I am not one to splash out on fancy hotels. If it’s safe, and I’m not sharing a bunk bed with a bunch of twentysomething backpackers, it’s good enough for me. There’s no way I am ever comfortable paying exorbitant room fees, but recently I got the opportunity to stay at Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel for free, thanks to someone richer and better connected than myself.
Second to the Merlion, this triple-towered building with what looks like a boat on top is the image most people associate with Singapore. With its prime location right on the bay and its backside facing the Gardens by the Bay, everyone who stays here is guaranteed an amazing view (well, almost everyone).
This is the most luxurious hotel I will ever get to stay at in my life as a miserly tightwad. I doubt even the hotel on my future honeymoon will be this amazing. I was distinctly aware of my luck at getting a room without having to sacrifice a month’s rent, so I tried to savour and document every moment of it. Here, I’ll give you the most detailed breakdown of the experience as a guest at the Marina Bay Sands.
The lobby is a gauntlet of restaurants, shops, hotel services desks and crowds. It can take up to five minutes to walk from end to end. Each tower will have a check-in desk so you don’t need to walk all the way to a certain tower. Very specific check-in services will only have one location, though.
For example, down a corridor in tower one, I saw a desk that was specifically labelled “Japanese Guest Check-In.” Who knew the Japanese were so well-travelled, and that so many of them had so much money to blow at the Marina Bay Sands that they required their own desk?
Also in tower one next to the colourful check-in desk is the unassuming entrance to the Sands Lounge tucked away in the corner. This is where club members check in. They likely made the entrance so humble to prevent regular guests from wandering in. It’s nothing particularly fancy inside, just check-in desks and some tea, coffee and bottled water near the seating area.
The Marina Bay Sands Casino
If you simply have too much money and can’t get rid of it fast enough, the Sands Casino is just next to the hotel. You can get there via an underground corridor, lined with high-end luxury boutiques, that is attached to the hotel. This place is massive, with over a thousand machines and hundreds of tables spread out over four floors. The casino is open 24 hours and there are restaurants in there so you never have to leave its noisy, mechanical embrace.
Restaurants & Bars
Each of the three towers has its share of restaurants in the lobby. The lobby is always packed with people, but all of the restaurants have done a good job of screening diners from the prying eyes of passersby. Some, like Adrift and Renku, look like they’re enclosed in sexy pods, while Blossom and Rise will have tall wooden slats that keep things private but still let in natural light.
Tower 1: Renku (24-hour cocktail and snack bar), Rise (buffet)
Tower 2: Adrift (Izakaya), Blossom (dim sum)
Tower 3: Origin & Bloom (Bakery and cafe)
It would be silly to have a hotel this tall and not stick a restaurant at the top of it. MBS has four: Club55, a tapas bar on the 55th floor exclusively for hotel guests. In the SkyPark, each tower similarly gets their own signature restaurant: LAVO Italian Restaurant in tower one, Spago by Wolfgang Puck (Western/American food) in tower two, and Ce La Vi (modern Asian) in tower three. Each of these will have an attached lounge or will turn into a nightclub at dusk.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is at your doorstep, and you’ll likely be walking through here to get back to the hotel after a day of sightseeing unless you’re coming from your car or the Gardens by the Bay. The stores here are open really late compared to other malls, until 11:30pm. If you’re the average person, you can’t afford anything at the Marina Bay Shoppes, except for a bun at the Bread Talk bakery.
Don’t disregard it though, as there are still many elements that you can enjoy for free. There’s the Rain Oculus, a mini version of the Rain Vortex waterfall at Changi airport. The Digital Light Canvas is at the end of the mall near the ArtScience Museum, with a glittering column hovering over a pool of digital shoals of fish. Special shows may occur during peak periods on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can watch boats glide along the canals, or purchase a ride for yourself for only S$13, which will come with a few photos. Then there’s just simply marvelling at the design and splendour of the mall itself.
We got a City View Club Room on the upper floors on level 46. Standard issue furniture in regular (non-suite, non-family) rooms is a king bed (or 2 singles), floor-to-ceiling windows, a work desk, seating area and flat-screen TV with cable. Smaller accessories like a safe, iron, ironing board, hairdryer, bathrobes and slippers are also provided.
Our room was a city view room on the 46th floor, so the view from the window overlooked the bay, Shoppes, the ArtScience museum and well off into the distance of Singapore. We were also able to watch the Spectra light show from the comfort of our room. We couldn’t hear the music because the glass was so thick, but the view was one-of-a-kind. There was literally nowhere else in Singapore where we could’ve gotten such a birds-eye view of the show. Even the infinity pool wouldn’t have been as good, because we would’ve been too high up.
Housekeeping might leave cute “towel animals” on the bed when you check in or on certain nights. These will be accessorised with fragrant frangipani each time. The king bed was of average comfortableness. I can’t say that I had the best night’s sleep ever in it. The room and even the corridors were incredibly quiet during all hours, despite there being close to a thousand guests in each tower. The temperature can be controlled by a panel and remained nicely cool despite Singapore’s balmy nights.
Everything is electronically controlled in the room – you won’t need to lift a finger. Instead of a tag you hang on the doorknob, there are buttons by the door to signal if you want your room turned down or set to DND. The light controls by the door are handily labelled, but there are so many switches by the bed that you’ll never memorise what they all control before it’s time to leave. Don’t miss the panel on the wall that controls the curtains, too. These curtains are so big and heavy that they were never meant to be handled manually. Trying to open and close them by hand is a frustrating and tiring experience, as I found out when I didn’t notice the panel initially.
We had a shower, freestanding tub and double sinks in our bathroom, but the cheaper deluxe rooms will just have the shower and one sink. The toilet is in its own room behind frosted glass, and there’s a phone in there! How come this is this so common? Is it in case you realise too late that you’re out of toilet paper? Or do people magically remember that they need to call the concierge for a wake-up call while they’re taking a shit?
My favourite part was when I discovered that every possible bathroom toiletry was provided by this hotel, and in small hotel sizes that I could take home! No giant dispensers of soap and shampoo that I can’t steal! Here is a full list of all the bathroom goodies, for others who are similarly obsessed with housekeeping toiletries.
- White Tea & Rose shampoo
- White Tea & Rose conditioner
- White Tea & Rose body wash
- White Tea & Rose body lotion
- A small bar of soap
- Shaving kit
- Dental kit x 2
- Nail file & cuticle stick
- Pack of 4 cotton buds
- Pack of 2 quilted cotton pads
- Shower cap
The television had a good number of channels. I gave up on trying to cycle through all of them because there were just so many. I saw Hindi, Mandarin and other Asian language channels, sports, cartoons, and movie channels that are on-demand. I mostly stuck to Animal Planet and National Geographic, personally.
The minibar is stocked with soda, mini bottles of spirits and even half bottles of wine and champagne. Their prices will be on a bar menu that should be on the dresser under your TV. In terms of complimentary drinks, the hotel provides bottles of water and they bring you new bottles every day. In a drawer, you should also find wine glasses, teabags, sugar and coffee sachets. The tea variety is ample, but by default, the room appears to stock only one bag of each type (do call the front desk to ask for more if you’re a tea fiend like me!):
- TWG English Breakfast
- Lipton Sencha green tea
- Sir Thomas Lipton Earl Grey
- Sir Thomas Lipton English Breakfast
- Sir Thomas Lipton Green Tea
- Sir Thomas Lipton Jasmine Green Tea
- Sir Thomas Lipton Chamomile
The snack menu is crappy by comparison, with only cup noodles and tiny packages of Pringles, crackers and nuts for $5 or more. Out of everything, I found this to be really stingy. Like, really? People are spending $500 or more per night on a room, and you can’t provide complimentary crackers that were made in-house and thus cheap to produce? I don’t know who in their right mind would pay for these, especially when the hotel is so ideally situated from everything. I imagine rich people have a more refined palate than Pringles. Perhaps the answer is families. Children always force you to buy expensive shit you don’t want to buy.
Surprisingly, I didn’t find the service any more exceptional than at a mid-range hotel. The staff weren’t any friendlier than what is normal in the hospitality industry. Not that we’re so delicate that we demand this sort of service, but nobody offered to carry our bags up after check-in either, even though we did it through the exclusive Sands Lounge.
We did call the front desk for extra teabags one night, and they delivered them generously within five minutes, but I’ve definitely had more memorable service from 3-star hotels. I suppose there’s a reason why the Fullerton Hotel across the bay consistently wins “best hotel” award, and never the Marina Bay Sands.
Towers one and two have direct access to different facilities on their respective 55th floors. Tower one is home to the Banyan Tree Spa, offering hair, massage and beauty treatments. It goes without saying that it’s crazy expensive: a simple thirty-minute massage will set you back at least S$175. Connected to the spa by a short corridor is the spa shop where you can buy lotions, soaps and even kimonos. This gift shop also had couches and tables set up near the full-size windows for an amazing view from this height. This area was quiet and unattended when we popped by, so it seems like any hotel guest can come up here and enjoy some peacefulness.
The Banyan Tree Fitness Club is situated in tower two. There’s basic machinery like stationary bikes and ellipticals, along with a more complex piece called a Kinesis Technogym. The highlight is the line of treadmills that face the bay. If you prefer to sweat without all the exertion, there are hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms in the changing area. Sunrise yoga and personal trainers are available for an extra fee. Tower two also houses the above-mentioned Club55, which is exclusively for hotel guests – no Crazy Rich Asians wannabes allowed!
Tower three is seemingly the Gretchen Weiners of the trio and has no special amenity on its level 55. It’s pretty troublesome to move between the three towers; if you’re a guest in tower one but want to go to the gym in tower two, you’ll have to make your way through the lobby, or go all the way up to the Skypark and cross there.
SkyPark Infinity Pool
The SkyPark Infinity Pool is half the reason why anyone stays at the Marina Bay Sands. The pool is strictly for hotel guests only, enforced by an electronic gate that only opens with your room card. In the past, I’m sure the hotel had problems with one guest swiping in twenty of his rowdy friends into the pool, so now there is clear signage that it is one guest per keycard. The security guards that are present right at the gates watch carefully to make sure this rule is followed.
Despite the riff-raff being kept out, the pool is still almost always rammed – there’s just that many guests at the Marina Bay Sands. Everyone wears the bathrobes and slippers from their room to the pool, and there’s no need to bring a towel from your room. There are towel huts where the attendant will give you two – one to put on the lounger, one to dry off with – and receptacles where you can chuck them when you leave.
Rows of loungers are set up facing the city, but there are some on short peninsulas jutting into the pool that will be hot property and you’ll have to be incredibly lucky to get. With so many couples and families around, it will be very hard to get that perfect Instagrammable shot of yourself in the pool without some kid swimming by.
We walked through the SkyPark several times during our stay, usually in the afternoons and evenings, and it was so crowded. The number of bodies in the pool was abominable. Don’t count on it being any less crowded late in the night either – many guests like to go at this time to watch the sunset, city lights and because the nearby restaurants give off a nightclub vibe.
As with everything, it’s best to go early. We went to the pool at 9am in the morning, and it was the quietest we had ever seen it. The choicest loungers were still occupied, and there were people in the pool, but it wasn’t a gross amount of people. We secured a spot at the end of the pool and didn’t have anyone within listening distance of us for a good while. The pool officially opens at 6am, so I’m sure it’s even better then. If you’re an early bird, you could catch an amazing sunrise up there.
On the other side of the SkyPark, opposite the pool, is a view facing the Gardens. There are more loungers here that you can also relax on. There’s no pool, but there are a couple of soaking tubs, tables and chairs, and canopied beds set up next to glass walls that overlook the Gardens by the Bay.
If you can’t afford the S$500 per night price tag for a room, non-hotel guests can buy tickets to the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, but this is not the same area that hotel guests are entitled to. Via the elevator in tower three, you will be taken to an observation deck at the tapered tip of the SkyPark, but barred from the infinity pool. This might actually be the best view in all of the SkyPark – even better than from the infinity pool – because you can get a panoramic view of both the city and the gardens from the very tip. There are no ugly steel safety rails, and you’re also able to stand at your full height to take in the sights without hoisting yourself onto the ledge of the pool.
The regular ticket price for the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck is S$26 per person, but this price can triple on “special dates” like New Year’s Eve. Included in the ticket are touristy fluff like digital photos and a short video of your visit that you can redeem online.
Expect an average of around S$500 – S$600 per night for a room at the Marina Bay Sands. The weekend during which we were staying, the cost was around S$700 per night. The price, of course, wildly depends on your check-in dates and what kind of room you choose.
The cheapest price I have ever seen for a Marina Bay Sands room is S$419 per night, which you can sometimes find on even Friday and weekend bookings. Conversely, it can get as high as over S$1400 per night for the cheapest room on New Year’s Eve, or during special events like the Singapore Grand Prix. The suites will be around thousand or more per night no matter what date you pick
There are lots of choices to be made when selecting a room. There are two basic choices: City/Bay view and Gardens/Harbour view, with the view potentially being vastly different depending on what level your room is on. Rooms facing the city can potentially watch sailboats in the bay, and the nightly Spectra light show from the room. Garden view rooms will be able to see the Supertrees and their light show, the Garden Rhapsody, and Singapore harbour if they are high enough. The high floors will have thick windows that cannot be opened, while the lower floor rooms will have balconies with colourful orchids spilling off them.
Once you’ve decided on a side, the official website’s online booking gives you an additional three options on the altitude of your room: on levels 2-9, 10-39, or level 40 and above. The lower floors are the most inexpensive options, with the price climbing steadily as the rooms get higher up (or if you need a family room or suite). There are also small differences in price between “Deluxe” (30sqm) and “Premier” (42sqm) rooms.
Even at the lowest fare, the room price is extravagant no matter what currency you deal in, but especially so for Malaysians with the conversion rate. Regular rooms do allow for a maximum of three guests. If you book the cheapest room and can find two other friends to split the price, it can be around S$150 per person, which is more manageable.
Think carefully before you utterly cheap out. The absolute cheapest rooms on floors 2 through 9 will have an underwhelming view of the walls and windows of the Marina Bay Shoppes, or of literally just the highway on the Gardens side. The difference in cost between these low rooms compared to the next tier of rooms can be anywhere from just an extra thirty dollars per night to several hundred.
If you’re making the choice to stay at a place like the Marina Bay Sands, you’re either a fancy person, a poseur, or you are intending to make this a memorable holiday. You’re already spending several hundred on a room, you might as well shell out a little more to make sure you get a decent view, especially if it’s just going to cost an extra thirty or fifty dollars.
We weren’t treated like royalty, but it was very fun to be able to sleep inside a tourist attraction. It would be like having a hotel room at the top of the Eiffel Tower. We were constantly where the action was and got to see this place at all hours of the day. All around us were amazing sights that many tourists travel to see, including the one just steps from our bed: the view from our bedroom window!
I usually snub such excessive luxury, but I had the best time during my stay at the Marina Bay Sands. While writing this, I began thinking of all the ways that I can make some extra money to maybe save up enough to one day stay here on my own accord. How much do they pay for plasma donations nowadays?