My birthday is in April and I was visiting my family in Australia at that time. My Mother and I decided to go away on a short break to celebrate and after a couple of different ideas we settled on a trip to Cairns. For those that don’t know, Cairns is the main gateway to The Great Barrier Reef and the plan was to soak up the tropical atmosphere and visit the reef.

Looking at the various hotels, it was obvious that the Shangri-La was going to be the most convenient as well as the kind of quality I wanted for a special trip. We were planning a two night stay and as a result wanted to be near where the reef tours departed. The Shangri-La was perfect as it was right on the Marina. We booked a standard twin room and all was set.

Hotel Exterior

Before we left, I noticed on Trip Advisor that people were recommending to get the renovated rooms as they were nicer. I e-mailed the hotel and found out there were no renovated standard rooms, however there were in the Executive Marina View Room category – and would we like one? The upgrade price was not very much in the great scheme of things (around $60 per night) so we upgraded the room.

We took a taxi from Cairns Airport to the hotel, which took around 20 minutes and cost around $25. On arrival, a porter immediately took care of our single bag and we entered the spacious lobby which was complete with bench seating and a water feature. I will mention here that all photos in this review (except two) are from the Shangri-La Cairns web site and I have used them as they represent perfectly what I saw with my own eyes.

Lobby

Our check-in was processed swiftly and efficiently. I had mentioned in my e-mail correspondence with the hotel that it was my birthday and this was acknowledged at check-in which made me feel special. We took the lift up to the floor where our room was located, got lost, and eventually found the room. The signage wasn’t the greatest, and we had completely missed where we were going.

The first thing I noticed when we entered our room was this!

Welcome Sparkling

A complimentary bottle of sparkling wine! I honestly hadn’t really expected anything for my birthday except perhaps some best wishes at check-in which I received, so this was very nice. Unfortunately, when I went to have a glass later that night, I found it didn’t taste particularly good at all which was a shame.

My initial impression of the room décor was quite mixed. It was very clean with the wooden floor and white walls, and the day bed / couch was comfortable looking.

Room

The wavy lines across the wall with the dots – what was that about? I never found out the actual reason, but they look like fishing nets or the things they put on the reef to mark out the area you’re allowed to snorkel in. Quite strange to see in the room! The pattern behind the bed was strange as well. I think I expected something different so I was taken aback by the décor. I eventually got used to it, but it’s not really to my taste.

Complimentary wireless Internet came with the room and I found it to be of an adequate speed. Broadband in Australia is not the greatest in general, so it was fine for the country but slow compared to Ireland and the USA. The hotel states the beds have “800-thread-count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets” and there was no doubting that. The bed was extremely comfortable and the sheets were like butter which is exactly what I want when I am sleeping.

What I did immediately love was the bathroom. This was quite nicely designed and came with the usual Shampoo, Conditioner, Bath Gel and Body Lotion as well as items such as Cotton Buds, a Shower Cap and other items that you might require. It looked chic and very clean and well kept.

Room-Bath

The room also featured a flat screen television, electronic safe, a fridge filled with a selection of drinks and a drawer with chocolates, crisps and other items. The balcony overlooked the Marina so it was quite pleasant to sit out there and eye the outside world. It was very hot and humid in Cairns as we expected, so not too much time was spent out there. The air conditioning in the room was spectacular and very easy to control, an important thing in such a hot climate.

Room 1

We decided to go for a cocktail in the bar. The service was very friendly from the noticeably attractive bar staff. It was also quite fast as there were only a few other people sprinkled around the area in the middle of the afternoon.

Bar

After this, we left the hotel to explore the local area. The following day, my birthday, we spent the entire day on the Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and eating good food. When we arrived back into our room, we were greeted with this.

Cheese and Fruit

The employees at the hotel had signed a birthday card for me… and in addition laid on a spread! This was a selection of cheeses and crackers, strawberries, a bowl of fruit and a box of chocolates! What a wonderful surprise this was! It was all complimentary and such a lovely thing to come back to. Luckily, my Mum and I like fruit and cheese and chocolate so we did some good work demolishing the spread the next morning at breakfast.

The hotel also boasts pools (which we did not use) and a fitness room. I spent a good 45 minutes on the treadmill in order to work off some of the food I had been eating with abandon on the trip. I got lost again looking for the fitness room, which is unusual. I don’t get lost in hotels or anywhere, so twice on one trip leads me to believe the signage around the hotel could be better.

Gym

On our last day we checked out. The staff member checking us out mentioned she had been the one to put together all the elements of the spread the night before. Needless to say, she was thanked profusely for her part in making our stay special. We left our bags with the concierge desk and borrowed hotel umbrellas for our walk to the shops to complete some last minute purchases. When we came back a taxi was arranged swiftly for us and we left for the airport, very happy with our stay.

I would definitely recommend this hotel for a stay in Cairns. Prior to the trip, the service via e-mail from the Reservations team was effective, timely and polite. Throughout our stay the service from the employees was very good – that perfect mix of informal and friendly as typified by the Australian people. All of our needs were met and our expectations were exceeded twice with the welcome sparking wine and the unexpected fruit, cheese and chocolate spread. The room was immaculately clean and well kept and the bed was supremely comfortable for a good nights sleep. While I wasn’t a fan of the décor personally, the was nothing wrong with it and it was fitting for the kind of property it is. When I go to the Barrier Reef in the future, it’s highly likely I will be staying at the Shangri-La on the Marina in Cairns.