10 years since they first opened, we check in to check them out
10 years since they first opened, we check in to check them out
- By Dannon Har
- | Oct 08, 2020
Think of a staycation spot and the most prominent hotel in Singapore, the magnificent Marina Bay Sands, quickly comes to mind. It's a national icon after all, and the entire integrated resort dominates and beautifies our downtown city skyline.
As the pandemic rages on and news headlines become a drag, folks seem to have forgotten that 2020 (besides being a downer of a year) also marks 10 years since MBS welcomed their first guests. Yes, it's been that long since our cityscape completely changed, our gaze now fixated southwards at the glimmering three-tower skyscraper, no longer at our drab-looking CBD.
So a decade on, we've decided to check in and check out the hotel for ourselves, to soak in all that it has to offer. We embarked on a two-night stay to see how well the venue has aged, plus find out how a stay there is really like in the new normal. Here's what we experienced.
Contactless but personal
As you'd expect in this pandemic age, hygiene and safety has become paramount. The first thing you'll notice when entering the hotel are all the people. Yes, the lobby area is still a buzzing place, but the groups are smaller and more spaced apart, and you'll notice plenty of hotel staff now designated round-the-clock as hygiene and safety enforcers.
MBS' friendly social distancing ambassadors
High-touch areas are cleaned frequently
Processes are strictly adhered to. You are requested to scan for SafeEntry not only to enter and exit the building, but when entering and exiting your designated lift lobby (also restaurants, shops, the pool etc.) as well. This helps ensure that only allowed hotel guests get to enter the room areas. When checking out, simply drop your keycard into the express check out boxes and you're done.
While the less surfaces and people we come into physical contact with the better during such times, that doesn't mean the human touch has to be sacrificed too. The staff have been supremely well-trained, knowing exactly how to warmly handle guests, who are themselves adjusting to this new staycation environment.
When passing by a temperature checking station (they are placed at strategic spots all around the entire complex) for instance, the staff smiles (at least they look like they are with their eyes, since they're wearing surgical masks) and bids you a good day. So even though you know you're being monitored, you'll feel more welcoming of it.
The views never get old
Have the rooms aged well the last 10 years? Well, we stayed in the Club Room during our two nights and we'd say that it was very comfortable. Sure, the age does show. A few wrinkles here and there are to be expected after a decade. But where it does count, they deliver.
For one, the hygiene standard is sublime. The moment you enter the room, be greeted by the pleasant scent of disinfectant that puts you at ease immediately. It's likely thanks to the use of their electrostatic spray, that they use to sanitise and disinfect every inch of the room.
Use of the electrostatic spray helps with hard-to-reach areas
Bathroom items like towels and bathrobes are no longer left exposed, but come wrapped in plastic straight from the laundry factory. Teacups and even the remote controller are newly cling wrapped and disinfected before each stay too.
But forget about all that for a while. You're here for a holiday, a staycation, and the last thing you should be worried about are the hygiene and safety measures. MBS has taken care of that for you (they are not only SG Clean, but Bureau Veritas certified as well) so feel free to just stop worrying and smell the roses.
The in-room scenery you get from the garden view rooms
The moment you slot in your keycard into the holder, be wowed by the stunning Marina Bay area as the curtains automatically slide open. And if you're like us, you'll venture out to the balcony first to soak in the million dollar views. If you get a room facing Gardens by the Bay, you'll even get to enjoy a sunrise rising from the ocean horizon. It's simply breathtaking.
And unlike most other hotels in Singapore, the rooms at MBS are very spacious. Even the bathrooms are wide and roomy, being able to fit a large bathtub and two basins in. The shower area is mighty generous too and is fitted with a built-in stool, just in case you need it.
What makes a holiday
Having a staycation, or a Singapoliday, is about more than the room of course. What makes a stay great, really, are the experiences to be had in the vicinity. And with venues like The Shoppes and ArtScience Museum at your doorstep, you'll be spoilt for choice here. Dining and drinking options play a big part too, but because there are too many to talk about, we'll cover them separately further down. So first, the activities at the hotel itself.
MBS is, of course, home to the world's largest infinity pool. This world-famous attraction found on the 57th floor rooftop SkyPark needs no introduction, but is still worth mentioning because it's truly a grand feeling to swim in such a massive pool and soak in the awe-inspiring top-down city view of Singapore.
People-less views of the infinity pool was impossible, until now
And because of safety measures, much fewer people are now allowed in the pool (you have to reserve a slot beforehand), which means more unobstructed views. We went at 8am in the morning and were the first to dip into the cool waters. It's instantly refreshing—especially after a sunrise jog around the Marina Bay promenade before that—and rejuvenating. Another popular timeslot to go for is 6.30pm to catch the sunset views. Each pool session is an hour long.
If you're interested in getting your workout routine sorted, the Banyan Tree Spa on the 55th floor is what you need. The best part about exercising here is, again, the views. You'll simply feel more motivated and push yourself harder with such a gorgeous vantage in front of you. Feel free to get a massage or use the sauna room as well.
One of the most interesting activities to do, in our books, is the new sustainability and art tour. It's not available yet (as of publishing time), but it'll soon be open for hotel guests to go on. On this tour, a guide will bring you around the entire integrated resort, pointing out easily-missed objects and art pieces found within and without.
Fun facts like how the coins being tossed into the Rain Oculus are being used is shared by the guide. Or how the glimmering Wind Arbor, a massive, multi-part artwork by Ned Kahn performs dual roles of beautifying the hotel, as well as serving to block around 50% of outside sunlight and heat in order to keep the interiors cooler while using less AC.
A guide will bring you to usually unaccessible areas like the herb garden
The tour is also the only time the public will be allowed into MBS' own herb garden. It's located behind Rise Restaurant, and they actually use these homegrown herbs in their dishes, thus relying less on external suppliers and reducing their carbon footprint while they're at it. Some of the signature bars at MBS also use the herbs as garnish. Definitely go on the tour once it's available.
A hop and skip away
The things that can keep you occupied go beyond the hotel. At The Shoppes, the mall portion of MBS, find even more things to do. Highlights include going on a sampan ride along an indoor river, perusing the latest iPhones at the world's only Apple Store on water, and checking out the Digital Light Canvas, an interactive art installation by teamLab.
Not many know this, but other than admiring and having fun with the Digital Light Canvas, you're able to send personalized messages on it too. Celebrating a birthday or anniversary? Let them know and they'll be able to craft a special surprise message on the LED floor for all to see.
The screen on the floor reacts to your movements
The Spectra light show, nightclubs and theatre remains closed for now (due to ongoing restrictions), but check out the ArtScience Museum, which has plenty of new exhibitions to keep you entertained.
The newest is travelling exhibition Planet or Plastic?, that's being presented together with National Geographic. Browse over 70 thought-provoking images spread over six thematic sections, all highlighting just how badly plastic pollution has affected our natural world.
There are interactive elements too, where visitors can use their feet to follow along and interact with an installation that seeks to make you think about your own plastic use. There's even a special, timely section dedicated to how Covid-19 has increased our use of plastics.
Universe of Water Particles, Transcending Boundaries (2017). Credit: teamLab
Also, whether you've already been to the Future World: Where Art Meets Science exhibition, give it a go again, as five new works are now up and running. The permanent ArtScience exhibit continually gets an update, and this latest one, as always, doesn't disappoint. For those so inclined, it's a great place for updating your Instagram feed with out-of-this-world imagery too.
Eat, drink and be merry
At the end of the day, if you're dining and drinking well, it's gonna be a good holiday. And at MBS, you'll be so spoilt for choice with just their in-house offerings alone.
Their signature and celebrity chef venues have something for every mood. We can't possibly review every one of them, but we'd highly recommend Koma and Bread Street Kitchen for lunch, and Spago and Lavo for dinner.
Koma is always packed, so be sure to make reservations ahead of time
There's a new menu at Koma and the lunch deal ($39 for two-course; $49 for three-course) is one of the best ways to try out the new offerings. Stepping through the hallway alone—that's lined with orange arches reminiscent of shrines in Kyoto—is already an experience. And with its new offerings (don't worry, some old favourites remain), the vibing modern Japanese restaurant now has even more for folks to look forward to.
At Bread Street Kitchen by Gordan Ramsay, the food is as generous and satisfying as always. There are two-course ($39) and three-course ($45) options, and we'd highly recommend going for the hamachi ceviche starter and the pork belly main. If you'd rather go ala carte, be sure to try the pizzetas and the oh-so-good tamarind spiced chicken wings too. Bread Street Kitchen is also a great spot for day drinking out by the alfresco area.
Bread Street Kitchen's pizzetas are good for one
Spago and Lavo are great venues for dinner because they're both located at the rooftop SkyPark of the hotel, granting you scintillating nighttime views while you have your meal. Once you've had your fill, your room is also just a lift ride away, which is a much-welcomed icing on the cake.
Head to Spago early (from 4pm) and start your evening with a cocktail at their lounge area first while taking in the sunset views. Feel free to have a bite too (try the laksa spring roll), and once you're settled in, definitely head indoors to the dining room side for a proper, elegant experience. We'd highly recommend the $160 tasting menu, or even the $55 5th anniversary special if you're not too famished. Whatever you do, their signature Kaya Toast (that's actually a foie gras dish) is a must-try.
Lavo's outdoor terrace area is a great place to chill and have cocktails
Lavo is the place to be for a more upbeat vibe. The tempo is fun and casual, with drinks and dishes that match the mood. Get elevated, comforting Italian-American nosh like their famed giant Meatball ($38) and the Charred Octopus ($33) to start. But trust us and get the Penne Seafood Alfredo ($41) too. It's a generous bowl of pasta, scallops and prawns that will have you licking the bowl clean of every drop of the lobster butter sauce. Best paired with a Negroni done the way you like it.
If you still have space in your tummy, Adrift at the lobby level is also a great option. They've recently revamped their offerings with cuisine that are now more hearty, yet still honed by a refined Japanese sensibility they're so known for. The new yakitori grill selection is definitely one of the highlights, where a chef will personally bring a mini binchotan grill to your table and cook the skewers right in front of you.
The dollars and sense
So does it make sense to be booking a staycation at MBS right now? If so, what are the options available?
Given current overseas travel restrictions and a push for more domestic holidaymakers, prices and deals have generally gotten more attractive, so there's honestly no better time to be a tourist on homeground.
The view you're rewarded with if you wake up early enough for sunrise and head out across the bay
Under their Sands Staycation package (from $339 a night), you get things like an additional $50 Sands Rewards LifeStyle membership credit per night booked, instant complimentary room upgrades, a whole host of discounts, among many other goodies. If you book direct, you'll even get an amenity kit packed with essentials like a mask, mask holder, sanitisers and more.
If you're more interested in a workcation, they've got a package (from $329 a night) for that too, enticing you with offers like $50 in-room dining credits, check in from 9am, exclusive in-room treats, free entry to the SkyPark and infinity pool, among many other things to distract you from actually working.
What's more, the longer you stay, the more benefits you're gonna get, thanks to their Stay Longer, Save More package (from $299 a night). If you're in need of an extended local vacation, this is truly the best time to be doing so.
Many of the deals will even require you to make a booking soon, and only available to stay before the Christmas and New Years period hits, as demand is expected to mushroom as the festive season approaches.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better deal and experience than what's offered now. It's also the perfect time for those who have never stayed at one of our nation's most iconic landmarks before to go. So don't just admire the integrated resort from afar—it has plenty to enjoy from within too.
More info on Marina Bay Sands' staycation offers here.