Singapore celebrated a belated National Day this year, with the customary parade shifted to 21 August on account of COVID-19.
News of the postponement broke late in the evening on 22 July, and it’s safe to say it caught everyone off guard- even the hotels. As you probably already know, it’s standard practice for hotels (especially those with a view of the parade) to jack up their rates for 9 August. Bay-facing rooms can easily go for 3-4X their usual rate.
But the suddenness of the announcement created a golden window of opportunity. For a limited time, it was possible to book regular weekend rates on the revised NDP night at Marina Bay hotels, such as the Fullerton Bay, PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay and Mandarin Oriental.
A veritable feeding frenzy ensued, with the Milelion hive mind quickly determining the best deal was S$458 nett for a COLLECTION Marina Bay King room at the PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay.
This was basically the regular rate for any ordinary weekend, and included the following:
- Club Lounge access with daily breakfast for up to two persons per room per night, refreshments throughout the day and evening cocktails
- Flexible 25-hours stay from time of check-in
- Complimentary parking for one vehicle per room during the stay
- Special gift hamper upon check out
I snapped up a room within minutes, and by the following morning the price had gone up to S$1,300. So yes, it was a pretty fantastic deal, the likes of which we’ll probably never see again (barring another unexpected NDP date swap).
Matthew has previously reviewed the PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, but his experience was based on a Signature Marina Bay room. I received an upgrade to an Urban Suite, and want to share some thoughts on that as well as the overall “watching NDP from a hotel” experience.
One thing’s for sure: the dull and drab exterior of the PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay (henceforth referred to as PRMB) does absolutely no justice to the stunning renovation works within.
PRMB completed a S$45 million overhaul earlier this year, as part of its transformation from the erstwhile Marina Mandarin. Architects FDAT were tasked with retaining John Portman’s original neo-futuristic architecture, while bringing the rest of the hotel into the 21st century.
A tall order, but the results are stunning. A 13-metre high green wall at greets guests at the entrance, with 2,400 indoor pants, 60 varieties of flora, and 370 sqm of greenery throughout the soaring atrium.
Take the lift up to reception on the 4th floor, and it gets even better. Suspended above the inviting reception area is Orchidea, a sculpture dating back to 1986 which design evokes a windfall of coins dropping into cupped hands.
Scattered around the lobby are wooden bird’s nest pavilions, the largest one wrapped around Portman’s Bar, the hotel’s watering hole.
And what’s a bird cage without birds? PRMB could quite possibly be the only hotel with fauna on the premises (sorry Roachy, you don’t count).
A total of six songbirds inhabit the lobby, including China Thrushes, Common Shamas and Red Whisker Bulbuls. They fill the air with an aria of sound; no pre-recorded nature calls here.
Calm down PETA, the birds are well taken care of. An experienced birdkeeper known within the hotel as “Uncle Chia” owns and cares for the birds, bringing them in the morning and taking them home at 3 p.m. Birds are rotated daily so they get sufficient rest. Cages are mounted high enough above the ground so bratty kids (and adults) don’t get ideas.
I love the concept. Perhaps the next step would be to replace the alarm clocks in the room with an Asian Koel.
But the best views are reserved from on high. Look down into the foyer and you’ll see the four-storey high Skybridge, awash with greenery and warm lighting. It’s impossible to take a bad photo of this.
At night, the 3800K lights power down to 3100K, transforming the gardenscape from day to dusk to night. A light show performance, curated by Light Collab, takes place for two and a half minutes at 7, 8 and 9 p.m (though I’m not sure whether it’s been temporarily suspended to prevent people from gathering).
It’s all rather breathtaking, and I can confidently say that this is the most gorgeous hotel lobby I’ve seen on any of my travels so far, both home and abroad.
Check-in queues were surprisingly short, given the occasion. For future reference, there’s no separate priority queue for GHA Black members, and while those staying in COLLECTION club rooms can theoretically check-in at the lounge, it’s only accessible through a keycard-restricted door.
I was attended to after a 5-10 minute wait, and told I’d been given a one-category upgrade to an Urban Suite. The rate I booked also came with a special gift hamper, which turned out to be a tin of cookies and a bottle of white wine.
Which rooms have the best views?
Before I talk about my suite, let’s talk about views, because that’s why you’re paying so much in the first place (or would be, if not for the NDP switcheroo).
The view is a function of two factors:
- Floor (the first one or two digits of your room number)
- Stack (the last two digits of your room number)
Since the PRMB is not directly in front of the floating platform, the higher the floor the better. Lower floors may be blocked by the Mandarin Oriental, as you can sort of see in the image below.
Equally important, however, is the stack.
The hotel declined to provide a floorplan (which seems a bit silly, given that it’s plastered on the back of every room door), but thankfully Matthew had a photo handy. I’ve added the stack number for all the rooms facing Marina Bay.
In general, the higher the number, the better the view.
For instance, I was in -29 &-30, two rooms merged into one to form a suite. While the additional space is lovely, it’s not the best view PRMB has to offer. Here’s the view from the balcony- notice how Mandarin Oriental gets in the way.
Now here’s the view from a -33 stack, further down the hall (not all photos are taken from the same floor, so keep that in mind when comparing). Notice how more of the stage comes into view.
-34 is even better…
-38 is excellent…
And –41 seems equally good, although this photo was taken with a wide angle and it’s hard to tell with the distortion.
So tl;dr: high floor, mid-30s stack onwards will give you the best views of the floating platform.
That’s not to say -29/-30 is a bust. While it may not be the best seat in the house, I could still see the jumbotron and hear the music. I saw the Apaches roar past the balcony, felt the vibration of their rotors, witnessed the fly pass and saw the Red Lions all the way up to their final approach.
And of course, I could see the fireworks too.
All things considered, I was still very satisfied with the view from my suite.
Now let’s talk about the suite itself. As a reminder, here’s how the 583 rooms and suites at PRMB are categorised:
|Room Type||Size||No. of Rooms|
|Urban Room||31-33 sqm||227|
|Lifestyle Room||33-35 sqm||182|
|Signature Marina Bay Room||31-33 sqm||88|
|Family Room||63-66 sqm*||4|
|COLLECTION Room||31-33 sqm||38|
|COLLECTION Marina Bay Room||31-33 sqm||22|
|Urban Suite||63-66 sqm||12|
|Lifestyle Suite||66-70 sqm||3|
|Signature Marina Bay Suite||63-66 sqm||6|
|PARKROYAL COLLECTION Suite||199 sqm||1|
|*Family Room = two connecting rooms|
Urban Suites are basically two Urban rooms merged into one, spanning across the -29 and -30 stacks.
You can enter through either entrance (the same keycard works for -29 and -30), but let’s start with -30 because that’s where the living room is.
Having visited the PRMB’s sister property at Pickering, the first thing that struck me was how different an approach they’d taken here. While the Pickering opts for a minimalist, light wood aesthetic that mimics the vibe of a Japanese ryokan, the PRMB goes with dark wall panels, metal flourishes and marble table tops.
The living room provides an excellent space for hosting, thanks to the large sofa and dining area.
To celebrate NDP, all guests received a white and milk chocolate Merlion, plus a box of pralines with Singapore flags and colors.
The suite had LG TVs in both the living and bedroom area, with the former one significantly larger. I’d hazard a guess that it was 70 inches, compared to 55 inches in the bedroom. It’s mounted on a flexible swivel that allowed you to access the rear HDMI ports easily, and also supported Chromecast for easy streaming.
Unfortunately, the TV clonked out at the most inopportune time. As the start of the parade drew near, both CNA and Channel 5 stopped working (I texted a few other people at the hotel and they confirmed a similar problem).
The hotel staff tried to reset the signal box but it still didn’t work, and by the time we set up meWATCH to stream to the TV the first 20 minutes were over.
On an unrelated note, I wondered if the TV knew something I didn’t.
Elsewhere in the living room was a mini-bar area with coffee and tea making facilities. Tucked inside the cabinet were glassware and a small fridge.
TWG tea and a Nespresso coffee were provided. Note that the machine uses Nespresso Pro pods instead of the consumer-style capsules, a measure hotels take to dissuade guests from bringing them home.
You won’t find plastic bottled water at the PRMB, but two glass bottles with rubber stoppers came pre-filled with filtered water. Top ups could be done from a special tap in the bathroom.
The room’s hygiene kit was placed here too, comprising of a couple of antiseptic wipes, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pair of masks.
The mini-fridge had been emptied out so you could store your own items inside. Removing the top rack created space for a full-sized champagne or wine bottle.
The door to the bedroom was next to the mini-bar area, and here’s where you see how they’ve melded two regular rooms together.
The bedroom inherited a similar colour theme as the living area, unsurprising because it’s meant to be a mirror image anyway.
The King-sized bed scored top marks on the sleep test, with firm support and silky smooth sheets. There hotel doesn’t have a pillow menu, however, so what you see is what you get.
Each bedside had a small, irregular-shaped ledge built into the wall, as well as a reading light.
Both sides also had a universal power outlet and USB port. Air conditioning controls could be found here too.
As part of the hotel’s eco-friendly credentials, guestrooms employ motion sensors to disable certain features whenever it believes the room is empty. I can’t say I’m a fan, insofar as it affects the air conditioning. What invariably happens is that you set the temperature and drift off to sleep, only to wake up later in a stuffy room since the air conditioning has switched off.
I eventually figured a workaround was to disable the “auto” mode in the thermostat, lower the temperature and crank the fan speed up to high. This ironically ended up using even more energy than had the system just allowed me to keep my default comfort settings the whole time.
I also noticed a couple of cosmetic defects around the bedside area, none of which really mattered in the grand scheme of things, but surprising to see for such a new hotel.
Although some say it’s best practice to keep your work and rest areas separate, the work desk is nonetheless located in the bedroom area. Two interlocking, perpendicular tables with wooden tops and gold trim finishings afford plenty of space for all your productivity needs.
I feel the chair deserves a special mention too, because it’s an exceptionally comfortable Herman Miller Mirra 2. I loved this so much I spent more time working in the room than in the living room or hotel lounge.
In what seems to be a strange oversight, the desk didn’t have any built-in power outlets or USB ports. Instead, you had to reach under and use the single (non-universal) outlet for your devices. The other outlet was already used for the phone.
The passageway leading to the toilet had a luggage storage area and wardrobe on the right.
The wardrobe boasted a handsome burnt orange interior, with more than enough space to store clothes for a staycation.
Suites guests enjoy the use of a Dyson hairdryer, a rare sight even in much more expensive properties. Given the value, I’m honestly surprised they didn’t lock this to the wall like at the ANA lounge in Haneda.
It’s the bathrooms where the Urban Suite (and PRMB in general) stumbles. For all the modernisation done to the room, there’s been curiously little refurbishment in the bathroom from its Marina Mandarin days.
On the one hand, PRMB has clearly done up the vanity area. A dark modern marble counter top has been installed, with the dual vanity removed in favor of a tap that dispenses filtered drinking water.
On the other, the rest of the toilet is stuck in the past. The tiles look dated, and represent a major stylistic clash with the vanity area. It doesn’t help that the lighting away from the vanity area is poor, as seen from this bathtub photo.
While I appreciate the installation of a manual bidet seat, it makes it all the more curious they retained the European-style bidet next to it. It stood out like a sore thumb compared to the modernity of the rest of the room.
The insufficient lighting issue also affects the shower area, making it not particularly inviting. Both a hand and rain shower are available, and water pressure was average.
It’s the same story in the guest bathroom: nice vanity area, rather disappointing everything else.
Toiletries are from Australian skincare brand METIS, which has become the standard brand at PARKROYAL COLLECTION properties.
Disappointing bathrooms aside, the rest of the Urban Suite really won me over. It’s spacious and can comfortable host five people (possibly even eight, once regulations permit). The design style is a refreshing update from Marina Mandarin days, and it’s got delightful high-end touches like the Herman Miller chair and Dyson hairdryer.
A very good upgrade to look forward to as a GHA Black.
Odds and Ends
As mentioned at the start, Matthew has already done a detailed review on other aspects of the hotel like the pool, gym and dining options.
I’m just going to discuss the things that stood out for me.
PRMB Club Lounge
The PRMB’s club lounge is on the fifth floor, just next to the swimming pool. It’s a beautiful space to hang out, with tasteful furnishing and natural light streaming in from all angles.
I’m not entirely clear on what kids policy is. The website states that the lounge is reserved for guests above the age of 12, and COLLECTION Club guests accompanied by children below the age of 12 may enjoy daily breakfast at Peppermint restaurant and light snacks/evening cocktails at the Atrium Lounge on level four.
However, I did see quite a few children in the lounge during my visit- perhaps they eased the policy for National Day on account of how many families were at the hotel.
Afternoon tea was somewhat underwhelming. While it’s normally served in a pretty birdcage set, they must have ran out because I received mine on regular plates. None of the items were memorable anyway, and I wouldn’t have felt bad to miss this altogether.
Evening cocktails, on the other hand, were excellent. To mark NDP, the hotel put together a special assortment of Singapore-themed canapes, like chili crab cakes (sublime) and durian puffs (I can take it or leave it).
Since cocktail hour clashed with the parade, I requested the items be sent to the room instead and they gladly obliged.
While regular guests will take breakfast at Peppermint (staff-served buffet), COLLECTION guests enjoy a made-to-order menu at the club lounge.
Having reviewed more than two dozen local hotels since the end of the circuit breaker, I can count on one hand the number which impressed me with their breakfast offerings (Kempinski, Raffles, InterContinental, Conrad, Shangri-La Valley Wing, Grand Hyatt- OK fine, one hand plus an extra digit).
PRMB may not be breaking into the “best of” list, but can clearly hold its own.
Having been sorely disappointed by the breakfast at other PPHG properties (namely Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL COLLECTION Pickering), I didn’t have high hopes for the PRMB. And yet I was surprised by the quality of the food on offer.
I can’t recommend the prata highly enough. The menu isn’t exaggerating when it calls it “crispy prata”; it flaked and cracked into a hundred delicious pieces the moment you chewed.
Even basic simple items were executed well, whether it was smoked salmon with capers…
…or an updated take on a fry up with sous vide eggs, crispy hash browns, a serving of grilled vegetables and a gourmet pork sausage. When most hotels serve sausage, it’s a gristly piece of mystery meat. PRMB’s could have given Kempinski a run for the money.
Matthew’s previous review warned about the dim sum, but I found that it didn’t just go through the motion. The har gow had large chunks of prawn inside, and the siew mai was seasoned nicely. It’s not Summer Palace stuff for sure, but it was very good for “hotel breakfast dim sum”.
Even rice noodle soup with shrimp dumplings, something that sounds very bland on paper, left a positive impression.
So I can’t vouch for the breakfast at Peppermint, but I can say the lounge serves up very good quality stuff.
Service was good at the start, but deteriorated as the lounge got more and more crowded. Orders were delayed (the couple next to us waited almost 40 minutes for food) or forgotten (we requested the chicken patty three times and they never showed up), and they could certainly stand to staff up more during crunch time.
The PRMB’s 25-metre swimming pool is filled with mineral water, supposedly less harsh on the skin compared to normal pool water. The depth has also been reduced from 2.5m during Marina Mandarin days to 1.2m now, making it more suitable for younger children. At night, 1,380 fibre optic lights buried into the bottom illuminate to create a galaxy effect.
The astroturfed lawn area around the pool affords many opportunities to recline and read a book or sip a cocktail,
The gym was practically deserted the whole time I was there, with the exception of early morning and early evening where a handful of people were working out.
While I wish they’d gone the whole hog and redone the bathrooms, the new-and-improved PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay still has a lot going for it. Obviously your experience will differ depending on what kind of room you book and whether you score an upgrade, though for what it’s worth I’d rate the PRMB as better value for money than its Pickering cousin.
Scoring a Marina Bay facing club room for NDP at S$458 has to go down as one of the best deals I’ve ever seen, and it was great to run into so many Milelion readers at the hotel. Hope you all had a fun time with your families, who are probably bugging you to take them back again next year.
You did it before.
You’ll do it again.