Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Toddler Staycay: Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa (Luxury Room)

๐Ÿ‘ Great, relaxing ambience, large pool area, 'out of the city' resort feel.
๐Ÿ‘Ž The hotel is definitely due some TLC (refresh, refurb, repair, etc).

Over the Chinese New Year weekend, the Year of the Covid* ๐Ÿฆ  restrictions meant no visiting or travelling so ... staycay it is (again)! This time we left the city, and went 'overseas' (well ... sort of) to the Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa! Sofitel is a French-based chain, so the hotel should be luxurious, chic, and stylish, right? Well let's find out!

* Technically it does seem like the entire 2021 will also be year of the Covid, doesn't it? Ah well, fingers crossed that the vaccine does its job and we can start travelling again in the later part of the year!

Hotels in the Staycay tour:
Raffles Hotel | Capella Singapore | Marriott Tang Plaza | The St.Regis Singapore | Grand Hyatt | The Fullerton Bay Hotel | Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay | Marina Bay Sands | Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa | The Capitol Kempinski Hotel


Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Lobby

The lobby and check-in areas certainly do feel quite stylish: what with the huge chandelier hanging right above. We also quite like the tasteful sprucing-up of the decor with lanterns and other Chinese New Year-themed items. There are just two check-in counters, but we didn't have any problems with queues or crowds, perhaps as the Sofitel Sentosa has 'just' 215 rooms.

Check in was quick and efficient, with an 11am early check in (and 2pm late check out) granted - fairly decent as it's our first visit to Sofitel, and have no status with Accor.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Lobby Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Lobby

After check in formalities are done, we spend a few minutes meandering around the Hotel grounds, which are really very nice. The entire area has a really lazy, resort, and out-of-the city ambience to it, with walkways surrounding pools (some of which still have some koi in them) and gardens with plenty of seating and relaxation areas (shaded by lots of trees). Our little one had a whale of a time here just running up and down corridors and ramps, frolicking in the gardens, and tossing stones into the ponds. It's an entirely different experience from any hotel in the city (with the exception perhaps of Raffles).

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Grounds Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Grounds Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Grounds

Part of the appeal of the Hotel is also thanks to a small family of peacocks constantly roaming the grounds. These peacocks are suprisingly ubiquitous, popping up in the gardens, the pool, Kwee Zeen (Sofitel Sentosa's chinese / asian and breakfast restaurant), etc. The little one had a great time chasing them around (but eventually got frustrated as peacocks apparently walk quicker than a 17-month old).

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Peacocks Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Peacocks

Anyway, moving on to the accommodations: the entry level room is called the Luxury Room, and is perhaps surprisingly small (given the land size that the hotel occupies). We do like that the door opens to a little foyer that can be closed off, so you can keep your shoes, stroller, and any other unsightly appliance out of sight.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

The room itself is fairly functional and good enough for a short stay, although if your toddler still needs a cot it might be a bit of a squeeze. One criticism I have is that the table does not have any power sockets, so you do need to pull your cables across to the row of sockets on the wall beside the bed, which can be a nightmare with young children.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

The other side of the bed isn't particularly spacious either, with room for the wardrobe (necessary amenities like safe, ironing board, bathrobe & slippers included), a one-seater sofa, and a small ledge just wide enough to open a medium-sized suitcase on.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

The television's decently-sized, but - as far as we can tell - doesn't support AirPlay or Google Cast (or Netflix or YouTube), so you'll have to rely on hdmi cables if you want to play your own content. It also shows that heading early to breakfast means usually means shorter queues: A welcome reminder for you late-risers as the hotel doesn't do timeslot reservations.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

The switches controlling the room lights are located bedside, but curiously they're also underneath the bedside lamp ledge. This means that you can't actually see them if you're standing or sitting up on the bed. You might also spot many scuffs on the woodwork: It's actually a common theme throughout Sofitel Sentosa in that there's a fair bit of wear & tear and that a refurb is probably due sooner rather than later.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

Water bottles & a small covid-19 cleanliness kit is provided (no masks, though), and the coffee/tea station has the usual complement of nespresso and a few assorted teabags.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

The bathroom's not the biggest, but is good enough for a small family not to get into each others way. Bathtub is strictly 1 adult (+ 1 child) only, though. Bath amenities are by Lanvin - a French brand, surprise surprise - and were ... adequate? We weren't particularly enamoured by the scent or cleaning power or anything.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

Sadly the toilet - like too many other hotels in Singapore - does not have a bidet or even a hand wash hose. The wear & tear around the hotel was most evident here in the toilet + shower as our room had 5 tiles come off in our 2-night stay.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Luxury Room

Now that the room walkthrough's done, let's move on to the pool! Sofitel Sentosa's pool was probably the most enjoyable pool for us the entire staycay tour. Not the pool itself - the pool floor seems to be in need of a deep clean, and the shallow area that's safe for kids isn't that large - but more the surrounding relaxation areas. There are dozens of pool chairs and sheltered cabanas suitable for a small family to really relax in, and you even get peacock visitors from time to time. Because of covid you are limited to 2 hours a day, but thanks to the larger capacity I didn't have any problems getting a timeslot of my choice after check-in.

Pool staff went around handing out mandarin oranges, which was a nice treat.

I forgot to take photos of the gym, but it was huge and well equipped, so you probably needn't worry about missing a workout. Unfortunately I didn't visit the spa, so I won't be able to give you any thoughts on that.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Swimming Pool Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Swimming Pool

Breakfast is served at Kwee Zeen, and is your usual mixture of Western and Asian main courses. Perhaps of special note is a couple of 'healthy breakfast' choices: An egg white omelette, and poached eggs with a whole accompaniment of fruits, grains, and vegetables. The main courses that we tried were actually pretty decent: I liked the Nasi Lemak (maybe because there was begedil which I adore), and the porridge & dim-sum combo wasn't bad either. I do recall that the bacon from the American Breakfast set being hard & salty though.

Officially it's one main course order per person (which might be a deal breaker if you're a huge eater). We didn't try ordering more than 1 main course each, but we had no problems getting multiple 'side dish' servings (e.g. extra plates of fruits, etc). As I mentioned above, the hotel doesn't do timeslot reservations so do try to make your way over before 9am.

Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa Kwee Zeen Breakfast

In summary, if you're looking for a place that is slightly more 'vacation' than 'staycaytion' (and don't quite feel like ponying up for Capella), Sofitel Sentosa's a really enjoyable place to spend a couple of nights. For longer stays you could also visit the surrounding areas in Sentosa (Tanjong Beach is within walking distance).

Our toddler also enjoyed himself thoroughly in relaxing with us in the poolside cabanas, chasing the peacocks, and meandering around the gardens and pools. For older children there is a kids club (Villa des Enfants) with some pretty interesting activities to keep them occupied & stimulated.

Yes, the hotel is getting old and needs some refurbishment soon, and yes, the decor has aged a bit, but other than that the relaxing garden & pool ambience, great poolside areas, and decent dining options will really let you 'get away from the city.'


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Toddler Staycay: The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore (Stamford Suite)

๐Ÿ‘ Great service, handsome rooms: Still our favourite staycay hotel in the city.
๐Ÿ‘Ž No views, pool is tiny and suitable only for relaxing

We wrapped up our Year of the Covid* ๐Ÿฆ  Staycay tour hotel at one of our favorite hotels in the city: The Capitol Kempinski Hotel! Housed in an 80-year old complex comprising of (formerly) Shaws Building and Namazie Mansions, the Hotel's excellent service, gorgeous rooms, and great dining options earn it an easy recommendation - unless a large swimming pool (or out-of-Singapore) feel is important to you.

* Technically it does seem like the entire 2021 will also be year of the Covid, doesn't it? Ah well, fingers crossed that the vaccine does its job and we can start travelling again in the later part of the year!

Hotels in the Staycay tour:
Raffles Hotel | Capella Singapore | Marriott Tang Plaza | The St.Regis Singapore | Grand Hyatt | The Fullerton Bay Hotel | Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay | Marina Bay Sands | Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa | The Capitol Kempinski Hotel


The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

We stayed here just over a year ago in the hotel's Terrace Room; This time we got upgraded to a Stamford Suite instead (from Grand Deluxe Room)! The suite is huge and well equipped, with no really dangerous areas for a semi-hyperactive toddler (other than the standard ones like table edges). If it's your first staycay and/or if your toddler has just started running around and climbing up and down furniture, hotel rooms might give you heart attacks at first, but in our experience it's quite unlikely for hotel rooms to have features on which your baby can really seriously injure him/herself.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

The layout's a little unorthodox: Upon walking in, the toilet & sinks are on your left, and the shower & bathtub are on your right, with the living room & bedroom straight ahead. It seems a little strange at first, but thanks to the sliding doors that can partition all the different spaces, it's easy to settle in and have as much privacy between areas as you wish.

Oh, and the toilet has one of those high tech bidet seats that spray your ass and even opens and closes by button-touch, so if you were so inclined you could do your business and not need to wash hands afterwards.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

Naturally both the bedroom and the living room area have their own televisions - with a limited number of local and international channels, but more importantly, flawless Apple Airplay support. Audio from the television sets is (relatively) amazing thanks to Sonos soundbars. All in all the entertainment's top notch and shouldn't disappoint.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

Back to the living room: The standard complement of tea & nespresso coffee is complimentary, as are all drinks in the minibar fridge (water, juices, soft drinks).

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

The Hotel supplies Salvatore Ferragamo amenities: I'm unfortunately not a cleansing product snob, pretty much all hotels' soaps and shampoo are good enough for me, so I can't really comment if these ones were any better (or worse) than others.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

Given that the swimming pool is quite tiny (and therefore there's a high chance of you not getting a pool slot at your desired timing), it's great that the Kempinski Singapore's tub delivers a great alternative. It's huge enough for 2 adults and a toddler, and there's even a small television (with water-resistant remote control). Bath salts are supplied, but for a special treat you can always walk across the road and pick up a bath bomb from Lush @ Raffles City.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

If you just want to shower instead the shower stall has a wall-mounted shower, hand-held shower, and rain shower, so the only thing missing is really a half-naked attendant standing in the corner.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

Bathrobes and slippers are available for use in the room & to walk to the swimming pool. On the bathrobe-comfort-ranking scale these are really plush and comfortable, but not quite up to Fullerton Bay Hotel's crazy comfortable robes.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Stamford Suite

The welcome amenity - a basket of fruit & assorted nuts - came compliments of our Black-level membership in GHA Discovery. And yes, we really did stay on our wedding anniversary date.

Random thought: If you stay at - for example - 12 different hotels throughout the year, is there anything stopping you from celebrating your anniversary 12 times? It's not like the front desk is going to browse your social media to verify, are they?

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Welcome Gift

Anyway like I mentioned in last year's review, Kempinski Singapore's most glaring weak point really is its' pool: It's tiny, and has no shade from the afternoon sun. With covid capacity restrictions now in place you really need to book extremely early (or make do with like, 11am-12pm pool slots). The pool is also clearly for relaxation / soaking / sunbathing, and not suitable for anyone who wants to do laps.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Swimming Pool

Having said that, the pool is relatively good for toddlers. On each side there's a jacuzzi ledge that's just right for toddlers to wade and play with the air / water bubbles. The ledge is a pretty good size, too - maybe something like 6' by 4' so one adult on half-alert is probably enough to keep your little one from drowning.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Swimming Pool

Breakfast is served at Kempinski's flagship dining restaurant: 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung. It's one of the better breakfasts in our staycays in the last year: Not quite as good as Raffles perhaps, but pretty much a strong contender for joint 2nd place (with Fullerton Bay and St. Regis). Variety is good, some food items were great, and service was top notch, but we were disappointed by the nasi lemak.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore Breakfast

The Capitol Kempinski Singapore cements itself as our favourite city-center staycaytion hotel in Singapore, then. Service from the ladies-in-red (and a few of the old timers in 15 Stamford) is great, the hotel rooms are luxurious, and the hotel's nicely connected to a part of the central region that's not as crowded/busy as others. Staycay fatigue has set in a little for us, though, so we'll take a break - but if you're planning an upcoming staycaytion you won't be disappointed!


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Toddler Staycay: Marina Bay Sands Club City View Room!

๐Ÿ‘ Check-in and pool/gym booking very efficient, huge rooms with amazing views.
๐Ÿ‘Ž Pricey, size of the hotel means (almost) everywhere is a zoo, weak air-conditioning.

We wrapped up our Year of the Covid* ๐Ÿฆ  Staycay tour hotel at the iconic Marina Bay Sands! To many people (ourselves included), the view of the hotel's three towers are synonymous with Marina Bay, so we're really interested to stay a few nights to see what it's like from the building.

* Technically it does seem like 2021 will also be year of the Covid, doesn't it? Ah well, fingers crossed that the vaccine does its job and we can start travelling again in the later part of the year!

Hotels in the Staycay tour:
Raffles Hotel | Capella Singapore | Marriott Tang Plaza | The St.Regis Singapore | Grand Hyatt | The Fullerton Bay Hotel | Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay | Marina Bay Sands.


Marina Bay Sands Singapore Lobby

Marina Bay Sands has more than 2,500 rooms spread across its three towers, so "intimate," "quiet," and "cozy" are understandeably not words that one would expect to use to describe it, in particular the hotel lobby and other publicly-accessible areas. The hotel has done a pretty admirable job of spreading out the crowd though, by way of staggering check in (in hourly slots) througout the day.

We turned up at our check-in slot (12-1pm, pre-booked via automated sms) just before noon, and were settled in the room at 12.45pm, so it really was a surprisingly efficient and painless experience (considering our lack of any status with Sands Rewards).

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Lobby Marina Bay Sands Singapore Lobby

Our original room - Premier Room Garden View - was upgraded to a Club Room Harbour View (but without Club benefits, so ... meh). Looking online, Club rooms from other blogs and websites seem to be a little different (and a tad bit more atas perhaps?) than this room, but we'll take the receptionists word for it. Do let us know in the comments if this isn't really a club room!

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Club or no club, we don't have any complaints about the size of the room, which is pretty massive for non-suite standards. Aside from the King bed there's sofa space for three, a coffee table large enough to comfortably eat dabao'ed food on (one of our meals was char siu and dimsum from Mott32 as they were full for dine-ins), a desk and chair, and loads of space for a toddler to run around and burn up energy.

We'll admit that the decor isn't the most modern, luxurious, or even cohesive (compared to other similarly-priced hotels in the city), but it's not too outdated, and the room still is a pleasant place to spend a lot of time in.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Half the room's lights are controlled by switches on the bedside ... but for the other half (floor light, bedside lamps, and desk lamp) you need to get up and flick a switch on the lamp, which is quite a bit of a bummer. Nevertheless the room does get really bright with all the lights on, which I like. The air-conditioning, on the other hand, takes forever to cool the room down.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

The television is small and old by today's standards, and as you can imagine, has no way to play 20th century content (read: Youtube, Netflix, and other streaming media). No brownie points for entertainment, then, but many brownie points for 'free of charge' minibar items (snacks, soft drinks and juices). Most of which I didn't end up consuming anyway: Throughout the three days I only drank 1 bottle each of the apple and orange juice).

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Marina Bay Sands markets their rooms with 4 different views. The city-facing side is sold as City View (40th floor and below) and Sky View (41st floor and above). Similarly, the sea-facing side is sold as Garden View and Harbour View. Our 38th-floor, City View (Club) room's view is breathtaking, especially at night when all the other buildings lights come on.

The floor to ceiling windows are great for soaking in the view as long as you're not afraid of heights.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Just to check boxes off the checklist: Slippers, ironing board and iron, and in-room safe are provided in the wardrobe in the corridor.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

The Marina Bay Sands Club room has a pretty large bathroom with a nice, free-standing bathtub plenty large enough to bathe a toddler in. One minor annoyance with this layout is fishing out the bath toys when the little one throws them behind the tub, but of course this is in no way the fault of the hotel.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Bathroom amenities (by Roberto Cavalli) are complete, and are ... fine? Personally I don't really get excited with any particular brand of bathroom body wash, really. As long as they can clean my hair and body satisfactorily, they're fine.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Tpwels, hand towels, and bathrobes are plastic wrapped to give you an extra sense of (cleanliness) security. This is undoubtedly prudent given the current virus situation, but I can't shake the sensation of just how cheap it somehow feels. That, and the linen itself is of below par plushness / fluffiness compared to other similar-priced hotels.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

The one major shortcoming of the room, though, was the shower stall. The shower itself was fine, with good water pressure and temperature, but the floor - for whatever reason - is angled away from the drain and therefore you spend the entire 15 minutes (or ... an hour, depending on your personal hygiene habits) standing in a puddle.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Executive Room City View

Of course you definitely know this by now, but one major (perhaps the major) selling point of Marina Bay Sands is its infinity pool that spans the length of the entire hotel. For these covid times, reservations are required (via SMS / automated website). You are allowed to book 1 hour per room per day, and because there are fewer slots available than there are rooms, you need to book as early as possible (I made my bookings the day after confirming the hotel room reservation).

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Infinity Pool

A slight word of advice: Make sure you go up to the pool well fed, because food prices are pretty amazing. This tea & pot sticker combo cost us 30 bucks!

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Infinity Pool

Other than exorbitant f&b pricing though, the pool (for adults, at least) is really quite gorgeous. The view overlooking Marina Bay and the Central Business District is unparalleled, and each of the three pool sections does seem long enough that you could even do some semi-serious laps (which is more than can be said about the vast majority of pools in other hotels in town).

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

For toddlers, though, the situation is a little crappy because the kids pool is closed, for whatever reason. Toddlers therefore need to make do with a miserable 6 foot wide strip of wading area at the edges of the pools.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Infinity Pool

Weather also plays a big part in pool enjoyment: If it's cloudy and windy, the water can be really cold, so you might perhaps try your luck at one of the jacuzzis overlooking the gardens by the bay. The water is heated so it's crazy shiok on cold days, but due to covid limitations as only one person / family can use each jacuzzi at once, there's a big element of luck / being up there first thing in the morning.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore Infinity Pool

If you noticed the lack of breakfast photos, that's because our room rate didn't have it included. Breakfast is normally served at Spago, 'behind' the infinity pool on level 57, so you'll at least have good views regardless of the breakfast quality.

But otherwise, giving Marina Bay Sands a score is a little tricky. Room rates are a little on the high side, perhaps, given the 'mass market' nature of the hotel, but the entire operation runs like a well-oiled machine, and other than the mishap with the shower stall I found little to criticize during my stay. The views from the room and the infinity pool are really unique, and words really can't express how shiok that heated jacuzzi is on a cold, windy day.

I guess I will conclude that if I didn't have any hotel chain status at all, Marina Bay Sands would be the among the top few hotels on my 'will come back for staycaytion' list, but all the extra perks from HHonors Diamond and Discovery Black make it very hard to justify a return visit.