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Hotel Advice, Please

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Columbia, MD
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Hotel Advice, Please

We're spending 4 nights in Sydney in April. This is our first visit, so we would like to stay in or near the Circular Quay/Rocks area. We are travelling with my 2 young adult daughters and will get 2 rooms. I have narrowed it down to the Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Radisson Blu, Marriott and Intercontinental. We enjoy walking, and plan to be out and about all day. Shangri-La is currently our top choice, but I'm concerned about the steep hill. Is it worth the trade-off for the large rooms and views? Radisson and Marriott offer good value, but look less exciting. I've poured over reviews and still can't make a decision. Help!

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

Hi,

Well, you've chosen some decent hotels. Although on the surface they may appear to be in a similar category, in reality they are not. Of the hotels you've listed, I would break it down to three groups, and I'll explain further;

Shangri-La, InterContinental, and Four Seasons - are all in the Upper Upscale 5 Star. Sydney Harbour Marriott is an Upscale 5 Star, and the Radisson Blue is an Upscale 5 Star but is more boutique in property size, which does not have a view.

Shangri-La is the former ANA hotel, wonderful location, beautiful rooms, stunning views, and easily has the highest F&B reputation of the bunch. Styled in a modern Asian theme, it highlights light wood, cream and a lot of glass. But as you've noted, some consider Shangri-La to be in a *slightly* inconvenient location due to the hill from Circular Quay. Is it worth it? Absolutely. It's one of the few hotels, that has a 180 degree view of the harbour. The hotel is aligned almost directly behind the bridge, so you don't see the 'face', but amazing views nonetheless. It is also the home of one of the best hotel bar in Australia. Ask them about their $10,000 cocktail.

InterContinental Sydney is also a wonderful property, located much closer to Circular Quay, fantastic views but with a catch. The way their rooms are configured, and their location to the east of Circular Quay, the majority of their views are either views of the bridge (westerly aspect), or the views of the harbour (easterly aspect), only a handful of suites have a clean view of both. However, they do have one massive asset in their Executive Club Lounge - rooftop with 360 degree views. Three times voted the Best Executive Lounge in the World by Amex and Conde Nast. Their rooms are much more European in decor, themed with dark brown, but slightly smaller than the Shangri-La. But if it's good enough for a US Presidential visit twice, it's good enough for most.

Four Seasons Sydney is an anomaly. It's nothing like any other in their portfolio, and is often considered the 'ugly sister' to all the famous Four Seasons around the world. Whilst they do have some beautiful rooms, great views, and reputation for service, this particular Four Seasons goes against everything they stand for. It's almost twice the size of any other Four Seasons, purpose built for the Japanese and American tourism boom of the 80's and 90's. Many believe it was a rushed attempt to get a foothold into Sydney, and once the boom subsided, it has gone into a decline. Is it a coincidence that the hotel has changed hands three times in the past decade? Is it a coincidence that it's the only Four Seasons in the world that has outsourced it's housekeeping and F&B department? Let's just say that it's definitely worthy of their 5 star rating, unbeatable location, but don't compare it to any other namesakes.

Sydney Harbour Marriott, was a former Renaissance property, and again very popular in the 90's. It also has changed hands three times, and underwent significant changes. They are the equal closest hotel to Circular Quay (along with Four Seasons), and was once the second largest hotel in Australia. However, this property too has an oddity, in that the building is triangular in shape, and the point of the triangle faces the harbour. So their rooms with views, has 'partial' angular views on two sides - rather than one side with 180 degree views. They used to have one of the most photographed lobby's in Sydney, with a magnificent staircase coming down to the lobby. It is a 5 Star property, in the lowest tier, which explains why the phrase 'value' is often used as a descriptor.

Radisson Blu is different from all the others you've listed. It's located slightly away from the harbour and has no views, but their 'average' room size is slightly larger than all of them. Decorated in a modern minimalist style, it feels spacious, yet maintains wonderful ambience - something their location serves to enhance. It has recently added two well known chefs to their F&B, and has quietly maintained their place in the 5 Star market. I would comfortably say that the Radisson is more popular with corporates than leisure guests, but still a wonderful choice. Quality product that is well located for both shopping and proximity to Circular Quay.

So after all that, it comes down to priorities, budget and your personal tastes. If I had to choose, it would be between the Shangri-La and the InterContinental.

Edited: 27 February 2014, 16:58
Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

PS.

If you decide to proceed with the Shangri-La, let us know, and there's a way to 'cheat' the hill climb.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

I'm going to throw a spanner in the works..

have you looked at Quay West? It may be more suitable for a family.

I much prefer the Shangri-La over all the others (have stayed in all bar the Marriot) and most more than once.

There are 2 cheats ;)

Use the entrance from the FS and use their lifts to get to the back entrance…. (I've mentioned this on here before so no concern from me in doing so)

If coming up from the rocks cut along the back way as the steps are less steep. You'll come out near the Glenmore Hotel.

The final cheat is if walking back from QVB or Westfield. Cross to the back and walk down York St.

The other thing i would consider is if you are likely to use the pool. FS has a much better pool for leisure and children to play in. The Shang is very much a business indoor fitness centre pool

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

It would also depend on the room type you are looking at for each hotel? I have stayed at all bar the FS. I'm not a big fan of the Shang unless you are going to stay in a harbour view room or club level where you have use of the horizon club which is very nice & has spectacular views. Opera house rooms are ok, Darling harbour nothing special. If you're not going to choose a room with harbour/club views at the Shang I would probably go for the Marriott or Inter. Radisson Blue is nothing special IMHO & is further away from CQ than the others.

I like GW's suggest of Quay West.

Columbia, MD
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5. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

Thank you for the detailed responses. I will check out Quay West. It would be nice to have more space. Does it compare with the others in terms of luxury?

It looks like some of the hotels are entirely non-smoking, but others have smoking rooms. Do you know if it might be a problem to get a non-smoking room at the Shangri-La?

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

Ha, this was one of my issues when we stayed at the Shang last Sept. I had specified a non smoking room on booking but we were given a smoking room. When we contacted management their 1st offer was to come & spray the room to get rid of the smoking smell! It was a Saturday night & apparently there were no club level rooms (or higher level) they could relocate us to. The only solution they could provide was to give us a lower level non-smoking room. We still had club access but we were unimpressed with the way management handled this situation.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

Another suggestion is the Pulliman Quay Grand Suites which are ideal for families especially if you can get the rooms with direct harbour bridge views. We often stay at the QGS & absolutely love the location & the views.

I'm not a big fan of the Shangri-la due to the walk up the hill although the hotel certainly has awesome views. My next pick after QGS would be the Intercontinental.

Edited: 27 February 2014, 23:07
Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

>>> I will check out Quay West. It would be nice to have more space. Does it compare with the others in terms of luxury?<<<

No it does not compare (you'll probably get varied responses on this, as it is subjective), but depends on what you're looking for, as you're not comparing like for like. Quay West is an apartment, the others are traditional styled hotels.

Quay West has absolutely magnificent views, incredibly spacious, and would be a brilliant choice - IF you're wishing for more space, kitchenette and laundry facilities. It is a limited service 4.5 Star apartment hotel. (Their two bedroom configuration is King plus two Singles).

I do like EM's suggestion for Pullman Quay Grand, IF an apartment is going to be a consideration. But if you're going to be out and about, not cooking, washing or spending any great length of time in your room, I don't see any real advantage in having an apartment - especially not only for four nights.

So its based on your interpretation of 'luxury'.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

>>>It looks like some of the hotels are entirely non-smoking, but others have smoking rooms. Do you know if it might be a problem to get a non-smoking room at the Shangri-La?<<<

As Mia pointed out, the Shangri-La is the only hotel out of the ones you've selected, that has smoking rooms/floors. All the others are completely non smoking properties.

There's no saying whether there would be a problem, it's entirely based on how the room allocations are done the night before. Believe it or not, smoking or non smoking is seen as a 'request'

Columbia, MD
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10. Re: Hotel Advice, Please

I don't plan to do any cooking, so I think we'll pass on the apartment options. We will have an apartment in the Cairns area, and would prefer a hotel for Sydney.

Thanks for the feedback about smoking at the Shangri-La. The Shangri-La has one of the best prices for our days, but I would hate to get a smoking room. How does the Sheraton compare to the others? Is the location less convenient?

Thanks again for all the help.