by Ron Bernthal
The Hong Kong-based Shangri-La hotel chain owns or manages about 65 hotels in many parts of the world, from China to Oman, and Malaysia to the Philippines. A recent visit to their first property in North America, the Shangri-La Vancouver, proved that their Asian hospitality, and their expertise in choosing prime locations and great architects and designers has not been lost in their move across the Pacific to the west coast of Canada.
The hotel opened at the end of January, 2009, and occupies the first 15 floors of a 61-story building, the tallest in the city. Although the guest rooms are large and comfortable, with new furnishings and equipped with all the technological gizmo’s, I wish they had been on the top floors of the building, which offer spectacular views of the Coast Mountains and Vancouver’s harbor, instead of the 46 floors of private apartments above the hotel. These high-end residences, whose windows often hover above the fog, provide a major source of revenue for the developers, so is it fair to complain about having a room on the 6th floor? Of course not, especially since everything else about the Shangri-La is extraordinary, from its 5,000 square-food fitness centre to the 40″ SONY LCD HD flat screen TV in my room to the third floor MARKET by Jean-Georges, Chef Vongerichten’s first restaurant in Canada.
There seems to be little that this 119-room property has forgotten to include in its master plan. The smallest room is 450 square-feet, and half have balconies. Using bedside controls curtains swing open to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows, room lights dim or brighten, and the DVD can begin showing a film on the HD TV. The large, walk-in shower has three showerheads, the bathroom floor and walls are white marble, and I’ve always loved the little TV monitor embedded within the vanity mirror. Rooms have dark wood paneling, latte-toned bedding, and comfortable B&B Italia furniture. The hotel’s CHI Spa offers a range of therapies based on the healing rituals of China and the Himalayas, and its lobby lounge has become one of the city’s trendy after-work meeting places. The property is also adjacent to Urban Fare, a modern, gourmet grocery market open seven days a week.
One of the hotel’s greatest assets is its staff, with an employee-to-guest ratio of 2:1 there is always someone nearby to help with luggage, provide directions, or lend an umbrella on rainy days. The first time I walked my rented bicycle through the lobby and into the elevator I expected a dirty look, or asked to lock it outside. By in a city with a definite, casual West Coast mentality, and hundreds of miles of bike trails, the front desk staff at this deluxe hotel gave me smiles and a nod of understanding.
Located in the center of downtown Vancouver, the hotel is a 15-minute walk to the beautiful green expanse of Stanley Park or to the new Canada Line Sky Train to the airport. It is also close to the popular Gastown and Yaletown historic districts, and Granville Island, with its busy public market, cafes, and artists studios. It is difficult to get lost in Vancouver, but whenever I needed to get my bearings I would look for the tall, modern building with the colorful, reflective exterior buttons running up the side, a handy reference point for a city that has expanded vertically with almost identical-looking glass office buildings. For now at least, the 61-story Shangri-La is not hard to miss.
SHANGRI-LA HOTEL VANCOUVER
1128 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 0A8
Phone: 604-689-1120; 888-818-1120
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