One of the newest 5-star hotel openings in Singapore is the JW Marriott South Beach, and we had the opportunity to spend two nights here in October to review their Premier Room, and on the second night a Premier Suite, and to check out the hotel and surrounding area.
This is only the second Marriott-branded hotel in Singapore, the longstanding Marriott Tang Plaza, occupying the pagoda-shaped tower above TANGS department store on Orchard Road since 1982, will be recognised by many.
An interesting aspect about this new hotel is that it was not originally managed by Marriott. The design was by Phillipe Starck (a first for a Singapore hotel) and on opening the property was managed by South Beach Consortium, branded as The South Beach Hotel. Effectively the giant 634-room hotel was operated independently, with no major chain affiliation.
It was an ambitious gamble in the cut-throat, fast-consolidating and very much chain-driven hotel industry, however, and after nine months going it alone they announced that the company sought alternative management “to maximise returns on the property”. This is when Marriott International became involved, taking over the management and branding the hotel in their JW Marriott category. It didn’t come cheap – Marriott spent $20 million rebranding the hotel into their corporate style before it was re-opened in December 2016.
The hotel is located in a complex called “South Beach”, next to Beach Road (home to the famous Raffles Hotel). Don’t be misled by the road name or the title though – there is actually no beach here – the name originates from a time long before significant land reclamation, when Raffles Hotel did indeed have a beachside location!
If a beach location is what you’re after then a hotel in Sentosa is likely to be more suitable as be in no doubt – this is definitely a city hotel.
The South Beach complex has a large basement car park, with direct lift access to the hotel lobby. Parking is free for all hotel guests, which is a nice perk, and for those who prefer to valet park this service is available for $15 per day which is reasonable.
MRT access is excellent. Esplanade station on the Circle Line is directly below the hotel. City Hall MRT is also adjacent to the property, a short walk across the road or via an air-conditioned underground shopping precinct which links Esplanade MRT and City Hall MRT stations. From there you can also access the East-West and North-South MRT lines.
Close to the hotel, you will find many attractions, Raffles Hotel (currently undergoing refurbishment for a grand reopening in mid-2018), the Singapore Flyer, Singapore National Gallery, Raffles City shopping mall and CHIJMES with its array of bars and restaurants, to name a few.
We checked in using Marriott’s new iOS app. You receive a notification on the morning you are due to arrive asking you to check-in. The app asks for your estimated arrival time and they then try to have the room ready in time for your arrival. The great thing is that you get a notification as soon as your room is ready. For example, we told them we would arrive at 2pm (1 hour before official check-in) and we received a notification at about 11:57am saying the room was already available! Impressive.
Premier Room: First impressions
This room is one step up from the hotel’s basic Deluxe Room. It’s reasonably sized with a functional layout. Many premier rooms are located on the corners of the hotel like the one we had, and so offer panoramic views. Clever use of mirrors makes the room feel bright and spacious.
Premier Room: In detail
Small touches make all the difference here – international power sockets, bed-side USB ports, electrically controlled blinds and curtains which provide a good ‘black-out’ experience. A decent sized desk and comfy chaise longue make this room a good choice for the business traveller. The only thing we were surprised was missing – a bathtub!
Premier Suite: First impressions
“Wow” – as you walk through the door, the stunning city views from the floor to ceiling windows are breath-taking. This is a big suite!
Premier Suite: In detail
There is a small guest bathroom off the hallway, a large living room with sofas, a desk, bar area, reading nooks etc. The bedroom is nearly the same size again with ample wardrobe space and stunning corner views. The master bathroom features two sinks, a large bathtub and separate shower.
Facilities (pool, gym, spa)
The hotel features two pools. The main pool is on the 18th floor, accompanied by a pool bar “Flow18″. The pool itself has a rather strange design, occupying a double-height open void space between floors. The views are beautiful but as it’s completely covered we found the water too cold. Considering the size of the hotel the pool is also quite small – think more of a dip than laps.
The bar was good and reasonably priced. You can also walk around the whole edge of the hotel on this level, with spectacular views of the city and plenty of comfortable seating.
The other pool is located on the 6th story of the adjacent tower, connected by bridge link to the main hotel. It’s bigger, sunnier and quieter. A good choice to avoid the crowds! The Spa is also located in this adjacent building. There are still good views of the downtown area and Marina Bay Sands.
The gym, on the 18th floor, is a very good size with plenty of exercise machines and an extensive selection of free-weights and other equipment.
Executive club lounge
If you are staying in a Club Deluxe or Club Premier room (which are identical to the rooms mentioned above, but you are paying extra for the “club” access), or any of the suites, you get access to the executive club lounge on level 2. They serve breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails – all are complimentary. We liked this lounge a lot. Shame it’s not on a high floor – as it’s missing a view.
Still, it’s well sized and the food choices were plentiful. Afternoon tea is sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee. For canapés – a selection of bread, cheese, cold meats and fish with a small selection of hot bites. The “cocktails” were limited to two choices each evening e.g. Singapore Sling and Screwdriver. There was also wine and beer on offer – the prosecco was above average, 2 reds and 2 whites were also of a good standard.
Being a Marriott Gold Elite member (or above) gets you access to this lounge for free even when not staying in a “club” room or suite. You can bring in one guest for free. If you need to bring an additional guest they will charge $80++ which, whilst it’s a nice lounge, isn’t worth it – take them to another bar instead!
Bars & Restaurants
The hotel has 2 restaurants and 3 bars – not to mention being just a stone’s throw away from many more options in the South Beach development.
Breakfast is served in Beach Road Kitchen – we went on a busy Sunday morning and were asked to wait 10 minutes to be seated, and then found the buffet understaffed and in need of replenishment. Avoid paying for this unless it’s included in your rate. If you have access – head to the executive lounge instead.
Akira Back is a high-end Japanese restaurant that gets good reviews.
Tonic, a bar specialising in Gin and Court Marshall Bar, a cocktail bar – are both very good. The Media Bar is a relaxed pub-style outlet that serves bar snacks.
We ordered our perennial favourite – The Club Sandwich. It came with fries or a salad. It is actually two sandwiches – a very generous portion. Good quality and represents good value for money at S$28. We also ordered a bottle of wine the following evening – expensive as expected but they offer a good range and it arrived quickly.