After four mediocre nights at the Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, the Four Seasons Hotel in the same city restored my faith in high-class hotels. The most basic room in an excellent hotel must still reflect comfort and luxury, and in this case, the Four Seasons Shanghai really excels.
Starting with the reception area that was bathed in light, the hotel set a good tone for the rest of my two-night stay. Staff members were positioned in different areas of the lobby to greet guests as they proceeded to check in. My room was tucked in one corner of the 22nd floor (in the 36-floor hotel). I thought mine would have windows on two sides, but only one side provided the room with natural lighting. Another room was next to mine, but there was not a neighbor across my room. The room, albeit small, was designed really well, and the furnishings were excellent. The plush King-sized bed was topped with four King-sized pillows, all of them soft but very supportive to my back and neck. The lighting made everything glow, including my tired face. All of the light fixtures were equipped with dimmers. The accompanying image is taken from the Four Seasons website, but it resembles closely to my room. Basically WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and then some!
The bathroom was as big as the bed area. It reminded me of how a standard Ritz-Carlton bathroom usually would be (except the Portman R-C in Shanghai): a wide bathtub with chrome fixtures and an adjoining shower stall with glass windows; marble floor with plush white mat for the sink area. To complete this luxurious bath area were the amenities that were provided by the French company L’Occitane.
The work area consisted of a small desk with an extendable Ethernet cable and a small drawer that flipped to expose different adapters for many countries’ electrical plugs; very convenient, indeed! Open another drawer and one will find yet another universal adapter just in case one wants to work elsewhere in the room. Unlike at the Portman the Ritz-Carlton where I had to keep logging into the Internet once I disconnected, the Four Seasons’ Internet recognized my system for the next 24 hours. If I cleared off my desk in the morning and then started working again in the evening, I did not have to log in again. All I had to do was to plug in the Ethernet cable and to start working. If I had owned an AirPort Express, it would even be very convenient as I could work wirelessly in the room.
In addition, once I logged in, I got a code that would allow me to get wireless connection from other areas in the hotel for the next 24 hours. One disadvantage of this 24-hour contract was that you would be locked into this fee no matter how much connection you used in that period. The Portman R-C charged something like Y1.60/minute, or Y96.60 per 24 hours. If one goes by the minute but reaches the maximum of Y96.60, then one will be charged that maximum price for the entire 24-hours; the R-C option worked well for those who knew they would not be using the Internet for an extended period of time.
Completing the desk was the elegantly designed thick guest information book in the form of a binder. An armoire stood next to the desk, hiding a television set and a DVD player; the safety box; and drawers with Japanese Yukattas or room robes.
Not too long after entering my room, I heard a knock on my door. I must have forgotten to sign something, I thought, but it turned out that I found a gentleman on the other side of the door, carrying a small tray of teapot with two Chinese teacups and two small desserts. He placed the tray on the work desk, poured the tea into the two cups, and then excused himself after making sure that I did not want anything else.
What really distinguished this place from the other regular hotels in and out of Shanghai was how most of the staff had anticipated my every need and how each of them had met my expectation. At the gym, when my mind was thinking of grabbing a towel, someone had approached me with one. On my way to the elliptical machine, another staff presented me with a cold bottle of water and offered me a headphone with the listening device covered in thick white cloth. I was alone when I arrived at the pool area, but when I emerged from the pool, I saw that someone had already put a foot mat by my chaise longue plus bottled water and a glass on the table.
The gym was spacious and had plenty of aerobic machines (treadmills, stair-masters, and stationery bikes). A steam room and hot jacuzzi were located near the shower area, and adjacent to this area was a soothing, relaxing room with chaise-longue and selection of magazines or music to choose.
The massages I had were performed in the room at no extra charge (there was an option of having it done at the spa by the gym.) Those light dimmers came in handy as we dimmed the entire room to set a relaxing mood. The masseur arrived at the appointed time and delivered the deep tissue massage as advertised, which was rare. Some massage places that advertised deep tissue or acupressure massage usually ended up giving me a soft Swedish massage. The set-up and the clean up were very promptly done. Five minutes after the massage, he was already out of the door.
At the Si Ji Xuan Chinese restaurant on the second floor, the maitre d’ and one wait staff gave their full attention to me, without being asked. It felt as if each table got its own private server. I was reading the newspaper and a book throughout one brunch, and every time I lifted up my head, my teacup was already refilled, and the pot replenished with hot water. The wait staff worked so efficiently and so flowingly that it seemed like a dance performance.
The morning room cleaning and the evening turndown service made me want to stay there forever. The room always looked very orderly and sparkling new every time I stepped in after a few hours away. And, oh yes, this was also the only hotel in a long time whose housekeeper wrote me a thank-you note for the tips I had left behind on the sink. I have always done this as a habit, but out of the many times I had stayed in hotels around the world, this marked only the second time that someone had scribbled a hand-written note thanking me for it. I left the money at the sink for some time, but it was never taken. Only after the fourth clean up did someone take it.
This hotel, located not entirely in a great area (the Portman Ritz-Carlton had the advantage of being in a more orderly and established area), made me feel as if I were in a resort, not in a hotel in a big city. Despite the location, I would love to return to this hotel when I will be in Shanghai again. In my opinion, this was one hotel whose services approached the level of perfection that I had found thus far only at the Amanresorts in Indonesia.
The Four Seasons Shanghai
500 Weihai Road
Shanghai 200041, China
Tel: +86 (21) 6256-8888
Fax: +86 (21) 6256-5678