As we vacation more in and around China, I always enjoy learning about the travel experiences of others – good places to visit with kids, nice hotels to book, and must-do/see options to target. Since forewarned is forearmed, it’s also helpful to hear about the not-so-good experiences. So this is the first of a two-part blog post on a recent trip to Sanya/Hainan, our first visit to the island. The first will cover our general experience with the airlines and resort; the next will be our overall Sanya impressions.
Based on recommendations from many friends and the promise of Sanya being a Chinese Hawaii, we decided to do it up right and book at the Ritz-Carlton for some true pampering.
Arriving early for our 9am flight, we learned that the airline changed the departure time to 7:20am without informing us or our travel agent. We were re-booked on a later Air China flight and missed the entire first day of vacation. The return to Beijing? From the time we landed to the time we got our luggage, it was 1 ½ hours despite the late hour (midnight) and the low airport crowds. I doubt I’ll fly China Southern anytime in the near future.
It is massive and posh, as expected. Our room was spacious, with a large walk-in closet that easily held all three suitcases. The bathroom was wonderful – a claw foot bathtub and separate shower with a special “rain” showerhead. There was even one of those TVs on the mirrored wall! A panel of buttons allowed you to open and close the drapes, and the balcony had cushioned wicker chairs as well as attached drying racks for beach clothes. Housekeeping was phenomenal – they came twice a day for cleaning and turn-down service, left seashells on the bed for us to keep, and always had plenty of towels and bottles of water on stock for us (without having to ask!). For this part, the Ritz truly lived up to their name.
The breakfast buffet was to die for. Fresh fruit, fresh fruit juices, breads, salads, Korean, Chinese and Western fare, sushi, cheese, egg stations, cereals and everything you could think of – even my super picky eating daughter was satisfied!
The beach was, indeed, lovely. The resorts (Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, etc.) are all along the beach front. Cushioned beach chairs galore, beach-side refreshment service, clean and soft sandy beach area, lifeguards on duty – everything was relaxing and safe. The many pool and lagoon areas surrounding the resort gave us plenty of options for swimming, and there was a separate kids’ pool with fountains, a slide and sprayers. Families could choose from quiet and serene to fun and crazy.
There were activities in the Kids Club, however most were targeted for younger children. Kids got their own “passport” and received stamps for each activity they completed. Some were free, while others cost RMB 75 per child/per activity.
We were a bit surprised and disappointed that the staff – while very friendly – did not speak much English. I realize that we are in China and need to learn more Chinese, but considering we stayed at a high end hotel in Yalong Bay, it was a let-down. It also contributed to major miscommunications, including some from the concierge who sent us via taxi to a location different from what we asked for. Twice. I just didn’t expect that from the Ritz.
While there were food options aplenty, the prices were astronomical. Dinners out ran close to RMB 1,000 for four, and if you ordered any wine you could pay up to RMB 1,500. Considering we made modest menu selections, those prices were incredible to me.
Unfortunately, our last impression of staying at the Ritz was a poor one, another “miscommunication,” they said. They tried to accommodate when we asked for a late check-out, offering to hold our luggage and allow us to use the spa facilities to shower and change. However, when it came time to use the spa, we were turned away – first, because we already checked out (uh…yeah…) and second, because children were not allowed (they were with me when I asked about it, twice). We were offered instead a guest room, one that had not yet been cleaned. “Not yet cleaned” was beyond an understatement. The room was filthy – smoky, trashed, and disgusting.While I rarely complain to management, I was shaking mad and let my anger be known, telling the duty manager that for the rates the Ritz chargers per night for a room, the “solution” they gave us was completely unacceptable. He didn’t disagree, but the damage was done.
All in all, the next time – if there is one – we will stay someplace more affordable, especially since the amenities are very similar from resort to resort. And we won’t be flying China Southern.
For part two of this blog post, click here.