Singapore’s tourism center of gravity has shifted firmly in the direction of Marina Bay. Where the Merlion used to be the main tourist attraction in the area, the perpetually upchucking feline has now found itself overshadowed by a number of new neighbors.
The biggest new kid on the block: the Marina Bay Sands, a dazzling entertainment complex that combines a luxury hotel, convention and exhibition facilities, theaters, an upscale shopping mall, a number of restaurants by celebrity chefs, and a distinctive museum that resembles a lotus flower.
What’s in it for you, the Singapore visitor? It's a worthwhile place to visit if you’ve got any interest in Singapore’s shiny and high-tech new face, and it’s practically Disneyland for the well-heeled visitor with some cash to burn.
Getting to the Marina Bay Sands
From above ground, the Sands makes an immediate impression when you first see it – three 55-story towers, each beginning at an angled base and curving sinuously up until the walls stand perpendicular to the ground at the 23rd level.
All three towers are crowned with a single platform that extends a few meters beyond Tower 3, its curved bottom reminding one somewhat of a ship balanced precariously on top of a trio of pillars.
At their collective base, the buildings are connected by a single atrium 23 stories tall and about 850 feet long, lined with shining examples of modern art.
Your guide checked into the Deluxe Room, the most basic room class in the Marina Bay Sands' catalog of 2,561 rooms and suites. For a hotel room a mere 420 square feet in size, the Sands puts plenty of luxury in the limited space: a King-size bed with feather pillows; an executive work desk; and a 42-inch flat-screen television.
Ascending to the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark
The SkyPark stands on a platform that extends across all three towers and serves as a common entertainment and nightlife space for hotel guests and outside visitors, its three acres of space housing a restaurant, nightclub, a viewing deck, and an infinity-edge swimming pool for hotel guests’ use.
The view of the Singapore skyline afforded by the SkyPark more than made up for the lack of any view in my room on the 2nd level. From the viewing deck, Singapore's Marina Bay district resembles a luminous multicolored Milky Way. Far below us, a light show was throwing beams of light into the sky from the Sands and the ArtScience Museum.
Guests are allowed full access to all the parts of the SkyPark; walk-in visitors can only visit the viewing deck. With my all-access pass (my keycard) I could walk all around to enjoy 360-degree views of Singapore at night, including the Singapore Flyer tracing circles in the night.
The Marina Bay Sands’ Infinity Edge Pool
After taking in the nighttime view, I decided that it was as good a time as any to try the SkyPark’s famous infinity-edged pool.
The pool extends over 160 yards from end to end on the west-facing side of the SkyPark, overlooking the Marina Bay basin and the skyscrapers of Singapore’s business district.
One cannot swim from one end to the other; the pool is actually divided into three sections, with two shallow dividers separating them. On the southern end of the pool stands the kiddie pool, a slightly elevated splashing pool with glass walls to prevent the little ones from jumping out.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s quite clear that the pool is more fun in the daylight than at night. Your guide could stand no longer than ten minutes splashing at the infinity edge, getting my fill of the Marina Bay view while getting really cold in the night air.
Shoppes at the Marina Bay Sands
With over 800,000 square feet of retail and dining space, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is perhaps the largest space in Southeast Asia devoted mainly to premium and luxury brands.
The design is airy and expansive – in the daytime, natural sunlight enters through a long glass skylight that extends down the length of the Shoppes, bathing the mall with a warm glow. The levels are ingeniously designed so there’s plenty of ceiling space above every visitor walking down the halls, from the top level on down.
Standing like a water lily emerging from the promenade in front of the Shoppes building complex, the ten-petaled structure (designed, like the rest of the Sands complex, by Moshe Safdie) houses 21 galleries that cover everything from history exhibits to art shows to architectural showcases.
The building is crowned with ten petals that have been described as the “welcoming hand of Singapore” – the immediate impression is that of a flower or of hands extended in goodwill, depending on whom you ask.
With a gaming area of 161,000 square feet, the Casino at the Marina Bay Sands has enough space to feature over 600 table games and over 2,500 slot machines and electronic table games. Gamers can play roulette, baccarat, blackjack, texas hold'em bonus progressive, and three card poker in the casino. The casino can accommodate over 15,000 patrons across its four levels.
The restaurants in both the hotel and the Shoppes complex serve up a diverse gourmet dining experience, with over 50 restaurant choices. Celebrity chefs have opened restaurants within the Sands, allowing guests to savor the work of personalities like Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy, and Tetsuya Wakuda.
The Marina Bay Sands Singapore at a Glance
Location: 10 Bayfront Drive, Marina Bay, Singapore. One hour from Changi Airport by MRT; thirty minutes by shuttle bus, available for free to registered guests (you must present a printout of the confirmation email).
Rooms: 2,561 rooms and suites within tower 1 and tower 3, 55 levels each; Broadband Internet available in all rooms.
Contact Details: www.marinabaysands.com.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.