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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Review: Shangri-La Dubai still sets the pace for the savvy business traveller

A recent overhaul has only improved what was already one of the shining stars of the emirate's hospitality scene

Level 42 at the Shangri-La Dubai.
Level 42 at the Shangri-La Dubai.

If you have not stayed at the Shangri-La Dubai for a while then be prepared for a surprise with the recently-completed, less-minimalist and more-bling reception and lobby, although its Asian service standards remain outstanding and unchanged.

The location of this 302-luxury room and suites' hotel is ideal for doing business in Downtown Dubai and the views from this 42-storey tower are awe-inspiring.

My premier deluxe king room on the 33rd floor provided a grandstand view of the Burj Khalifa and the "Manhattan" district of the Sheikh Zayed Road, particularly spectacular at night. It was competitively priced at Dh950 per night on the hotel website.

This newly-refurbished 45-square metre room - in trendy shades of grey - was calm, elegant and ready for business. The complementary broadband internet clocked 11 Mbps, the fastest I have come across in the city.

In-house dining options for the hungry executive traveller range from Asian specials such as a Thai red duck curry for Dh125 to old western favourites such as an Dh75 club sandwich and Dh70 Margherita pizza; Evian water will set you back Dh30 and a coke Dh25.

A slimline desk and comfortable office chair also benefited from the exceptional view out of the premier room window, although with one square-pin and one multi-plug socket you might find need for an adaptor.

I’ve known people live at the Shangri-La, and for longer stays its 126 serviced apartments have similar levels of comfort.

If you require a printer then head up to the club lounge, part of the package with the premier room category. There is one Microsoft PC, an HP printer and another suitable for producing presentation hard copies.

The club lounge itself is always a welcome home-from-home for the travelling business person, with various food presentations through out the day, evening sundowners and breakfast. This can also be taken in the new golden lounge on the reception floor where the range of options is more comprehensive.

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I took the precaution of an early morning workout in the gym first to free up some space after an excellent dinner in the Hoi An restaurant the night before. Here the courteous and efficient management, serving staff and chef all hail from Vietnam.

For Chinese cuisine the Shang Palace is a glamorous and similarly authentic experience.

The gym, equipped by Technogym, has six running tracks, four cycling machines and two skiing machines as well as a huge array of other exercise machines. Only the abs-cruncher was out-of-order.

Cross a bridge to a swimming pool complex on top of the hotel’s car park if you want an open air pool for sunbathing or one of the two tennis courts. For a small indoor infinity pool and gym that most guests probably don’t notice, turn right out of the lift on the 42nd floor.

Another very popular feature of this hotel is its Zen-like Chi spa with extremely able therapists. An hour’s massage costs from Dh520 in a series of spacious rooms.

However, this remains a quintessential downtown business hotel with meeting and conference facilities to match any requirement.

The Al Nojoom Grand Ballroom can seat 462 and Al Bader Junior Ballroom 396 guests. Both have great views over the bustling Dubai downtown and out over the the Arabian Sea.

Level three has no less than eight meeting rooms that can be used as boardooms to accommodate from four to 36 people, of which four can also be theatres seating 50 to 100.

That said I would give this hotel the highest markets for its general service standards. Staff were unfailingly polite and quick to act, even with the hotel at 90 per cent occupancy.

Hotels have struggled with service standards after the recent rapid expansion of the sector in Dubai. Only last week I waited for what seemed like ages to be served a glass of water at lunchtime by a rather unenthusiastic waitress in an empty restaurant in one new hotel.

You just won’t have that problem in the Shangri-La Dubai. It is as good as on its opening night 13 years ago that I remember well.