Category Archives: Guestwriter

Hotel Review: Conrad Centennial Singapore (Executive King)

(To provide additional information to go along with the ongoing third night free promo, I thought I’d share this review of a previous stay from Oct 2016 – nothing much has changed in the past few years, so until they’re done with their rejuvenation works around Jan 2018 or so, this is probably still reflective of the property!)

The Conrad Centennial Singapore has been one of my favourite staycation options for a few years now, and has always provided a consistent experience. That consistency may not necessarily have been a good thing, though, as it seems to have fallen behind its competition in recent years. For reference,  previously the lowest price I’ve managed to get for the basic room is about S$300 with taxes.

New Year Getaway

With the ongoing third night free promo, you’ll probably be able to top that easily. The rate for 31 Aug – 3 Sep (beginning weekend of the Sep break) currently works out to around S$700, if I’ve done my maths right. That’s S$230 per night, which is a pretty good deal!

Checking in

When you get into the Conrad, you are greeted by this odd red sculpture. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it looks pretty imposing.

Conrad Centennal Lobby

As a Gold member you usually just get a one-class upgrade – if you want access to the executive lounge, it’s better to book a business room (one class below executive room) to (almost) guarantee it. I’ve never been upgraded to a suite from a basic room, though perhaps it’s possible if you’re more insistent.

As a Diamond member (or if you’re in an executive room) there’s the option to check in at the lounge, which is a nice option if the lines are long. Just ask one of their staff standing in front of the check in desks. There wasn’t much of a queue when we got there, so we opted to just proceed with standard check in even though we’d been upgraded to an executive room.

The room

The bed is comfortable (firm, but not too hard). Somewhat on the high side, but once you’re up there it’s easy to stay there. Such is the nature of comfortable beds.

In the other corners of the room there’s the very typical armchair / work desk setup. Kinda old school, and not exactly that comfortable.

 

There’s also a large flatscreen TV. I don’t like that it’s recessed into built-in shelving like this – there’s no easy access to the ports and you’ll have to call for an engineer to come in to help if you want to plug in your own HDMI cables. It’s possible, but troublesome.

To be fair, they actually support connectivity via a panel below the TV, but you can tell that it was set up quite some time ago as they only have older RGB, S-Video and VGA ports (i.e. no HD capability). Beside the panel is what used to be the room’s sole accessible power socket – they’ve more recently added a second one in a bedstand drawer (this one comes with a USB port as well), but overall connectivity for electronics is definitely rather weak.

The Conrad used to give out these plush bears, pictured below in a tree they had set up around Christmas 2015 as part of a fund-raising campaign

In early 2016 they’d decided to switch to a new design, with a slimmer bear that comes in oriental and batik colouring.

On this particular stay, I got a batik bear. Also, a complimentary hazelnut crunch cake to celebrate my birthday.

Other than the cake, the room came with the standard fruit platter and a box of four chocolates.

The bathroom is nice enough, with lots of marble tiling – it’s also starting to show its age, though. One thing to take note of is that the basic room does not come with a bathtub, so do take note of that when booking your rooms! They also provide a complimentary Conrad rubber duck, which is a nice touch.

The view from the room was really quite lovely, offering direct line of sight to the nearby Fountain of Wealth, as well as the renovated National Stadium.

Executive Lounge

Interestingly enough, executive floor benefits include complimentary pressing of up to three items. I keep forgetting to do so, but if you really wanted to maximise your freebies you can bring along some articles of clothing to be ironed. #maximumcheapo

The executive lounge is on the 31st floor and gets pretty crowded, especially when the complimentary F&B is being served.

The drinks selection is decent enough, with red, white and sparkling (also, some hard liquor not pictured to the right).

The food selection is not really all that extensive. Cheese, salads, pasta in the middle, with about three hot items at the side. You could replace dinner with it, but it’s probably not all that satisfying.

It also offers pretty good views in multiple directions. On one side you have the floating platform (pretty good for viewing fireworks, though it is an obstructed view)…

…and on the other side, you get to see the same Fountain of Wealth that was visible from my room, albeit from a higher vantage point.

Breakfast @ Oscar’s

As a Gold member you get complimentary breakfast at the restaurant, though if you have lounge access you get to choose between the lounge and the restaurant. I usually opt for the latter due the wider range of food available.

There’s really a wide range of stuff available – pastries, cheese, and cold cuts…

 

Eastern and western hot breakfast items, and also a congee station…

 

Healthy(?) dessert items – fruit and yoghurt…

And finally, the good (unhealthy) stuff – pancakes, waffles and ice cream. Mmm.

Conclusion

I’ve been staying at the Conrad for a number of years now, so I have a special fondness for it, but for its price point I find the dated furnishings and inadequate electronics support to be very disappointing. Additionally, upgrades are hard to come by here – even as a Diamond member with multiple stays under the belt, I’ve never managed to secure a suite upgrade from a basic room. Breakfast is a highlight, though!

A few years back, I’d thought that the property was very nice, but right now it’s just kinda nice, and not particularly good value for money, so I find it hard to recommend to people at the moment(unless you manage to get it while on sale). Based on the previews of what’s to come, (good) changes are a-coming – perhaps I’ll be back again come 2018!

DCC-ed at The Best Athens Hotel, A Revisit to the Hotel Grand Bretagne

Still one of the Best Experiences despite a hiccup

The Bane known as DCC

Stayed October 2016
Written June 2017

Ouzo!

After leaving Dubrovik and the delightful Hilton, my next destination would be Bucharest in Romania via Athens. I had a night to spend in Athens and I was thinking of the Sofitel at the airport, the nearby Holiday Inn or back to my favourite Hotel Grand Bretagne in central Athens.

After much deliberation, I decided to go to back to the GB (my previous sterile review is here) as I did not want to waste time around the airport. Similar to my previous stay, I received an email prior to my stay and gave some feedback on my last visit.

The hotel is the usual place for interviews of celebrities and politicians in Athens as the Parliament House is in one view and the Acropolis in the opposite view.

From the airport, I took the Metro to Syntagma Square, remembering to validate the ticket or risk the heavy fine. The hotel is next to an exit but without shelter to the main door.

Front Desk

 

Lobby

 

 

Security wasn’t high this visit either, so everything proceeded very fast and I soon reached my upgraded suite which is frankly one of the nicest so far.

The walk to the suite is as pleasant as I remember it. Luscious decor in classic style with tones of opulence and grace.

 

Corridor

 

 

Grand Staircase

Opening the door to the suite revealed a really spacious suite with a separate living room.

The view from the room is of the inner courtyard which isn’t anything to shout about other than the associated tranquility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV while in the bath? Sure….

 

I liked the crystal chandeliers and the curtains, blending in the classic feel without being too ostentatious.

But what I really enjoyed was the entire bowl of Werther’s Original on the table. There goes the calorie check!

 

The welcome gift was a box of chocolate and a bottle of ouzo which I didn’t drink. as shown in the picture at the top of the post.

After a good night’s sleep, I was ready for the delightful breakfast with a great view as I remember.

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I still think it is one of the finest breakfast of my stays in Europe.

After a good breakfast, I revisited the spa, gym and indoor pool. Everything is as good as before! Or even better with more furniture for guests to sit.

 

 

Spa refreshment

 

Spa fountain

 

 

Last but not least, I checked out the rooftop pool again and it wasn’t as crowded as the summer I visited understandably, with only a couple of guests and the chairs mostly empty.

 

 

Basically I was very happy that there were completely no issues during this stay and there was such a good upgrade.

Well, there was an issue eventually when I was checking my credit card statement and I was charged in SGD instead of Euro!

I was DCC-ed! (Beware the DCC scam by Milelion)

And so, I emailed the hotel after discovering that, and I was pleasantly surprised to have a fast response. In the end, the hotel gave me some points as good will and another batch of points for their mistake. I did refuse the additional points during the email exchange, but the hotel insisted as service recovery.

This incident improved my opinion of the hotel a great deal!

I often say a good hotel is where everything goes well, and a great hotel is where everything goes better when something goes wrong!

Happy and Healthy Travels!

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Closest to the City Walls, the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik

King’s Landing for GOT fans

The Grand Old Dame of the Modern City

Stayed October 2016
Written May 2017

City Walls and Monastery

From the Sheraton, I moved to the Hilton which is in Dubrovnik and is located right outside the City Walls.

The proximity allowed me to visit the Old Town easily both in the day and at night.

View from the Gate

 

Entrance

The hotel is quite small and intimate and the Front Desk is tucked by the side of the entrance.

 

Hotel Lounge
Corridors

As an elite member, I was thankfully upgraded to a Executive Room with a view of the City Walls from the balcony.

Orange seems to be the dominant colour which is rather unusual but decidedly unique.

The toilet was unfortunately really tiny and cramped. It would perhaps be better without the bathtub.

Hilton Diamond status granted me access to the lounge as well as complimentary breakfast at the restaurant downstairs.

The lounge offers afternoon tea and evening canapes. Some lounges offer quite an insane amount of food during cocktail hours sufficient for dinner, but this wasn’t one of them.

Breakfast was not too bad and many of the tour groups leave pretty early and the place clears out for a peaceful meal.

During my stay at the Hilton, I went on day trips to Mostar and Kotor as well, and had fun taking a great number of photos. Being one of the most well-known hotels in the city, tour pickups were not an issue at all.

“I’m so enjoying this cruise in the Bay of Kotor! Are you okay, Grumpybear?” “Just feeling a bit seasick.” #bayofkotor #montenegro #cruise #cute #roundtheworld #singapore #igsg #sgig #travel #travelgram #instatravel #traveling #polarbear #grumpybear #letsgoeverywhere #wanderlust #lifeisgood #beautifulhotels #beautifuldestinations #bestvacations #luxurylife #luxurytravel #luxuryhotels #nofilter #softtoy
A post shared by Polarbear And Grumpybear (@polargrumpybears) on Dec 9, 2016 at 8:17pm PST

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“Where are we Polarbear?” This must be the city of Kotor after the cruise!” “I don’t see anything spectacular about this place?” “Well, it is an ancient walled city and the walls even extend up the mountain! Like the Great Wall of China!” “Now I see!!” #kotor #citywalls #montenegro #cute #roundtheworld #singapore #igsg #sgig #travel #travelgram #instatravel #traveling #polarbear #grumpybear #letsgoeverywhere #wanderlust #lifeisgood #beautifulhotels #beautifuldestinations #bestvacations #luxurylife #luxurytravel #luxuryhotels #nofilter #softtoy
A post shared by Polarbear And Grumpybear (@polargrumpybears) on Dec 12, 2016 at 7:43pm PST

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A short walk from the hotel would bring me to the cable-car station for an elevated view of the Old Walled City of Dubrovnik, with the opportunity for pizza at a famous shop along the way.

“Guess where we are, Polarbear!” “Any clues, Grumpybear?” “King’s Landing!” “What?!” #notaGOTfan #gameofthrones #dubrovnik #croatia #kingslanding #cute #roundtheworld #singapore #igsg #sgig #travel #travelgram #instatravel #traveling #polarbear #grumpybear #letsgoeverywhere #wanderlust #lifeisgood #beautifulhotels #beautifuldestinations #bestvacations #luxurylife #luxurytravel #luxuryhotels #nofilter #softtoy
A post shared by Polarbear And Grumpybear (@polargrumpybears) on Nov 21, 2016 at 6:23pm PST

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One of the surprises was receiving a printed copy of LianHe ZaoBao, the Chinese version of the Singapore newspaper. I much prefer to read the Straits Times in English although I have no problem reading Mandarin, being effectively bilingual.

Turn-down service was fine too, with some additional snacks on the table and a piece of chocolate.

The gym was not very big, but there were hardly any users anyway, so there’s lots of space!

Spa and Gym Reception

I didn’t have time to explore the spa and indoor pool, but the pictures from the hotel’s website look pretty nice!

Credit: Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik

Last but not least, remember to go to the top floor to get some pictures of the Old Town!

Happy and Healthy Travels!