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Sunday, February 16, 2014

[Hotel Review] Ritz Carlton Milenia Singapore

There are certain brands that are so powerful that the mere mention of its name requires no further explanation. I suppose that when it comes to the Ritz Carlton brand, most people come in with a certain impression, a certain expectation of what this brand represents. For many, the Ritz Carlton is considered to be at the apex of hotel chain brands, one that is timeless, synonymous to luxury, and providing impeccable service. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore for a weekend staycation dubbed as “Time to Getaway.” I was of course very delighted to be able to stay in this hotel, and like many, I also had my own impressions about the brand which did not deviate from the perception of the general public.

 Given that this brand is so easily recognizable, I decided to do something different during my stay. I decided to start from a clean slate, without any preconception of utter plushness or the thought of having hotel staff at my beck and call. I wanted to base my overall experience from scratch.

 a first look at my room

The hotel’s “Time to Getaway” promotion has a unique feature where guests can enjoy savings in their room rate the later they decide to check-in, with a $20 deduction with every hour after 2pm (subject to a cap of $80) that check-in is done. My check-in procedure was simple enough. It was done in the room! The hotel hosted me in their Deluxe Room with Marina Bay View, and indeed, what a view it was. The hotel boasts of views from the two highlights of Marina Bay – the iconic Marina Bay Sands on one end and the skyline of the Singapore CBD from the other. I’ve been told before that Ritz Carlton had the best view of Marina Bay among all the hotels in the area and after seeing the view from my room, I am inclined to agree.

My check-in procedure took only a while. The front desk officer explained to me that my room package came with breakfast and that I had a $50 credit that I could use to offset any purchases made in the hotel’s dining and retail establishments. After she bid goodbye, I took the time to survey what my room had to offer. There were a lot of these little touches that really heightened my stay. For instance, the hotel manager was nice enough to leave a handwritten note – a nice gesture given that very few hotels nowadays seem to get the personalization factor right. And then there was also a basket copiously filled with fruits. I don’t think there’s any need to go into detail but I was pleasantly surprised to find mangosteens in the basket given that it’s not even in season.

 my large room

At 50 sqm for just a deluxe room, the room cuts are one of the biggest in Singapore. It’s even more glaring if one considers that many of the newer hotels in the country have room sizes of less than 20 sqm! If seen from the size angle, the prices at Ritz Carlton are actually of good value when compared vis-a-vis other hotels in its class. Even a normal room in a 4-star hotel these days costs at least SGD 250.

 the panoramic view from my window at night

The hotel has been around since 1996 but the furnishings in the rooms are noticeably new and well-maintained. The hotel underwent a major renovation for its rooms in 2011 into what is now its timeless design, making itself up-to-date with the ever burgeoning legion of new hotels in the country. There’s a 46-inch flat screen TV. The furnishings in the room are mostly in neutral and warm colors which is just perfect for travelers who had just spent an entire day soaking the sights in humid Singapore or executives who had just spent 8 hours glued to their desks. Wood panels are used for the flooring which I personally prefer over carpets which have a tendency to collect dust.
an unbeatable view for a bath in Singapore!

 the toiletries set

The bathroom is just as spacious, occupying at the very least 1/3 of the overall room size. It comes well-stocked with toiletries, including those from Asprey. A feature unique to the hotel are the bathtubs facing Marina Bay. For those who want to be pampered, taking a bath in one of these tubs with the incredible view is an essential experience. There is a separate shower as well as toilet area. How’s that for privacy?

 a peek at the premiere suite
I had asked to see the other rooms as well and Ritz Carlton was nice enough to show me their Premiere Suite. At 60 sqm, it was more spacious than my Deluxe Room, with a separate living space. The room had a magnificent view of the Marina Bay area with the trademark bathtub as well.

snack items with compliments of the hotel – fruit tarts, dried mangoes and mango pudding with (24k?) gold foill

I happened to be in the room at about 5pm when I heard a knock on my door. To my utter delight, a hotel staff presented me with a tray of snack items. Again, this was a great personal touch. It seemed as if the hotel knew exactly what kind of food I like to eat.

venchi chocolates left at my bedside for late night hunger pangs

I went out for dinner a bit after consuming the snacks and returned a few hours later. That’s when I noticed that housekeeping had actually made up my bed ready for sleeping and left behind some chocolates for those late night hunger pangs. This was another nice touch and by this time, I had already lost count on the number of little gestures the hotel has given me. And I hadn’t even stayed for more than 6 hours yet! This trademark service was hard not to recognize even as I tried to leave any preconceptions I had about Ritz Carlton’s legendary level of service out the door.

The hotel is an attraction in itself with around 4,200 art pieces scattered across the property. These pieces include works by no less than Andy Warhol. One can just stroll freely around the hallways to see some of these amazing, eclectic installations.

great night view of the hotel pool

Other than that, there is of course the customary hotel pool which seems to be a popular amenity among hotel guests. I returned that same evening to find it deserted which was a shame. I thought the night lights brought about the best of the pool area. What do you think?

the hotel gym

The hotel’s fitness center is humongous and I must say that it is the largest hotel gym I have seen out of all the hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The fitness center staff was also very attentive and would offer me wet towels midway during my run to freshen up. The gym “pantry” was also well-stocked with fruits – the first time I’ve ever seen such an assortment in a hotel gym.

I had the opportunity to eat in the hotel’s famous all-day dining restaurant, Greenhouse, twice during this stay. The first was for lunch with Wenxian who handles marketing in the Ritz and the second was for breakfast the next day. This was actually not my first time to eat in Greenhouse. I have eaten there before in a personal capacity and have fond memories of that first time. This time around was even better!
 bread assortment


For buffet lunch, they had the same wide assortment of dishes that I remember. Of note is their sushi selection which this time included yellowtail, one of my favorites. Most hotel buffets don’t have this. Heck, even most specific Japanese-themed buffets don’t have this so I was delighted to find this at Greenhouse.

 the sushi assortment at greenhouse

specially for us – “cereal maki” with compliments of the (sushi) chef

The sushi chef was also nice enough to prepare a custom-made dish of maki just for us. His interpretation included lightly cooked salmon and some cereal on top. Kind of like the sushi version of cereal prawns! It was my first time to try cereal on my sushi, but it was a fantastic combination.

mmm…they know just what I like… yes, even without asking… they must have ESP incorporated into their service model

And that was not all. Shortly after, the staff brought over a huge platter of seafood courtesy of the chef. It was a hefty assortment which included prawns, clams, mussels, crabs and lobster. Given that I love seafood so much, I would have feasted on it had I not already eaten quite a bit from the buffet spread. The seafood was fresh and most importantly, juicy and succulent. Needless to say, I was full to the brim after that.

breakfast next…

freshly squeezed juices – just the way they should be!

my favorite breakfast item is of course, crispy bacon which they prepare well

For breakfast, the Greenhouse once again had a copious buffet spread, using the same tables that they normally use for the lunch / dinner buffets. The have the standard breakfast items such as eggs, bacon, salads, a wide assortment of cheeses and pastries, some Chinese breakfast items like dumplings and congee. They also had waffles which were cooked upon request as well as a good selection of juices. Of note are their freshly-squeezed juices ranging from the normal flavors to the likes of mixed berries which I have not encountered elsewhere.
I won’t beat around the bush. Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore has the best service I’ve ever experienced among the hotels I’ve stayed in. The staff really went out of their way to make my stay an enjoyable one. These little extras I got during my stay may seem, well, like little things if viewed in isolation but given the number of instances, it does add up and gives the guest that great feeling of being valued and personalized. Of course the 50 sqm room with the fantastic view of Marina Bay was nothing to complain about either. Together, these are the top two things that has left a lasting impression on me about the property. Given its main differentiating factors, this hotel is actually one of the best places in the country to consider if a staycation is on your mind and you foresee yourself spending a lot of time in the hotel itself. For travelers, the Ritz Carlton is also a great place to consider. Make the most out of your Singapore vacation and stay in a room facing Marina Bay. Like I said previously, this hotel has the best views.
Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue  Singapore 039799
Tel: +65 6337 8888
Note: I was invited by Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore to try their weekend staycation package called “Time to Getaway” which is bookable for all room types, subject to availability

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