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Review: American 787 Business Class Dallas To Beijing
Review: Sheraton Grand Beijing Dongcheng
Touring Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, And The Great Wall
Review: American 787 Business Class Beijing To Dallas
During past trips to Beijing I’ve reviewed the Grand Hyatt Beijing, Park Hyatt Beijing, St. Regis Beijing and W Hotel Beijing Chang’an, so I wanted to review a new hotel for this trip. Since we were booking two rooms I really wanted to book a Starwood hotel, since I could get elite night credits for both rooms that way. It’s great to get six elite night credits for just a three night stay (though I guess I’m getting that anyway now thanks to the targeted double elite qualifying promotion which Starwood is running).
I wanted to try something new, so figured I’d book what looked to be the next best Starwood property in Beijing, which I determined to be the Sheraton Grand Dongcheng Hotel. The Sheraton brand is undergoing a major refresh under the “Sheraton 2020” plan, since Starwood recognizes that the brand is pretty lackluster; it’s so lackluster that Marriott doesn’t even know what to do with it after the merger.
However, this is a “Sheraton Grand” property, and the “Grand” designation is reserved for the top Sheraton properties out there.
The rate for the Sheraton Grand Beijing was 800CNY (~$125) per room per night before tax and service charge, or about ~$145 per night all-in.
The Sheraton is located about 30 minutes from Beijing Capital Airport, though the travel time can vary significantly based on whether or not there’s an accident on the main airport roadway.
The exterior of the hotel is modern, as it’s part of a larger business complex, otherwise consisting primarily of office buildings.
The driveway even has a cool futuristic-looking awning of sorts.
Upon arriving at the hotel we were greeted by the bellmen and directed to reception, which was located inside the lobby and to the left.
The lobby was spacious and modern, but oh-so-sterile. Sheraton, here’s the problem with your brand: even if you upgrade hotels and get them to the “grand” standard, they’re still so sterile and boring, and lack personality. This hotel is the perfect example.
Once at reception we were quickly assisted by a friendly associate. As I often find to be the case in Asia, check-in took forever. I paid for my stay with the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x points on hotel purchases with no foreign transaction fees.
It was a good 10 minutes before we had the keys to both of our rooms. Fortunately both rooms had been upgraded to the club level, with one suite and one standard club room, which is awesome, since technically the second room wasn’t eligible for elite benefits.
Do keep in mind that even if you don’t have status with Starwood, those with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express get access to club lounges at Sheratons, which is a very generous perk.
We headed to the elevators, which were located behind reception and to the left. We took an elevator up to the 23rd floor, where our two rooms were located (we were assigned rooms next to one another).
The hallways of the hotel were sleek, and our rooms were located down the hallway and to the left.
First let’s talk about the standard club king room, which was what the second room was upgraded to.
It featured a long entryway, with a sculpture immediately to the left upon entering, and the bathroom to the right.
The room had a king size bed which faced the TV.
The room had an open layout between the bathroom and bedroom, though had a sliding door and shades for privacy.
By the window was a love seat and daybed combo.
The room looked out over sprawling Beijing, which isn’t exactly the most picturesque skyline in the world.
The bathroom setup was pretty impressive for a standard room, based on all the features it had. At the far end was the partitioned off toilet (though I’m not sure I understand why they make it so visible with a glass casing) on the left, and then the sink on the right.
Then there was a huge soaking tub.
And then across from that was a vanity.
Then closest to the bed was a walk-in shower with two shower heads.
All the toiletries were the Sheraton brand standard ones. If Sheraton really wants to revamp their brand and add some personality, investing in decent toiletries would be a great place to start.
On the desk was a welcome amenity consisting of all kinds of sweets.
There was also a huge plate of fruit.
Overall I thought the club king room was nice and modern, though also very sterile.
Now let’s look at the suite next door. It featured a wide entryway. Immediately upon entering and to the left was a guest bathroom, with a sink and toilet.
Then there was a huge living room, which was really awesome and functional. It featured a dining table with four chairs, and two two-person couches.
Across from the dining table was the minibar, coffee machine, and tea kettle.
Across from the couch was a TV, which was the same setup as in the club king room.
Then in the far corner of the room by the window was a desk with an office chair. I always appreciate when a hotel room has a proper office chair.
There was also the same welcome amenity as in the other room. While any sort of welcome amenity is above and beyond (since it’s not a promised perk), I don’t think I’ve ever been offered such tasteless sweets. All the sweets were stale and tasteless.
The living room was separated from the bedroom by some sliding doors. There was a king size bed, and then a daybed by the window.
There was another TV in the bedroom, identical to the one in the living room.
Then two sliding doors led into the master bathroom, which featured a soaking tub, walk-in shower, toilet, sink, and vanity. So while it was more spacious than the bathroom in a standard club room, the amenities were identical.
Overall the suite was spacious and comfortable, though much like the club king room, it lacked personality. Fortunately wifi in the hotel was fast, at least in conjunction with a VPN.
The hotel’s club lounge is located on the 25th floor. The lounge is one of the more nicely furnished parts of the hotel, and is huge. There are plenty of sections in the lounge, so even if it’s full you won’t notice it.
The lounge boasts views of the surrounding area, though in a different direction than from our rooms.
The first morning we were up early, so we were standing outside of the club lounge at around 6:28AM, just a couple of minutes before it was scheduled to open at 6:30AM. There was a Chinese guy standing there as well:
Guy: “You are waiting for the club lounge?”
Guy: “This means you are staying on the top four floors of hotel. Congratulations, you have made it.”
I guess I can add having used a Sheraton club lounge at one point in my life to my resume. 😉
While the lounge was physically quite nice, I found the food to be extremely underwhelming.
Breakfast was served daily from 6:30AM until 10:30AM. In terms of variety the spread was fine, though I found the quality to be really underwhelming. This is a problem I’ve found with Beijing hotels in general, where bread and pastries which look tasty are actually stale and tasteless.
The lounge had an espresso machine. The proactive attendants would always ask what we wanted to drink when we entered the lounge, and then make it for us.
The food was served in two areas. One section had the hot options, which included an omelet station and miso soup (the latter being one of the few redeeming qualities of the breakfast selection).
Then there was the other section, which had cereal, pastries, cheese, salad, cold cuts, etc. I was disappointed by the lack of fresh fruit.
In the evenings there were cocktails and snacks from 6PM until 8PM. There were several types of wine available in a nifty machine, much like in the Amex Centurion Lounge San Francisco.
However, the food selection was equally disappointing in the evenings. Oddly there was a little bit of fresh fruit in the evenings, which I wish they had in the mornings.
There was also salad, some cold cuts, and some small appetizers in individual serving bowls.
Then there were several hot options.
There were also a few dessert items.
Overall I thought the club lounge was a beautiful space physically, though the food was terrible. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t find most breakfast buffets in Beijing to be especially good, but the quality in the lounge was even worse than usual.
As far as other hotel features go, the pool and gym setup were quite nice. They were on the same level as the spa, which featured a nice reception area.
The gym was modern and had plenty of equipment, both in terms of variety and quantity.
The hotel also had a very nice pool, though I didn’t have a chance to use it.
Now let’s talk about the service. I would say overall the service was well intentioned and reasonably friendly, aside from the concierge team. The concierge staff here were probably the most incompetent concierge staff I’ve dealt with anywhere.
For example, I tried to arrange a tour of The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and The Forbidden City. Like, tours don’t get more standardized than that. The concierge told me it wasn’t possible to arrange that (even though I’ve done it several times before), because he claimed there was only one tour company they could book with, and they didn’t offer that type of tour. When I asked about other tour companies, he said it wasn’t possible.
On another occasion, we wanted to have dinner at a restaurant at the JW Marriott, so I went to the concierge and asked him if he would write down the address of the hotel. I told him both the hotel name and restaurant name, which he Googled, and confirmed. He stated it back to me correctly, including the address. He said “I will just tell the taxi driver.” I again asked if he could write it down, and he said “it’s easier if I tell the taxi driver.” So he did, and 30 minutes later we found ourselves at the wrong Marriott hotel on the wrong side of town…
Lastly, the location of the hotel is fine as well. Beijing is sprawling, so there’s not really a single best area to be, in my opinion. No matter where you stay you’ll have to take a taxi to most places. The immediate area around this hotel wasn’t as interesting as at the W or St. Regis, but it was fine. So I’d say the location is neither a pro nor con of the hotel.
Sheraton Grand Beijing bottom line
Overall I thought the hotel was modern and functional. I was grateful for the suite upgrade, as it was nice to have so much space. The club lounge was also physically a nice space, as were the gym and pool.
Unfortunately that’s where the good stuff I have to say about this hotel ends. Starwood: if “Sheraton Grand” is the future of the Sheraton brand, then I don’t have much hope. The hotel had zero personality or local touches, to the point that it almost felt unfinished. No wonder Marriott doesn’t know what to do with Sheraton, because Starwood doesn’t seem to know either. From the bath amenities to the decor, there’s just nothing about the property which seems unique to the destination or unique to the brand. Unless the uniqueness to the brand is them trying to emphasize how bland they are.
Anyway, in conclusion, I probably wouldn’t return to the Sheraton. My top pick in Beijing is probably the W Hotel, with the Park Hyatt or Grand Hyatt as my backup. I’d really like to try the Rosewood Beijing at some point in the future (I really enjoyed my Rosewood Abu Dhabi stay late last year), which can be booked through Virtuoso or Fine Hotels & Resorts. Sometimes I do wonder why I’m loyal to the major hotel chains when you end up in a hotel this bland…
What’s your favorite Beijing hotel?