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First Look: Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel

24 Dec 2018 by Michael Allen

Background

Located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, the opposite side to the city’s major business districts, the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel may not seem an immediately obvious choice for the business traveller. The property is more geared towards families visiting the next-door Ocean Park theme park; however, it is only one minute walk – via a footbridge – from the Ocean Park MTR station, whose South Island Line can whisk you to your meetings in the city’s business district in as little as six minutes. The hotel is also opening a dedicated wing for business travellers in February 2019.

What’s it like?

The hotel’s décor reflects the aquatic theme of Ocean Park. A 16-metre high aquarium, spanning three floors, is the lobby’s centerpiece, promising a home for more than 1,700 fish of nearly 90 species (it was still under construction when we visited). Although the target audience is clearly children, studies have found that watching fish relieves stress and anxiety, so you may well find yourself spacing out admiring the clown fish, redtoothed triggerfish and humbug damselfish after a day of back-to-back meetings in Central.

You’ll also see fish-shaped ceiling lights and wave-shaped lobby desks, as well as 10 digital screens resembling portholes where guests can interact with a school of virtual fish or jellyfish by waving their hands in front of it.

That the hotel is trying to accommodate mainland Chinese tourists is apparent, and one can’t blame them for wanting to tap that lucrative market. We saw an educational children’s book in the Pier Lounge printed in the simplified Chinese used in the mainland, rather than the traditional Chinese preferred in Hong Kong.

The rooms

The hotel has three six-floor towers – the Pier Wing, Club Wing and Marina Wing – and is therefore considerably lower-rise and more resort-like than your usual skyscraper Hong Kong hotel. The Marina Wing is now in soft opening, while the Pier Wing will open in January 2019. Specifically aimed at business travellers, the Club Wing will open on 19 February 2019, along with its executive lounge M Club.

In total, the smoke-free property has 471 guest rooms and suites split across the three towers, with sizes ranging from 24 to 153 sqm. There’s no escape from the aquatic theme in your room: expect fish-shaped furnishings and fish-patterned carpets. In-room amenities include high-speed wifi, a work desk, Nespresso coffee machine, 55-inch TV and THANN toiletries.

All the Premier rooms face the hotel’s Lagoon Pool. However, we are concerned that sounds of children and families playing in the pool may be disturbing, especially for guests staying in rooms on lower floors. If you’re up and out of the hotel early, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you want to get some work done in your room, it could be annoying. No one was using the pool during our visit as it was yet to open to the public, so we couldn’t test how soundproof the room’s window glass is.

While most of the hotel’s rooms are not themed, on the second floor of both the Pier Wing and Marina Wing, there are 14 themed guest rooms specially designed for families with kids. “Whiskers Submarine” features Ocean Park’s mascot sea lion, “Bao Bao Paradise” is a giant panda-themed accommodation, while “Redd Forest” is inspired by red pandas. All these rooms are probably of limited interest to all but the cutesiest business traveller, though perhaps some select members of the itinerant nouveau riche Instagram/Youtube influencer generation might otherwise appreciate them.

Each themed room is linked with another Premier King or Deluxe King room, so that kids and their parents can stay in two different yet connected rooms. Amenities for kids like bamboo toothbrush and kid slippers are provided. In an astute business decision, the hotel is pricing the in-room cuddly toys at HK$170 (US$21.70) each rather than giving them away for free. Hotel management have clearly foreseen that letting a child have a new cuddly toy for a few days, then making them leave it in the room at the end of the trip, is likely to trigger a tantrum, following which the harried parents, exhausted by the end of the holiday, will accede to coughing up the HK$170 in exchange for a bit of peace and quiet. The kids get special edition backpacks for free, though.

Food and beverage

The hotel has four major food and beverage outlets.

For buffets, visit Marina Kitchen & Marina Café located on the ground floor of Marina Wing, where you can find several open interactive kitchens and food choices like seafood, sushi and noodles, as well as desserts and ice creams. There are also children’s dining tables.

On the ground floor of the Pier Wing, Pier Lounge and Pier Bar serve cocktails, wines, beers and soft drinks, and also offer customised lunch bento boxes with the guests’ own choice of salad, main course and fries from the menu.

We tried the Roasted Wild Mushroom salad and Chicken Mayo served in a brioche, which came with a cheesecake-like dessert topped with strawberries, blueberries and cream. It tasted fine, but was not memorable. It would have been better to stick with Japanese food in the bento, rather than corrupt it with Western cuisine.

Our hosts invited us to try the cocktails, but it being lunchtime – and we being sober, upstanding lads – we opted for mocktails, trying the Christmas-themed Candy Cane of yuzu jam, cranberry, Fever Tree ginger ale and candy cane dust. We guessed the outrageous price of HK$108 (nearly US$14) was down to the mint condition of the accompanying candy cane. It was refreshing enough, though I would just as easily have taken the Fever Tree neat.

Canton Bistro on the ground floor (Portion B) of the Club Wing features Cantonese cuisine, with specialties from the city of Shunde which has a reputation as one of the cradles of Cantonese cuisine and a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

There is also Prohibition Grill House and Cocktail Bar, an American-style steakhouse.

One of the hotel’s more questionable F&B aspects is its construction of “Christmas trees” from stacked up cola cans. While the rationale is ostensibly to promote sustainability through the re-purposing of the cans, putting this kind of decoration in a hotel so clearly aimed at young children seems just another way for the manufacturer of the beverage to push its unhealthy beverage on a new generation. At least the “tree” was made of diet cola, though, and there are also “trees” made out of mineral water bottles.

Leisure facilities

All the guests can access the hotel’s Central Lagoon, which is not yet open to the public. The 1,410 sqm outdoor pool area has two adult pools, two toddler pools and one Jacuzzi, with benches along the upper adult pool, creating a more private space. There is also a Kid’s Corner.

The lower ground floor has a small but well-equipped 24-hour fitness center, and The Harnn Heritage Spa will offer traditional Thai massages and spa treatment with manicure services.

Event spaces

An expansive, pillar-free ballroom measuring over 1,200 sqm can accommodate up to 80 tables in banquet style. There are an additional two meeting rooms and two outdoor venues.

The space has experienced some teething problems, though. Two people who attended the 13 December Asia Society Hong Kong Center Gala Dinner told Business Traveller Asia-Pacific that the microphone of keynote speaker Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president, cut out repeatedly. Event host Ronnie Chan, the billionaire Hong Kong property developer, had to “make some wise-cracks to paper things over”, according to one attendee Andrew Work, head of media Asia and Europe, media division at NexChange.

In a statement, a spokesman for Marriott told Business Traveller Asia-Pacific: “Every event in the hotel is an important occasion for us and the hotel is disappointed that they were let down by the new audio visual system provided by the contractor. The staff took immediate action to rectify the situation with a backup system which was on standby.

“Prior to the event, it is protocol to test the systems multiple times including the AV provided by the contractor.

“The cause of the issue is being investigated by the hotel and the hotel’s architects and will be expecting a detailed report from the contractor shortly to ensure smoother future operations of the audio equipment. The hotel is currently in soft opening phase and we are taking every opportunity to improve our guest experience.”

Verdict

The jury is still out on whether this will be a top pick for the business traveller. The sheer number of families that are likely to descend on this hotel during peak periods may be off-putting for the solo business tripper, though we eagerly await the opening of the Club Wing, which promises “convenient solutions for business travellers”, including an executive lounge, personalised check-in/out and a bookable private meeting room.

The hotel’s key positive is its easy access to major business hubs in the city via the MTR, though you have to walk past the entrance of a theme park every morning to get to the station — a somewhat surreal experience that could be either hugely depressing or just the uplift you need in the morning, depending on your personality.

Additional reporting by Jackie Chen

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