It’s hard to forget the year that Marina Bay Sands opened in Singapore.
It was 2010, and the city was buzzing with the excitement of having our own Sands behemoth swinging its gilded doors open.
And open with fanfare it did. Its shops glittered, the view from the infinity pool was magnificent and its celebrity restaurants were so sexy it hurts. This was the mothership of luxury and it bewitched the well-heeled from near and far to our shores.
It proved an absolute hit not just for pleasure seekers but also for the business. In fact, in 2018 alone, Forbes reported that Marina Bay Sands contributed to US$393 million of room revenues for the entire group. These three iconic towers form the backdrop of so many travel brochures that we’re willing to wager that it alone pulled a good number of tourists to visit.
Two years on, COVID-19 swung our way. Where MBS once symbolised a time of raucous merry-making, red carpet glamour and high-rolling optimism, the pandemic was like a black veil that fell over a gleaming gem.
Now that cases have lowered, would the institution lay over and play dead? Nay, said the cast of thousands that make the place run like clockwork. With face shields, masks, gloves, sanitisers and what not, the show must go on, they said.
And go on, it did.
Let’s talk safety
First, let’s address the giant elephant in the room: Safety in the age of COVID-19. This is a downer to think about but lest you wish you to contract a contagious virus for which a cure isn’t known, pay close attention.
The moment you arrive at the lobby, you’ll realise that check in times have been staggered and the Safe Entry desks are manned by hawk-eyed ambassadors. They’re everywhere — for our own good of course — and will even enforce the rule of four persons in one elevator at any one time.
High touch points in each room are given extra attention; everything from door knobs to faucets and toilet seats are thoroughly disinfected. Even keycards are sanitised after every use and plush bathroom towels and bathrobe will come wrapped in plastic.
About that gorgeous pool — and other amenities
No stay at MBS is complete without a trip to the rooftop infinity pool and the gym with spectacular views of the CBD. After all, if you didn’t post the views on Instagram, were you even there?
Both facilities can be accessed by a booking system, and guest numbers are strictly controlled. This means if you want to post “loungey” poses on Instagram stories in your Chanel Spring-Summer swimsuit as the sun sets, you might want to book your slot immediately after getting your room confirmation. Access is also limited to an hour — staff are on hand to remind you should you conveniently forget and/or ignore (which we totally did not).
Access to the gym is similarly limited to an hour and guests will have to send a text to a number to join a queuing system. We texted at 11am and were given access within a breezy 15 minutes. Another attempt to access the gym at 4:30pm though led to a 1.5 hour wait — our best guess was that there was a queue of guests who just checked in wanting to burn some calories before hitting up the restaurants.
Once in, you’d realise that there’s not more than five guests at any one time. Equipment is fairly decent and better furnished than a regular hotel gym. There’s a free weight bench press station, a smith machine, dumbbells weighing up to 30 kilograms as well as rowing machines, ellipticals and machines for major muscle groups. Note that there isn’t a power rack.
Social distancing is enforced with staff keeping an eye on the gym floor while the treadmills and cardio stations are divided by transparent dividers. A staff member is also on hand at all times to wipe down after you’re done with each equipment.
And now, the rooms
The rooms (all 2,500 of them) don’t get as much loving as the pool does though they really should. During our stay, we took up the Club King Garden room at the 48th floor and it offered jaw dropping views of Gardens By The Bay and the Singapore Strait.
At 44 square metres, the room is generously sized and without a doubt, large enough to fit yours and your staycation companions’ egos. There’s a work desk if you’re “working from home” and an armchair with a side table if sitting on a swivel chair isn’t your vibe. There’s a tub in the bathroom though the showers don’t come with a rain shower, and toiletries are branded by Italian label Roberto Cavalli.
The rooms adjacent to ours were occupied but the stay was quiet and comfortable with no noise or enthusiastic guests wheeling their luggage around.
But what’s a hotel without a sumptuous breakfast?
If there’s one other facet that Marina Bay Sands does astoundingly well, it’s dining. And here, it spares no effort in making breakfast a breezy affair.
There are two options here: Club 55 (if you’re a Club Room guest) and Spago, the restaurant, bar and lounge adjacent to the infinity pool. Between the two spots, we’d recommend Spago. The breakfast fare between the two establishments are more or less the same but Spago has our pick, as it’s outdoors and the gentle morning sun makes it feel like you’re truly on holiday.
The breakfast buffet is now gone but an order chit makes ordering easy. Staff are not only gloved and masked but wearing face shields too. As in other dining establishments, safe distancing is also enforced between all guests.
The time is now
If you’ve ever wanted to stay at MBS, now is the perfect time. There are no hordes of tourists, and there’s plenty of space at the pool, even though access is just for an hour.
But the deal maker here really is that the rooms are going at attractive rates. Stay two nights or longer for instance and a night goes for $299 with an additional $60 of credits.
Above all, the property is so contained that you will feel like you’re on holiday — even if you’re smack bang in the middle of Singapore. The glitz may not quite be back yet, but Marina Bay Sands will always be an icon. Eventually travel will resume, and so will the tourists bringing with them money to spend and get our economy roaring once more.
Till then, us Singapore residents, will be its custodians.
Marina Bay Sands is at 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956. For more information on the staycation packages, click here.