During our frequent travels around the world, we have stayed at both low end and high end hotels. Often, we tend to stick to either Starwood or Hilton properties where we have the status and points. Once in a while however, we do venture out of our comfort zone and stay at new places. When we started planning the Singapore trip, I knew right away that I wanted to stay at the Marina Bay Sands, the hotel with the famous pool on the roof.
Marina Bay Sands (MBS), a 57 storey megastructure, is one of the most expensive buildings in the world, costing over S$8.0 billion dollars. The hotel, consisting of 3 towers boasts a whopping 2,561 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Singapore and 34th largest in the world. Aside from the hotel, the resort also has a 1.3 million square foot convention center, multiple well known restaurants, two large theaters, a casino, and a mall. But the most famous feature of the complex is the SkyPark, a curved boat-like deck spanning across the top of the three towers, home to world’s highest rooftop infinity pool, which is three times the size of an Olympic pool. From the deck, you can experience Singapore’s spectacular skyline while lounging by the pool underneath the swaying palm trees.
This iconic building has been featured in countless travel magazines, and fueled many travel inspirations over the years. The hefty price tag of S$480 ($345 USD) per night for a garden view room did give me some pause, but since it has been on my bucket list forever, I convinced the hubby to splurge. We decided that 2 nights would give us more than enough time to spend at the pool and enjoy the resort. Since the pool is accessible to HOTEL GUESTS only, there are a lot of 1-night-stay guests.
After booking the hotel, I started reading the negative reviews on Tripadvisor, which should have been a red flag, but I was still undeterred. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized that some of the comments have merit. Upon arrival I was immediately overwhelmed by how crowded it was. The reception area was filled with people milling around, playing on their phone and it felt more like Grand Central station during rush hour than a lobby of a luxury hotel. There is chaos in a place that should be a sanctuary.
Getting out of the taxi, we noticed that there was no porter in sight to help with our luggage or open the door. Don’t get me wrong, I can carry my own stuff and I usually do, but it’s these small details that usually make the experience better. The check-in line was thankfully very short, but the check-in itself was long. We booked a premium room and asked if they had anything on the higher floors. After perusing through the computer for 15 minutes, I kid you not, he came back and told us the highest one they have right now is on the fifth floor. But for an extra $50++ per person, we can get upgraded to a higher floor in a better building and get a bath tub! Are you kidding me? I feel like I was getting shaken down. Since we paid so much already and we didn’t want to be stuck on the 5th floor, there was nothing much we could do except shell out more money. The whole experience left a very sour taste in my mouth. Interestingly, when we looked up from the outside, more than half of the rooms were dark and didn’t seem to be occupied.
Our garden view room was spacious and beautiful with floor to ceiling windows that opened out to a balcony overlooking the Garden by the Bay. Every night I was able to open the curtains to see the colorful Super Trees in full display. As advertised, there was a huge tub in a sizable bathroom, which we didn’t really use. The room also came with free Wi-Fi, but to get it, you have to sign up for the membership card in the lobby. Even though the room was nice, the service and attention to detail was completely lacking. Many times we came back to a cleaned room only find that the dirty dishes were still around, or the cups were not replaced. The good thing is, when you call housekeeping, they are very prompt in rectifying the problem.
After getting settled in, I made my way up to the 57th floor to see the famous infinity pool. The deck was lined with palm trees and sun loungers along the edge of the pool overlooking the bay and the city skyline. From this height you can see miles of unrivaled panoramic views of the city. The pool is open from 6am to 11pm, but the most crowded time is after check-in at around 3pm. During the prime hours, the pool is crammed full of perfectly made-up people posing for selfies. This pool is clearly not meant for swimming but rather used as fashion catwalk. Girls looked like they spent hours perfecting their looks, making sure they were camera-ready before stepping foot off the elevator. My husband marveled at the fact that one girl spent 20 minutes fidgeting with her hair to make sure the jaunty flower was placed on her head at the perfect angle. It’s understandable that everyone wants to take pictures to commemorate this experience – I was definitely guilty of doing the same thing, but at some point, the whole experience felt a bit comical.
I waited for a long time to stay at MBS, it was a dream, but unfortunately reality fell short of expectations. This hotel is more like a tourist destination than a luxury hotel. If you took away the pool, the hotel would not be that special, and certainly would not compare to other 5 star hotels. The hotel staff are inattentive and the whole experience felt very impersonal. The whole place is about money and how much can be extracted from from the customer. The pool was definitely nice and unlike anything I ever experienced. I am happy that I finally got to be there and see for myself, but am also glad that we only booked for a 2 night stay.