Any hotel can get it right once. It’s a consistency of a high level of service and guest satisfaction that is the mark of a truly great luxury property. After a wonderful visit to the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong last year, I returned again with rather high expectations. Those expectations were met and exceeded as I had another excellent stay.
I first visited the Island Shangri-La in December 2013, at the start of an incredible Asian adventure that included a trip to Angkor Wat and an epic luxury Mekong river cruise. That stay was only for one night, so I was excited to return for a week in late 2013 to really experience the city and the hotel.
An extended stay
It’s only when you spend a few days at a Shangri-La property that the staff can get to know you. Get to your name and everything else you want or need. Within a day of my stay at the Island Shangri-La, the staff was greeting me by name and knew my dining habits. Each morning I liked to sit in a certain place in the Horizon Club lounge and they made sure to hold the table for me. While I enjoyed the buffet, I like a hot chocolate, and by my second day it was brought to me, without having to ask. I ordered scrambled egg whites to go with my buffet at my first breakfast and again, by the second day, they were brought to me each morning without asking. Those may be little things, but it’s the little things that make a hotel more like a home and add to that level of not just guest satisfaction but guest extreme happiness. This personal attention and service is one of my favorite aspects to luxury hotel stays and I’m finding the experience gets better the longer one stays at a property or more regularly returns to it.
Other luxury hotel options
Hong Kong has no lack of luxury hotels, with all the usual suspects (Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Peninsula) well represented, sometimes with flagship properties for the chains. Other offerings from Mandarin-Oriental and InterContinental also offer an excellent product. Even within the Island Shangri-La’s own real estate development, Pacific Place, there are several other luxury hotels directly adjacent to it.
While all the hotels can deliver fancy rooms, luxury amenities and fine dining, for me it’s the guest service that elevates the Island Shangri-La and other Shangri-La properties above the others. I find each employee I encounter, whether their job is to clean the rooms or to manage the hotel, all share a love of what they do and a serious commitment to one goal, make every guest happy. I call it “royal service” as I imagine it’s how members of a royal family are treated when they travel. It’s that good. I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve also witnessed other guests getting that same level of service and personal attention.
Using the hotel as my base, I ventured throughout Hong Kong, always easily returning via MTR or taxi. The hotel’s location directly above a subway stop (Pacific Place) adds to the convenience, while the presence of a luxury shopping mall under the hotel and above the subway stop means Louis Vuitton and every other luxury brand are just steps away. For those seeking Hong Kong’s nightlife and party areas, the hotel is also a short cab ride (or long stumble) from Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai.
On my last visit, I had lunch at the hotel’s two-Michelin starred Chinese restaurant, Summer Palace which was a culinary journey through the world of Chinese cuisine and classic Cantonese dishes. This time I had the opportunity to have lunch at the incredible Michelin-starred Restaurant Petrus, helmed by Chef Frederic Chabbert. Amazing French cuisine cooked high in the sky (the restaurant is on the hotel’s 56th floor) by an equally amazing French chef. I love the decor of this room, just pure French classical elegance, with a lot of Rococo accents. Rich wood, gold fixtures and Impressionist art on the walls. This is the modern French haute cuisine dining experience at its best. After my meal, I had the opportunity to interview Chef Chabbert in the kitchen and ask him about cooking in such an international foodie city like Hong Kong.
My favorite things
As a breakfast lover, I continually have dreams about the Island Shangri-La’s wonderful Horizon Club breakfast buffet, offered each morning in the Horizon Club lounge. Fresh juices, pastries, meats, cheeses, fish, a whole honeycomb, sausages, bacon, everything fresh and perfectly prepared. The 56th floor lounge, offering access to guests staying in the Horizon Club-level rooms, has a jaw-dropping view of the Hong Kong skyline and across Victoria Harbour. I have very happy memories of enjoying a wonderful breakfast in my home-away-from-home in Hong Kong, while gazing out at that amazing view each morning.
When I visit Hong Kong, I always take the Airport Express high speed train, which takes you from the airport to Central or Kowloon in 24 minutes. On this trip I learned the service includes a free shuttle bus from the Airport Express stations to all of Hong Kong’s luxury hotels (including free porter service at the station). It made the journey fast and seamless. I also found out you can even check into some flights at the Airport Express stations. I got the Airport Express Travel Pass which was $36 and included a roundtrip fare to and from the airport, plus three consecutive days of unlimited travel on Hong Kong’s subway, bus, ferry and tram system.
Another discovery was the extensive benefits offered to guests staying on the Horizon Club floors at Shangri-La hotels. I was very impressed with what you get for the reasonable surcharge in room rates to get a Horizon Club-level room. The best part I experienced were the meals. Not only was there a truly delicious buffet each morning for breakfast, there’s also snacks and beverages throughout the day (and cocktails at night). And this is the Shangri-La, so snacks means crudites, canapes, soups, fruits and cheeses, charcuterie and other substantial selections. The Horizon Club lounge has Wifi and iPads for guests to borrow. Club level rooms at the Island Shangri-La offer an array of benefits beyond the lounge food including private, VIP check-in and check-out, 4 p.m. late check-out, meeting room use and more.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. In the past year, he has visited Turkey, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada, and Peru. You can follow him onTwitter [email protected] and on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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