2021 was probably the craziest year in my adult life.
After a fantastical 1-nighter in the Ritz Carlton Millennia Club Room in January 2021, something snapped in me and I ended up embarking on what would be a staycayful year. The inability to travel + crazy staycay deals + my WFH arrangements was a temptation I couldn’t resist – If Not Now, Then When?
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I ended up spending 60 nights (that’s right, sixty) on hotel beds last year. I also ate my way through a smorgsboard of hotel breakfasts, Club Lounges and inhaled more than a couple of bubbles (heh). A consequence of that was the demise of my bank account as most of my stays are paid with cash – only 4 were free or redemption stays.
So I figured I’d pay homage to that and come up with a list of what stood out – for better or worse. Of course, opinions are always subjective and there’s quite a fair bit of heng-suay when it comes to getting a good experience, but for what it’s worth, these are my random rankings based on personal experiences.
[Click on the hyperlink in each heading’s property name to read the review post]
MOST LIVED UP TO REPUTATION – Raffles Hotel
This one was a clear winner. COVID gave me the chance to experience this grand one dame and although I wouldn’t pay its pre-COVID prices, I can finally understand why some would. The property very well deserves its stately reputation with its impossibly classy hardware – you do truly feel exclusive as a resident (that’s how the property calls in-house guests). Service was mostly great, and at times if its not, excellent recovery. Liked it so much I booked a return stay soon after my check out!
MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISED – Four Seasons Singapore
I wasn’t actively looking at the brand but booked only because Hotelux was offering a decent deal with dining credits. But I was blown away by the super modern + cosy room (I wanted to nua in it all day long!) and genuinely warm service. It helped that in-room dining prices were decent and breakfast was of high quality. I have been a brand convert ever since and I am waiting for the day they have their own loyalty programme.
MOST VALUE FOR MONEY – Valley Wing, Shangri-la Singapore
Okay, “value for money” means different things for different folks but for me, being able to chug bubbles ALL DAY LONG is the only factor that matters. Apart from Ritz Carlton Millennia Singapore, Valley Wing is the only other property that serves up your alcoholic desires all day long. At the current price point topped off with not having restrictions on young children in tow, I can see why families of adults who like to drink finds this a dream staycay place. Being able to experience that at only $220nett a night courtesy of Citi Prestige including lunch, dinner, breakfast was unbeatable value.
MOST EXPENSIVE – Capella Hotel Singapore
At $736++ ($867nett) a night, this is still by far my most extravagant one-nighter ever. Even though it included breakfast, afternoon tea of sorts, coffee tea all day, and 3-course dinner for 2pax (booked through Hotelux), it is still an eye watering amount to cough up. My pain was thankfully slightly muted by the triple upgrade to a Capella Suite, the super late check out of 7:30pm, and stellar service. But wah, still very expensive.
MOST LOW COST – Kesa House
I’m not sure if cheap is a derogatory term but hey $98 is a really cheap deal la! Of course it was just a room-only stay and the room is a super cosy 13SqM, but the boutique stay was a refreshing change and allowed me to explore the quaint neighourhood of Keong Saik at a leisurely pace. I didn’t quite like the room so much especially with the non-existent soundproofing (HELLO NEIGHBOURS CAN U HEAR ME) but at absolute cost, this wins.
MOST ENJOYABLE – Oasia Sentosa Resort
I really really enjoyed this 2-nighter! I have to admit being in Sentosa has a very different kind of vibe versus a city hotel, especially in a new hotel. The room was fantastical and I was able to spread out the 2x massages, balm workshop and fitness activities throughout the 3 days so that I never felt rushed nor bored. Using the most of my $100 dining credit stacked with in-house 20% for lunches, I was suitably occupied for most of my stay. And Origins’ breakfast nasi lemak is on par with Raffles’!
MOST DISAPPOINTING – Dusit Thani Laguna
I was so looking forward to this and walked away so disappointing. A wait for the room led into getting a dirty room with wonky powerpoints and it just got worse as the day went by. Getting a replacement cum reasonably functioning room at 5:00pm was an experience I want to forget. Sure, the public places are pretty enough to dine at but I just cannot recommend anyone to stay there after my experience. Having high expectations definitely further enlarged the negatives of the stay and therefore the biggest disappointment too.
MOST CRAPPY EXPERIENCE – Orchard Hotel
To be fair, crappy in this context meant falling suddenly sick in the middle of the night – nothing beats that in terms of suay-ness. But also, changing my room type prior to my stay without informing me already got me off on a bad start as I had booked the specific room type being the only refurbished one in the property. And so the night didn’t end well obviously as mentioned in my review. An experience I never want to have ever again.
I hate, hate, HATE, dirty hotel rooms. Why do I have to pay to sleep in a dirty room?! Slacking housekeeping and dire lack of maintenance were sorely glaring in both the above-mentioned properties – I had to force myself to stay overnight in Pan Pacific Serviced Suites (at least the bed was clean), and simply cannot un-see the ultra dirty fridge in the Mint Hotel (at least the room change cum upgrade was nice). I do not like hotels getting away with things like this especially during a pandemic and I hope my blog and TA reviews can help prevent the same for a fellow staycationer.
MOST OVERRATED – Fullerton Bay Hotel
This was one of the I-can’t-wait-to-finally-try-this stay but I was completely underwhelmed. I was hoping to understand why the high price point but that didn’t happen. The public areas are really pretty but the room, while clean, did not wow me at all. Service was barely functional and the lack of elite recognition and blatant lies about occupancy killed it for me. The only plausible reason could be the views of the Marina some room types offer – not that I got to experience – so I’m truly surprised that people are willing to pay so much for that. To each his/her own I suppose not for me.
I admit that this may not be a popular opinion but I don’t quite get the hype about Kempinski and Andaz. The infamous Lady In Red at Kempinski was really only brilliant at check in but rather invisible otherwise; the room also did not wow me and breakfast did not turn out to be as spectacular as what others have raved about. Andaz was probably a little too modern for me – all that wooden tones somehow made the room feel super not cosy for me and the crowds probably diluted my experience further. Perhaps its just me?
This was a tough one – so I based my decision on how valued I feel as a guest and how well taken care of I was throughout my stay. At Clan, I could be skewed by being one of their first guests during their pre-opening phase so they were trying really hard to make an impression (and succeeded!). But the experience, enhanced by the numerous complimentary benefits offered to me, blew me away. IC Robertson Quay was stellar across the board including the entire Club team. And but of course, Ritz.
WORST SERVICE – Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay
I decided this was it as I had to fight for my upgrade during my first stay, and got dirty Lifestyle Rooms for my second – which led to one of the most defensive encounters with a Duty Manager I’ve ever had, served to me with a side of nonchalance and blatant disregard for guests’ well being. Nary a care about dishing out dirty rooms so please take your money elsewhere. The lack of pride in running a property well is staggering.
BEST CLUB LOUNGE F&B – Ritz Carlton Millennia Singapore
Well, this was the one that got me started on the binge after all. There is possibly something about having an actual club lounge space (versus Valley Wing where the entire lobby is the lounge) perched on the 32nd floor that makes you feel oh so nice. A stellar team of Ritz Carlton hosts makes sure you are never hungry – and how can you, with 5 meal presentations a day? The same team also makes sure your glass is never empty too, dishing out bubbles all day long and constantly encouraging you to have more so you feel free you can let go here and not be judged. For an all day champagne experience, this is quite literally the place I want to be.
Maybe I’m a little harsh, but the pretty club lounge at Oasia Downtown is an unfortunate victim of really bad evening offerings – I mean unless you like nacho chips that much. If the hotel doesn’t want to invest in a chef taking extra load in curating a decent menu for the lounge, perhaps they can consider partnering Marmalade Pantry located at their lobby to serve up some reasonable bites? Hilton is in this section purely because the experience has been whittled down to the lounge being only open for 2 hours in the evening each day, with each guest being asked to pick 1-hr of their choice to enjoy the bites and drinks before you get kicked out.
BEST ELITE RECOGNITION – Capella Hotel Singapore
This meant being given a triple upgrade beyond the promised 2-tier to the super love Capella Suite, and a later than late check out of 7:30pm when even 6:00pm was supposed to be subject to availability. A smorgasbord of welcome amenities delivered to the room thereafter truly makes one feel like a valued elite (no sad looking fruits here!). I of course did get due recognition during a lot of my Marriott stays too but nothing was above and beyond the stipulated. #firstworldproblems.
This was a no-brainer. There is something really amiss with the IPrefer programme when the sibling properties can choose to blatantly lie to avoid upgrading their elites, and when asked, conveniently used full occupancy as an excuse when I can clearly see that higher tier rooms are still being sold on their own websites. Both properties also conveniently forget to provide the elite welcome amenity and make you have to ask for it – not very welcoming in my opinion. There is not much I can do about it I suppose other than voting with my wallet – already given feedback to IPrefer but heard zilch – so I hope fellow elites will be aptly warned after this!
And there you go.
Do you have ‘winners’ of your own? Do leave a comment below to let me know!