- great refurbished rooms
- fantastic restaurants
- overnight construction noise
- slow, expensive Internet
- incredibly well thought-out design
- Orchard Road views
Any visitor to Singapore will be familiar with the iconic Marriott -- yes, it's that one, the octagonal pagoda tower on the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road, the city's busiest intersection. This landmark dominated downtown Singapore before taller towers grew near it, but it remains as Singapore as laksa and banned chewing gum.
A renovation earlier this year looked impressive, so on a recent four-night jaunt to the home of the Merlion I decided I'd test it out.
Location & Impressions
Sitting above the famous Tang's department store, at the hub of the Orchard Road shopping mecca and on top of the Orchard station for Singapore's wonderfully efficient MRT metro, you have to wonder if the Marriott could possibly be any more central.
The first thing you'll notice is that Tang's is undergoing its own an intensive three-year renovation. During my stay this included overnight construction, which meant vibrations rumbling through the hotel in the wee hours of the night.
The hotel's entrance brings you through an attractive waterfall-lined hallway to emerge into the spacious, blissfully air-conditioned lobby.
I was swiftly checked in by the cheery, helpful staff and headed up to my Studio room. At which point I waited for the lifts. And waited. And waited. With only four relatively old lifts for nearly 400 rooms, waiting became a theme during my stay.
The Marriott's studio rooms are new for 2012 and make the most of the octagonal shape of the hotel with an unusual yet space-effective layout.
Walking into the room, you have a large set of wardrobes to your left and the minibar area to your right.
Ahead of you is the large two-seater sofa, with the bed to the left and the desk area behind a flat pillar to the right.
The bathroom sits around to your left, through a separate dressing area with a handy dressing-table.
Inside, the bathroom is chic and modern, with stone walls, a double glass shower and twin designer sinks.
Yes, double showers: there are two full monsoon heads and two separate handheld wands.
Toiletries are rather on the boring side of inoffensive, with Aromatherapy Associates products that are fine for most travellers.
Top marks for power points in the room -- one at each bedside table, which means that you (and your plus one if you've brought yours along) can charge your phone overnight while it's being your alarm clock.
An iPhone-compatible dock is also a plus -- at least for iPhone users who haven't upgraded to an iPhone 5 yet.
And extra points for clearly marked pushbutton lightswitches that tell you whether they're for the bathroom, study, foyer and so on.
So many hotels get this wrong with the annoying "guess what this switch does" game, and it's reassuring to see a hotel get it right.
The room's desk is on the small side but big enough for your laptop and a file, with a pair of chairs on opposing sides that mean you could also use it for dinner.
The chairs themselves aren't especially comfortable -- they'd do for an evening's PowerPoint but not really for a full day's work.
Which is convenient enough, since there's a decent executive lounge upstairs, with enough tables to spread out and get things done.
A word of warning, though: the evening canapé hour is well-attended and busy, so not an ideal working time.
Wifi in the hotel is a problem, though: eyewateringly expensive (unless you jump through the hoops and give out your personal details to receive marketing information from the Marriott Rewards frequent guest program) and slow.
A slow 1Mbps package is SGD 26.75 (A$22) a day, while the "premium" (firmly in inverted commas) 2Mbps package is a whopping SGD 41.15 (A$33). That's more than unlimited mobile Internet from the Starhub network.
Let's be clear: that's unacceptably poor value for Internet so slow that you're unlikely to be able to watch a YouTube video.
The Marriott is well-served for dining, from the fun streetside Crossroads Cafe to the Java+ deli/tapas combo to the waterside Pool Grill to the excellent Wan Hao Chinese restaurant.
Room service is pretty good, with a standard selection of dishes from the hotel's restaurants and the opportunity to send for their full menus if you like.
Breakfast in Marriott Cafe is wide-ranging, with a mix of Asian and Western breakfast options, but the staff didn't seem to have figured out the pace of refreshing popular options like the dim sum or the croissants.
If you're a fan of champagne and dim sum, Wan Hao does a top-notch Bollinger + dim sum package -- but you'll need to bring a colleague, friend or other dining companion, since there's a two-person minimum.
And the evening canapé hours in the 27th-floor executive lounge are remarkably good, with decent wine, beer, liquor and soft drink options plus a noteworthily wide range of food options.
The real reason for any business traveller to stay here is to be on top of all the glitzy shopping that Orchard Road has to offer. Orchard Road's shopping scene isn't our cup of tea -- we're kind of over it and have some suggestions if you are too -- but if you're a bigger shopper than we are then this is an ideal location.
That said, there's plenty to do in the hotel itself that doesn't include shopping. A lovely rooftop pool on top of the fifth floor is a real oasis in the Singapore concrete jungle, and it quiets down notably after dinner when the families have gone to bed.
Level 4 also has a handy fitness centre -- small, but decent enough equipment.
Or you could just relax on your sofa with some music playing and watch the view on Orchard road below you.
The renovation of the Marriott has been a success, with modern, chic rooms that have been created with much thought for the needs of business travellers. (Shame they didn't renovate the lifts, mind...)
Problem is, the renovation of the Tang's complex downstairs is ongoing through 2015, and with middle-of-the-night noise during my stay, it's hard to recommend it to anybody but the heaviest of sleepers.
John Walton was a guest of the Marriott Singapore.