The Mandarin Oriental Singapore in Marina Bay is the only property (I know of) designed in the shape of a fan – clearly a decision to represent the group’s renowned logo. You won’t see this as you approach the building from outside but from the fifth floor, where the restaurants and bars are, if you look up you’ll see the unmistakable configuration.
The hotel isn’t smack in the city centre, which is a good thing if it’s a view you’re looking for in this high-rise city. Opt for an Ocean View room or suite on a high floor and every time you glance out of the window you’ll have lots to look at – especially when you wake up jet-lagged in the middle of the night.
Getting around Singapore is a piece of cake. The hotel is only an easy 30-minute taxi ride, along one of the most verdant airport access roads I know, from Changi International Airport. It is next door to two MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) stations, and Chinatown and Orchard Road plus most tourist attractions are close by. Even better, it’s only a quick hop over to Singapore’s largest mall, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (and the huge casino of 1,500 slot machines and more), where you’ll find everything you could desire (in terms of handbags and jewels). There are also lots of great restaurants of all styles and cuisines (try Daniel Boulud’s for its burgers, or Adrift by David Myers for modern Asian fare).
With so many five-star hotels in town, why choose this one? It’s a lovely property but the rooms could use a refresh. Yet for me it struck the right balance between value, service excellence, location, amenities and extras. The restaurant choices are abundant; the gym is modern and well equipped; the spa is superb; and the pool area is simply the best on the island – elegant with greenery all around and a poolside restaurant and bar with a gorgeous view. In the evening when the sun goes down, this is where you’ll want to be.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Hotel experience
- Complimentary glass of champagne for two at Bay@5
- Afternoon Tea for two
- Afternoon Tea for two in Axis Lounge, once during stay
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
The hotel sent a driver in a Mercedes sedan to meet me at the airport. He was a welcome sight after a long flight, so I let him take my bags and settled into the car to enjoy the ride. We talked about local politics, a day in the life of an average Singaporean, and where I could go to get the best chilli crabs in town (he recommended Long Beach or Jumbo on the East Coast Parkway).
The hotel’s lobby is very small (something the public indoor and outdoor spaces on the fifth floor make up for in some ways), so as there’s not much space for sitting around, I was immediately escorted to my room, where the check-in formalities were handled. My bags arrived moments later and I decided to walk down the hall to the Oriental Club lounge and have a late breakfast since I needed to nap before I did anything else.
Breakfast in the Club is served until 10.30am officially, but even at 11am people were still working through their croissants and coffee. I was even offered a cooked dish of eggs from the club’s dedicated kitchen.
Rooms and suites
All 468 rooms and 59 suites (from the sixth floor up) have floor-to-ceiling windows so, whichever way your room faces, there’s lots of light coming in during the day. The last refurbishment was in 2004, so perhaps it’s time for a new look. Having said that, when Mandarin Oriental does things it does them right, so the rooms and bathrooms, while dated, have stood the test of time. The beds are supremely comfortable with crisp and comfortable bedding, and the desk and dresser in the room are a good size and functional.
Decorated in soft hues of brown and cream with a touch of green, the Club Marina Bay View room I stayed in had the most spectacular views of the harbour, plus a very comfortable chaise longue to sit on to enjoy them. There are many types of suites, too, and some have guest bathrooms. City suites are best suited for families who want to put up a child (or two) on a roll-away. Although this category doesn’t have water views, the layout means the living room can be closed off, and the extra bathroom is a big bonus.
When you book, it’s important to distinguish between a regular room and one with access to the club on the 19th floor. It has several rooms with views, tables, chairs, comfortable sofas and armchairs and is worth paying for the upgrade to use all the club services and extras which, in my opinion, are worth their weight in gold. Other than the economies of scale involved (the cost of a room’s open bar in Singapore is right up there with Dubai and Helsinki in terms of the cost of drinks), having access to the club also gives you many more options.
The bathroom in my room was what I would call functional. There was one sink with ample storage space, a small-ish shower cubicle, a tub and a loo. Very well maintained, it was dated in terms of decor and, like the room, could use a revamp. There are, however, suites with double-sink basins, so if this means a lot to you, ask in advance. The bathroom amenities are by France’s Atelier Cologne – nice but nondescript.
I was eagerly awaiting my Saturday dim-sum lunch extravaganza at the Cherry Garden restaurant, a beautiful venue that has been here since the hotel opened and, while it has been renovated several times, it still retains its original tasteful, Oriental ambience. There are two sittings for weekend lunches, and you should show up at your appointed time to take complete advantage of the food, the people-watching opportunities and the excellent service.
For a fixed fee per person (on weekends only) you can order whatever your heart desires off the menu – yes, anything or everything. I decided to let the chef choose for me since he would know best. And I was glad I did, as to show me what miracles he could produce, I dined on steamed crystal dumplings with black truffle; steamed prawn dumplings with black garlic; more of the same with pork and baby abalone; with pork, vinegar and spicy sauce; with beef; with charcoal roasted duck; and a few others I cannot pronounce nor know exactly what they were made of. I dined like royalty; the ones I list were just my starters. Prawns, pork, bok choy and five-grain rice followed, all delicious and all, thankfully, quite light.
Not wanting me to miss a flavour or two, I was brought a sample of everything on the dessert menu – six in total. I tried everything, each of which was delicious, creative and unusual in ingredients and flavour (and no doubt calorie-laden).
There are, in fact, several restaurants in the hotel. Two of them are leased out: the Japanese restaurant and Morton’s, The Steakhouse, which also has a separate, independent bar in the hotel. There are three bars too: the Bay@5, the Axis Bar and Lounge, and Morton’s bar, which sits in the centre of the hotel in a pagoda-shaped structure. I should also mention that the hotel has a very comprehensive and extensive wine list, with selections from all over the world, some rare and some not, to suit all types of foods and flavours.
And finally, if your room has Oriental Club access then this is where to find breakfast (a lavish buffet with champagne and hot dishes from the menu), high tea, which is also buffet-style and, in the evening, drinks and ample hors-d’oeuvres – hot and cold, local and international. The use of this facility, especially for those suffering from jet lag who may not want to eat a big meal at set times, is a superb option. It also works for business people who want to conduct a casual, private meeting over a drink.
Spa and wellness
After a series of long flights getting here from Europe, my body was aching for some TLC. I headed to the spa, a place I knew from my visits to other Mandarin Oriental properties would be just what I needed.
Arriving at my appointed time, I was offered a hot or a cold drink but preferred to lie down immediately and let the therapist work her magic. With dim lighting and soft music playing, the familiar smell of aromatherapy products used in my chosen Oriental Essence signature massage was conducive to relaxation. I thought I might soon fall asleep but that didn’t happen since, despite her small, waif-like appearance, my therapist had a lot of strength in her arms. When I left I felt a whole lot better.
It’s a lovely spa, although on the small side for such a large hotel. The interior is decorated in a warm, natural colour palette with dark woods, grey and white marble and mother-of-pearl accents. There are two couples’ treatment rooms, and four single ones, so book in advance if you can. Facials are on the spa menu, as are manicures.
After my treatment I could have relaxed further with a cup of tea or some light food, but I was anxious to get back to my room and sleep for an hour before dinner – the true sign of an effective treatment. I did, however, spend ten minutes in the spa’s steam room and then a few more in the aromatherapy shower (where I tried all three Mandarin Oriental scents – orange, peppermint and the signature), which was nice, but I’m not sure if it did my hair any good. At the very least, it’s a decadent touch, and I left smelling like I’d been pampered for the day.
There’s a good gym, well equipped with Technogym equipment, drinks, towels and anything else you might need.
Pool and beach
While it might not have quite the ‘wow’ factor of the neighbouring Marina Bay Sands hotel’s rooftop infinity pool, the Mandarin Oriental’s contemporary pool and its surroundings offer so much more. Completely redone six years ago, it’s a tropical oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Above all, it’s sexily discreet so if it’s hot (as is often the case), you can still take in some rays and cool down at the same time on the partially submerged lounge chairs in the water. Or there’s the choice of shade in a cabana or on a sunbed with an umbrella. The Dolce Vita restaurant and Bay@5 are right here too, so you don’t have to wander off elsewhere for a refreshing drink or something to eat. The pool, 25 metres in length and set in some of the lushest tropical greenery I’ve ever seen poolside, puts many hotel pools in Miami to shame.
Families are well looked after here. The children’s pool, set apart from but next to the main pool with its own cabanas, provides a perfect environment for families with smaller kids. Meals and menus are also specially tailored to suit young palates and, at weekends during brunch hours, there is a special play area that’s set up and managed for kids staying or dining at the hotel.
Interconnecting suites and rooms can be reserved; request such a set-up as early as possible. Of course, cots and cribs, high chairs and anything else you may need for children are available too.
Staff and service
The Mandarin Oriental is the only hotel in Singapore that has received Forbes Travel Guide’s prestigious five-star award for the past six consecutive years. Such awards are not given out on the fixtures and fittings of a property alone, so kudos to the staff and everyone working here who, across the board, are professional and gracious to the extreme.
A nice blend of corporate and independent holiday travellers were staying when I was here. Most voices I heard were British, Australian, Russian and Asian, with the odd American as well. Some guests may also have been coming or going from the large cruise ships in the bay. As the hotel runs a very high occupancy most of the year, and since the restaurants are popular with residents as well as tourists, the fifth floor is consistently abuzz with the lively atmosphere you would expect in any popular urban hotel.
For the Singapore Formula 1 race every year (it’s a night race), the hotel comes alive with petrolheads and participants all vying for the best rooms. It’s a quick walk from the hotel to the paddock club, making it an ideal spot to stay if you’re a motor sports fan.
Nothing is left to chance here. The guest relations team phoned me the day before I was due to depart to ask what time and how I planned to leave. Arrangements made, they confirmed my transfer in writing via a note popped under my door. Perhaps, because the hotel was nearly full, they weren’t taking the risk that I may miss my flight.
When the time came, I went downstairs and settled the bill while my bags were loaded into the hotel transfer vehicle, a Mercedes again, in which a bottle of cool water was waiting. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that a transfer to and from the airport, or anywhere else for that matter, is so much more relaxing and enjoyable than taking an ordinary taxi. All in all, you arrive at your destination less ruffled.
How to get here
25 minutes by road from Singapore Changi Airport
527 rooms and suites