Marina Bay Sands review: Singapore's most iconic hotel still wows after 10 years

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

Take a look inside Marina Bay Sands in the photo gallery above.

THE PLACE

It's now more than a decade since Marina Bay Sands opened in a bold effort to match its Middle East competitors at their own grandiose tourism game. Superstitious Singaporeans worried that the three towers - connected with a dramatic single rooftop oasis platform supposedly big enough to park A380s atop it (rather than in the desert outside Alice Springs, as it sadly transpired) - reminded them of a row of gravestones.

But the experiment that was MBS, as the locals refer to it, has succeeded in largely dispelling Singapore's image as a destination worthy of no more than a stay for a night or two on the way to or from a more interesting somewhere else.

THE LOCATION

It's a breezy 20 minute drive from Changi International Airport, and, unless you've dozed off enroute, you can't miss MBS from the East Coast Parkway expressway. And of course, this was always the point. This is a monumental statement of tourism to the tune of $S5.25 billion, the total cost of this mammoth project. MBS was built a decade ago on reclaimed land, like so much of the island state.

THE SPACE

If you want space this is the place, even though, paradoxically, you're in Singapore, a part of the world where space is at a premium but is always cleverly allocated, usually by vertical means. There is a Las Vegas-cum-Macau room count of 2561 variously-proportioned digs spread across the triumvirate of towers that form the main part of this "integrated resort" (the word "casino" is rarely uttered). A light-filled atrium-style expanse connects all three at ground level with convenient underground access to the huge shopping mall across the road.

THE ROOM

I've been allocated a commodius premier king sky view room overlooking Marina Bay, much bigger than the room I stayed at in 2010 for the opening of the MBS. The waterway, with a backdrop of the city skyline interspersed with what remains of Singapore's heritage architecture, including the 1920s era City Hal, incorporates the Singapore River. In an effort to use every skerrick of real estate, the bay doubles as a public reservoir, with only electric vessels allowed to ply it.

The room, with its lightly-toned colour scheme, is spacious enough to accommodate a living area with a sofa, armchair and coffee table. There's a sizeable desk next to the floor-to- ceiling window that frames that arresting view of the bay. It seems an insult to draw the (automatically-operated, of course) curtains across it when sleep beckons.

THE FOOD

MBS is home to more than 45 restaurants, including celebrity chef brands such as Wolfgang Puck and Tim Ho Wan, with the biggest challenge not only being what to eat but where to begin.

One of the most relevant eateries to Australian visitors is Waku Ghin, the Michelin-rated restaurant of Tetsuya Wakuda, the acclaimed if somewhat forgotten domestically Japanese-Australian chef who once dominated The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. The big news at MBS is that the seminal Wakuda will open a second restaurant under his eponymous surname in the new year in the lobby of the towers rather than in the shopping centre.

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STEPPING OUT

One of the advantages or disadvantages, depending on your perspective, of a stay at MBS is you need not leave its vast air-conditioned realm since there is so much to do within. A game-changer for Singapore, the complex was founded on gaming in the form of its casino but, really, you can ignore that aspect and concentrate on the panoply of other attractions.

Aside from its retail nirvana, one of the main drawcards at MBS is the palm-shaped ArtScience Museum which hosts interesting and regular exhibitions.

If you do leave MBS, and there's a MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station within that connects to the rest of the city, one top option is the adjacent Gardens by the Bay. It's another of Singapore's transformative delights, consisting of man-made Supertrees, architecturally inspired by the karri forests of Western Australia, as well as superjumbo hangar-sized conservatories.

THE VERDICT

Even a decade after it opened, Marina Bay Sands still delivers the wow factor both inside and out. A stay here is an exciting and safe way to reconnect with overseas travel and Singapore itself after such a long period of separation.

ESSENTIALS

Rooms from $S419 ($434) a night. 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore. Ph: +65 6688 8868. See marinabaysands.com; singaporeair.com

HIGHLIGHT

The famous infinity pool on the landscaped SkyPark rooftop still impresses but, due to COVID, houseguests are required to book time-limited slots to use it.

LOWLIGHT

A visit to Singapore is an involved process that requires a considerable amount of time and attention. Be prepared and focused throughout.

Anthony Dennis visited Singapore as a guest of Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Airlines.