Booked: A Luxury Hotel World Tour
|Review: JW Marriott Singapore South Beach|
|View all: Reviews • Travel Talk|
The Asian leg of my luxury hotel round-the-world trip began with three days in Singapore. The city-state is definitely one of the “easier” tourist cities in the region, and that would give us a much-needed opportunity to recharge after a series of long flights and adjust to the time zone.
As it turns out, picking a hotel in Singapore was actually quite a challenging task, because there simply wasn’t much value to be had, whether I was booking with cash or with points.
Singapore is one of the world’s more expensive places to be, and most of the higher-end properties within Marriott Bonvoy would invariably be priced at Category 6 or 7 – thus costing 50,000 to 60,000 points per night – or $250–300 per night when booked with cash.
At those rates, neither cash nor points felt like a satisfying deal. After much deliberation, I chose the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, which was located within walking distance of Marina Bay and Clarke Quay, and whose cash price came in at the lower end of the spectrum at 286 SGD ($280) per night.
Frequent readers of this blog will know that the JW Marriott brand is one of my personal favourites, since their hotels have taken excellent care of me no matter where in the world I’m staying. I was excited to try out yet another location, especially a relatively new one that only opened a few years ago.
The hotel was a Category 6 at the time (50,000 Bonvoy points per night), and has since risen to a Category 7 (60,000 Bonvoy points per night). Needless to say, there isn’t much value redeeming points here at all, and paying cash was the clear winner even though it was more expensive than what I’m used to paying.
Stepping off our Singapore Airlines flight from Hanoi at close to midnight, Jessica and I took a taxi from Changi Airport to the hotel for about S$30. Looking back, we definitely should’ve downloaded the Grab app and used that instead, where fares from the city centre to the airport are typically around S$18.
The JW Marriott Singapore South Beach occupies the lower half of a large skyscraper in the Suntec City shopping and business district, conveniently perched on top of the Esplanade MRT station. The entrance is accordingly pretty grand, with a large fountain display welcoming guests to the hotel. I took some pictures of the hotel’s public areas the next day in the morning.
Entering the hotel, the lobby area is smaller than you might expect, and consists of a long, narrow hallway with soaring ceilings. There was no queue at the check-in desk at this late hour, and a friendly associate helped us with our check-in.
I was delighted to hear that as a Marriott Platinum Premier Elite member (now Titanium Elite) I’d have access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge on the second floor, where breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening canapés would be served on a daily basis. Moreover, I could also choose to have breakfast in the hotel’s Beach Road Kitchen; as the associate succinctly put, we would “choose the restaurant for variety and the lounge for exclusivity”.
Unfortunately, no suite upgrade was forthcoming. I did inquire about whether we had received an upgrade, and was simply told we had been assigned a Deluxe King Room (so no).
I suspect the hotel was rather full given that we were travelling shortly after New Year’s, and I was also eager to have a lie-down after an exhausting journey, so I didn’t push the matter further.
We took the elevator up to the 9th floor. I noted that the design on the carpet was particularly snazzy for a JW Marriott, and certainly more extravagant than the most other JW Marriotts I’ve stayed at in the past. It almost reminded me of a W hotel.
Also note the hotel’s bar, Tonic, which is located adjacent to the elevator banks on the ground floor and is open from the afternoon until late.
The guest room hallways look extremely sleek and modern, as though you were walking through a spaceship. We had been assigned Room 908, close to the elevators on the 9th floor.
The outlandish decor continued into the room itself, where the same “scribble” design was plastered across almost every surface. In terms of the decor of this hotel being a departure from the usual JW Marriott experience, the writing was, quite literally, on the wall.
On the plus side, the room was modern and spacious. The king bed and desk occupy the left side of the room as you enter and walk through the entryway.
Sleep quality on the bed was excellent – perhaps too excellent, as it took full advantage of our frazzled circadian rhythms to lure us into falling asleep well before sunset on all three days of our stay.
As a newly renovated hotel, there were USB and power ports on both bedside tables, which is a feature I always appreciate. Moreover, the desk was a great spot to get some work done, with the shiny metal chair representing another of the hotel’s interesting design choices.
The opposite side of the room consisted of a very long couch and a television that swung outwards from the wall on one side. The position of the television didn’t seem particularly well thought out, since you wouldn’t be watching it fully straight-on from either the bed or the couch.
A set of two chairs and a small table, situated on the side of the room, were the last of the interior furniture.
Adjacent to the king bed is the pantry, where you’ll find the minibar, snacks, and coffee and tea. A welcome amenity of a few South East Asian cakes and pastries had been left for us here.
The bathroom maintains the glossy modern look of the room, and I found it to be relatively large for a standard room that’s not a suite. It consists of a separate shower and bathtub, and is covered in mirrors that make the space feel larger than it really is.
My one complaint about the bathroom would be that the area around the sink was a little small.
On the plus side, the bathtub was a good size, the toilet was one of those Japanese “smart toilets”, and the shower came in two separate modes, allowing you to treat yourself to a decadent rain shower.
Lastly, a set of doors is embedded within the walls of the entryway, which opens up to a closet. Those distinctive JW Marriott bathrobes were as soft and plush as I remembered them.
Overall, I was impressed with how spacious and comfortable the room was, and certainly didn’t feel disappointed at all that I didn’t receive a suite upgrade. However, many of the design choices in the room, like the bright green frosted glass in the pantry, felt like they belonged in a W hotel than a JW Marriott, and certainly might not be to everyone’s liking.
It’s my understanding that the hotel was rebranded as a JW Marriott in 2016, and before that, it was simply known as the South Beach Hotel. Back in the day, the South Beach Hotel had been known for its edgy and quirky design, which has certainly carried over into its new identity as a JW Marriott.
While I didn’t manage to take a picture of it, the windows of Room 908 simply faced other high-rise buildings in the area, so there weren’t many views to speak of.
We managed to get some sleep shortly after arriving at the hotel, but we woke up very early in the morning thanks to our jet lag, and we were starving. Naturally, we headed down to the Executive Lounge for breakfast.
The lounge is actually housed within an entirely separate building from the hotel itself, but an enclosed footbridge on the second floor provides access to it from 6am to midnight. There’s that snazzy scribble pattern again…
After the front desk associate in the lounge verifies your room number, you’re free to find a spot anywhere and hit the breakfast buffet.
JW Marriotts almost always come with a well-appointed Executive Lounge, and this one was perhaps the most impressive one I’ve encountered so far. The lounge boasts a varied set of seating arrangements, consisting of dining tables, couches, and small alcoves for more private conversations.
There’s also high-top seating next to the lounge’s bar, where an array of television screens provide live news updates around the clock.
A handful of seats along the walls of the lounge, some of which feature iMac workstations, provide a place for guests to get some work done.
Of course, the most impressive feature of the lounge is the buffet, which is the site of three meal presentations throughout the day. On our first visit to the lounge, we were among the first guests to dig into the extensive breakfast spread on display.
The highlight of breakfast in the lounge is no doubt the build-your-own-noodle station, where you’d get to choose from a variety of noodle types, garnishes, and broths. I consumed two bowls for breakfast and was still craving more, but I had to save room for the other stuff!
In addition to made-to-order noodles, you could also get your eggs prepared any style from the live cooking station.
There was a wide range of Asian and Western hot breakfast items adjacent to the live cooking station…
…the pastries and cereals are available in the centre of the buffet…
…and the fruits, juices, salads, and charcuterie items are on display within a few chilled racks.
After bringing your breakfast back to the table, the friendly lounge associates are on hand to offer you any caffeinated beverages (including handcrafted specialty beverages like cappuccinos) and help you with your plans for the day.
Jessica and I also stopped by the lounge for the evening spread on a few nights as well, effectively eating a quick dinner there before heading back to the room and falling into a deep, deep sleep. Between the wide selection of finger foods, dim sum, sweet treats, and yet another live cooking station (chicken laksa this time), there was more than enough variety to put together a balanced meal.
Overall, the Executive Lounge at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach was home to what was probably one of the most immaculately presented food spreads I’ve ever had the privilege of eating from…
…that is, until the next day, when we decided to take breakfast in the Beach Road Kitchen restaurant!
Let me say it upfront: the breakfast spread at the Beach Road Kitchen is UNREAL. There are so many displays and stations to choose from that it’s kind of overwhelming.
In addition to what’s available up in the Executive Lounge, like the Asian and Western hot breakfast items, made-to-order noodles, pastries, salad, and cold cuts…
…you also have a plethora of specialty items, like a curry station, a sausage station, a Hainan chicken rice station, and a pancake and waffle station.
Eating from a breakfast buffet like this is definitely a full-fledged experience in itself, and it’s certainly an exercise in careful and strategic planning if you do want to try a bit of everything on display. Somehow, over two mornings, I was eventually able to sample most of the items in the buffet, and I felt pretty damn proud of myself for doing so.
Hot tip: if you’re headed down to the Beach Road Kitchen for breakfast, try to get there early, since the place really fills up by 9am. If you’d prefer a more exclusive breakfast experience over an overwhelmingly large breakfast spread, then the Executive Lounge would indeed be the preferable option.
The Beach Road Kitchen also serves additional buffet spreads throughout the day for lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends, which are available at a rather steep price. As another on-site dining option, the Akira Back restaurant in the hotel seems to be quite internationally well-acclaimed.
One thing that’s absolutely necessary after eating and drinking up a storm is to burn it all off at the gym, and the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach’s fitness facility up on the 18th floor is perfectly suited to that purpose.
The real highlight of the 18th floor, though, would be the open-air outdoor pool that faces the Downtown Core skyline, as well as Singapore’s signature Marina Bay Sands building, off in the distance. The pool wasn’t heated, which made it a welcome reprieve from the sweltering Singapore heat, but also a little cold at night.
But seriously, look at those views.
There’s something quite amazing about staying at a hotel with an incredible poolside view like this, knowing you can simply take the elevator upstairs at any time, wearing nothing more than a bathrobe, to drink in the striking skyline views with a cocktail in hand. Needless to say, Jessica and I partook on more than one occasion throughout our stay.
The JW Marriott Singapore South Beach is a spectacular hotel. Despite the offbeat decor, the base-level Deluxe Rooms are modern and spacious, so I’m sure that the suites would’ve been even better. The hotel also treated me to a gorgeous open-air pool on the 18th floor, an impressive Executive Lounge that really lived up to the JW Marriott billing, and hands-down THE most amazing breakfast spread I’ve ever seen in the Beach Road Kitchen.
While the hotel’s price point of $250–300 is a little expensive and also doesn’t provide good value for points redemptions, it’s certainly not an unreasonable price by Singapore’s standards, so I’d almost certainly come back here for another stay the next time I find myself in town.