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St Regis Beijing Review

Dr Frederick Ee is a medical doctor, author, blogger and traveler. He discovered his passion for travel on his first long-haul trip to New York City in 2012. His quest for premium travel experiences started on that very same flight as he endured a smelly foot beside him from the passenger behind him for the 24 hours of flight from Singapore to New York. He blogs at goodhotelreview.blogspot.com, focusing on hotel experiences. His most memorable moment of travel was to participate in the resuscitation of a collapsed patient during a long flight to Paris. Feel free to add him on Facebook with a message and his Instagram at @drfrederickee

He would like to thank MileLion for having him as a guest writer and hope readers would enjoy his writings and musings


St Regis Beijing

A Diplomat’s Hotel
Visited July 2015

China is definitely one of the great places for hotel stays and I finally visited Beijing for my birthday.The main objective of this trip was to see the Great Wall of China and 2 sections were close to Beijing, namely the Badaling and Mutianyu sections.

I decided on the Mutianyu section and it was breathtaking!
Here’s a picture on my Instagram with my furry companions!

instagram1

However, my bears were not the only furry ones on the Great Wall that day!

instagram2

Let’s start this review from a few days before arrival.

I received an email from the hotel which started with

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Henry, your St. Regis Guest Liaison. It is my pleasure to ensure that your upcoming stay at The St. Regis Beijing is beyond expectation.”

“Beyond expectation”? That’s a really strong promise. So I replied to this email with

“This would be my first time visiting Beijing and I would be celebrating my birthday during this trip.

I would be arriving early and hope to be able to leave my luggage with the hotel.

I would also like to request a memorable upgrade if possible.

Thank you very much!

Best Regards! 谢谢!”

And the reply came back as

“We are glad to hear that you will spend such a memorable stay with us. We will special upgrade your room to our St.Regis Suite, a birthday cake will be sent to room in advance as well.
Your early check in request is noted, we will try our best to arrange clean room upon your arrival. If the room is not ready upon you arrive, we will store your luggage at the concierge.”

Wow, a special upgrade to a suite! This trip was already good before its start!

The Arrival

So finally we arrived in Beijing after the few days of anticipation.

Having done my online research, there was one worry on my mind.

The St Regis Beijing is located near many embassies and frequently visited by foreign politicians. If someone important happen to stay at the same time, the increased security will be rather troublesome.

This is the same case as Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens.

Thankfully, this did not happen and the stay was great!

The taxi ride from the airport was not ideal, but I think speaking Mandarin and being Chinese definitely helped reduce the chance (and extent) of being ripped off.

A large driveway!

So we arrived at 10am at the hotel after a red-eye flight from Singapore to Beijing, and proceeded to the front desk.

Concierge and Front Desk

We were greeted in English, and not only were we upgraded to the suite, it was ready and at no extra charge for the very early check-in!

The lobby is very grand indeed and unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the lobby bar.

Interestingly NTU was holding Admission Interviews at the hotel at that time.

 The St. Regis Suite

I took a few pictures as I made my way to the suite.

The hotel does show a little age, and it is not excessively opulent or cluttered on the guestroom levels. The corridor was a little dark for my preference, and the walls a tad too plain. Compared to the grandness at the front desk, it feels like a different hotel.

The suite, thankfully, is in line with the luxury brand.

The entrance was well lit and decorated.

The living space was very spacious with a full-sized working desk and a large TV by the side. There was even a printer and paper provided!
There was a document on the table reminding guests of the new rule of ‘no smoking’ in indoor areas.

A rule I am very happy about as a non-smoker!

The expansive view was good but unremarkable.

The bedroom was equally big and the bed comfortable and on the soft side.

I always liked a couch near the window like this.
The bathroom was the most indulgent part of the room.

The amenities, the marble and of course, the size.

Standing shower

The bathtub was one of the deepest I have ever seen in all the hotels I have stayed.

Being St Regis, having a TV screen in the mirror is not unusual at all!
TV Remote at the side of the mirror

The bath amenities were put in the nice box on the dual sink.

The products are of course from Remede, as per the brand standard.
The switches are located next to the bed with a power source fixed with a universal adapter.
And if that is not enough, a extension set was found in the drawers.

The In-Room Gifts

The pre-arrival email mentioned a birthday cake and this arrived, with a card, in the evening with the welcome gifts.

The cake looked better than it tasted, but I must declare it is appreciated!

The Lounge

Something different about St Regis Beijing is the presence of a lounge. The lounge is located on the upper floors of the hotel, providing a good view of the surroundings.

I thought I would be able to see the old Palace (now known as the Palace Museum) from the hotel, but I was wrong. Beijing is really massive and spaced out. And the buildings are so big and tall!

View from the lounge
Cookies
Fruit

Lounge also means a Happy Hour in the evening with some food and drinks.

Breakfast

Breakfast was an enjoyable affair. The restaurant is located near the Front Desk and food was plentiful. The selection was mainly Chinese, with some Japanese and some pastries.

There was no crowd and no waiting.

Entrance and waitresses ready to greet guests by the door
The restaurant itself is magnificently furbished as expected.

The Others

A restaurant, Celestial Court was located on the upper floors of the lobby. Looking impressive but no opportunity to dine there during my stay.

The gym and indoor pool was located in the adjacent building and we passed by some shops on the way there.
It was a short walk, but that shows how big the hotel actually is!

On reaching the fitness centre, one has to tap the room keycard for access.

The gym is huge but not surprising for such a big hotel.
However, what I really liked was the indoor pool and that one can escape the smog of Beijing by swimming indoors.
Really liked the ‘Grand Staircase’ into the pool too!

In Conclusion

It was really a great stay without any major hiccups. The upgrade, the early check-in and the cake promised in the email were fulfilled.

If I were to list the greatest problem, that would be of the location and transport options. It was not near the metro and there was not much nearby within walking distance.

However, in Beijing, one is more likely to use taxi or private cars for transport anyway.

Last but not least, how much did I have to pay for this experience?

A daily rate of about 1000 Yuan, slightly more than SGD$200.

This rate would probably be that of a 4 star hotel in most other major cities, competitively priced with Bangkok, Thailand.

Random Decor in the hotel

Happy and Healthy Travels to my readers!

fred

Navigating Starwood’s new BRG policy

Every time you book a hotel through a 3rd party OTA like Expedia/Agoda etc, that 3rd party keeps a share of the total stay. This can be as high as 20% in some cases, and as you can imagine, takes a big bite out of the hotel’s profits.

Therefore, hotels would much rather you book directly with them. But price is everything, so hotels need to ensure that the price you get from them is as good as what you’d find on OTAs. Enter Best Rate Guarantees (BRGs). You can read my full article here, but to summarise, the hotel promises that you will get the lowest possible rate through booking at their official website. If you find a cheaper price elsewhere, they will match that price and either offer you bonus points or a further discount off the matched price.

Of course hotels don’t want to do this. Offering free stuff costs them money. Take a cursory glance on Flyertalk and you’ll see that there are certain chains *ahem IHG ahem* who will go to ridiculous lengths to deny a BRG claim. And believe me, the T&Cs are wide enough to give hotels the leeway to do that. After all, if the customer has already paid a non cancellable rate directly with you, what are they going to do? They’re stuck. In many cases, BRG’s are nothing more than a marketing scheme to make the consumer say “oh look, they’re so confident their rates are the cheapest that I’m not even going to check 3rd party sites whee”

Starwood used to have one of the best BRG policies in the business because they did not require a pre-existing reservation to lodge a BRG claim. This meant that if you had the luxury of ensuring they’d match your claim before deciding to book. They also give you a choice of either 2,000 starpoints or 20% off the matched rate, both of which are extremely attractive gifts. (recall that 1 starpoint is 2 US cents, so if 20% off the matched rate is >US$40 go for the cash discount)

Unfortunately, that changed a few months ago and now Starwood requires you to have an existing reservation before it entertains a BRG claim (the only exception is if a 3rd party site is showing availability and Starwood isn’t). So what to do now?

Starwood allows you to BRG a flexible rate against a prepaid rate

 

This is a very important point so let me take some time to explain it.

Suppose Sheraton Singapore is selling a deluxe room at $150 prepaid, $200 flexible. You later see Agoda selling the same deluxe room at $135 prepaid.

Option 1: Book the prepaid rate with Sheraton Singapore at $150 and submit the BRG claim straight away- then worry that it may get rejected on some technicality (the price on Agoda might go up by the time customer service checks your claim, the rooms may be ever-so-different in a way you’ve overlooked, the customer service agent is having a bad day etc)

Option 2: Book the flexible rate with Sheraton Singapore at $200. Submit a BRG claim for Agoda at $135. If you do this and your claim is approved, you’ll get the $135 rate with the flexible cancellation terms. And if your claim is rejected, cancel your reservation and walk away.

So your approach can be the same as before. On Kayak, search for Starwood properties using the filter. Kayak always quotes you the lowest rates, which are almost certainly the prepaid ones. Once you find a 3rd party site with a lower prepaid rate than Starwood.com’s prepaid rate, book the flexible rate on Starwood and file a BRG.

I’ve just got a BRG claim approved for my last night in Koh Samui, bringing down the price of the Sheraton Samui from ~$300 a night to $240. I picked the 2,000 SPG points in this case.

That said, given Fred’s take on the Sheraton Samui I might just want to stay somewhere else, so good thing I got the flexible rate!

Starwood Q1 2016 promo- double starpoints and 250 bonus per night

Even though Starwood is being bought by Marriott, the SPG program should not be affected until 2017 at the earliest. Therefore there’s still every reason to take part in their latest promotion, SPG Take Two.

TL;DR version- 2X starpoints for all stays of 2 nights or more at ALL Starwood properties worldwide, 11th Jan to 30th April 2016.

On top of this, if you’re staying at any of these selected properties, you get 250 bonus starpoints per night. Note that this does not require the 2 night minimum that the 2X starpoints demands.

I’ve got a few January stays in Abu Dhabi coming up, and fortunately all the UAE Starwood properties feature prominently on the included list.

Remember that you can earn these points even if your stay starts before the 11th. That is, suppose I have a stay from 5th Jan to 13th Jan. I will earn double starpoints on the entire stay, not just the 11th to 13th Jan segment.

All in all, I think the days of triple Starwood point promos are gone so this is really the best we can hope for. Combine this with some MAGC (make a green choice) vouchers to really rack up the points!