Marina Bay Sands is probably one of the most iconic facades in Singapore’s downtown district, being known for its sleek, curvacious exterior, as well as its fancy retail and dining tenants. The last time I did a stay here was when the hotel first opened in 2010, and truth be told, there was barely anything memorable about it. From then on, I could never justify paying their regular rates as I didn’t think it was worth it.
A decade later, I’m back here again with my husband as we managed to redeem a free 1-night stay with our Sands Rewards Club membership. Lamentably, it did not come with complimentary breakfast, which was a huge bummer. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to find out what has changed since the last time I was here.
With covid measures in place, we needed to pre-register our preferred check-in timeslot via SMS prior to our arrival, presumably for better crowd management. Upon arrival, we were then issued a queue number that was specific to that registered timeslot, signalling a rather strict adherence to the staggered check-in guidelines. In total, we waited for about 20min before being served at the reception counter.
We were assigned to a Deluxe Room on the 17th floor in Tower 3. Apparently when making a booking from the website, you can choose which view you prefer (at varying prices, of course): Lower Floor, Garden View, City View, Harbour View or Sky View. The staff checking us in said that she gave us an upgrade to a room with the Garden View, meaning our room was initially destined for the lower floors Oh well, received with thanks!
Our room was much bigger than the average hotel room, with a nice-sized balcony and a view of Gardens By The Bay. This was a pleasant surprise as I remember the room from my previous stay to be very typical and nondescript (possibly not even having a balcony). We figured that given the shape of the building, rooms on the lower floors likely clock in more square metres than the ones above. Although the mini-bar items are complimentary and replenished daily, there wasn’t much variety for the drinks (as compared to Andaz Hotel), mainly comprising juices and soft drinks. Also, this may be a tiny detail but I found it quite strange that the cupboard doors aren’t slow-closing, which I thought would’ve been standard fare in 5-star hotels by now. Heads up for those who don’t like firm beds, the ones in our room were harder than usual (my husband found it uncomfortable but it was okay for me).
One thing that was pretty annoying was the TV screen randomly freezing for minutes on end while I was watching it. It happened quite a few times so I called for assistance, and the technician arrived almost immediately to tend to the problem (very impressive). However, the problem persisted. I chucked the idea of calling the technician again as he shared that the only thing he could do was restart the set-top box, an unsatisfactory temporary fix. On top of that, my phone’s 3G network struggled to connect to the internet when I was in the room. For some reason, technology really doesn’t seem to be on their side.
What I must commend though is their service. Granted, there wasn’t much of a personal touch in their interactions with us, but they do get the job done quickly, efficiently and courteously. Like how the technician was instantly deployed to rectify the problem I raised, and how a staff delivered on my request for a firm pillow (in fact, he gave me two) within a record rate of 5min. Not an easy feat given the staggering number of rooms across three towers, so bravo (:
After settling down in our room, we attempted to get some nice photos at the infinity pool. Attempted because by now, it is well-known that in order to use the pool, VERY advanced booking is required and sadly, we couldn’t get a slot. Alas, the staff were so strict to a fault about preventing us from even stepping on the slope leading to the uppermost deck of the pool area (which is nowhere near the pool itself). Hence, our infinity pool experience was relegated to admiring it from afar while strolling along the walkway above.
Next up was Banyan Tree Fitness Club at Tower 2. The lady staff at the counter kindly showed us around, pointing out where the gym, steam room, sauna and hot pool were. To use these facilities, we had to send an SMS to retrieve a queue number. Once we were notified that it was our turn, we had 15min to report there or our turn would be forfeited. There wasn’t much of a queue for the hot pool and I easily got a slot, but I found out that due to the new safety measures, I had to take the lift all the way down to level 1, walk across the lobby to Tower 2, then take the lift back up to access the hot pool. I decided against parading around in public wearing a bathrobe and room slippers so I released my booking.
We went to check out Club55, the hotel’s club lounge, located next to Banyan Tree Fitness Club. It boasted floor-to-ceiling glass panels that bathed the whole lounge in natural light, and offered breathtaking views of the bay. Although first impressions were fine and dandy, there was something disconcerting about the interior that I can’t quite put a finger on. Maybe it was the choice of colours or the type of materials used that gave off a we-wanna-make-this-place-posh-but-we-don’t-wanna-spend-very-much vibe.
I guess the most value-added part of our stay was the multiple trips we took to the SkyPark Observation Deck as all in-house guests are granted unlimited access. We opted out of having our photos taken at the official photo booth to avoid getting hustled later at the exit (are we at a theme park?). Objectively speaking, it is definitely a great vantage point from which to take in the panoramic sights of the city, especially at night when the surrounding buildings are dazzling with lights, but I wouldn’t fork out $26 for a single-entry ticket and specially make my way here just for this.
There are lots of dining options within the hotel itself (eg. Adrift by David Myers, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, CÉ LA VI Restaurant), a ton more if you count the restaurants at The Shoppes. That is, if you have luxury tastebuds and a fat wallet. Finding less exorbitant alternatives was tough, so we resolved our cognitive dissonance by rationalizing that since we got the room for free, we should “allow” ourselves to splurge a little for dinner. We chose to dine at TWG Tea Garden (check out the full review here!) and had a splendid time there (:
With no complimentary breakfast spread to look forward to the next morning, I went for the option that involved the least hassle: a Rise And Shine sandwich from Origin + Bloom located at Tower 3’s lobby. Took the lift down, bought the sandwich, and took the lift back up again. It looked slightly better than it tasted as the chicken was kinda dry, but well, I had no high expectations to begin with.
My overall rating of the experience: 3 out of 5 stars. I wouldn’t exactly describe the service here as personable or warm, but it certainly meets your requests with a speed and effectiveness that I have yet to experience in other hotels so far, so thumbs up on this aspect (: The room was clean and comfortable with ample space, and the views from various locations in the hotel are really quite unparalleled. Unfortunately, the fact that we didn’t get to enjoy the infinity pool or try out their buffet breakfast put a huge damper on things. The unreliable electronics and technological infrastructure (frozen TV, no 3G connection) was irksome as well, given that there was pretty much nothing else for us to do in the room. In addition, staff were generally strict in following the safety measures, which on one hand is a good thing, but on the other, this lack of flexibility took away from the ideal of being able to do our own thing on vacation. Considering the fact that our room-only stay cost us almost nothing, maybe 3 stars isn’t too bad after all, but I’m still slightly hesitant to pay their full rates for potentially less-than-equivalent value.