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Hotel Review: DoubleTree Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou is the third most populace city in mainland China and serves as the northwest corner of the Pearl Delta. The Beijing Road area is well known for shopping and the Mall of the World is nearby. If shopping is your thing, this is a decent location.

The DoubleTree Guangzhou’s location for cultural ‘shopping’ is also good. Two sites are must-see’s: The first is beautiful Yuexiu Park, a popular destination for locals who enjoy singing, dancing, and exercising. The park has a large play area for children and boat rides on the water. Entrance to the park is free but there is a nominal charge for everything else. The second stop, also about a 15-minute walk, is Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park. The temple auditorium is a tribute to the man many consider the founder of modern China. It is well worth the 10 RMB to see the inside. Note: There are also memorials to him in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

A bit further away but easy to reach by taxi is the cruise on the Pearl River. Best seen on a clear day (well, clear for Guangzhou) or better yet at night, it highlights the beauty of the city’s architecture with the famous Canton Tower at center stage.

DoubleTree Guangzhou Hotel

Somewhat centrally located in the Yuexiu District, this hotel boasts over 300 rooms with easy access to most everything in the city. However, it is about 45 minutes from the airport but this is not unusual as the airport is well north of the city. The hotel is about 20-30 minutes from the East railway station, depending on traffic. Metro stations are nearby and taxis are somewhat easy to find.

Wi-fi is free for everyone in the public areas and it is quite good, especially by China standards. I found the wi-fi in the rooms to be excellent as well.

There are three restaurant choices in the hotel as well as rooms available for meetings and events. Indeed there was a wedding while I was there. The fitness center on the 8th floor is very adequate and open 24 hours. The outdoor swimming pool shares the 8th floor and offers a pretty view of the local surroundings. This beautiful pool area is an ideal outside bar area for congregating in the evening. The spa is also located on the 8th floor but won’t be open until the end of 2014.

Hotel design, rooms, artwork, sculptures, and ceiling fixtures around the hotel and in the rooms are stunning. The layout is beautiful with the lobby level including a nice open casual dining area with live evening music as well as a go-to quickie counter for faster food. There is ample seating and it is very comfortable.

Since this is still a new hotel (it opened in late December, 2013), room upgrades for those with Hilton status are somewhat easy. In my two stays, I was upgraded to suites both times.

Being a new property, it is no surprise that almost all the employees (except maybe housekeeping) are under 30 years old. The good news, they learned English in school. The bad news, they have not had an opportunity to practice it very much until they began working here. Thus compared to more established hotels, the quality of their English may be, uh, a bit challenging to those who enjoy English as a native language. For those who enjoy English as a second (or third) language, this is probably not noticeable.

For example, I asked about a local laundry where I could take my four days of accumulated dirty clothing. The question was obviously confusing to the front desk clerk so she shook her head to indicate there was none. Instead, thirty minutes later there was a knock at my room door asking for my laundry. Hotels charge by the garment while local laundries charge by the pound. It would have cost ten times as much to have it done by the hotel. Not what I had in mind.

Safety is always a concern and here the hotel disappointed. At night, all the outside doors are locked except the main front door. Not just locked, they are padlocked. This is a setup for disaster in the event there is ever a fire in the hotel as everyone would have to exit through only one door.

Instead, they could do as hundreds of other hotels do. Lock all the exterior doors and require a key card for entrance. This way all the exit doors will be available if guests need to leave the building in a hurry.

Rooms

The rooms are simply outstanding. The furniture is still fresh and the towels are still thick. The only room problem was the desk chair. Like many, it has a hydraulic lift to adjust the height. In both of my rooms, this lift did not work for either chair. The remedy was two cushions taken from the chairs in the room to provide the proper height to work at the desk.

A pleasant surprise when I first entered my room was a note on the table from the general manager. GM’s often leave welcome notes but this one included his cell phone number in case there were concerns. More about this later. During my second stay, the note was delivered to me later by one of the desk clerks. Unfortunately it was addressed to another guest. Ah, the little things.

The Crabtree & Evelyn room amenities are excellent, nice choice by management to go an extra step to please guests. The room hair dryer is very powerful, enough to quickly dry my thick hair.

Hot water in the shower was a bit of an issue, slow to warm up, but the rain water shower head was excellent and the size of the shower was large enough to be able to move around with ease. The addition of a tub and cute rubber duck was much appreciated, though this may be an option only for the suites.

Rooms offer a water pot for tea but the coffee pot was perplexing. While I have seen these in other international Hilton hotels, it must be confusing to those who are not familiar with them. There were no instructions provided that explain how to operate this pod machine. Thus it would not be surprising that few would know to fill the water container in the back, turn on the machine by a small button on the bottom right, put in a coffee pod in the top, close the top, and hit the left or right blinking button on the front. Then you have to wait for the light to be green, and then know which green button to hit.

Also weird, they offer nice tall coffee cups but they are too large to fit under the drip in the coffee machine. Instead, you have to fill a small tea cup, then pour that into the larger coffee cup. Do it twice and you have a nice tall cup of coffee.

Other quality international hotels offer choices of coffee pods. Not so at this property. They give you two pods and they are only one of the many varieties usually available. The hotel is kinder to tea drinkers, offering two packs each of three tea choices.

Television choices are the usual. There is CNN, BBC, HBO/Cinemax, and a host of other cable channels.

My room had three televisions, one in the living room area (which could not be seen from the desk), another in the bedroom, and a third to view from the tub.

Another thing typically found at high quality hotels is room delivery of one or two newspapers. Not so at this one. A minor issue to be sure, but one they should correct if they desire 5-star recognition.

Restaurant

There are numerous restaurants in this hotel. All of them are more than adequate, offering choices of Eastern and Western fare. They vary from very casual to more sophisticated, something for everyone.

The breakfast buffet was pleasant. Not as large as some international hotels but certainly enough to satisfy nearly everyone. If you just must have bagels and cream cheese or smoked salmon, this will be disappointing. But hey, this is China. Give up some of your usual choices and opt instead for smoked turkey breast and their many choices of dim sum. Omelets are also available as well as fresh fruit, sushi, and even baked beans for our British friends. Something for everyone.

Expect the buffet to run out of items at busy times, especially the morning rush hour around 8 am. There is not enough staff to keep everything up to date at every moment.

Concierge

Another example of well intentioned but falling short. Asking about a Pearl River cruise, I was told that it leaves from the port at 6:30 pm and lasts about four hours.

Fortunately there is internet and Google was my friend. I learned there are daytime and evening cruises. Generally the evening cruises are two hours, beginning at 6 pm and 8 pm. Some offer food and beverage inclusive, others don’t.

Again not to be mean but the concierge was young, inexperienced, and unaware of what guests may desire from a concierge service. Methinks some training and assistance here would be very helpful for the guests.

Lounge

This was the weakest link at the hotel. Located on the 39th floor, it offers a nice view of the city. Not a world class view of Guangzhou but as nice as can be expected given the location. Like the rest of the hotel, the lounge offers a world class design and is staffed with many young ladies eager to serve. The weaknesses of the lounge come from management, and there are many.

As often seen at hotels, this lounge offers a breakfast option but the size is much reduced. If variety is important to you, stay away from the lounge and use the restaurant instead.

But one thing about the breakfast deserves comment. They have a most unusual toaster. Instead of the type found in this hotel restaurant and many others where you slide your toast in one slice at a time, the lounge toaster accepts six slices at a time. That would be fine except that if someone is using it for only one slice, you have to wait until they finish. And just figuring out how to operate the toaster was a chore. I watched three people try it and fail. They all gave up so I asked how the toaster works. I got a lesson but it is far more trouble than it’s worth.

Though the lounge is open until 11 pm, the evening hours for food and drink are 6-8 pm. I am not much of a spirits drinker but I think I know a poor selection when I see it. There was no bourbon or whiskey choices and no vodka, most surprising given the number of guests at the hotel from the U.S., Europe, and Russia.

The wine selections were downright poor. I am no sommelier, but Two Oceans “soft and fruity red” for your sole choice of red and Patio chardonnay for your white? These are 1-star wines.

And they have another curious feature. I understand chilling and frosting glasses for beer, maybe even for white wine (though it shouldn’t be necessary) but really, they use these same chilled glasses for red wine? I was told it was “to make the wine taste better.” Why would you chill a glass for a wine that was meant to be served at room temperature? This is just management failure.

I mentioned before about the GM providing guests with his cell phone number. Well, one of the lounge guests took him up on this and called him, complaining about the lack of vodka. Apparently that call got the attention of the GM because the following evening there was a bottle of Smirnoff vodka waiting for the guest. Frankly I expected Gordon’s vodka since that was the brand they chose for gin so it was a nice surprise to see the improvement. Now if they would just upgrade all the other alcohol to a more realistic level.

And then there is the wait for hot food in the lounge. The first time I saw they ran out, it took 20 minutes to refresh it. The second time was worse. I was there at 6:05 pm, five minutes after they opened, and one of the hot dish trays was already empty. I left at 6:30 and it still was the same way, never refreshed.

Despite all these little peeves, the most annoying thing about the lounge was the lack of bottled water. I can’t think of any lounge anywhere in the world that hasn’t offered water to guests but I was told at this one that they don’t have any, much less the usual chilled bottled water. Major failure.

Summary

This is hopefully going to be a great property. Maybe it won’t rise to a real 5-star level but definitely a 4-star hotel with many great things to offer. Give them a little time to work out some of the kinks and this will be a great go-to destination hotel in Guangzhou.

The Hilton Honors programs rates this hotel as a category 4. No doubt the rating is because this is a new property but in my opinion, this is a steal. If you can put up with some of the shortcomings – most of which are minor – this may be the finest category 4 hotel in Hilton’s chain.


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