Sunday, April 22, 2012

Singapore: The Lion City - Part 2 - Reviews

This post is 2 of 3 about Singapore. This one contains some reviews I have on on the Mandarin Oriental and the Conrad hotels. I also give my $.02 worth on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino complex.

The reviews of the Conrad and the Mandarin Oriental are from my very first trip to Singapore in 2007. Some things have changed and I have made the edits/updates. 

Conrad Centennial Singapore:
In a word this place is amazing. There are always at least 2 people waiting to help you wherever you go in the hotel. The service is so outstanding that no request seems unreasonable to them. We were on the top floor, 31, and had great views of the ocean and Suntec City. The other side of the hotel has the great harbor and city views. Our room was a corner room (non-suite) and it had a little window on the side wall that was not all windows. The rooms are spacious and classy. The pictures on the Conrad site make them look dated and do not do them justice. There is a flatscreen TV with a dvd/radio sound system that is excellent. You can borrow CDs and DVDs from the executive lounge. We had a fresh fruit plate everyday and bottled water, which we really needed in the heat and humidity. The toiletries are Acca Kappa and they give you a ton of everything, and the bathroom is huge. It must take up half of the total area in the room. This floor is where the executive lounge is and it is great with a wonderful staff. Food in the lounge is good and there are computers with free internet. This is truly a business hotel, but we were here on holiday and we did not feel as if we were out of place. The breakfast buffet at Oscar’s is really good too. There are staff people everywhere. The buffet has a nice balance of western breakfast items and Asian breakfast items and my favorite, dim sum. 

As for the location of the Conrad, if you want to be close to an MRT stop, then it is about a 5-10 minute walk to a couple of stations. You can walk almost completely through several shopping malls all the way to City Hall station, but it is closer to Esplanade via Millenia Walk. The City Hall station has better lines than Esplanade depending on where you want to go. If you want to be near shopping that is not Orchard Rd, this is the place for you. It is across from Suntec, Millenia Walk, and Marina Square. But in Singapore, no matter where you are, there are at least 3 shopping malls in close proximity. There are restaurants across at Millenia Walk and in the other shopping malls. Across the street at Suntec there is a nice indoor food court there, Food Republic. 

Since we were scheduled to arrive around 1:45am, we splurged and booked the hotel limo, but worth it for us because we had never been to Singapore before and our driver was waiting for us right after baggage claim. After coming from LAX via Tokyo on a 2 hour-delayed flight, we were exhausted and it was nice to be taken care of at 4:00am. 

All in all, we loved this hotel. We stayed at The Oriental after a side trip to Phuket, and we like the Conrad better. It might help that we are Hilton Diamond members, but there just seemed to be a better vibe for us at the Conrad. Coming back to the Conrad after being out all day felt like coming home.

Mandarin Oriental Singapore:
This hotel is really nice and all of the Asian décor in the lobby makes it slightly cold. The staff are nice, but do not seem to be very warm. The hotel and the experience are great though. We booked our room through the Amex Business Platinum Fine Hotels rate which was only $9USD more than the lowest rate on the hotel’s website. For this rate we were given an ocean view room with a bottle of red wine and a cheese platter delivered once we got to the room. It was a very nice and classy touch. We were also given free breakfast at Melt-The World Café. The rooms that are ocean and harbor view rooms are actually smaller than city view rooms. We were on the 10th floor with a great view of the pool and the Ritz Carlton. The rooms have a nice entertainment system that is quite complex with a remote control that has more in common with a palm pilot than a remote control. There are mounted speakers in the room too. The bathroom is not that large and the shower is quite small. The toiletries are huge. You cannot possibly take them with you unless you have a large toiletry bag. The room came with lots of extra toiletry amenities such as razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. One wall of the bathroom is glass that looks into the room which is a nice touch. The air conditioning in the room, though, does not make it that cool and the bathroom can get quite warm.

Melt-The World Café has a great breakfast spread. There are several stations with everything you could possibly want. This is the only hotel buffet I have ever seen that serves pure maple syrup from upstate New York. They have it sitting along the waffle and pancake bar. I was very impressed. I never thought I would see pure maple syrup 9,000 miles away from the States. The downside to this place was the service. There was a long line to get a seat and the place was empty. They seemed to be understaffed. I could not get anyone’s attention to bring me coffee even though they had looked at our table. We even returned to our table and everything was gone including silverware and cups. We had to wait to get new sets of everything, and getting them to clear the used plates was impossible even with staff looking at our table. I could not believe how bad the service was. It was completely different from any kind of Mandarin Oriental experience we have ever had at other locations. I hope it was just a coincidence and is not usually that bad.

The pool area is great and it overlooks the road and has very cool night views of the harbor. Even though the pool closes around 9pm, they leave towels out and people swim after hours.

As far as the location, the hotel is connected to the Marina Square mall, but you have to go out of the hotel a few feet and go up a very odd stairwell to get to the mall. The other option is walking toward the street and walking to the front of the mall. The hotel is very close to the Esplanade and all the food places there. The Esplanade seems to be a very popular area with lots of people hanging out there. The hotel is nearest to the Esplanade MRT station, but also close to City Hall MRT, but it is a little bit of a walk. 


Those are the two hotels I've stayed at in Singapore. You really cannot go wrong with either hotel, but I am partial to the Conrad. I have stayed there 3 times and loved every stay.

Put the SIN in Singapore - Marina Bay Sands
If you know anything about Singapore, you'll know that they recently allowed gambling. The Marina Bay Sands is this three-building hotel and casino complex that is topped with what looks like a ship connecting all of the buildings at the top. There is a swimming pool at the top that spans most of the distance of the surfboard-looking structure. There have been a bunch of TV shows on the Marina Bay Sands because it's such a marvel of engineering. There are a museum, a shopping mall, a theatre, and much more in the entire complex. It's very impressive and the good news is that it is a really nice walk from many of the nice hotels like the Conrad, Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, and others. The bridge itself that you walk along is really cool. Each of the three buildings has a mega atrium as shown below. Lots of the hotels in Singapore have atria. I guess they like that for some reason.
The Sky Park is the top part of the hotel where visitors can get a unique look at just about all of Singapore. It's basically an observation deck with a club and a restaurant/bar up there. From the Sky Park you can see Indonesia and Malaysia. Remember Singapore is only about the size of Manhatten, so it's quite small. So look right over the top of Singapore.
The Sky Park costs $19SGD which is about $15USD. It's worth going because the views are amazing and you won't believe that there is a swimming pool up there. But the pool is only for hotel guests and visitors can get a sort of view of it. They try to block it off from non-guests, but everyone wants to see it because it is so long and it is an infinity pool, which makes it look like it just drops off the side of the building. 
Just about the entire observation deck area is on top of the unsupported (cantilevered) area of the surfboard part of the building. As you can see from this picture, it is curved too. It really is amazing.  
In the evening, there is a light show from the Marina Bay Sands which is really cool. It's so Vegas. Every single building and part of the whole complex lights up in sequence and at the very top they have laser lights. 

Stay tuned for Part 3.

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