Dates: February 6th, 2018
Who Stayed: Sabrina & Her Boyfriend
It was 2017's most instagrammed hotel in the world and has dozens of other accolades thanks to its iconic rooftop pool, which is the largest elevated swimming pool in the world. The Marina Bay Sands is an architectural marvel at the top of many traveler's bucket list.
While the Marina Bay Sands is a departure from the hotels we usually stay at and feature on The Innbox, both in budget and in size, I thought it be worth a one night stay... you know, for "research purposes". I was curious as to how a hotel like this compared to the smaller, boutique gems I usually gravitate towards. And I admit, I really wanted to check out that pool, which is restricted for hotel guests only.
We'd be experiencing the dualities of the city-state: staying in one of the most expensive hotels while eating all of our meals in the affordable hawker centers Singapore has to offer. (Should we do a hawker center guide in the future? Let us know!) Read on to find out if it was worth it...
When we first arrived at the Marina Bay Sands our spirits sank upon sight of the lengthy queue for checking-in. I don't usually stay at hotels big enough to require a velvet rope line for check-in, and after shelling out the big bucks for this stay I was feeling a bit dismayed. However, as we approached the line one of the hotel staff looked at the booking confirmation on my phone and then quickly escorted us to "VIP Registration". Huh. Okay.
Turns out that because we had booked a "Premier" room— the cheapest option available when I booked and around $50 more than the cheapest option overall (Marina Bay Sands rooms typically start at $350), that qualified us for VIP treatment. Which basically just meant going into a smaller, exclusive looking room to check-in and avoiding the line.
With check-in having gone smoother than expected, we headed to the room...
So my one reservation when it came to booking the Marina Bay Sands was that in their promotional photos, their rooms look... pretty basic. It kind of looked like your standard business hotel, devoid of personality, and with... pale yellow walls (seriously, why was this ever a thing?).
So it was a sense of relief I felt when I saw a hazy figure of myself reflected back in the silvery fabric panel behind the bed, cool grey walls, and blonde wood paneling. Maybe they'd updated their rooms since the original photos were taken. Whatever they did, I was just grateful I didn't just spend $400 to stay in like, a room at the Marriott in the 80's. The overall look was actually a bit understated and refined. Was it super unique or trendy? No, but I don't think it's trying to be. She may not be the most charismatic hotel on the block, but Marina is a classy lady who knows who she is.
Our room was designated a "Garden View" room. The alternatives being Sky View, Harbor View, and City View. The distinction between each is a little confusing to me, but I was really happy with our view. We could see both the gardens as well as all the boats docked at sea. I would definitely recommend a Garden/Sea-facing view over the City view because you'll get to see the City view anyway when you visit the pool!
The bathroom may have been my favorite part about our stay at the Marina Bay Sands. It felt glamorous and spacious, and the huge bathtub was perfect for a nighttime soak. I also appreciated that the shower and the toilet were in separate rooms. I love full-steam room showers and while I'm not sure if the Marina Bay's set up fully counts as one, it felt close enough to me. They also get bonus points for putting a little bench in the shower room.
Out of their toiletries I only used the body-wash because I brought my own conditioner/shampoo. It smelled really good but wasn't particularly memorable. I was kind of hoping that a hotel of this caliber would partner with a more well known brand like how the Park Hyatt Tokyo supplies Aesop products.
This is what I came for and it did not disappoint. At first glance the pool seemed smaller than I had imagined but that's because it is broken up into sections. We purposely went both late at night (an hour before closing) and early morning to avoid most of the crowds so we could get less obstructed photos. It was actually a lot colder in the morning despite the sun being out than it was late at night!
Hanging off the edge of the pool and seeing all of Singapore before me, it really makes any other infinity pool that isn't paired with that kind of view pale in comparison. Like this is what infinity pools were made for. You really do feel like you're on top of the world, and it's hard not to think about how lucky you are to be there. For those who are interested in swimming laps, the most central pool section does have swim lanes in the morning. However, because of the size the pool sections it seems more useful for wading, chilling, and taking in the view rather than active swimming.
Aside from check-in and check-out we didn't have too much interaction with the hotel staff during our one night stay. Everyone was extremely welcoming, and I didn't get any sense of snootiness or sense of not-belonging despite it being a fancier hotel.
Like most hotels the Marina Bay Sands lets you leave your luggage there after check-out if you want to continue exploring the city. Due to their size they have a pretty well-organized coat-check system for doing so.
We didn't eat the hotel because the purpose of our trip was to experience the wonderful street food and hawker centers that Singapore has to offer. However, the Marina Bay Sands does have three restaurants in the SkyPark (where the pool is located). Each of these restaurants offers a breakfast buffet for $45.00 per person unless you specifically buy a fare that includes breakfast with your stay. In the morning when we went to the pool around 9am there was a huge line to enter the nearby buffet, so keep that in mind if you decide to eat at the hotel.
There's not much else around the Marina Bay Sands besides other attractions which are a part of the Marina Bay Sands complex, such as its mall, the gardens (with the iconic super trees), and the ArtScience center. I highly recommend going to the ArtScience center and checking out the Future World exhibit (it's great for both kids and adults alike) and it's super convenient that it's so close and walking distance from the hotel.
What the immediate area around the hotel lacks in culture it gains in convenient transit. From the Bayfront subway station which connects to the hotel and mall you can easily get to many of Singapore's iconic neighborhoods like Chinatown or Little India. It's also only one transfer away from directly connecting you to Changi Airport. Like most subway systems in Asia it is very clean and efficient, with relatively no delays.
The Marina Bay Sands has elevators for days, facilities for disabled guests and wheelchairs available for rent on a first-come-first-serve basis (though I think you can reserve one in advance). Many of the attractions nearby the hotel are also wheelchair friendly, such as the Gardens by the Bay, ArtScience Museum, and the SkyPark at the top of the hotel. I recommend checking out this helpful article on wheelchair accessible things to do in Singapore.
So is the Marina Bay Sands worth the money?
Honestly, it kind of depends on your budget. If you feel like a night here would f*ck with your budget, require extensive saving or financial sacrifices, I wouldn't recommend it because I don't think it would live up to the expectations of the effort it took to stay there. If it weren't for the extravagant pool, the hotel itself is pretty similar to any other business hotel, and you can still access the SkyPark without staying at the hotel. If you do want to go to the pool, keep in mind that during prime time you'll be fighting against the crowds for a good picture. If price is a concern I'd definitely try to go with a group so you can split the rate (just be stealthy as hotels like this often charge a fee when there's more than two people staying in a room), or if you're flexible you can try booking the same day of your stay for a lower rate.
If you are typically looking into the $250+ range for lodging anyway, I think that the Marina Bay Sands would be a reasonable expense for access to the pool (think of it like buying a day pass to a hotel pool in NYC on top of your stay).
As for me, I typically think booking anywhere over $200/night range is a splurge; that's why our recommendations are limited to no more than $300/night. This was definitely an out of the ordinary expense for me but I was willing to make the investment because of this specific project, and to have a hotel like the Marina Bay Sands as a baseline to compare other lodgings to. So now I can say definitively that if you're saving up for that memorable bucket-list experience, I think there are better options out there for a better price.
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