Marina Bay Sands Hotel – A landmark in Singapore
General Info and Location
Marina Bay Sands is not only a hotel, it is one of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks. The 200-meter tall hotel, with its unique design, is visible from much of the city centre and is among the first sights of central Singapore when arriving by taxi from the airport.
The hotel opened in June 2010 and consists of three separate towers. The top floors of these towers are connected via, what most closely resembles, an elongated boat. On the top floor, 57, there is a rooftop terrace called ‘Sands SkyPark’, with a 150-meter swimming pool and a spectacular view of the city.
The hotel has an impressive 2,561 rooms, including 180 suites and 242 club rooms. Opinions differ on how much the hotel actually cost to build, largely because the Marina Bay Sands also includes, a casino, a shopping centre and a large conference centre. It is estimated at 8 billion Singapore dollars, equivalent to about 4 billion pounds.
The hotel is located in Marina Bay and is easily accessible by subway (Bayfront station, with the entrance directly in front of the lobby), or by taxi. If you are looking for shops, restaurants or attractions beyond the hotel complex, they are, for the most part, slightly further afield.
I had booked a standard room, which, at Marina Bay Sands, is called a Deluxe room. The hotel has 57 floors and most people, would of course, stay as high up as possible in order to get the best view. The view can be either towards Marina Bay, Singapore River and the financial district, or towards the new botanic gardens and the Singapore Strait, with a number of boats anchored outside the city.
I arrived at the hotel before midday and, with a hectic schedule in Singapore, accepted a room on the fifth floor so I could check in four hours before the official check-in time. The hotel was almost full due to a major event and there were no other options unless I was prepared to wait until the afternoon.
The deluxe room was generous in size and had a modern decor with bright colours. Everything felt new and fresh and the room was clean and gave a good first impression. There was a large flat screen TV, plenty of electrical sockets (even for foreign plugs), and a relatively large bathroom with a big shower.
Unfortunately, the room did not offer much of a view because of the low floor. I had to make myself content with seeing only parts of the new botanic gardens and the road that circles the gardens. The room also had a small balcony. The low floor made no major impression on me so I spent most of my time on the roof terrace or outside the hotel. If you desire a room with a view, the lower floors will be a big disappointment.
Eating and Drinking
The hotel has six restaurants and 24-hour room service. Additionally, there are several restaurants in the shopping centre across the street, including a really good and affordable food court, which is easily accessed from the lobby via an underground passage. If you live in a suite or a club room, you have access to ‘The Club’, located on the top floor.
I only tested the breakfast at the hotel, which I had at the restaurant, ‘Rise’, found in the lobby. A rather uninspiring breakfast buffet that was not worth more than the £21 that it cost. The breakfast is, in most cases, not included in the room rate.
Sands SkyPark, with its terrace on the 57th floor, is what attracts most people to Marina Bay Sands, and rightly so. The 150 meter long pool is spectacular, with an incomparable view of Singapore. The pool is constructed so that it looks like it drops off at the hotel edge, with 200 feet down to the ground. This is of coarse not the case, but it creates a great effect. To lie by the pool and look at the view is a very pleasant experience. The entire area of the pool is 12000 square metres, it is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and holds four and a half Airbus A380 aircraft.
To visit the pool area, one needs to be a hotel guest. It is not possible for members of the public to enter this area, not even for a fee, and this is one of the main reasons many guests stay at the hotel. During check-in you get a pool card which you show at the entrance to the pool area, and in exchange you get a wrist band. You show this every time you want to enter the pool area. If you are staying for several days, keep hold of your pool card and pick up a new wrist band every day.
If you are not a hotel guest, there is a large visitors terrace on the 56th floor, with a cafeteria and gift shop that you can visit for an entrance fee. This is free as a guest of the hotel.
There is also a pool bar at the Sands SkyPark, with the option to order drinks and light food directly to your sun lounger. There is also a restaurant, a large shady bar and ‘Ku Dé Ta’, the hotel’s most fashionable spot, with a lounge, restaurant and outdoor bar. A DJ plays in the evenings and there is a strict dress code.
Having an evening drink on the terrace, with music filling the air, and the whole city lit up, is almost an even more enjoyable experience than being there in the daytime.
The Internet connection was free in the rooms, roof terrace and most other public areas, and functioned completely painlessly with a good speed.
Service and Status Benefits
Service was an aspect in which the hotel fell short. The staff were friendly and courteous, as in most places in Singapore, but everything was on a rather large scale and felt somewhat impersonal. A completely different attitude than what I am used to from other hotels, with a similar price range, in the city. Furthermore, the service at the pool bar on the roof terrace was both messy and slow, and it took an incredibly long time before ordered drinks arrived.
It was mostly the service which made the hotel feel more like a tourist attraction.
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There is no doubt that Marina Bay Sands is an exuberant construction, and Sands SkyPark, on the 57th floor, beats most other pool experiences, but despite this, the hotel feels more like a tourist attraction than a really good hotel. With over 2,500 rooms, there is definitely a personal aspect lacking and the likelihood of a staff member recognising you is almost non-existent. The hotel also lacks an affiliation to any hotel chain, and does not give points accrual with any airline program.
After several visits to Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands will not be the first choice for my next visit. Singapore has far too many hotels that are so much better. But should I get an invitation to an evening drink on the rooftop, I would not hesitate in accepting for one second.