Sofitel Harbin: a review

Old Jan 14, 19, 2:26 am
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Sofitel Harbin: a review

Hotel Sofitel Wanda Harbin

Map| 1 Review | 100% Recommended

Hotel Sofitel Wanda Harbin

No.68 Ganshui Road, Xiangfang District Harbin, CN 150000

Sofitel Harbin: a review (31 Photos)

Hotel Sofitel Wanda Harbin

Location

The hotel is located adjacent to a Wanda shopping mall, which has a cinema, shops and restaurants. However, for access to Central Street and Harbin Railway Station, it is about a 20 minute taxi ride. Taxis in Harbin are pretty cheap.

Check In

As we were arriving at Harbin airport, and I did not want to deal with standing in a taxi queue in sub-zero temperatures, I organised an airport transfer with the hotel. At first, the concierge wanted to charge CNY 500 one-way for the one-hour trip, which I said was too expensive and said we would take the airport shuttle bus instead. The concierge replied, offering a special CNY 300 price, which we accepted. The driver was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and we were whisked away to the hotel.

Upon arrival at the hotel at about 5pm, there were no guests checking in at the front desk, so we checked in there, instead of going to the lounge. During the check in, the director of rooms introduced herself to us. It was a little difficult trying to do the check in process and have a conversation at the same time, but we managed. The DOR had to remind the front desk agent to give us our drink vouchers. The DOR accompanied us to the elevators, informing us that we could take our platinum-inclusive breakfast in either restaurant or club lounge and bid us good evening (this is relevant later). The bellboy who assisted us with our luggage also helped us with some suggestions for our stay, which was very helpful.

Room

We received an ‘upgrade’ from a Luxury Room to a Luxury Room with Club Access, which are on higher floors. The room was a standard-sized one and had no view to speak of (straight toward the opposite building). We were not provided with a welcome letter outlining lounge and room benefits. Our welcome gift was already in the room:

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The bed was the ever-comfortable Sofitel MyBed. There were no easily accessible bedside power points, which is always frustrating. One side of the bed required moving the bedside table to access the available power point; the other side did not have an available one. The TV is hidden in a cubby, with no way to access input ports (annoying). The desk has two available power points located within a cubby in the desk. The sleep menu is extensive with eight varieties of pillows and three baths, including milk and wine baths. Only two bottles of water are initially provided, but more are provided during turn down service. Soft drink and juice from the minibar is free of charge for Club rooms. The slippers provided are too small for feet larger than Mens US size 9 – a common and frustrating occurrence when staying in China.

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The bathroom has one of those stupid windows between the bath and bedroom, which a manually operated blind for privacy. Of course, this means that when one person uses the bathroom in the middle of the night, the other person gets bathed in light from the window. The bathroom itself is a bit small and the shower can definitely only fit one person, and even that is a squeeze. There is also a lack of storage space (no drawers). The ceiling-mounted rain shower was pretty bad and sprayed water in all directions, so I only used the wall-mounted one. Amenities are Lanvin (disappointing when in a Club room). There is a clothesline provided that goes above the bath. The bathroom is actually really hot in winter with the central heating turned on, so any clothes that are hung up in the evening are dry by morning. The towels were incredibly soft; presumably the hotel had recently received a new batch of towels.

 

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  • Yet another Sofitel in China that only provides Lanvin amenities in their Club rooms

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Service

Welcome drinks can be redeemed at the lobby bar. There was no list provided to us; the bartender said we could have soft drink, juice, tea, coffee or beer. We opted for a juice and Coca-cola takeaway to the room.

As mentioned, the Director of Rooms informed us on arrival that we could take our breakfast in either the restaurant or club lounge. When we went to the restaurant, we were informed that this was incorrect and we could only have breakfast in the club lounge. Annoying, but given it was early in the morning, it was unlikely the DOR was in the office, so we just went back upstairs to eat breakfast.

Service in the lounge is easily the worst I have encountered in a hotel lounge, to date. The service itself was not bad, but very little effort was made. For example, in our two breakfasts at the lounge, we were never shown to a table, offered tea and coffee or shown the a-la-carte menu for ordering eggs and other items. Staff members in the Lounge generally speak a high level of English.

Dining

The lounge is located on the 19th floor and is quite large, taking up almost the entire floor.

The breakfast was not bad, having six hot options. The French toast was good. The ‘benedict egg,’ which the menu states comes with bacon and hollandaise sauce instead came with salmon and lettuce. Bizarre.

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  • Apparently this is 'eggs benedict served with bacon and hollondaise sauce.'

 

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There is a Le Goutier afternoon tea, but we did not attend as it was not mentioned on arrival and we did not receive a welcome letter.

Happy hour is from 6-8pm and has a large selection of spirits and liqueurs, a sparkling (French but not champagne), two whites and three reds. The hot foods were not bad, but it was difficult to motivate myself to eat enough of it to fill up for dinner.

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The room service club sandwich was well priced (CNY 82) and very tasty, though it did take almost forty minutes to a. I forgot to take a photo of it.

 

 

SoFit

The SoFit facilities are located on level 3 and it is a little difficult to find them at first. The gym is very well equipped and bottled water is provided at every station.

Gym 1.jpgGym 2.jpg

 

Check Out

A 4pm late checkout was given without hesitation, which was fantastic, especially given it is Ice Festival time, so I assume the hotel is somewhat busy.

Check out in the Club Lounge was a strange experience. The two managers there appeared to not know how to process check outs and called a few different people, asking for someone to come upstairs to help, but they were all busy, so I was asked to go downstairs to check out. Just as I was about to go downstairs, one of the Club attendants appeared and offered to do my check out.

Following check out, we were permitted to stay and do some work in the Club Lounge before we left the hotel at 5:30pm.

Overall

Overall, the Sofitel Harbin is a comfortable stay, though located a little far from the main downtown area. We used points to mostly prepay for the stay and the points posted were correct for the remaining value, minus taxes (apparently this is a rare occurrence, from what I read on this forum). Hopefully attentive service in the lounge is better for other guests than it was for us. While it is a comfortable stay, I do recommend staying here and I would return to the hotel, there was nothing memorable that would make me overly eager to return, while there are, unfortunately, small negative things that are memorable.

 

 

Sofitel Harbin: a review

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Maelstrom is offline  
Old Jan 14, 19, 4:39 am
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Question: Was the Junior suite available when you checked in? If it was I would be quite dissatisfied with the room upgrade especially when the view from a higher floor is nothing special. If the junior suite was sold out then okay understandable.
Quite often I find the girls manning the front desk at the restaurant wont have our room on the list of breakfast included. As you said it looks okay and considering you are in a city located far from most places it is good enough. It is like if I was staying in Russia in winter I would not expect the same variety of vegetables or fruits than when staying at a hotel in Thailand.

There was an article last year that Wanda is dropping all foreign branded hotels to create their own brand. Likely once the Sofitel Harbin contract is up for renewal expect this hotel to go. In that case currently the best choice will be a distant mercure closer though to the ice festival or the many Ibis's.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 5:21 am
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Another great review Maelstrom

Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
Question: Was the Junior suite available when you checked in? If it was I would be quite dissatisfied with the room upgrade especially when the view from a higher floor is nothing special. If the junior suite was sold out then okay understandable.
Agreed. Lounge access is another Plat benefit that comes on top of the room upgrade. I faced the same situation several times at Sofitel So BKK.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 5:31 am
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Great review, and great pics!
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Old Jan 14, 19, 7:04 am
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Thanks for the comments, folks!


Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
Question: Was the Junior suite available when you checked in? If it was I would be quite dissatisfied with the room upgrade especially when the view from a higher floor is nothing special. If the junior suite was sold out then okay understandable.
Quite often I find the girls manning the front desk at the restaurant wont have our room on the list of breakfast included. As you said it looks okay and considering you are in a city located far from most places it is good enough. It is like if I was staying in Russia in winter I would not expect the same variety of vegetables or fruits than when staying at a hotel in Thailand.

There was an article last year that Wanda is dropping all foreign branded hotels to create their own brand. Likely once the Sofitel Harbin contract is up for renewal expect this hotel to go. In that case currently the best choice will be a distant mercure closer though to the ice festival or the many Ibis's.
Good question about the Junior Suite availability. I honestly did not check prior to arrival. Personally, I avoid confrontation when I can, but I can see what you guys mean about the whole 'upgrade' to the same room type but with 'club access' that I already receive as a platinum member. I'll keep it in mind for future stays, thank you very much. The director of rooms did give me her business card when I arrived, so I might get in touch with her about our stay.

Regarding the Wanda hotel branding - I have noticed that some Accor Wanda hotels have disappeared, such as the Sofitel in Beijing (and Beijing really needs a Sofitel or Pullman in the city centre - the Swissotel is closed for two years for renovating and the Fairmont is obviously more expensive). The Sofitel Harbin used to have the 'Wanda' name in its name, but now it is just the Sofitel Harbin. I believe it is the same story for the Sofitel Chengdu Taihe. Perhaps you're right, and we'll see these hotels disappear from the portfolio at the time of contract renewal, which will be disappointing. These destinations (Chengdu and Harbin) are already quite slim for choices of Accor properties. As you said, the Mercure in Harbin is decent for the Ice Festival locations, but is terrible for access to the downtown area.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 9:52 am
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Chengdu Taihe (before was Wanda) which I have stayed at a few times was bought by another Chinese company. Taihe the company that owns the building so who knows what will happen. But definitely that hotel will need renovation within the next 2 years as the rooms are getting old.

It could be that the hotel in Harbin was sold out of the Wanda portfolio to another Chinese company. Again like the hotel in Chengdu from your pictures it looks like they need to consider a complete renovation in the next 2-3 years.

Accor is a bit in a mess in China. Many development are delayed a few years with no indication of completion. My guess some projects are standstill. I guess a good 30-50 accor hotel developments in China are having difficulties.

I don't think Beijing is in a huge need for a Sofitel/Pullman as the gap between the Novotel and Fairmont is not that huge. But yes it would be better. Both Beijing and Shanghai are mostly well catered for.

If Accor wants to really get ahead of the competition they need to look at opening more Mercures/Novotels or Pullmans in the many more smaller cities (relatively speaking as that city will usually have 2-5 million residents) which are not huge in room count but provide some options outside the more well known cities.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 12:03 pm
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Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
......the gap between the Novotel and Fairmont is not that huge. .
Ouch
In fairness Beijing could do with a proper Accor luxury hotel, a Sofitel Legend or a Raffles.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 1:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
Another great review Maelstrom


Agreed. Lounge access is another Plat benefit that comes on top of the room upgrade. I faced the same situation several times at Sofitel So BKK.
isn’t that a “tipycal” Sofitel trick, to have often (if not, always) 2-3 kind of Luxury rooms (one with loundry credit, one with free mini bar, one with something else ..., to avoid to upgrade their loved guest to Suite prestige ? 😃
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Old Jan 14, 19, 6:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Dav77 View Post
isn’t that a “tipycal” Sofitel trick, to have often (if not, always) 2-3 kind of Luxury rooms (one with loundry credit, one with free mini bar, one with something else ..., to avoid to upgrade their loved guest to Suite prestige ? 😃
I would not say it’s typical but it indeed exists in several hotels.
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Old Jan 15, 19, 9:41 am
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post

I would not say it’s typical but it indeed exists in several hotels.
sure, typical is too much to say ...

and to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar ...😃 happens sometimes to get “double” or “triple” upgrade
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Old Jan 15, 19, 11:41 am
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Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
Regarding the Wanda hotel branding - I have noticed that some Accor Wanda hotels have disappeared
Wanda has been in the process of building up its own brands for the past ~5 years. As they build more competence in the management component of the value chain, they are increasingly abandoning third party contracts when they come up for renewal.
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Old Jan 15, 19, 10:40 pm
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Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
Accor is a bit in a mess in China. Many development are delayed a few years with no indication of completion. My guess some projects are standstill. I guess a good 30-50 accor hotel developments in China are having difficulties.
This isn't a unique problem to Accor, is it? More to do with credit crunch of China. Projects like these survive on available loans, the pool seems to have dried up a bit.

Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
I don't think Beijing is in a huge need for a Sofitel/Pullman as the gap between the Novotel and Fairmont is not that huge. But yes it would be better. Both Beijing and Shanghai are mostly well catered for.
Beijing can do with more Sofitels (SO and the likes) badly, the previous one was ageing and not that good anyway.
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Old Jan 16, 19, 8:48 am
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Originally Posted by RJ77 View Post
This isn't a unique problem to Accor, is it? More to do with credit crunch of China. Projects like these survive on available loans, the pool seems to have dried up a bit.
Yes, and no. Basically, in prime locations, owners call the shots, and Accor simply doesn't offer a compelling business case in most situations. As such, they are often forced to deal with speculative developments and/or difficult owners (e.g. Jinjiang, Wanda...).
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Old Jan 18, 19, 8:59 am
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I am currently dealing with a "DCC charge by default" issue with this hotel, and so far the hotel has blamed my bank for the excess charge associated with DCC. They appear to have no idea what DCC actually is. It looks like I might need to lodge a dispute with my bank.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 9:37 am
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Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
I am currently dealing with a "DCC charge by default" issue with this hotel, and so far the hotel has blamed my bank for the excess charge associated with DCC. They appear to have no idea what DCC actually is. It looks like I might need to lodge a dispute with my bank.
Wow, DCC again.
how did you settle the bill? Using fast check out by allowing them do offline charge or they swipe the card in front of you?
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