Last summer, I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Singapore and the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 new First Class suite from London to Singapore
- Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore (today)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
- Review: Four Seasons Bali at Sayan, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java)
- Review: Amandari, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amankila (Bali)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Bulgari Bali Resort (Bali)
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Singapore Airlines B787-10 Dreamliner Business Class from Bali to Singapore
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 (old) Business Class from Singapore to London
Today (September 19, 2018): Review of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
The most expensive hotel ever built, Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel comprises three 55-storey towers, 2560 luxury rooms and suites, and 18 different room types. Crowning the three hotel towers at 200 m (656 ft) in the sky, the Sands SkyPark rooftop stretches longer than the Eiffel tower or four A380 Jumbo Jets when laid down. The Sands SkyPark is also home to the world’s largest public cantilever housing a public observatory deck, lush gardens, exclusive restaurants and a stunning 150 m (492 ft) infinity-edged pool to complete the luxurious experience.
Marina Bay Sands features in my top 10 lists of the most Instagrammable hotels in the world, the world’s most amazing hotel pools, the world’s best urban resorts, the world’s best hotel rooftops, and the best hotels in Singapore.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Marina Bay Sands enjoys an excellent location. It’s right next to Singapore’s most famous recreational area, Gardens By The Bay, which spans 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land and features popular tourist attractions like Supertree Grove, Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. From Changi Airport, it’s a 20-minute taxi drive to the hotel along the East Coast Parkway expressway. Orchard Road – Asia’s most famous shopping street – is a 15 min taxi drive away. The hotel is also directly above Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit system), making it a convenient choice if you want to discover a side of Singapore beyond Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road (although most of Singapore can be easily explored on foot).
- The Marina Bay Sands hotel is part of a mammoth resort complex, which also includes a convention-exhibition centre, an enormous shopping mall, a museum, two large theatres, dozens of restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, an art-science museum, and the world’s largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines. Designed by Moshe Safdie architects, the mega property fronting the Marina Bay opened in February 2011, one year later than planned due to escalating material costs and a shortage of workers. At a construction cost of $5.50 billion USD, Marina Bay Sands is the most expensive resort ever built.
- Comprising three 55-storey hotel towers, the hotel features an iconic exterior that is instantly recognized all over the world. The three towers feature a distinct shape as they are broader at the base and narrow as they rise. Each tower stands on two asymmetric legs, with one curved leg leaning against the other before both legs fuse which each other towards the upper floors – a unique design which apparently created a significant technical challenge in its construction. At the base, the towers are connected by an enormous lobby (more on that below) and at the top, the three towers are connected by a giant roof terrace, called Sands SkyPark (also more on that below). Of course, the architecture of the resort was approved by feng shui consultants.
- The hotel towers share a massively impressive lobby on their groundfloors. The soaring ceilings – especially the 23 storey atrium in tower one – highlight the exceptional architecture and the unusual curves of the buildings. Natural light floods in through the lobby’s full-height glass walls, creating a breezy feel, although there’s no denying that the space feels more like a modern airport or train station rather than a genuine hotel lobby due to its enormous scale. Check-in counters are located in tower one and three and here, you also find the taxi drop off and pick-up points. Several high-end boutiques and restaurants line the lobby, which also offers direct access to the adjacent shopping mall, the MRT, the convention center, and the casino.
- Marina Bay Sands features several large-scale art installations created by internationally renowned artists. The site-specific artworks extend from the 23-storey atrium in the hotel towers to the exterior of the buildings, creating an inspiring and breathtaking art path through the hotel. The two most impressive art works are located within the giant lobby space. ‘Drift‘ is a massive three-dimensional stainless steel polyhedral matrix of steel rods and nodes suspended cloud-like in the air between levels 5 and 12 of the atrium of tower 1. ‘Rising Forest’ is a ceramic sculpture composed of 83 massive, glazed, stoneware ceramic vessels, with every vessel holding a tree, creating a “canopy” of trees across the lobby.
- Marina Bay Sands has 2561 rooms and suites (yes, you read that right) spread across the 3 towers. All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with either views of the Garden by the Bay (east side, 10th to 39th floors), the harbour (east side, 40th floor and above), the city (west side, 19th to 39th floors) or the Singapore skyline (west side, 40th floor and above). During my visit, I stayed in a club room with a view of the Singapore skyline (which the hotel designates as ‘sky view’). The spacious room had a kingsize bed area leading to a sitting corner facing the windows. The bathroom featured one sink and a rain shower. Featuring a beige-and-white colour scheme, the room decor was classic, with thick carpets, textured wallpaper, wood furniture, and marble finishes.
- The hotel is most famous for its much-talked-about 57th floor rooftop space – called the Sands SkyPark – which features many of the hotel’s facilities. The SkyPark is a shaped structure constructed of spanning steel bridges hovering over the concrete towers below. The incredible 151 m (495 ft) long rooftop pool is arguably the hotel’s most impressive attraction. The pool – which is dived into 3 sections, one of them reserved to adults only – appears to have a vanishing edge, making it a very popular location for a selfie to be instantly posted on Instagram. Open from 6 am til 11 pm, the pool is only accessible to hotel guests via their room key card. The Skypark also features two restaurants, a bar and observation deck that are open to non-guests.
- The hotel’s higher floors and its rooftop terrace offer the most spectacular view and photo-taking spot anywhere in Singapore. Towards the east, the panoramic vistas offer a bird’s eye view of the architectural wonders of Supertree Grove, the vibrant colours of Gardens by the Bay, and dozens of ships navigating the Singapore Strait. Towards the west, the hotel looks out over the glass skyscrapers of the Financial District, Clarke Quay and the central Civic District along Marina Bay. Whether you’re looking to immortalise the reclection of the skyline in the pool under the clear bright sun or marvel at the spectacular nightly light and water show, the hotel is the place to be to hone your photography skills from the best vantage point in the city.
- Located on the 55th level, the hotel’s high-end spa – managed by Banyan Tree – opens up to a world of tranquility and calm in the heart of the city. Themed on the Tree of Life concept, the urban spa offers distinctive treatments in 15 uniquely designed rooms with panoramic views. Decked in earth tones with black as accent, the spa uses a clever combination of textured materials to evoke the themes of nature in a mystical rainforest. Artistic expressions of aesthetics and finishes of the spa honour its Asian heritage, such as leaf-patterned hand-carved timber panels by artisans from Indonesia and abaca woven fiber panels from The Philippines adorning the walls and doors.
- The 55th floor room is also home to a Banyan Tree managed fitness center, which is equipped with – among others – a bench press, Smith machine, free weights and Kinesis Technogym pulley wall. You can catch your favourite Netflix series while you get your cardio done on touchscreen treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical cross-trainers. When you need some music, you can simply plug in your iPod for a hands-free, endorphin high, or loan one of the over-the-ear headphones. You can also take your workout to the next level with a personal training session.
- Marina Bay Sands has no shortage of food & beverage outlets. There are more than 80 restaurants, offering local and international cuisines, both in the hotel itself and the larger Marina Bay Sands complex. This includes several dining venues led by celebrity chefs, such as Adrift by David Myers (in the lobby), Bread Street Kitchen & Bar by Gordon Ramsay, Bistro and Oyster Bar by Daniel Boulud, and Long Chim by David Thompson, in addition to two Michelin starred restaurants, Waku Ghin by Tetsuya Wakuda and CUT by Wolfgang Puck. Of course, it was impossible to try out all outlets during my stay, but the dinners I had – at the Lavo Italian restaurant and Spago restaurant, both located on the rooftop – were excellent.
- Guests of Club rooms & suites enjoy complimentary access to the enormous Club55 Lounge, located on the 55th floor in tower 2. Here, you can indulge in the extensive Asian and Western buffet breakfast or sip on drinks all day long as you lose yourself in the glorious skyline that spans the lights of the city to the Straits of Singapore. Club55 is exclusive to hotel guests from 6:30 am to 7 pm daily. From 8 pm, the lounge opens to the public with a brand new flights pairing concept. Guests can explore the world of wines, spirits and beer in a curated menu of ‘tasting flights’; each flight consists of three beverages, best enjoyed with a set of carefully paired petits plats.
- On of the things that impressed me the most during my stay at Marina Bay Sands is that despite the gargantuan scale of the resort and the huge number of guests, service is excellent, efficient and personalized. The hotel staff seems to genuinely care about their guests, doing everything they can to make your stay a pleasant experience. To give you an idea, I arrived very early at the hotel (8 am) after my overnight flight from Europe, and visibly very tired, the reception staff did all they could to accommodate my request for an early check (and yep, I was resting in my own hotel bed only 30 minutes later).
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
A great location adjacent to Garden By the Bay, a stunning design, a world-famous rooftop pool, and a staggering number of restaurants and leisure facilities make any stay at Marina Bay Sands an experience in itself. However, the hotel has some major flaws that you need to know before booking a stay here (and I am writing them down with a heavy heart because I was expecting so much more):
- The hotel’s most remarkable strength – the impressive mammoth size of the complex – is also its greatest weakness. Don’t expect a quite, tranquil hideaway here, since you will be sharing the hotel with thousands and thousands of other hotel guests and daytrippers. The property is so crowded – especially in weekends – that you often have to wait in line at check-in, check-out, the elevators, or to be seated at breakfast (which can be extremely annoying given the premium rates charged). The experience is at its worst at the famous pool, which is truly breathtaking for the view but overcrowded and teeming with screaming children; finding an available sunlounger on the pool deck is often mission impossible.
- Because of the large number of guests, several ridiculous restrictions and controls are in place. For example, you can only enter the rooftop pool area via a set of gates using your room key (which often involves waiting in line due to the slow card key authentication). And once you check-out, you cannot use the pool anymore that day (even if you have to wait several more hours for your flight), probably to keep the crowds at the pool down. All in all, due to these restrictions, the leisure facilities have the ambience of a mediocre amusement park, not a luxury property.
- As mentioned above, the light-filled lobby’s architecture is hugely impressive, but the space is so large and packed with tourists that is feels more like a train station or airport terminal than a hotel.
- Not all rooms at the hotel enjoy a view. The rooms on the lower floors look out onto the shopping mall or even on the side of the road. Windows are not completely sound proof, meaning that guests in these rooms can be disturbed by the noise of passing traffic. I highly recommend to book a room on a higher floor for great views and a peaceful night rest.
- Because of its spectacular rooftop pool and unique design, this hotel is a destination in itself and enjoys a world-famous reputation. Consequently, everyhting at the hotel is very expensive and you clearly pay for the name. You definitely get more in terms of luxury and personalized service at similarily priced hotels. That’s said, if you are a hotel addict (like me), then it’s still worth spending one or two nights nights here to enjoy the vibe of the place and take in the iconic sights.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 7/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Marina Bay Sands (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: if you book online on the official Marina Bay Sands website and you find a better price elsewhere online within 24 hours, let the hotel know and they will honour the lower rate and and upgrade your room to the next level, free of charge.
- Room tip: rooms on the higher floors enjoy better views (especially those designated as ‘skyview’ rooms and suites) and have less road noise. Families are better off in a family room on the lower floors, since these come with a king-size bed plus twin beds and a spacious balcony.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Singapore is anytime as the island nation experiences a hot and humid tropical climate year-round. And because of a continuous influx of business travelers and tourist, the city’s hotels always enjoy high occupancy and are able to maintain their reasonable to high room rates. To avoid exorbitant prices, steer clear of popular events like the F1 race or national holidays like Chinese New Year. December and January are usually the rainiest months, though it can be wet at any time of year
HOW TO GET THERE
From Changi Airport, it’s a 20-minute taxi drive to the hotel along the East Coast Parkway expressway. For a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Singapore, click here.