Marina Bay Sands at Singapore, is it as good as they say?

As mentioned in my previous entry, I had the opportunity to stay at 3 luxury hotel properties in Singapore. Well maybe not all 3 can be considered as luxurious by some benchmark, but this entry shall deal with my stay in the latest ‘integrated resort’ in Singapore. The hype, marketing and the moniker made it sound like the Marina Bay Sands is a spectacular new tourism destination, and with the most accessible casino in Singapore’s city centre, it sounded enticing enough for a try. Most importantly, through a family friend who is a Paiza Member, my parents and I got a really great deal of S$200 per night nett inclusive of all taxes. Compared to usual prices of S$300-400 per night, I thought it was a great deal. However, one has to note that I moved into this hotel from the St. Regis in Singapore, which provided me one of the most memorable stay in a hotel. Comparing the prices in the St. Regis which could be had for as low as S$300-400, I think that maybe a comparison is in order here.

Vast Atrium Lobby with Skylight

The 3 towers of the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) houses the thousand odd rooms in the hotel and is joined to the casino, convention centre and shopping mall via an underground connection. Two main reception lobbies lies in the hotel, one at the end of Tower 1 which is much larger and on the opposite end at Tower 3. Tower 3 lies closer to Marina Square and the double-helix pedestrian bridge while Tower 1 is situated closer to the Financial District. Thus guests should always check the rooms they are staying at, and VIP guests have a private check-in lobby in the central Tower 2. Marina Bay Sands provides an airport shuttle service for guests departing at every 30 minutes interval which departs the airport and the hotel coach terminal which is underground throughout a 24-hour period. This means that getting to and from the airport is definitely better in the MBS than the St. Regis, but during the time I stayed there, food choices were pretty much limited to the exorbitantly expensive ‘Gourmet chefs’ restaurants, or upscale restaurants in the Shopping Mall. St. Regis is definitely a better choice for being in the city for shopping and food. We did, however, try out one of the Japanese restaurant by Hide Yamamoto located above the casino and found the food there to be of high quality. I also managed to walk over to the Fullerton Bay Hotel which is about a 15 minute walk along the bayfront for dinner at their rooftop terrace and lounge (Lantern) which is also highly recommended.

Shopping Mall Atrium
Marina Bay Sands and the Bay

First impressions on check in was the vast number of people on this gigantic atrium. The use of glass in the construction meant that it was a bright lobby in the day and slightly dark at night since the lighting are located so far up in the atrium. It doesn’t convey the feeling of luxury like the Venetian at Macau or Las Vegas, and the mesh of steel on the top doesn’t count as contemporary art. In fact the whole lobby reminds me of one of the hotels in Walt Disney World in Orlando. Check-in is just like any convention-center hotel, and though Paiza Club members get a separate check-in table, the staff were poorly trained. We weren’t informed of the complimentary internet for Members and it took some time for them to conduct the check-in.

Double Beds in City View Room

We had requested for a City View room which offers magnificent views of downtown Singapore and got a non-smoking room at a high floor. If there is any reason for one to stay in MBS, it would perhaps be for the view. The room that we got on Tower 1 had an amazing bathroom with a nice bathtub and separate rain shower, though no TV in the bathroom and some rooms only have the shower cubicle and no bathtub. It is also worth noting some rooms could be noisy due to the proximity to the ventilation duct. Insulation between rooms are also poor, and that is not before I go to the really inferior room decor and furniture. These furnishings could easily have been in a Holiday Inn or the Resort Hotel in Genting which costs around S$60 per night. Yes, they are earthy tones and hues which are pleasing to the eye, but they exude no charm or beauty. The only saving grace is the LCD TV, but even with the TV, the selection of channels provided by the hotel was really horrible. Only local TV channels and perhaps 10 other cable channels. I think a wide selection of TV channels is important as I usually tend to browse through TV programs before I retire for the night. Other features of the room includes a work desk which had adequate stationeries and some post cards which I collect from my hotel stays worldwide. My favourite piece of furniture is perhaps the chaise lounge by the window which is even comfortable enough to sleep in. It is a great way to spend an evening by the chair and watch as the sun sets and the lights turn on in the city.

Chaise Lounge with a View

So much for the bedroom, the bathroom was stocked up with bathroom amenities, but don’t expect L’Occitane, as they are just the generic ones that could be found in the basic hotels worldwide. Though it was generally in clean condition, the glass shelves near the bathtub was already covered in a layer of dust, which indicates shoddy housekeeping. For a hotel that already opened for a few months, it was a minus. Granted it is a large scale hotel with maybe nearly a thousand rooms, but as a hotel operator, if they cannot do the simple cleaning up of so many rooms, then they shouldn’t build that much in the first place. Never bite off more than you can chew. Another thing the cost-cutting showed in the hotel is the rain shower which only had a tap and a top head. Usually for a hotel of this class and standard, one can expect multiple settings of rain shower and a hose. The Tulalip Casino Resort close to Seattle, WA even had a massage shower function, so I don’t see why a much larger company like Sands cannot provide this in their rooms.

Central bathtub in the bathroom, with a separate shower cubicle by the left side of this photo

Mineral water which is more like Distilled Water (don’t expect San Benedetto or Evian) was provided in the room and replenished twice daily, and there was even a platter of welcome chocolates and pralines on our first night, though they were there as well on our fourth night. It seems the welcome amenity was replenished after every 3rd night stay. This was appreciated, though the St. Regis did gave us chocolates as well (much nicer even) and they gave it twice over our one night stay. While the St. Regis has a butler service and offered us unlimited orders of gourmet coffees and real mineral water, I was even rejected once for asking extra bottles of water.

Bathroom amenities at Marina Bay Sands

Thus far, from my reviews, one could easily come to the conclusion that it is not a great stay thus far. Actually the hotel provides a good stay in Singapore, if one can get it at the price I mentioned. I wouldn’t pay more than S$200 for this kind of quality from a hotel, and having been disappointed before by their sister property in the Venetian Macau, I really think it is fortunate that Sands only operates hotels in 3 locations. The highlight of the stay in this property is the ability to gain entry to the swimming pool in the sky park at the 76th storey and head down to the casino to gamble late at night, all within a single day. While the Sky Park might be accessible to visitors for a fee, the swimming pool area is only open to hotel guests, and having an evening sunset swim is perhaps the best thing to wind down after spending the day visiting the sights in hot and humid Singapore. The swimming pool is in fact a narrow strip of water separated into 3 sections covering the span of all 3 towers. A cantilevered section houses the public sky park area, providing guests a great scenic view. At night, swimming at MBS can get pretty cold due to the wind and fortunately the opposite section is made up of hot tubs which provides a view of East Coast Park and the sea. Swimming at MBS might be a nice experience, but the crowds and the fact that the public visitors can see some parts of the swimming pool meant that it was not as private. For the view, I guess one might just have to bear with that.

View of the Skypark
East Coast Park and Sea View from the other side; the Marina Barrage can be seen at the centre

All things considered, MBS isn’t a bad property to stay in, but with the hype and the fact that they are charging up to S$400 per night for these rooms are ridiculous. The whole complex seems to be built for the sake to accommodate gamblers and is designed to be as cheap as possible with little creativity or effort in the decor and furnishings. Given the standards, I seriously don’t consider this a luxury property and would perhaps advise tourists keen on staying here to just consider a one or two night stay here, and spend the rest of the night in a proper luxury hotel like the St. Regis, Grand Hyatt, Fullerton (or Fullerton Bay), Ritz-Carlton or Pan Pacific. If one is willing to fork up S$300-400 for a night, please do yourself a favour and try the latter hotels which I think offers more value and service for the money.

Perhaps the only reason for wanting to stay at the Marina Bay Sands
Benjamin Sheares Bridge View



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