When I booked The Peninsula in Shanghai I was rather skeptical of the very high nightly rate in a city filled with fantastic high-end options.
Ranking as the most expensive hotel in the city after the newly opened The Edition Shanghai, I was wondering how it could justify prices that were almost 50% more expensive than all the other luxury hotels in Shanghai. After I realized I had booked a suite, it all made a little more sense.
This was my second stay at a Peninsula Hotel after the one in Bangkok and I visited the one in Manila many times while working there.
The Peninsula Hotels
Peninsula hotels are legendary properties in Asia and now also available in other parts of the world. Owned by Hong Kong-based The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited, who also owns the famous The Peak Tram and other attractions in Hong Kong.
The legendary company was established in 1823 by two British and one German businessman and has publicly been listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange since 1866, currently the oldest registered, with a legacy in luxury properties.
When entering into a Peninsula Hotel you know it, it exudes old-world charm and timeless elegance.
The Peninsula Shanghai architecture and accolades
The Peninsula Shanghai has been rated 5 stars by Forbes travel guide for seven years and has won many awards. It is not just the service that is outstanding and well-known of the band, but in this case, it is also the design and architecture of the property.
Located at the north end of The Bund, The Peninsula Shanghai is housed in an Art Deco building with an impressive facade and many interior elements reflecting of that architectural period.
The hotel has several vintage items that add old world charm such as the replica of a Schindler 1930s elevator that you can take to go up to the second floor. The original is housed in a museum in Belgium and this one was made specifically for the hotel to be used for fun.
There is also an aviation-dedicated section called the Rosamonde Aviation Lounge which contains memorabilia, objects and antiques including a replica of a 1928 Leoning Air Yacht amphibian plane.
Arrival and check-in at The Peninsula Shanghai
As part of my reservation, the hotel sent a car to pick me up at the airport.
I did not realize this was included in my booking but I swiftly received an email from the hotel about this and I was very excited. I even wondered if they were going to send one of the famous Peninsula green Rolls Royce (spoiler alert: they didn’t).
I came out of the arrivals area at Shanghai Pudong Airport and after a bit of looking around, I found The Peninsula Shanghai staff member, only they were holding a different name, not mine. I told him I had a booking and had been told to find him but he knew nothing about me. Not quite the kind of entrance I was hoping to make.
The ground liaison person did not speak very good English, in fact he spoke almost no English at all, but after fiddling for a while and disappearing, he said there were two other guests arriving (the ones whose names were on the placard) and after waiting for them, without knowing what as going on, they finally emerged. They were in the same flight as me from Singapore.
He continued to say nothing just to follow him to the parking, so I assumed it had all been resolved, but it had not. We waited for a few minutes for the magnificent BMW to arrive and then it became apparent that not all three would fit in the car because the other two ladies had three pieces of luggage already.
They talked to The Peninsula staff in English and then one of the ladies turned to me and said something along the lines of “they need to sort this for you but we can’t wait and this is not our problem”.
It transpired that she overheard the staff member talk to the driver in Chinese who made him aware of the fact that there was only space for 3 suitcases, not four, and she decided that they were not waiting. No compassion, no understanding, nothing at all.
I was a bit stunned, she could have at least helped me translate to the staff who clearly spoke no English, but she just got into the car and asked the driver to go. Silence followed, and I started to get impatient. He said nothing, called someone, but said nothing to me, until I asked him what was going on, at that point quite fed up already and he mumbled that somebody was coming to pick me up.
Considering the hotel is 45min away, I assumed they were sending someone from The Peninsula and was not happy about this. More of me trying to figure out who was coming and when, ended in him calling someone (the driver?) and then telling me to wait 5 minutes.
It was not the best of arrival experiences, though the driver did pick me up five minutes later, so it all ended up in not much of an inconvenience, if only he had spoken English enough to communicate this, or had at least tried.
Inside the fabulous BMW Series 7, I did feel quite like royalty, despite it not being a Rolls Royce and the journey to the hotel was smooth, as if we were floating. The car had water, branded wet towels and WiFi and the driver even asked me if I wanted to change the music.
The Peninsula Shanghai is right on The Bund, at the north end where it meets the Suzhou Creek and has a privileged position right in front of Pudong’s shining skyline and The Bunds’ most historical part.
The area is popular with couples taking wedding shots, Instagrammers, fashion models and photographers who fill the lanes around it all times of day and night for photoshoots. It was quite impressive to walk around the hotel and see up to 15 different shots going on at the same time with The Oriental Pearl Tower in the background.
As soon as the car pulled off at The Peninsula Shanghai driveway, a member of the staff came out to greet me and apologize for the transfer mix-up.
I will admit that the upfront apology, although it carried no follow up in any form or shape, tamed what was already a muted annoyance, the smooth car transfer had already done the trick.
I was led straight to my room, no mundane check-in experience at the reception, but an in-room sign-in. He opened a leather folder, asked me to sign and then made a copy of my passport in the in-room printer.
He offered to give me a room tour showing me all the amenities. Usually, room tours are useful to locate where the lights and AC are, in this case, the room had so many buttons and options and was so large that it was useful just to understand what was available.
I was also quite speechless at the size of the room, it was really large and I was confused as to whether this was indeed the entry-level room I thought had booked online, which he incorrectly confirmed. I had booked a Deluxe Garden Suite but that was not the entry-level room at the hotel.
The rooms at The Peninsula Shanghai
The Peninsula Shanghai has a range of rooms and suites available for booking and which you can see below. The top end of the range has one of the most impressive suites in Shanghai with incredible views over the river and Pudong.
Rooms and suites interior design is Art Deco-inspired with oriental touches, for example on the cushions. They use a palette of pearly white and beige, noble blue or celadon green, blended in with black lacquer, dark wood and a discrete amount of gold. The result is elegant and glamorous without a touch of tackiness.
Superior and Deluxe Rooms are the entry-level category measuring 54-59m and vary in their views, whether garden or city depending on the level.
Following the entry-level rooms are the Deluxe Garden and Deluxe River Rooms also of the same size as the previous two but higher up or with better views. The Garden view faces the back gardens and the Hangpug River as it veers off from The Bund and the River views face Pudong, the most stellar view in the hotel.
Deluxe Terrace Rooms come with enclosed outdoor terraces and are 5-10m larger than the previous categories. Bear in mind the terrace has high walls so it is an outdoor space but has no views.
The next category of room types of the Grand Deluxe River Room which is much larger than the previous ones from 71-89sqm and has fabulous river views. This room can come with double or twin bedding. These rooms have a slightly larger living space with a sofa and a bigger dressing room.
We then enter the realm of the suites. There are Grand Deluxe Suites (around 120 sq m) and Deluxe River Suites (the one I had at around 100 sqm). These two have separate living rooms, bedrooms, dressing rooms, a walk-in closet and bathrooms. The Grand Deluxe Suite comes with a telescope, my Garden Suite had a fireplace.
The river suites have stunning views over the Pudong skyline and are the ultimate indulgence while the Garden rooms face the quieter back of the hotel. I can’t imagine staying at a river-facing room and wanting to ever leave.
With incremental sizes, then come all the suites, Astor Suite, Majestic Suite, Palace Suite and The Peninsula Suite which measures 400 sqm. This incredible two-bedroom suite has a two-storey grand dining room, a living room with a working fireplace, a grand piano and a balcony and a private gym.
It is worth noting that all rooms have stunning bathrooms, almost the same size, with white marble bathtubs and fantastic showers with perfect water pressure. Closets include enough space to hand clothes and place your suitcases, open, and the dressers are divine.
The room facilities are all operated with a variety of buttons to open and close electric curtains, humidifiers, air purifiers, AC or heaters or even nail polish dryers in my Suite.
Although I was expecting the usual details that make The Peninsula a brand I love, I was still impressed by the many thoughtful and useful little things.
There are phones in every room with immediate action from the front desk if anything needs fixing (my curtains got stuck and they rushed to fix them) and the desk had internet radio by The Peninsula.
Both bedside tables had charging USB plugs and universal sockets, hidden inside a drawer, that you could close for the night. They also had a complex electronic panel to manage the privacy (from TV, room, fax and phone), the lights, the air conditioning and the alarm.
But perhaps the most amazing part is the long list of amenities and small details that make The Peninsula’s signature thoughtfulness. There are small sewing kits, a jewelry box by the dresser to place cufflinks, earrings or rings.
Laundry can be collected and left without the guest noticing through the dedicated valet closet which has its own separate opening inside and out. The desk came with a range of stationery, including highlighters and post-it notes, as well as postcards, luggage tags and stickers with a vintage The Peninsula logo.
There was also a colorful hand-drawn map with all the buildings on The Bund that was very handy for me to go out and explore, I found this one of the nicest small details in the room, a very useful one and a memento.
Of course, my suite had its own scanner, fax and printer, a Nespresso machine, a beautiful teapot and set, a well-stocked minibar with a selection of small bottles (but not shot size) premium liquors and spirits, and a library with nice coffee table books.
In the evening, the turndown service staff left a note with a sequence for yoga stretching with pictures and the spa menu on my bed.
Dining at The Peninsula Shanghai
As a full-fledged five star hotel The Peninsula Shanghai has a lot of dining options, several of which are particularly interesting even for non-guests.
The hotel’s fine-dining Michelin-starred Sir Elli’s Restaurant is located on a rooftop with its own terraced bar that has some of the best views over Pudong’s skyline in Shanghai.
The restaurant serves modern European food from a French chef and has an impressive wine list. The restaurant also offers weekend brunch and vegetarian set menus.
Sir Elli’s terrace is one of the best places to see the sunset or the night lights come out in Pudong. It’s lower level terrace makes it more accessible and closer to the action and also provides views of The Bund.
But this is not the only Michelin-starred restaurant, The Peninsula Shanghai also has a Cantonese dim sum restaurant Yi Long Court with another star.
For those like me who love afternoon tea, The Lobby Bar serves all-day dining starting with breakfast that has a combination of a refined buffet and a long a la carte menu. Afternoon tea is a signature event at all of The Peninsula Hotels and Shanghai’s is no different. Add caviar for an extra treat.
During the warmer months of the year you can also enjoy a Heritage Afternoon Tea at The Balfour inside the No.1 Waitanyuan building which is adjacent and located at the back of The Peninsula which used to be part of the British consulate.
While the hotel is a rather elegant affair there are also a couple of more extravagant places to dine. One of them is the Salon de Ning, also at The Peninsula in Manila, which combines over the top animal prints with velvet and chandeliers. The bar is a good place to come for an after-dinner meal.
I would suggest that you book a room with breakfast. I found the spread to be appropriate to the hotel’s class, refined, of high quality and with a wide range of a la carte menu options with international as well as local options.
Things to do and facilities at The Peninsula Shanghai
The Peninsula Shanghai is the only hotel in the city with a fleet of customized cars, and this is a unique feature of the brand everywhere. Its legendary Peninsula green Bespoke Rolls Royce Phantom cars can whisk you away to any part of the city.
But if you don’t want to splurge so much or need to make sure everyone knows where you are staying, one of the BMW Peninsula Edition cars are equally comfortable.
There are a lot of things to do in Shanghai but if you are looking for exclusive and unique classes and workshops, you can ask the concierge team at The Peninsula Academy.
The hotel also has a full-service spa with all sorts of massages and treatments. If you just want to relax without a massage, The Peninsula has an amazing indoor pool with loungers and a relaxation area as well as a jacuzzi. The pool opens outside onto a terrace that overlooks the gardens.
Those with a more active take can peruse the gym which is huge and very well stocked. There are also personal trainers onsite. If you forgot your training gear, you can borrow it.
Lastly, if you are into shopping the ground level shopping galleria offers all the high-end brands without even having to leave the hotel. The back exit of the shopping area opens onto a sculpture by famed Salvador Dali.
The service at The Peninsula Shanghai
Service should be the strongest point at any Peninsula Hotel. Staff are on standby to open the heavy front doors, wearing white uniforms with gold and thin white gloves.
However, I can’t say that I was wowed by the service, in particular at the reception and at the entrance. I called to ask for a late checkout and was immediately told no, no courtesy no apology or alternative, no, “I am going to check”.
I asked the concierge for help with WeChat (you need someone local to vouch for you to install it) and had to wait because the staff were on their mobile phone, he then was incredibly rude, mumbling in Chinese and with rather poor manners.
My booking included both pick up from the airport as well as transfer to my next destination which, in this case, was the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, but I had to call several times to organize the timing for this.
They also unnecessarily charged me for this at check-out and without apology or anything, I had to wait for quite a while for them to remove this from the bill.
The reception staff did not speak very good English either, rather providing curt answers instead of polite and courteous ones. They seemed interested in me leaving rather than in providing good service. No help was offered with the luggage, I carried it myself.
I must say the staff at the restaurants were friendly and helpful but the reception, with whom I had to interact an unnecessary amount of times, and the concierge, simply did not live up to expectations which is a shame because I really wanted to love everything about the hotel.
The verdict: The Peninsula Shanghai review
I paid USD650 for a Garden View Suite and the entry-level room starts at USD350 if bought in advance and with breakfast.
While the suites are truly impressive and good value when comparing it to other international luxury hotels like The Raffles Singapore, The Ritz Carlton or The Peninsula in Hong Kong or The Strand in Yangon, the service did not match the price of the reputation of The Peninsula.
I loved the many nods to the city’s past and history as well as the tiny details in the room that are so unique to the Peninsula and not found anywhere else, but the service should be revised not to let down the impressive hardware.
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