So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special?
More than just a hotel, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is where I escape to to live my best Instagram-worthy Crazy Rich Asians life.
No need to venture out for dining or shopping. A kiasu pre-staycay strategy helps me make the most of my one-night stay.
This means pre-booking meals at the big-name restaurants and snagging precious one-hour slots at the Infinity Pool - I go post-dinner and before breakfast for stunning night and day views.
One hour per room per day - due to Covid-19 restrictions - at the iconic 150m-long pool may seem short, but it should be sufficient for a photo session with the Insta-husband. During peak hours, the pool can have no more than 150 people - a far cry from pre-Covid numbers of up to 500 people (at any one point) - which means minimal photobombers in the shots.
It is best to book your slot upon reservation of the room.
The hotel's bathrobe and slippers are fine for pool time but, generally, the crowd - especially diners at the fancy restaurants - is dressed to impress. So ditch the work-from-home shorts and T-shirts and pack your best outfits and shoes. You will never be overdressed.
It is reassuring to see the SG Clean-certified integrated resort take cleaning and safe distancing very seriously. Alcohol-free hand sanitiser dispensers are installed in every lift. Safe distancing ambassadors are always on patrol and quick to split big groups apart - especially at the check-in area.
Once the one-hour pool time is up, lifeguards promptly wave everyone out before cleaning starts.
In the rooms, all towels and bathrobes - as well as the television remote controls - are individually wrapped in plastic. In a private tour of the premises, I am shown the electrostatic spray used for the deep cleaning of hotel rooms, along with other hospital-grade disinfectants.
At Rise restaurant, my breakfast set - served a la carte instead of the usual buffet style - comes covered with a cloche. You can still observe chefs cooking at the live stations, but with acrylic shields in place.
Things that made you go "yum"?
At Italian-American restaurant Lavo, I start my feast with the all-time favourite Meatball made with one pound of wagyu, veal and Italian sausage. I save some space for the sinful 20-layer chocolate and peanut butter cake but end up packing most of it home - it lasts me another five days.
For lunch, my lips tingle with pleasure at Chinese restaurant Mott 32's hot and sour Shanghainese soup dumplings and the poached garoupa fillet in a deliciously spicy Sichuan pepper broth.
Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can go for reasonably priced set lunches at its signature restaurants. Highlights from Spago's lunch menu ($49++ for three courses) include its signature big eye tuna tartare cones, agnolotti with porcini mushrooms, grilled Angus beef burger and grilled Iberico pork pressa.
Sip on The Infinity cocktail at the neighbouring Spago Bar & Lounge, made with Lapsang Souchong tea-infused Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year, pineapple juice and lemon. It is part of MBS' 10 Years of Mixology cocktail series to mark the integrated resort's 10th anniversary.
Over at Japanese restaurant Koma, go for the three-course lunch ($49++, currently 11.30am to 3pm on weekdays; Wednesdays to Sundays from Oct 28) as the desserts - Lemon Yuzu, Bonsai and Japanese cheesecake - are not to be missed. All three are picture-perfect against the backdrop of the 2.5m-tall bell and Japanese bridge.
What else is there to do?
Go on the new 75-minute Sustainability & Art guided tour, part of a staycation package (from $840 nett for a two-night stay) launching in the coming weeks. It includes a pair of tickets to the ArtScience Museum's Planet Or Plastic? exhibition and $50 dining credit.
I get a preview of the informative tour, which highlights elements such as the Wind Arbor art installation by American artist Ned Kahn and the edible herb garden at Rise restaurant. At the end, children get a beautifully designed activity book on sustainability, complete with a pop-up model of MBS.
Why sleep in when you can get an early start to the day, right?
I wake up early for the first pool slot at 6.30am and am rewarded with a lovely sunrise. One can also go for a leisurely stroll around the Marina Bay area or Gardens by the Bay.
Verdict: Bliss or Miss?
Every angle of MBS - designed by acclaimed Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie - is made for the gram. Although I'm in work mode, I snap plenty of panoramic shots, selfies and #foodporn - the way I would on a holiday overseas.
No effort is spared to make this city staycay feel like a quick getaway, even if you are on the "workation" package (from $329 a night, Mondays to Thursdays till Dec 23). Perks include a 9am early check-in (subject to room availability) and $50 in-room dining credit. A box of macarons sent to my room sweetens the deal.
Avoid the weekend crowd and go for an off-peak stay from Mondays to Thursdays. There is less hassle booking pool slots and meals, and rates for spa treatments and services at the Banyan Tree Spa are also slightly cheaper.
MARINA BAY SANDS
WHERE: 10 Bayfront Avenue
RATES: From $299++ a night (minimum two nights)
• This staycation was hosted by the hotel and is part of a weekly series. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife