Hotels

Review: The Outpost Hotel Sentosa

It's not really adults-only, and the F&B is overpriced, but the Outpost Hotel still makes a good staycation option.

In March 2014, Sentosa Development Corporation awarded Far East Organization a tender to develop Artillery Avenue’s conserved buildings into hotels.

Photo Credit: Remember Singapore | Do read their excellent write up of the history of Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks here

The 45,000 sqm plot in question had quite an interesting past. It was first developed in 1904 as the Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks, back when Sentosa was known as Pulau Blakang Mati (Island of Death from Behind).

The base fell to the Japanese during the Second World War and was converted into POW housing, with horrific stories of atrocities emerging during the occupation. Perhaps there was some poetic justice that the same barracks were used to imprison Japanese POWs after the war ended.

Post independence in 1965, the SAF briefly located some of its training schools here before the government decided in 1972 to redevelop Pulau Blakang Mati into Sentosa (Island of Death to your Wallet). Apart from a six-year stint as Temasek Polytechnic’s Tourism Academy @ Sentosa, the site has been unmolested ever since.

Photo Credit: TEAM DESIGN

Far East proposed a two hotel, 700 room development named The Outpost, which would provide mid-tier accommodation and attract staycation guests. The parade square and barracks would be conserved, and the resulting development would seamlessly integrate with the existing site’s forested environment.

Somewhere along the line, however, that idea split into three different developments: Village Hotel Sentosa, The Outpost Hotel, and The Barracks. The mid-tier 606 room Village Hotel and 193 room Outpost Hotel officially opened in April, and the upper-tier 40 room Barracks Hotel is set to open in October 2019.

In July, American Express Platinum Charge cardholders received a complimentary one night stay at the Outpost Hotel, which is how the Milelioness and I found ourselves there over the NDP weekend.

Getting to the Outpost Hotel

The Outpost Hotel is located at 10 Artillery Avenue, right smack in the middle of all the action in Sentosa. You’ll be within walking distance of RWS, Universal Studios, Madame Tussads, iFly, and other attractions. The closest Sentosa Express station is Imbiah, or you can take Bus A, B, or 123 and alight at Merlion Plaza.

One day before arrival, a member of the Guest Experience team reached out with a greeting and directions to the hotel.

We had spent the previous night at the W Sentosa, using up my other free AMEX Platinum Charge free night voucher. It wasn’t anywhere as good as I remembered, as the hotel was packed. There were long lines for check-in and breakfast, rooms weren’t ready even after 3 p.m, and it was impossible to get a seat at the overcrowded pool.

We were looking forward to a much more relaxing experience at the Outpost.

Check-in & First Impressions

To access the Outpost Hotel, we had to pass through the Village Hotel lobby. This was extremely crowded at 2 p.m, filled with both tour groups (there’s a huge parking area outside for tour coaches) and families with screaming kids in tow.

We headed out the rear exit of the lobby and crossed the car park to the Outpost Hotel entrance.

We were then directed to take one of three lifts up to the check-in area on level 3.

The Outpost Hotel’s reception area is absolutely stunning, with high ceilings, lots of natural light and a feature wall lined with various nicknacks from Naiise available for sale.

Full marks to whoever did the interior design, because I really liked it.

There was no queue to check-in, and we were served by Sarah, who welcomed us to the property and handled the paperwork.

While this was happening, we were served a welcome drink of a cold tea mocktail in cute pineapple goblets with metal straws.

Sarah handed us our keycards and Sentosa entrance passes (valid for three days from date of activation), and invited us to participate in the Outpost Hotel’s welcome ritual: curating your own minibar.

She opened two drawers to reveal a selection of chocolates, cookies, chips, nuts and drinks, encouraging us to pick the Starbucks signature chocolate drink, imported from Korea.

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This we chose, along with some Tyrrell’s chips, a Mackie’s of Scotland dark chocolate bar, two Cartwright & Butler triple chocolate chunk biscuits and a Luscombe Apple & Pear juice. I have to give Outpost credit for offering more premium snacks- they could have got away with garden variety Lays and Oreos, but this elevated the experience somewhat.

Contrary to earlier reports, wine is not one of the items you can pick for your mini-bar.

We were assigned room 339, just down the corridor from reception.

Room & Amenities

As the floorplan above shows, all 193 rooms at the Outpost Hotel are the same 24 sqm size, so there’s no question of a suite upgrade here. The main difference is the type of bedding (twin vs king) and the view (island, sea and pool).

24 sqm is tight, no two ways about it, and there’s a reason why the artist’s impressions needed to be taken from outside the room. To squeeze the photo below into your frame, you’d need to be standing outside the window.

Photo credit: Far East Organization

It honestly didn’t feel that bad once we were inside, at least no more so than any other hotel room. The room featured lots of natural light thanks to big glass windows at the far end, and the choice of light, muted colors made the place feel bigger.

The king-sized bed was comfortable and with just the right level of firmness. The pillows were good enough to prop you up to watch the 55-inch TV.

One sacrifice in cramming everything into 24 sqm was a work desk and proper chair, so this isn’t the place to come for a working vacation.  The only place to put a laptop is a portable TV tray table slotted next to the not-quite-couch.

The other sacrifice is full-sized bedside tables. Outpost’s are tiny, and half the space is taken up by the hotel phone on one side, and the alarm clock on the other, so there isn’t room to put anything except your phone at night.

The bedside closer to the bathroom had the thermostat controls, a universal power plug, a single USB port and master light controls…

…while the side further from the bathroom had the same sans the thermostat. The power plug was already occupied by the bedside alarm clock.

Although the windows let in lots of natural light during the day, I was pleased to see that Outpost had installed floor to ceiling blinds, which meant absolutely no light disrupted our sleep the next morning. I always prefer these over curtains, because curtains inevitably have a gap and you’ll be surprised how much a little sunlight can interrupt your slumber.

Complimentary coffee and tea were provided. The tea blends are created by Pryce Tea especially for the Outpost, and the Palawan Dawn is featured in the welcome drink we got in the lobby. A Nespresso coffee machine comes standard in each room, with four capsules. There’s creamer in the mini-fridge, but no milk.

The bathroom is right by the entrance, with the sink, the shower and the toilet in three separate areas. I’m sure it’s due to space constraints, but there are merits to such a layout- it allows one person to shower and another to use the loo at the same time, without the potential awkwardness of, shall we say, odors.

I’m in the process of renovating my first-ever home, so over the past few months I’ve come to learn quite a bit about bathroom fittings. I’m no expert, but I’m familiar enough with the brands to know that this was an area where the Outpost really impressed.

The basin mixer was a tall hansgrohe tap paired with a white countertop basin. The design looked great but the water flow from the tap wasn’t- almost like they’d installed a water-saving device on it.

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The soap dispenser looking thing by the side is not actually for soap, it’s for drinking water. I get annoyed when hotels try greenwashing by removing complimentary water bottles, but credit where it’s due, the Outpost has provided a better alternative in the form of a Hyflux filtered water dispenser. In fact, the water pressure of this dispenser was superior to the main tap, so much so I ended up using it to brush my teeth and wash my hands.

In keeping with the eco-friendly theme of the hotel, all the amenities were provided in cardboard packets. Even the toothbrush had a hollowed-out handle to minimize the amount of plastic needed to make it.

The shower was an incredible experience, featuring a hansgrohe ShowerTablet Select Thermostat 700 mixer (yes, I really studied my shower mixers), which activates the hand shower or extra wide rainshower with a simple push of a button.

You can turn the temperature knob to get just the water temperature desired.

Even better, you don’t have to choose between hand shower and rain shower modes. It allows both to be activated at the same time, meaning you can enjoy the warmth of water from above while using the hand shower to wash other, shall we say, harder to reach areas. I so badly wanted one of these for my house, until I realised it cost upwards of S$2,000 for the mixer alone. I imagine the Outpost didn’t install bathtubs to boost their eco credentials (and save space), but the irony was that I enjoyed the shower so much I took a longer-than-usual bath.

Bath amenities for the Outpost Hotel are supplied by Australian brand APPELLES, including Blackseed Shampoo, Tamanu Conditioner and Willow Bark Body Wash. Full-sized versions of these bottles start at A$40 for 500ml, so it’s safe to say it’s a pretty premium-positioned brand.

The toilet is a likewise lovely affair, featuring a TOTO washlet and concealed cistern.

There’s a touch panel on the wall which controls not just the bidet, but the toilet seat too. You could put the seat up or down, adjust the strength and position of the bidet spray, or activate a blower to dry you off. The bidet water was warmed, as was the toilet seat. I had never been so excited to use a toilet before.

The toilet roll holder even has a useful shelf that gives you a place to put your phone while you’re, er, attending to yourself. Sureyou don’t use your phone on the toilet because that’s totally gross.

Opposite the toilet is a sort of open wardrobe (really, just a rail with hangers on it) with two fluffy and very comfortable bathrobes.

Beneath that, you’ll find a drawer with a safe, and another drawer with a hair dryer.

So to summarize, the Outpost rooms are small, but they’re brand new and I loved the bathroom fixtures. It was certainly much better than the W we’d just come from, where the shower head was clogged with blue-green lime scale deposits, and the toilet didn’t even have a bidet hose.

Facilities

The Outpost Hotel markets itself as an “adults-only” property, but this claim borders on flat out misleading.

That’s because the Outpost occupies the same complex as the family-friendly Village Hotel. So close is the proximity that the two even share facilities like the gym, and you can cross-charge F&B to either hotel. You can even see part of the Village Hotel’s main pool from the Outpost lobby, so it was a bit discordant to hear the check-in staff say that this was an “adults-only” property, then turn around and see children screaming and running on the other side of the glass. 

In fact, to get to the Outpost’s “adults-only” pool, you’ll need to walk past the main pool of the Village Hotel because their outdoor areas are shared.

The Village Hotel’s three pools were filled with families and young children over the long weekend.

It’d be one thing if the Village Hotel were just another hotel, but it’s one specifically set up to attract families with kids. I mean, heck, when Far East was doing the media previews, they specifically reached out to mommy bloggers to promote this aspect. The hotel has children’s play pools with mini water slides, a playground, and special kid-friendly amenities. At check-in, there’s a “Village Important Kids” counter. It’s located just next to KidZania. Why wouldn’t families bring their kids here?

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Lest I come across as some kind of curmudgeon, I should probably state for the record that when I have kids, I’ll probably bring them to the Village Hotel too. I just think it’s a bit disingenuous to brand The Outpost as “adults-only” when you’ve built a kid-focused resort into literally the same building.

tl;dr: if you come to the Outpost with the express purpose of escaping from kids, you’re going to feel cheated.

The Outpost’s “adults-only” pool is perhaps 10 metres away from the main pool, and as you may have guessed, the noise from kids has a way of traveling. I understand there are plans to build a rooftop pool on the 7th floor which will be ready by the end of 2019, but until then, this is all you get. Access to this pool didn’t appear to be restricted to just Outpost guests- as long as you looked adult enough, the staff didn’t say a word.

It’s actually really pleasant once the noise dies down, because you have great views of the sea, and very comfortable loungers on the pool terraces, settled in ankle deep water. Towels are available, but you need to take a short walk over to the Village Hotel pool to sign them out.

There’s also a bar built into the pool, which serves all manner of adult drinks. A glass of prosecco was a very reasonable S$14.

Close to the adults pool is the gym, which is small but well-equipped. You could even play Angry Birds on the treadmills.

F&B options

The Outpost Hotel was meant to give Sentosa guests a more moderate accommodation option. For some reason, that didn’t filter down to the F&B options, because they’re frighteningly expensive.

Our AMEX stay didn’t come with complimentary breakfast, so we were given the option of buying it at check-in for S$35++, a price that would increase to S$40++ if you decided to walk-in the next day.

That’d still be alright for a full buffet, but at the Outpost this only got you one item from the menu below, as well as a continental breakfast selection of pastries, toast, cereal and juice.

I love smashed avocado as much as the next millennial, but paying S$35++ for a banana and yogurt smoothie or glorified salad just seemed like poor value. I mean, these prices would make Common Man Coffee Roasters blush. Other reviewers have noted as much.

Breakfast is located at at V:U (view, geddit?) on the 7th floor, which we didn’t visit because we walked to Bread Talk at RWS instead. Here’s the architect’s render, if you’re interested. 

The in-room dining prices weren’t much better. If you wanted breakfast in your room, you could pay as much as S$43++ for an American Breakfast set, or S$22 for plain congee with condiments.

Outpost guests can dine at Native Kitchen at the Village Hotel, but it’s not like prices here were any lower.

Photo credit: Chris O Grady

Fancy paying S$18 for truffle fries, or S$22 for fried calamari? What about S$29 for chicken rice, or S$36 for chili crab linguine? S$40 for barramundi, or S$34 for laksa? Neither did we, so we headed elsewhere for all our meals.

Booking a stay

Assuming you didn’t get a free stay with the AMEX Platinum Charge, then prices at the Outpost Hotel start at S$310++ per night. I have seen discounted rates of S$250++ which can be attained by simply signing up as a Far East Hospitality member.

The hotel recently joined SLH, which means it may be possible to book it with Hyatt points at some point in the future.

Conclusion

The Outpost Hotel’s “adults-only” branding may not be a fair representation, and its F&B prices are on the eye-watering side, but it still made for a pleasant staycation, all things considered.

It’s close enough to the major Sentosa attractions to serve as a base for exploration, and when you come back to rest at night, you’ll have a very nice bathroom and comfortable bed waiting for you. The staff were eager to help, and I enjoyed small touches like the minibar. If nothing else, it’s certainly more affordable than most other non-chalet accommodations on Sentosa, while still giving the feel of a premium hotel.

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Anyone else stayed at the Outpost hotel so far? What do you think?


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Bayle Quek
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Bayle Quek

In between the SAF’s use of the place in the 1970s, and the STB’s use of it in the 2010s, this place was a Scripture Union campsite used by churches and schools for holiday camps. I’d know because I had my secondary 3 camp there. It definitely wasn’t well maintained then, but it at least it was occupied.

SL
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SL

Great detailed review Aaron – room size very small for the price to be honest.

PS You should buy your HansGrohe fittings for the showers in Europe. I saved a lot by doing this