Review: Marina Bay Sands Staycation

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MBS's infinity pool is a showstopper, but worn-out rooms, cleanliness issues, and a dire breakfast spread make your staycation a gamble.

Built at an eye-watering cost of S$8 billion (making it the most expensive building in the world at the time) and opened in 2010, Marina Bay Sands has for better or worse become one of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks. 

The brainchild of Moshe Safdie (he of Changi Jewel fame), it’s a place that dabbles in superlatives- 6 hectares large, 200 meters tall, 55 floors, 2,561 rooms and suites, and a rooftop park that’s longer than the Eiffel Tower and large enough to park four and a half A380s. 

Is it successful? Yes, yes it is. In 2018, it generated more than US$2 billion in gaming revenues and a further US$393 million in rooms. A report from Deloitte cites that the hotel has historically enjoyed an occupancy rate of 99%. Instagram is chock full of carefully-curated infinity pool shots courtesy of sweet young things in swimsuits with hundreds of thousands of followers. 

I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers. But I do rock a good swimsuit. It was time to make my first-ever pilgrimage to Marina Bay Sands. 

📋 In This Review
🏨 Other Staycation Reviews
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport | Conrad Singapore | Hotel 81 Tristar | Hotel Soloha | Mandarin Orchard | Outpost Hotel | Raffles Hotel | The Capitol Kempinski | The Barracks Hotel | The Fullerton Hotel | W Hotel Sentosa Cove | YOTELAIR Changi Airport

Booking a Marina Bay Sands Staycation

Ever since Phase 2 staycations resumed, Marina Bay Sands has been offering a “Sands Staycation” package for S$339++ per night (S$399 nett). This is S$50 cheaper than the previous offer available before the Circuit Breaker, but they’ve removed the complimentary breakfast. 

🏨 Sands Staycation (S$399 nett)
  • 1 night in Deluxe Room
  • Automatic upgrade to Premier Room upon reservation
  • $50 Sands Rewards credits
  • Free valet parking/self-parking (1 car per room per 24 hours)
  • 12 p.m check-in (subject to availability)
  • Complimentary entry to Sands SkyPark Observation Deck & Infinity Pool
  • 15% off ArtScience Museum tickets
  • 10% off single treatments and 15% off couple treatments at Banyan Tree Spa till 31 Dec 2020
Book By 29 Sep 2020
Stay By 23 Dec 2020
Cancellation Policy 48 hours before arrival
Link

If you’re willing to stay for two nights, however, you could get a slightly lower nightly rate with the “Stay Longer, Save More” package. This also comes with $60 in Sands Rewards credits per night (versus $50 with the Sands Staycation package). 

🏨 Stay Longer, Save More
(S$704 nett for 2 nights)
  • 2 nights in Deluxe Room
  • Automatic upgrade to Premier Room upon reservation
  • $60 Sands Rewards credits per night
  • Free valet parking/self-parking (1 car per room per 24 hours)
  • 12 p.m check-in (subject to availability)
  • Complimentary entry to Sands SkyPark Observation Deck & Infinity Pool
  • 15% off ArtScience Museum tickets
  • 10% off single treatments and 15% off couple treatments at Banyan Tree Spa till 31 Dec 2020
Book By 29 Sep 2020
Stay By 23 Dec 2020
Cancellation Policy 48 hours before arrival
Link

Finally, the casino at MBS often comps rooms to members of its Players Club, and many of these end up on Carousell. Be warned though: these rooms won’t come with any additional staycation inclusions, and you always run the risk of being swindled. Moreover, my understanding is that these free rooms technically aren’t transferable, so what happens is the seller checks in under his/her name and physically passes you the key.

Given all that’s happening with COVID-19 and contact tracing requirements, that doesn’t sound kosher to me. 

Marina Bay Sands Singapore: Pre-arrival

3 days before my staycation, I received an email from MBS with a pre-arrival form.

This asked for some basic information like arrival time, date of birth, and passport number. Complete it if you want, but I highly doubt it does anything to expedite your check-in process (there’s no special line for those who filled out the form beforehand). 

Unlike some of the other hotels I’ve stayed at so far, MBS’s pre-arrival form doesn’t capture anything about guest preferences. Don’t expect to be asked about activities of interest or dining reservations, much less pillow menus or still/sparkling water preferences. This is perhaps the first indication that you really shouldn’t expect personalized attention at a place like MBS. 

But the most crucial thing about this pre-arrival form is that it prompts you to reserve a slot at the infinity pool. MBS knows its pool is the major draw, so much so that it allows you to cancel your booking without penalty if you’re unable to secure a pool session beforehand. 

Keep in mind that policy only applies if you’re not able to reserve any slot at all. Marina Bay Sand’s pool is open from 6.30 a.m till midnight, and if there’s even one slot available, that still counts. 

Each guest at MBS is entitled to a one-hour pool slot per day (i.e two slots over a one night stay). I’ll talk more about the pool in the facilities section, but I want to first air some grievances about the booking system itself.  

To book a pool slot, you navigate to a dedicated website and select a timing.

Now in theory, your pool slot can only be reserved once you hold a confirmed hotel booking, because the system requests for a 7-digit hotel confirmation number. In reality, however, there’s no input validation of the hotel confirmation number field, which means you could simply enter any random 7-digit sequence. 

That’s just really poor system design, and leaves it vulnerable to mischief or human error. It’s not hard to imagine a troll writing a script that automatically generates random hotel confirmation and mobile numbers to make all the slots disappear. 

It’s also not hard to imagine someone making an innocuous typo in the mobile number field, and not receiving his/her confirmation SMS (which is needed to access the pool). If this happens, you’re in trouble because the system won’t let you go back and make another booking (at least not with your “proper” hotel confirmation number)- it’ll think you’re trying to make more than one booking for the same day, and reject you outright. 

A much better system would:

  • Begin by asking the guest to provide a mobile number, to which an OTP will be sent (this confirms that the guest has entered his/her correct mobile number)
  • Once the mobile number is confirmed, the guest can then proceed to book a time slot, provided the system confirms that his/her reservation number actually exists
  • Upon completion, the guest receives a pool session ID via SMS, which can be used to modify/cancel the booking online

To make matters worse, the system can also be buggy. I made two bookings, one on 9 September (day of check-in), and one on 10 September (day of check-out). Both bookings went through successfully online, but I only got a confirmation SMS for the 10 September slot.

When I tried to redo my booking for 9 September, I received an error message saying that I was already holding a booking for this date. OK then, I told myself. The lack of an SMS shouldn’t be a problem if it’s already in the system.

Not so. On the day of arrival I was told that the confirmation SMS with the pool session ID was required, and that there was no record of my 9 September pool booking. It was gently suggested that maybe I simply forgot to make a reservation, and perhaps I’d be willing to take a 8-9 p.m or 11 p.m to midnight slot? 

To say I got annoyed by this was an understatement, especially since I deliberately booked 6.30-7.30 p.m just to catch the sunset. Fortunately, I remember that I took a screenshot of the confirmation message on the website, which allowed me to prove I wasn’t pulling a fast one on them. 

 

The gym doesn’t need to be pre-booked (in fact, it can’t). Instead, you’ll send an SMS to a designated mobile number to request a queue number, and show your phone to the gym reception when it’s your turn.

Again, this system suffers from the same flaw- there’s no request for a hotel confirmation number, so anyone could spam the system with frivolous queue requests (hence I’ve redacted the number).

Marina Bay Sands Singapore: Arrival and Check-in

Marina Bay Sands is pretty much an unofficial national monument by now, so I shouldn’t need to tell you how to get there. 

MBS driveway
MBS driveway

There are actually two drop-off points for the hotel, but most Grab drivers will default to the larger one near Tower 1 (you anyways won’t know which tower you’re staying in until you arrive). If you’re driving, this is also the drop-off point for valet parking. 

We arrived around 10.15 a.m on a Wednesday. I had thought myself to be very clever by choosing a mid-week slot, thinking this would guarantee no crowds and abundant pool access. So naturally, I ended up booking a date right smack in the middle of the September school holidays. Ah, hubris. 

MBS driveway
MBS driveway
MBS driveway
MBS driveway

After the usual SafeEntry registration and temperature screening, we entered the hotel lobby, and as you’d expect, it’s out to impress. I mean, it’s a monument to Mammon of course, but what a monument. 

MBS lobby
MBS lobby

The ceiling stretches all the way up to the 22nd floor, narrowing ever so slightly as it goes higher, and reflecting the distinctive curve of the building.  Fun fact, the slope of Tower 1 measures 26 degrees, a figure chosen not for architectural soundness, but because the individual digits add up to 8, a lucky number in Chinese culture. 

MBS Lobby
MBS Lobby

The lobby itself serves as a pedestrian network, running perhaps 400 metres from one end to the other. There are restaurants, luxury boutiques and gift shops spanning the stretch, allowing you to pick up anything from an overpriced tchotchke to a Richard Mille watch (“what’s the difference?” some wiseguy will no doubt say). 

Check-in area near Tower 3
Check-in area
Check-in area near Tower 1
Check-in area
Check-in area near Tower 1

There are two check-in areas in the lobby- one near Tower 1, and the other at Tower 3.

The check-in queues at Tower 1 weren’t that long yet (they got much longer about an hour later), but by virtue of my Sands Rewards Lifestyle Elite membership (which you can get for free through an ICBC/UnionPay card), we were able to check-in at the Sands Lounge. 

Sands Lounge entrance
Sands Lounge entrance

Now, before you get excited, this isn’t the hotel’s club lounge (that’s Club55). The Sands Lounge is a small facility near the Tower 1 reception that’s reserved for Paiza, Club Room and Suites guests. Sands Rewards Lifestyle members aren’t explicitly mentioned on the masthead, but access is a publicized benefit for the Elite tier. 

Sands Lounge entrance
Sands Lounge entrance

Despite ostensibly being an area for “premium” guests, the reception here was decidedly frosty. There’s no one greeting guests upon arrival, and instead, you take a ticket from a machine and wait for your number to flash on the screen. In retrospect, though, it was a perfect microcosm of the MBS experience- unless you’re a high roller or some sort of VVIP, you really feel like just another number to them. 

Sands Lounge check-in
Sands Lounge check-in

The Sands Lounge can accommodate 12 or so people, and although it’s not meant for prolonged stays, there’s a mini-fridge with soft drinks and bottled water, as well as a coffee machine (it would have been nice if guests were proactively offered a drink upon arrival). 

Sands Lounge check-in
Sands Lounge check-in
Sands Lounge check-in
Sands Lounge check-in

There was no one ahead of us in the queue, so an associate in the far corner raised her hand and called us over from across the room. 

With the exception of my complication with the pool booking (see previous section), check-in went smoothly. Sands Rewards Elite members are supposed to receive the following benefits when staying at MBS (subject to availability): 

  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • Early check-in
  • Late check-out

We did manage to secure an early check-in for our room (~10.30 a.m), but I can’t be sure whether that was because of my Sands Rewards membership, or just a happy coincidence. What I do know for sure is beyond that, there were no other perks. We got exactly the same room we booked (Premier King, albeit with a “view upgrade” to a higher floor), and I was asked to check-out at 11 a.m. 

When I mentioned that I had a pool booking the following morning from 11 a.m to 12 p.m, I was offered 12 p.m check-out instead. I had visions of walking through the lobby in my trunks just to make a point, but eventually a 1 p.m departure was secured. Long story short: Don’t expect much in the way of benefits or upgrades as a Sands Rewards Lifestyle Elite member. 

⚠️ Don’t forget your Sands Rewards dollars!

Most staycation packages will come with some F&B credit in the form of Sand Rewards dollars. This isn’t automatically processed at check-in; you’ll need to visit a Sands Rewards counter to claim it. There’s one just next to the concierge in the lobby.

We’d been assigned a room in Tower 2, so it was a brief walk down the lobby to the elevators in middle section. 

En route, we passed the VIP check-in, which ironically had longer queues than the general check-in area. It reminded me of that one time when I passed through immigration in Mumbai and the Business Class queue was longer than the general queue, yet eligible passengers were still gravitating to the “special” queue. There’s some social commentary in that, I’m sure. 

VIP check-in area
VIP check-in area

Seriously though, if these were VIP guests, I wondered why they (especially the old folks) weren’t just escorted to the Sands Lounge instead. It’d be much more comfortable for them there. 

Each lift lobby has staff standing guard, ostensibly to ensure that only keycard-holding guests use the lifts, but also as social distancing ambassadors. 

Tower 2 entrance
Tower 2 entrance

Marina Bay Sands Singapore: Premier Room

Marina Bay Sands has an astounding 2,561 rooms and suites, making it the largest hotel in Singapore by a long stretch. There are 152 suites, 132 Club and 59 Grand Club rooms, split across three towers (with a fourth one coming).

As you might expect, there’s a veritable potpourri of room types, but the vast majority of guests will be housed in Deluxe or Premier rooms. 

Room Type Size
Deluxe Room 30 sqm
Premier Room 42 sqm
Family Room 62 sqm
Club Room 44 sqm
Grand Club Room 62 sqm
Orchid Suite 71 sqm
Sands Suite 136 sqm
Bay Suite 101 sqm
Harbour Suite 71 sqm
Marina Suite 139 sqm
Skyline Suite 246 sqm
Merlion Suite 387 sqm
Straits Suite 330 sqm
Presidential Suite 509 sqm
Chairman Suite 600 sqm

My staycation booking was for a Premier Room, room 3864 in Tower 2.

Room 3864
Room 3864

The room is…pretty underwhelming, for the price you pay. At 42 sqm the Premier Rooms are slightly larger than your average hotel room, but visually speaking it’s practically identical. 

MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room

The interior decor isn’t the most modern out there, with a heavy reliance on wood and grey tones. In fact, this room really had a thing for wood- wooden TV consoles, wooden bedside tables, even a little wood archway over the lounge chair area. 

MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room
MBS Premier Room

Below the TV is a work desk cum vanity area, with a comfortable chair, two universal power sockets, and a HDMI input. 

MBS Premier Room- work desk
MBS Premier Room- work desk
MBS Premier Room- work desk ports
MBS Premier Room- work desk ports

I ran the usual Wi-Fi test here, and thought that with so many rooms, the hotel would invest in a blazing fast connection (like the Mandarin Orchard). Surprisingly, speeds were only average compared to other hotels I’ve reviewed so far. It’s certainly fast enough for HD video streaming and most other applications, though. 

  🔽 Download 🔼 Upload
Mandarin Orchard 273 Mbps 294 Mbps
YOTELAir Changi 29 Mbps 49 Mbps
W Sentosa Cove 34 Mbps 34 Mbps
The Fullerton Hotel 23 Mbps 24 Mbps
The Capitol Kempinski Hotel 16 Mbps 13 Mbps
Marina Bay Sands 11 Mbps 11 Mbps
The Barracks Hotel 7.3 Mbps 7.7 Mbps
Hotel 81 Tristar 7.0 Mbps 6.8 Mbps
Raffles Hotel 6.9 Mbps 6.8 Mbps
Hotel Soloha 4.7 Mbps 5.1 Mbps
Internet speeds based on Speedtest.net scores as recorded during my own visits 

Beneath the desk was a mini-bar, with all items complimentary for guests. The fridge had two cans of soft drinks, two bottles of juice and two water bottles inside. Chips, mixed nuts, instant coffee and tea were in a separate drawer. 

MBS Premier Room- Mini-bar
MBS Premier Room- Mini-bar
MBS Premier Room- Mini-bar
MBS Premier Room- Mini-bar

Thankfully, they offer real coffee too. A Nespresso machine and four capsules were on the table top. 

MBS Premier Room- Coffee machine
MBS Premier Room- Coffee machine

The TVs here are 42 inch (tiny by modern standards), and they don’t perform very well when there’s direct sunlight coming into the room (note the reflection). Picture quality is grainy, and there’s no option to stream the contents of your phone. 

MBS Premier Room- TV
MBS Premier Room- TV
MBS Premier Room- TV
MBS Premier Room- TV (note the reflections)

Both bedside tables had identical universal power outlets and 2x USB charging ports built into the tabletop, but unfortunately, only the USB ports on one side worked (see section on wear & tear). 

MBS Premier Room- bedside table
MBS Premier Room- bedside table
MBS Premier Room- bedside charging
MBS Premier Room- bedside charging

Inside the cupboard was a safe and ironing board. The bathrobes have been temporarily relocated to the bathroom, secured in individual plastic wrappers. 

MBS Premier Room- Wardrobe
MBS Premier Room- Wardrobe

The Premier Room has a balcony which boasts great views of the neighboring Gardens by the Bay.

View from Premier Room
View from Premier Room

The problem is, it almost seems like the architect started building the balcony, then changed his mind halfway. It’s extremely narrow, and there isn’t enough space for a chair, much less a table. As nice as it’d be to sit here in the evening with a glass of wine and watch the light show, that’s simply not an option. 

MBS Premier Room Balcony
MBS Premier Room Balcony

One perk of having 42 sqm to work with is that the bathroom is larger than usual, with a free-standing tub, his and her sinks, and luxurious looking grey marble countertops. The bathroom lacked any sort of entertainment system, however, so you’ll have to set up your own phone or laptop if you want to unwind with some music or movies. 

MBS Premier Room- Bathroom
MBS Premier Room- Bathroom
MBS Premier Room- Bathroom
MBS Premier Room- Bathroom
MBS Premier Room- Bathroom
MBS Premier Room- Bathroom

In addition to the tub, there was also a generously-sized shower area, with built-in bench. Unfortunately, there was only a wall-mounted shower head, and no hand shower at all. 

MBS Premier Room- shower
MBS Premier Room- shower

Another unfortunate design choice was the decision to omit a bidet from the toilet. I’m not even asking for a fancy TOTO seat; just a simple hose would have sufficed. For a hotel that’s supposed to cater to an international clientele (and has a separate check-in area at the lobby just for Japanese guests), this was almost unthinkable.

MBS Premier Room- toilet
MBS Premier Room- toilet

Bathroom amenities were by Roberto Cavalli, an Italian fashion house that isn’t particularly known for toiletries (that hasn’t stopped people from trying to flog them off on Carousell though). 

MBS Premier Room- Roberto Cavalli amenities
MBS Premier Room- Roberto Cavalli amenities
MBS Premier Room- Roberto Cavalli amenities

Marina Bay Sands: Room Wear and Tear + Cleanliness

Wear and Tear

Marina Bay Sands has just marked its 10th anniversary, and while there was some talk in 2016 about refurbishing the rooms, I highly doubt that mine was a beneficiary. The room I was assigned had clearly seen better days, and so numerous were the issues that I wanted to cave out a separate section to catalogue them. 

All around the room you’ll see reminders of its age, whether it’s chipped paint, peeling wallpaper or damage to the furniture or tarnished mirrors. 

MBS Premier Room- peeling paint
MBS Premier Room- peeling paint
MBS Premier Room- peeling paint
MBS Premier Room- peeling paint
MBS Premier Room- damaged furniture
MBS Premier Room- damaged furniture
MBS Premier Room- peeling wallpaper
MBS Premier Room- peeling wallpaper
MBS Premier Room- peeling wallpaper
MBS Premier Room- peeling wallpaper
MBS Premier Room- tarnished mirror
MBS Premier Room- tarnished mirror

It didn’t help that the hotel is in the habit of labeling switches with stickers, which over time peel, get discolored and trap dirt around the edges. 

Curtains switch
Curtains switch

The problems went beyond merely cosmetic, though, as both USB charging ports on one side of the bed were inoperable. 

Non-functional USB ports on bedside table
Non-functional USB ports on bedside table

Cleanliness

I think MBS does a good job of providing reassurance about the things you can see. There’s a prominent “this room has been cleaned” hanger on the door, the towels and remote control come wrapped in plastic, and they even give you a cute little hygiene kit with hand sanitizer, a mask case, and a “no-touch keychain” that you can use to press lift buttons or open doors. 

MBS hygiene initiatives
MBS hygiene initiatives
MBS hygiene initiatives
MBS hygiene initiatives
MBS hygiene initiatives
MBS hygiene initiatives

But it’s the things you can’t see that get me worried. I whipped out the trusty old blacklight, and here’s what I found lurking on the toilet walls. 

Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands

There were also strange stains on the lounge chair of an indeterminable origin. 

Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands
Blacklight test- Marina Bay Sands

The bedsheets and carpets were thankfully all clear, but the inside (and outside) of the mini-fridge was dirty. It seemed like the sort of thing that could have easily been cleaned with a simple wipe down. 

Dirt on inside of mini-bar
Dirt on inside of mini-bar
Stain on outside of mini-bar
Stain on outside of mini-bar

I flagged these issues to the hotel, and a spokesperson for MBS contacted me to reiterate the cleaning procedures the property currently has in place. That’s all good and well, but seeing that toilet didn’t particularly inspire me with confidence.

Note: I’m aware that some cleaning products can create false positives for blacklights, but the pattern and location of the stains makes me doubt that’s the case here.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore: Facilities

Pool Gym Spa
Yes: 6.30 a.m to 12.00 a.m
Yes: 7 a.m- 11 p.m
Yes: 10 a.m- 11 p.m (Sun-Thu)
10 a.m- 1 a.m (Fri-Sat)
Kids’ Club Business Centre Others
No No N/A

While I’m no fan of the room, it’s hard to argue with the facilities at Marina Bay Sands. Both the pool and gym are absolutely top notch, and the spa’s even having a 50% off promotion till 15 November 2020 (prices are still frightfully expensive though). 

Swimming Pool

Marina Bay Sands pool
Marina Bay Sands pool

Let’s be honest- this is why you’re really here. The infinity pool is truly a majestic thing to behold, and at 151 meters long, is the biggest rooftop pool in the world. With a capacity of 1.5 million litres, it packs more water than a man would need in 10 lifetimes. Superlatives, superlatives. 

Assuming you managed to secure a pool booking (see pre-arrival section for more information), then congratulations, you’re in for an amazing treat. 

🏊‍♂️ Marina Bay Sands Pool Timings (60 mins per day)
0630-0730 hours 1530-1630 hours
0800-0900 hours 1700-1800 hours
0930-1030 hours 1830-1930 hours
1100-1200 hours 2000-2100 hours
1230-1330 hours 2130-2230 hours
1400-1500 hours 2300-2359 hours

The pool is open from 6.30 a.m to midnight daily, and guests can book a maximum of one hour each day. I strongly recommend you book 6.30 p.m to 7.30 p.m, because you can watch the transition from day to night, and see the cityscape light up in real time. 

At the end of each slot, lifeguards blow whistles and everyone is cleared out for a 30 minute period to clean and sanitize the pool area (no, you can’t hold your breath underwater for 30 minutes, I checked).

👍 Protip: Cleaning is often finished ahead of schedule, and by showing up 15 minutes earlier, you might be let in early (and have the whole pool to yourself for some incredible photos)

Access control is tightly restricted, and with people pulling stunts like this to get in, rightfully so. Each guest must bring their own keycard for access, which you’ll tap at the gantry to get in. For some weird reason, your booking ID is not tied to your keycard- you’ll need to manually read this out to the staff at the gantry. 

First, a brief lay of the land. Due to social distancing restrictions, the infinity pool has been segmented into three sections, with crossing over between pools prohibited.

To enforce this rule, they’ve blocked off the crossings with a phalanx of pool chairs. 

OB markers
OB markers

You’ll be assigned to a pool based on the current capacity situation. Pool 1 is slightly smaller than the other two pools, and in my opinion Pool 2 has the best views, so try to get in that one if possible. 

Pool segmentation
Pool directions

From a strictly selfish point of view, Phase 2 is the best thing to ever happen to the Marina Bay Sands pool. While before it was jam packed all hours of the day, now there’s actually some semblance of capacity control. MBS is tight-lipped on the official capacity, but I counted 40 people in my segment, so perhaps 120 across all three pools per hour. 

MBS Infinity Pool pool chairs
MBS Infinity Pool pool chairs

Naturally, everyone springs for the chairs that are closest to the pool, but the situation is so benign now that they’ve even roped off the less desirable chairs on the upper deck. 

MBS Infinity Pool pool chairs
MBS Infinity Pool pool chairs

F&B is served poolside, but all orders must be placed within the first 30 minutes of your slot (presumably because there’d be no time to finish it otherwise). Expect to pay premium prices for food and drinks. 

Roll your eyes all you want at the people posting pool selfies on Instagram, but I guarantee you that once you’re here, you’ll follow suit. 

Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool
Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool

And the views, oh the views. You can see so much of Singapore from here, you almost expect the devil to appear with a Faustian pact. 

View from Infinity Pool
View from Infinity Pool
View from Infinity Pool
View from Infinity Pool

On a clear day you can see for miles in every direction, and night time views were equally breathtaking with the city lit up like a Christmas tree. 

View from Infinity Pool at night
View from Infinity Pool at night
View from Infinity Pool at night
View from Infinity Pool at night

It is, without a doubt, the most life-changing pool I’ve been to.

Gym

🏋️ Marina Bay Sands  Gym Timings
Note: There are no fixed time slots for the gym

The gym at Marina Bay Sands is run by Banyan Tree, and it’s one of the most impressive hotel gyms I’ve seen so far. Where else can you enjoy panoramic views of the Singapore skyline while feeling the burn?

Banyan Tree Fitness Club entrance
Banyan Tree Fitness Club entrance

You request a queue number via SMS, and when it’s your turn, you’ll be given a 15 minute window to show up at the counter. After that, you can have at the full range of equipment, including bench press, smith machine, free weights and Kinesis Technogym pulley wall. 

Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS
Banyan Tree Fitness Club at MBS

Marina Bay Sands Singapore: Breakfast

Served at Cost Style
RISE/ Spago Bar & Lounge S$45++ (Adult)
S$22++ (Child aged 12 and below)
A la carte buffet
Hours Sparkling Wine? Discounts?
0630- 1030 No None

Guests can choose to take breakfast at either RISE or Spago Bar & Lounge. I opted for the latter because I heard it was better, but all I can say is: if this is better, I’m not looking forward to seeing RISE. 

Spago Bar & Lounge entrance
Spago Bar & Lounge entrance
Spago Bar & Lounge
Spago Bar & Lounge
Spago Bar & Lounge
Spago Bar & Lounge

Now, I very much like Spago. We ate lunch there the previous day (see below) and it was hands down one of the best lunches I’ve ever had anywhere in Singapore. That makes the breakfast situation even more aggrieving, because it’s only serving to damage the Spago brand and all the hard work put in by the team for lunch and dinner. 

It’s not so much the lack of options. You have access to an a la carte buffet with unlimited portions of whatever you want. The problem is that the food does not in any way befit the name Spago. 

The dim sum selection (all pork has been replaced by chicken) tasted awful, like what you’d find in those food warmers at airline lounges. We had the siew mai and har kow, and in both cases the wrapper clung to the wax paper with an unrelenting dryness, while the filling tasted like gristle. 

Dim sum
Dim sum

The congee with salted egg, tofu and chicken floss looked weird and tasted weirder, and came with the youtiao already immersed in the bowl (bye bye crispiness). 

Chicken floss congee
Chicken floss congee

While pancakes are supposed to be a beneficiary of the traditional buffet line’s demise (ever tasted pancakes which sat under a heat lamp for too long?), the ones here reminded me of old times, and not in a good way. Dry and with the consistency of a hockey puck, all the maple syrup in the world couldn’t save them. 

Pancakes
Pancakes

I could write similarly scathing reviews for each of the other items- burnt (turkey) bacon, soggy hash browns, bland bee hoon, but you get the picture by now. This wasn’t good. It wasn’t even average. 

Eggs with turkey bacon and hash brown
Eggs with turkey bacon and hash brown
Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak
"Bento box" bee hoon with vegetable curry, fruit rojak and rice cake
“Bento box” bee hoon with vegetable curry, fruit rojak and rice cake

The only passable dish was a side of smoked salmon which came daintily plated with creme fraiche, red onion, chive and capers. I almost asked the salmon if it got lost somewhere, to end up in a lineup like this. 

Smoked salmon
Smoked salmon

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing was that the menu asked for an S$7++ upcharge for fresh orange juice. 

Orange juice- not the fresh one

I’m not here to discuss the economics of running a buffet breakfast (suffice to say that Kempinski’s breakfast was the same price, so much better, and they made you whatever fresh juice you wanted), but come on- either serve it or don’t. When you ask people to pay S$45++ for bad food and a further S$7++ for decent orange juice, it feels like extortion. 

All the food arrived in less than 5 minutes, and while that’s good for those in a rush, it also means that everything is pre-prepared. Now don’t get me wrong. When you’re feeding the 5,000, you can’t be doing a la minute cooking for everyone. But coming back to my original point: if you’re going for a production line “food is fuel” approach, why on earth would you want people to associate Spago with that? 

As I surveyed the mediocre offerings at the table besmirching the Spago name, all I could hear in my head was Vito Corleone saying “look how they massacred my boy.”

So, note to Wolfgang Puck: Please get someone to cover up all the Spago names during breakfast. You’ll thank me later. 

Other Dining Options

Marina Bay Sands has too many restaurants to do my usual Open/Closed list, suffice to say they’re almost all up and running. 

Spago

Spago
Spago

For all of the culinary atrocities committed at Spago during breakfast, lunch was simply incredible. For S$49++, you’ll enjoy a three course lunch, where each dish sings and every movement is pure poetry. 

Spago menu
Spago menu

What can I say that could possibly do justice to these Big Eye Tuna Tartare Cones, beautifully plated and dressed with an enticing mix of chili aioli, wasabi and slivers of shaved bonito? Each bite was beautiful. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch
Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch

The buratta cheese with confit kumquats even won over this avowed cheesephobic (who thinks cheese belongs on pizza and nowhere else). The pure, unadulterated taste of the cheese provided a mesmerizing canvas against which the crispy prosicutto, orange blossom honey and silician pistachios made art. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch
Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch

For the mains, I had a Miso Broiled Ora King Salmon, served with Japanese pickles and Hijiki seaweed rice. I’ll tell you my mum makes the best salmon in the whole world, but this ran a close second. Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and with little pearls of roe that burst in your mouth. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch
Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch

The Milelioness had the Grilled Iberico Pork Pressa. Now, I hold that the best rendition of Iberico pork in Singapore is at the W Sentosa’s SKIRT, but this was equally impressive. The accompanying caramalized fuji apples and shallot marmalade paired well with the perfectly medium pork. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch
Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch

Was dessert good? Do you even need to ask? It was a delightful play on strawberry cheesecake, done panna cotta style with fresh strawberries, strawberry sorbet, and ever-so-delightful crunches of cookie base. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch
Spago by Wolfgang Puck Set Lunch

At S$49++ per head, it’s not the cheapest set lunch you’ll ever have. But it was so good (plus, I used the S$50 F&B credit that came with my staycation package here) that I can’t wait to go again. 

Just not at breakfast. 

Marina Bay Sands Service

Marina Bay Sands concierge
Marina Bay Sands concierge

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you come to Marina Bay Sands expecting exceptional service, you’ll be sorely disappointed. 

It’s not that service was rude by any means- far from it. All interactions with the staff were either good or neutral. It’s just that you can’t expect anything resembling a personal touch at a hotel which is clearly designed with a conveyor belt philosophy.

Whether it’s check-in, or breakfast, or the pool, all processes here are single-mindedly focused on delivering the minimum acceptable experience to as many guests as possible, before churning over the next batch. It’s what you might call a “resort factory”, and if you’re staying in anything other than a club room or suite, you’ll never feel like more than just another guest. 

Conclusion

While the MBS pool is the stuff of legends, everything else about the stay was simply not worth the price. For S$400, you could easily get a room at the Capitol Kempinski or the Fullerton, both of which I assure you will provide a superior experience. 

Some of the shortcomings aren’t their fault. I mean, getting upset about the absence of personalized attention in a megahotel would be like getting mad at a cow for mooing. But others, like the worn-out rooms, cleanliness issues and getting nickle and dimed for orange juice at a subpar breakfast, are things you simply don’t expect for the price of entry. 

A stay at Marina Bay Sands is a gamble not worth taking. 

🏨 In Summary

While the infinity pool will give you special memories for years to come, the rest of the MBS staycation experience is mediocre at best. Tired rooms, cleanliness issues, and a truly awful breakfast make this a hard pass for me. 

Do say: It’s an integrated last resort

Don’t say: Always bet on black(light)

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Jerome

What are “sweet young things”?

Thomas

desserts that are tasty

Adam

Oh you innocent fellow.

Elly

I stayed in a Deluxe Room in March before the CB, as that was when they were gifting free nights and my mum got 2 nights. There was no bathtub, only tea and coffee were complimentary and the toiletries were some generic brand. No Nespresso either. Free, so no complaints but wondered who would have paid regular rate for a low-end 4-star experience. When it first opened in 2010, they offered TWG, which has been downgraded to Lipton now. Queue at the VIP area feels like queuing for Toto & 4D; quite a revealing insight into their actual VIP clientele… Read more »

Raymond Wee

“I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers. But I do rock a good swimsuit.”

Such a tease, where are your good swimsuit shots?

Raymond Wee

Got discount for loyal MileLion readers?

Jokes aside (or is it?), I do appreciate your very detailed reviews. This totally let me conclude that I should give MBS a miss.

Milehedgehog

Hahaha! A very good read

Dave

While your hotel reviews are getting better every time, they are still a painful reminder of the times we’re in. I like you so much better as Milelion than Staylion 🙂

Looking forward to FFP discussions rather than daily surveys about HDMI connections in random hotels like we currently have in telegram. Fingers crossed we are out of this soon.

Last edited 15 days ago by Dave
Thomas

What other hotels will you be reviewing next?

Renz

Wow.. the design of the Philips TV is easily more than 10years old lol

Daniel Lee

The state of the room in your pictures looks deplorable. I don’t think even a fantastic view will make up for it.

Marilyn

i went for a staycation a month back at MBS and completely agree with you.. minimal effort in terms of service and cutlery took 25mins to reach us. only saving grace was the infinity pool.

Marilyn

oh yes i managed to convert additional sands credits, i.e. 6% of room rate by emailing mbs after.

Alian

OMG my friend just checked in to 3864 today !!! I kid you not I was just there.

Anything he needs to be aware of? Hehe.

What a coincidence

Dione Pereira

My golly, u paid for a staycation but all u were there to do was look for everything negative that u could find and make yourself miserable. I think you need to chill a little, sit back and enjoy life a little, esp when u r supposed to be on ‘holiday’. Really pity the person on that staycation with u.

point

Dionne you clearly don’t understand the purpose of a review. This is his job, and I mean this in the best way: it’s literally his occupation. He may be on ‘staycation’ but he’s also at work and most readers appreciate his comprehensiveness and candor. FWIW, he’s spot-on about MBS. Cleanliness and hygiene is basic stuff and the breakfast food is obviously below hawker centre quality! In case you still can’t relate, it’d be like going to Morton’s and getting a McDonalds-level experience. Perhaps you could ‘chill sit back and enjoy’ that but I’m certain most other people wouldn’t. Snarky ‘pity’… Read more »

2dhh

you should be glad he does detailed reviews so people like us will know what to expect when we visit! it’s a very balanced review btw, not everything is negative

Ben

Well, Dione, not everyone is like you. Glad to know you could probably sleep in a manger and sit back and enjoy the positives! When I travel(ed), i always inspected my hotel rooms for signs of dirt and poor hygiene from cleaning. Unlike you (presumably?) I expect my accomodation to be as clean as my own home, which is for better or worse, extremely clean.

Jim

Thank You for such a detailed note. Besides that infinity pool MBS stay is not at all worth it. I will give it a miss.

Globetrekka

My take away from the whole MBS area is this – don’t eat at the fancy restaurants at dinner time.
The lunch sets are really good value

Mrk

Great review man! Most thorough i have ever seen and i have similar feelings about the place when walking through, its a tourist factory in a bad way.

Amit Talwar

Very well summarised.

I like the detailed review.

Thanks

Wilson

The balcony on the lower floors are larger, and may have tables and chairs. They shrink as the floors go upwards due to the curvature of the building. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

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