at properties on stays of two nights or more.
Booking with Amex FHR entitled me to the following benefits: an upgrade, daily breakfast, a $100 food-and-beverage credit, early check-in, late checkout and more. Booking with Hilton Diamond status via the Aspire got me these perks: an upgrade, a welcome amenity, bonus points, free breakfast and more.
We were both upgraded at check-in, but to very different rooms. I ended up with a junior suite thanks to FHR/Diamond benefits (a $550, value), and my parents got a king deluxe river-view room thanks to the Hilton Aspire/Diamond benefits (a $435 value). Right off the bat, it would seem like FHR gave me the better upgrade, and it was amazing to have the suite. But my parents' room had incredible views of the Bund, and, honestly, I thought both upgrades were amazing.
In the end, it was a win-win, because although I had reserved one room with my Amex Platinum, I paid for both rooms with my Hilton Aspire, which gave me 14 points per dollar spent. As TPG values Honors points at 0.6 cents per point, that meant I was getting an 8.4% return. Since the Aspire gives me Hilton Diamond status, that meant I also got a 100% bonus. I ended up earning a total of 23,678 points for my room, which included a 100% bonus and 1,000 points from the My Way Hotel Benefit. For my parents' room, I earned 13,724 points, which also included the 100% bonus and 1,000 bonus points from the My Way Hotel Benefit (I put all the dining and transport charges on my room, which is why I earned more on mine). Plus, I could apply my two $100 food-and-beverage credits from FHR and Aspire, which significantly reduced my final bill.
About a 40-minute drive from Shanghai's Pu Dong airport (PVG), the hotel was the perfect jumping-off point for both leisure and business travelers, fairly close to sightseeing, restaurants and anything I needed. As per its name, the hotel sat on the Bund, the area along the outer banks of the Huangpu River famous for its Art Deco architecture from Shanghai's colonial past. I was able to walk to the ferry, and the area felt safe and secure. The views from the hotel were amazing, and looking out at the city lights gleaming over the water was just beautiful.
The hotel had two entrances: the official pedestrian entrance through the historical part of the hotel, and a drive-up entrance on the other side that was part of the tower, further from the water.
Right off the bat, pulling up at the hotel seemed a little weird. We drove up through what seemed like an abandoned alleyway, and I started to get a little nervous. But then we approached the car entrance and entered the hotel into a whole new world. The lobby was gleaming and beautiful, and I was immediately attended to by the staff.
Although my party had arrived about an hour before the official check-in time, we were given our upgrades and could head up to the rooms immediately. They were accommodating and friendly. Both the room and suite were in the newer tower building, not the historic building.
I was thrilled when I walked into my junior suite. Large and elegant, it was spotlessly clean and spacious.
The suite consisted of the bedroom, a bathroom and a third room, which felt more like an office setup instead of a living room, which was actually perfect.
I was able to work quietly there without disturbing my husband. I was trying to work on a New York schedule, meaning I was on the computer in the middle of the night.
If you don't have to work and you're fine with a regular room, decline the suite upgrade and request a lower upgrade to a room with a Bund view, like my parents had.
Their room view was absolutely stunning, overlooking the water and the glittering lights. However, junior suites don't come with this view (you'd have to get a higher-level suite). The city view I had was fine but not equally thrilling. My suite also came with a welcome amenity of a cute mason jar filled with delicious chocolates and a bowl of fresh fruit.
My parents were overjoyed with their room and the stunning views it offered, and I was delighted with my unexpected office space.
The suite was adapted for modern-day use, coming with all the technology ideal for work and play: plenty of outlets, high-tech lighting, temperature and window shades controlled by a tablet, fast and complimentary Wi-Fi, two flat-screen TVs and a box of HDMI cables for streaming and other connections.
Besides appealing to my wannabe-millennial, tech-obsessed side, the room was also aesthetically pleasing, giving off St. Regis vibes. I loved the the king bed, which was beyond comfortable. The bedroom also had its own small sitting area by the window, which was nice.
I appreciated the large closet with extra storage area so we could store away our suitcases and personal items. A safe was in there too.
The minibar was more than fully stocked, and I had zero complaints about my suite, though it would have been nice to have that Bund view!
The large bathroom was decked in a marble with a huge soaking tub. The double sinks were ideal for couples.
The shower was large and high enough to pass the TPG shower test, and each day I happily inhaled the fresh scent of the Ferragamo Tuscan Soul amenities.
As for other amenities, the room came with a lot, from mouthwash to extra bottles of free water replenished daily.
Food and Beverage
Though the hotel had several dining options, we chose to eat there daily for breakfast, which would have been pricey if we'd paid cash at about $50 per person. Thank goodness for those Diamond and FHR benefits that gave us free breakfast!
The selection was ample, with both Asian and Western choices, and the food was tasty. It was an excellent perk to have.
We also hung out in Long Bar, which was absolutely gorgeous. Once the Shanghai Club, a hip hangout back in 1911, the bar had since been restored but still had the famous long, wooden bar that claims to be the longest in the Far East: 110 feet of rich mahogany.
Following the bar, my family and I had a delicious steak dinner at Pelham's restaurant. Although I'd hoped to explore the city more and enjoy local delights, this particular trip was dedicated to family. One of my family members has a severe fish allergy, making it complicated to eat street food or anywhere where there might be a language barrier. Eating at the hotel was a safe option where we could properly communicate the allergy to staff.
The food was wonderful, and the presentation was unique — the steak melted in my mouth. It was so good, in fact, that I actually forgot to photograph it, I just dove right in. I did, however, snap a photo of the complimentary samosa that was offered at the beginning of the meal, which was served on what looked like a plate made out of tree bark.
Dinner wasn't cheap, but we did have two $100 food credits from FHR and Aspire to use, taking down the price of the meal a bit. Our bill ended up about $150 per person (before the credit), and that also included a lot of wine and cocktails. If your budget allows this, Pelham's is worth checking out, even if you aren't staying at the hotel. If not, a drink at Long Bar would be a solid alternative.
The hotel had a spa, a fitness center open 24 hours a day, an indoor pool, a steam room and sauna.
The pool area looked inviting and was kept impeccably clean.
Staff was consistently helpful and friendly toward my party. I only had one small incident, which staff resolved immediately. During checkout, when applying my FHR and Aspire $100 credits, they used the hotel's exchange rate to convert the dollars to CNY, not the official rate, which was about 20% less. I pointed this out and showed them what the official rate was using my phone, and they immediately remedied it. While I felt it was a little sneaky, I appreciated that the issue was resolved quickly, and I'm glad I was paying enough attention to catch it.
I loved my stay at this elegant property. Staff was friendly, rooms were not only comfortable but clean and beautiful, and I spent half the price I would have at a a competing hotel such as the Peninsula. While the dining options at the hotel aren't budget friendly, the FHR and Aspire credits help to make them just a little more affordable (just make sure they're properly converted at the current exchange rate). I would definitely stay here again, and recommend this spot to anyone visiting Shanghai.