Located across the Huangpu River and offering (on a clear night) spectacular views of the famous Bund, the hotel opens June 21 to the world. I got a sneak peak at the luxury digs, including a cocktail on the open terrace of the tallest rooftop bar in Shanghai.
I stepped into the soon-to-be-open second Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai and felt like I had crossed the threshold into another universe. Flanked on either side by luxury retailers including Giorgio Armani and Louis Vuitton, the hotel accentuates luxury in a modern Mandarin-style shell. While the exterior of the hotel looks like another Shanghai skyscraper, the interior is a feast for the senses.
Crystal chandeliers set against gold and black walls create the mood as you walk into the lobby. After the guest services member greets you at the lobby-floor level, you’ll head to the 52nd floor for check-in (the hotel occupies the top 14 floors of the building). But there’s something enchanting about the scene as you ascend. Soft lighting against the dark walls of the interior compel you to touch just about anything in your reach. The “old-world glamour” interior in the modern building is enchanting and enticing, and it doesn’t disappoint. With interior designs by Richard Farnell, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, sets a new standard in hotel decor: sensory enlightenment. If you steal a feel of the walls on your way up, you’ll be surprised at the textures that set the mood – from marble to velvet, the hotel is sleek and sexy (and somehow makes its guests feel the same way).
I arrived on the 52nd floor and was lured into the bright reception area by the sultry sounds of the saxophonist playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. White marble walls offset by deep red sofas and a black marble check-in desk officially welcome guests to the hotel. On the reception level are two restaurants: the Lobby Lounge and an open-kitchen full-service Italian restaurant, designed by the famous Super Potato Group. Both restaurants offer stunning views of Shanghai, but guests would be remiss if they missed an opportunity to sit at the ‘bartender’s table’ – a section of the Lobby Lounge set behind the bar in close proximity to all the action.
The 258 guest rooms offer standard rooms and suites ranging in size from 538-square-feet to 4,413-square-feet. Each deluxe room comes with Club Lounge access on the 49th floor and the amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel including:
- LCD-TV and Blu-ray disc player
- The Ritz-Carlton signature linens and featherbeds
- Electronic room control touch panels for controlling lighting, air conditioning, curtains and music/alarm clock preferences
- Walk-in closet
- High speed wireless and wired Internet access
- Computer and fax hook-ups and dataport
- iPod docking stations
- In-room safe
- Fully stocked honor bar
If you were tempted to touch the textured surfaces on your way to the room, now’s your chance to indulge in a sensory treat. The multi-textured theme carries on to the rooms, with simple wood furniture accented by geometric print carpet, pillows and throws. Standing wood murals representing old Shanghai are positioned perfectly behind modern chairs or love seats. The pièce de résistance of each bedroom, however, is the bathroom.
Each guest room bathroom features a designer copper bath tub built for two, set against a dark mirrored wall and hidden by a thin curtain. While you can grab a quick shower before a day of touring or business, the decadent tubs are worthy of at least one soak during your stay. Each bathroom features premium bath essentials and TV screens (so you can relax while catching up on the day’s events), a lighted makeup mirror, hair dryer and terry robes.
In addition to the Lobby Lounge and Scena Italian restaurant on the 52nd floor, the hotel also offers Jin Xuan, Cantonese traditional cuisine on level 53. There’s also a cigar lounge, exclusive champagne library, walk-in wine cellar and outdoor seating with grill. On the 58th floor, guests can take in the mesmerizing views or cuddle up near the fire at Flair Rooftop Restaurant and Bar (read on for more on Flair).
Located on the 55th floor, the hotel’s spa will offer 11 treatments, and includes a VIP and doubles suite. The treatments range from standard massages to centuries-old healing techniques and relaxation methods. Even if you don’t opt for a treatment, it’s worth taking advantage of the spa’s serenity.
Designed wall-to-wall in shell and marble, the interior of the spa is a world away from the guestrooms. The white and gold walls set a tranquil mood – the most inviting of which is the seashell-shaped shower, which is the perfect hideaway for anyone needing a few moments of peace. A 24-hour fitness studio is adjacent to the spa for those wanting a work-out.
The top floor of the hotel in the IFC Tower is Flair Rooftop Restaurant and Bar. Located on the 58th level, the outside terrace is unequivocally the grande dame of this 58-story prize. On the inside, a restaurant and lounge area dressed in dark lights is accentuated by a fireplace and wine bar. The smaller upper level offers seating and sofas for a more intimate setting, while the main floor is perfect for groups. Take two steps past the bar through the sliding glass doors and you’ll enter an entirely other world.
The outdoor terrace is poised to become, in my opinion, one of the best rooftop bars in the world. As you walk toward the bar you’re surrounded by tall trees and ivy lit through soft lighting set inside the pathway. The white and taupe sofas in wicker and bamboo provide an elegant touch to an outdoor affair. Electric candles provide the ambiance on a dark night and in the midst of the fog, which was the scene on the night I was there, there’s a certain mystery in the air. You can’t see out or over the terrace, but you know somewhere past the dense condensation that hovers there is an entire city buzzing around you.
I settled back into my chair and sipped my Merlot as I watched the fog move around the bar. Even with a slight fear of heights, I felt perfectly content on top of the world. Just as I came to grip with my senses and the reality of sitting in the clouds, the fog started to dissipate and the iconic Pearl Tower glowed in the distance. For a few seconds the city’s color and life showed through, and then, just as quickly, the fog reappeared – a sign, I suspected, that my journey in the clouds wasn’t quite over.
The Bottom Line
Simply put: the hotel will take your breath away. The Ritz-Carlton has spent the past few years redefining its brand to appeal to modern travelers who appreciate beauty and true comfort; the newest member of the family, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, is a proud representation of Shanghai culture and modern luxuries. If you’re visiting Shanghai as a tourist, on business, or for the World Expo, this hotel isn’t to be missed.