Just came back from Singapore, where we celebrated my other half’s birthday. It’s become a bit of a tradition, celebrating it there. The best hotel we’ve stayed and celebrated at has been the magnificent Mandarin Oriental, but by the time a weekend work commitment was confirmed and we could book (grr, everything is so last minute here), it was booked out. I found a couple of other good hotels, but I settled on the one with breakfast. Why? In retrospect, we never want to get up that early for breakfast anyway.
Our flight (review soon! I swear!) was delayed rather significantly and we didn’t arrive at check-in until after 2 a.m. Prior to our arrival, I’d emailed the hotel to inform them of the purpose of our visit and to request a quiet room. Even though they had a record of the birthday and it was there on the passport, it went unnoticed. It stayed unnoticed until later the following day, when I called down to inform them of my disappointment!
The room was unimpressive, but I thought we’d be out most of the time anyway. At least we could just enjoy the spectacular view, and enjoy a decent sleep without being woken up by our asshole neighbours. Wrooooong! At around 7am, we were woken by loud announcements over a microphone, which appeared to be coming from outside the hotel. I called to ask staff what was going on, and they were quick to say it wasn’t coming from the hotel. I didn’t care where it was coming from; I’d only had around 4 hours’ sleep and just wanted a decent rest. I later found out it was a public holiday for Deepvali in Singapore, so it could have been something to do with that? Either way, staff had no idea but we ended up changing rooms, on the same floor but on the other side of the hotel.
The new room was slightly bigger, and thankfully quieter so we managed to get a few hours of sleep. The bed in this room had a mattress topper, so it wasn’t as hard as the bed in the previous room. Still, it didn’t inspire that five star “ahhh” feeling of relaxation as you sink into the bed. Once awake and ready to tackle the day, I opened the curtains and immediately noticed a half full McCafe cup of coffee sitting on the balcony, with cigarette butts floating in it. Who knows how long it had been there, but if I noticed it, I wonder why housekeeping hadn’t. This was supposed to be a smoke-free room, by the way.
Since we missed the breakfast that came with the room rate, ordered room service. It’s good that they have gluten free bread, but I received three calls from the operator to confirm how I wanted my food, and which sauce I wanted since Hollandaise isn’t gluten free. I appreciate the concern but by the third time I wanted to scream “I don’t care, just send me up some eggs with gluten free bread!”. When i arrived, the food was lukewarm and the poached eggs were soggy with water. My darling’s Indian vegetarian breakfast was OK, but nothing amazing in this city of top-notch Indian cuisine.
The room itself was tired, quite similar to the Mandarin Oriental’s old deluxe rooms before they were refurbished almost a decade ago, those rooms I would stay in a lifetime ago between my Australian and Japanese lives. The toiletries were cheap and unbranded, and the bathroom grouting could really do with a bleach – it was an unpleasant pink colour. Both bathrooms had the same issue. Strike 2 for housekeeping.
We spent quite a few hours out enjoying the space and greenery of Singapore and returned to change for dinner. Unfortunately, the room still hadn’t been cleaned, despite the “please clean room” light being illuminated. Unfortunately, there was still no acknowledgement of our celebration. I must emphasise I’m not out for free stuff – it’s about making a guest feel acknowledged and special. A simple card can do this, you know? We later returned from dinner to find fruit and chocolates, but it’s unfortunate I had to call down and remind them to do this.
We had an utterly fabulous dinner, and arrived back at the hotel bursting but so, so happy. The restaurant staff completely spoiled us and it was a wonderful, indulgent evening. But here was the worst part – we entered the lobby and encountered live music. Since it’s an atrium hotel, the music is amplified by the building design. This means that inside the guest room, it is SO loud. I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to expect to have a choice to opt out of such musical entertainment in a five star hotel charging upwards of $300 per night. I especially don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be able to go to sleep when one wishes to, rather than when the music finally ends. At this point, we were still tired from the late flight the day before and just wanted to settle in and catch up on sleep. I called downstairs and was told the music would continue until 23.15. Bear in mind, that’s Singapore time. If you’ve flown in from the other side of the world, or have an early flight the next morning, or are just like me and are a bit of a nanna and just want to get some SLEEP, you may see red.
I was put through to the duty manager and was told that if I wanted to change rooms, they would put me on the same room I’d vacated that morning because of noise. This, other than putting up with the music till the scheduled finish time, was the only option offered. She actually said “We cannot stop the music just for you”! There was no attempt to empathise or understand my perspective. Moving to a different floor or room category was expressly not an option. Instead, she said she’d asked the band to turn the music down and assured me it would be played at 10% volume and I wouldn’t hear it. As they were on a break at the time, I was unable to tell if this would be the case and would only know if her assurance was true when lying in bed trying to go to sleep. What recourse would I have then? Infuriatingly, the duty manager even tried to tell me that such a music set up in lobbies is common in Singapore hotels. Having been to Singapore a few times just this year alone, I know this is simply not true and it is beyond unusual for musical entertainment to infringe into guests’ rooms in such a way, especially in a five-star hotel.
I truly have never felt as unimportant and disregarded as a guest in a Singapore hotel. What an ultimatum: either put up with the noise until the singing is scheduled to stop, or return to the original room where I was woken up by noise. The fact that this was on a birthday made it even worse. We could have stayed in noisy Hong Kong for free and had a quieter night, which is saying something.
So, in the end, the “10% volume” was still audible and I fell asleep a lot later than I’d intended. It’s not easy to sleep when you’re seething with rage and disappointment.
Although we were staying in a non-smoking floor, I had woken up with a blocked noise and scratchy throat, and our room stank of smoke. We decided to try the breakfast buffet that was included in the room rate. Totally not worth it. Staff appeared harassed, food kept running out and the queue was really long. We were not given a choice of where to sit (a far cry from the Mandarin Oriental, where staff remember your preference) and were initially seated in some dingy, 80s function area until we asked to be seated in the more airy atrium area. Coffee or tea was not offered, and after requesting this from a passing waiter, I had to wait for it to be delivered to my table. Honestly, if you’re going to serve such poor coffee, just make it the sort that can be poured at the table.
On checking out, we were asked if we had slept well. The answer – no! We were offered a complimentary taxi to the airport, which was SG$20. I’d spent upwards of 30 times that much to celebrate a birthday with the hope of checking out feeling refreshed and taken care of. We ended up taking an Uber and didn’t look back.
What a shockingly bad hotel. I haven’t stayed at a four or five star property and checked out feeling this disappointed before. Old, sad rooms. Absent-minded housekeeping. Management who do not show any commitment to making their guests feel heard or looked after. Singapore hotels are not cheap, but don’t pay five star rates for a product that would be three star on a good day. Stay elsewhere. And for anyone who values their sleep, be warned about the atrium lobby music. Run, run away from this place.