Hmmm...I am wondering as to where shall I begin with when it comes to reviewing yet another Ritz-Carlton property. In fact, this is only the 8th Ritz-Carlton property I have reviewed, and there are still a further 67 properties that I need to review worldwide (not sure when I’ll manage to do that!). One thing I can comment on is that even though the true Ritz-Carlton ethos of excellent ‘customer comes first’ mentality is evident in all the properties, every single one is unique in its own way. So therefore, even if you have two Ritz-Carlton properties in one city, as is the case here in Shanghai, they are both bound to be different in terms of the interior ambiance.
Indeed as mentioned, Shanghai is gifted with two Ritz-Carlton properties. The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, and The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai. So what’s the difference between the two? Well, apart from the difference in location (the former is located in the ‘Manhattan’ equivalent of Shanghai along with all the other financial corporations surrounding its lavish building, while the latter is located in downtown Shanghai), the main difference is that The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai tends to cater more for government officials and diplomats, while The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai tends to attract Shanghai’s money crazed super rich, or the city yuppies that work in Pudong.
Opened in 1998, and refurbished in 2003, The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai stands tall and proud right in the heart of Shanghai’s most happening place, and the world’s busiest street, Nanjing Xi Lu (which leads to Nanjing Dong Lu). The 50-story building in its trademark white colour scheme is hugged by two adjoining building that contain a myriad of premier shopping outlets (don’t be shocked to see a few Chinese- registered Lamborghinis parked outside!). And its not all modern glamour that adorns the hotels’ surroundings as within a few minutes of walking distance there are a few historical gems lurking around, such as the Jing An Temple (Golden Temple) and People’s Square as well.
The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai experience begins not from the lobby but from the airport or train station where you’ll be picked up in one of the Wi-Fi enabled chauffeur driven cars. All the Ritz-Carlton cars are equipped with bottled weather, leather seats, plenty of magazines and newspapers and a bi-lingual Chinese-English speaking driver (the latter is very important in a city such as Shanghai because of the lack of English spoken in Shanghai).
Upon arriving at the hotel, the first thing that strikes you is a bellboy who projects a greeting in perfect English: ‘Good morning/afternoon, welcome to the Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, please allow me to take your luggage, Sir/Madam’. For those guests that have made the journey straight from the airport, and are coming to Shanghai for the first time, this would be a perfect welcome to the ‘Paris of the East’! The second thing that strikes the visitor is the ultra chic lobby, which includes a beautiful old university style library, leather sofas with rich fabric, and a piano. VIP guests and those guests that are residing in one of the Suites or the Club Floor rooms don’t need to check-in at the lobby, but are rather whisked straight to the quieter Club Lounge at the 43rd floor to have an express check-in (or check-out).
The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai is also flagged as having a more flamboyant and nostalgic ambiance to it plush surroundings. With its 610-well appointed guestrooms and suites, it’s one of the preferred choices of residences in Shanghai by visiting government officials because of the excellent security it provides. It’s also a favourite of many American Presidents that have stayed here, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. I fondly recall one of my mates telling me that he happened to bump into Mr. Clinton at the hotel’s well-equipped gym. I am not sure if Mr. Clinton tried the highly useful and exceptionally flexible ‘Power Plate’. This rather boring looking piece of equipment will no doubt surprise the most athletic of us humans. As simple as it looks, but apparently one can make use of it in at least fifty different ways including as a stomach churning vibrator, a muscle enhancer, a yoga assistant and much more. If that’s not enough then burn those much wasted calories in the Squash and tennis courts (now, this sport is very popular among Presidents!).
Even though the hotel does not have an in-house Spa, the guests can still choose to have a signature Ritz-Carlton massage in the privacy of their rooms or at the hotel’s health club located on the 7th floor, which is, one of the city’s largest. Guests can choose a few therapy options including Chinese, Japanese, and Swedish. Normally I tend to have a massage at the Spa area, but because The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, offers the massage in-room, so I went for that option. It was my first time I’ve had an in-room massage, and I must say that it was actually a very relaxing experience to have a massage on your bed- I went to sleep within minutes. Well who wouldn’t, especially when you are lying on a sealy bed with 300-thread count bed linen, down feather pillows and throws. Its so easy to float your mind into your dreams when your head and body rests on such sheer comfort. It’s truly a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai.
Impossibly clean and modern in look and feel, all of the guestrooms and suites are designed with traditional Asian fashion with a modern flair. Exclusively Luzerne provides in-room cutlery and bone china, while the bathroom amenities in the Club floor rooms and Suites is provides by the designer Italian brand, Acqua Di Parma. Contemporary Chinese paintings adorn the walls, as well as the rosewood furniture, which forms most part of the amenities, including rosewood sliding doors. For the business minded individuals, keep in touch with the world through 3G and Wi-Fi internet throughout the hotel, as well as cable TV (provided by 32-inch TVs in guestrooms). In-room i-Pod docking stations are also provided.
The highlight of the hotel has to be its seven eateries, which include a variety of dining options including Western, Italian, Japanese and, of course, authentic Chinese cuisine. Confusing for some guests as it may be, but some of the restaurants, such as Palladio (Italian) and Tables (Western) are located outside of the main hotel building just near the lobby entrance so guests may think they are not part of the hotel but, of course, they are. The chef de cuisines at all the restaurants are highly experienced, and can magically create a dish upon the customers’ request. So if there is something that does tickle your fancy, just ask them to surprise you with the dish! Not only that, but there are plenty of Shanghainese petit fours that you can nibble onto, or a drink of a Chinese herbal drink.
Despite the dizzying pace at which Shanghai is growing with multiple loads of new buildings cropping up all the time, I am sure the hotel will continue to be one of the iconic buildings in Shanghai for many years to come. The Ritz-Carlton brand stands for a real luxurious experience and one that is just unmatchable by no other. In saying this it is quite right to conclude that The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai really stands by the words of being a ‘timeless symbol of luxury and beauty.
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