Tag Archives: reviews

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 and I expect 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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The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Heathrow Express and the Great Northern London Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


After exploring the arrivals lounge, my colleague and I took the Heathrow Express for the 15 minute ride into Central London. I know, I know. The Heathrow Express has its share of detractors, and it’s often far from the cheapest option, but those are the perks of business travel.

That said, Heathrow Express tickets can be mighty affordable if you’re willing to commit to dates in advance. Like, way in advance. Here’s how the pricing (in GBP) looks for one-way (OW) trips depending on what day you travel and how far out your book:

  • >90 days: Weekend- 5.50 OW, Weekday- 12.10 OW
  • 30-89 days: Weekend- 8.80 OW, Weekday- 14.30 OW
  • 14-29 days: Weekend- 12.10 OW, Weekday- 16.50 OW
  • Within 14 days: Offpeak- 22 OW, Peak- 25 OW, Return- 37

For comparison’s sake, it’d take GBP 5.70 and about an hour to take the tube from Heathrow into Central London. Of course, taking the tube doesn’t require you to buy a non-refundable ticket 90 days out, and the Heathrow Express drops you at Paddington, which depending on where you’re heading may or may not work for you.

It’s easy to find the Heathrow Express from the arrivals area. Just follow the many, many signs.

You’ll eventually need to head down a lift to the train platform

It can get a bit confusing for first timers because it’s not just the Heathrow Express that departs from this platform- the cheaper, slower Heathrow Connect service does too. But there are many announcements and as long as you can read basic signage you’ll be fine.

The Heathrow Express is also clearly labeled, so as I said, you’d have to be simple or something to get on the wrong train.

photo credit: kwokanathan

My colleague and I both bought standard class tickets, but by virtue of us being Star Alliance Gold members we got a free upgrade to the BusinessFirst cabin. The T&C of this promotion technically say that you need to buy a full fare standard class tickets (i.e not advance fares) to be upgraded, but the fare conductor on both my inbound and outbound legs didn’t care.

BusinessFirst seating is much nicer than the regular cabin, but let’s be honest. It’s a 15 minute ride. You’ll survive being in coach.

Each seat is private and has its own work tray that will just about fit a laptop computer.

Power points are available too, for topping up your devices on the short ride in

There is plenty of luggage storage space throughout the train cabin.

The ride was unmemorable, but perhaps that’s the mark of a good airport transfer. 15 minutes to Paddington, then an Uber to Kings Cross where we had booked ourselves at The Great Northern Hotel, a Starwood Tribute portfolio property. We chose Kings Cross because we had to take a train to Cambridge the next day.

If you pressed me to classify the Great Northern, it would have to fall in some sort of catchall boutique category. It’s not quite business-focused, but its proximity to the train station makes it a good choice for business travelers. It’s not cheap enough to be in the mass market leisure segment, but then again few properties in London are.

The website lists various accolades such as:

Proudly acclaimed in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller 2014 Hot List, Telegraph’s Top 10 UK Hotels, Tatler’s Top 300 UK Restaurants and presented the Trip Advisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence award.

I wouldn’t put too much trust in Trip Advisor ratings of late, though, because of Trip Advisor’s frankly deceptive attempts to boost their revenue by “enhancing” your search results by the nebulously defined term “relevance”, showing you the hotels that have paid them more to get featured higher in the list as opposed to those which were actually rated highly by guests.

The hotel was a short Uber ride from Paddington station that couldn’t have been more than GBP 10 in total. UberX has been a real boon to London, in that you can finally get affordable private car rides without getting ripped off by Black Cabs.

The hotel lobby is small and narrow, and doesn’t have a lot of waiting room. The idea is to get your check in done quickly and head on out.

Our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived at about 10 in the morning, but that was fine with me. It was Sunday, and I headed out to watch Arsenal’s final game of the season, where we won the coveted 5th place trophy after defeating the overwhelming forces of Everton. We even chose to play most of the game with 10 men because awesomeness.

After the match the players did a lap of the field with a thank you for your support for the season banner.

It was exhilarating. Never before had I seen mediocrity so up close and personal before.

I came back later and got my keys. The hallways to the room are filled with hipster black and white photos.

The room itself  is pretty nice. A bit cramped but definitely a welcome change from your usual Westin/Sheraton decor.

Unfortunately, unlike other boutique hotels the minibar is not complementary.  The minibar prices were…well, minibar prices.

There’s a premium coffee machine in the minibar as well. That’s free, fortunately.

Although it’s an old-ish property I’m glad they made the effort to install USB charging outlets in the room.

As well as a modern A/C controller on the wall. Those old fashioned controllers with knobs and switches and no display bug me to no end.

They even have these cute do not disturb and make up room hangers.

The bathroom had 0 sink space, so minus points for that. It’s really not that difficult to install a separate shelf or at least have a side table to put all your washing up barang barang right?

My favorite feature was the heated towel rack. I scalded my hand touching it but was thankful for the warm towels when I stepped out of the shower on a cold evening.

The shower amenities were Malin + Goetz branded.

Breakfast is served at Plum and Split Milk, the hotel’s restaurant. There’s no buffet, so you order off the menu.

Unfortunately, SPG Elite members need to choose between 500 points and breakfast. Since it was a work trip, I took the points and paid about 17 pounds for the full English breakfast.  I quite enjoyed it, just look at the color of those egg yolks!

On the second day I had something simpler but just as good.

Overall I quite enjoyed the Great Northern. It was a welcome change from the usual cookie cutter Sheratons, and despite the proximity to a major train station they did a heck of a job sound proofing the windows so there was no noise pollution. That said, King’s Cross may not be the most convenient location for you if you’re in London for a vacation, and there are hotels in better located areas at cheaper price points as well.