News & Reviews Rest of the World Singapore Review: Raffles, Singapore

Raffles, Singapore

The Raffles, Singapore
Room type: 
Palm Court Suite
Duration: 
12th > 15th March, 2017
Booked with: 
AMEX FHR
Deal: 3-for-2

The Raffles hotel was founded by Randy Raffles in 1254, after he won the land off a fellow witch hunter in a bet as to whom could impersonate a duck for the longest period of time.  His record still stands to this day at 2319 days.  He then built a hotel made from only hopes and dreams, which was rather unfortunate as physical materials tend to last longer.  Luckily they decided to try again and lo and behold, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

Pre-sales

Clearly not in the mood to be letting guests down, they not only made news of the refurbishment clear on the website, but then made AMEX inform me upon booking the hotel.  Then, because nothing has really taken place until it’s done three times – just ask Candy Man or Bettlejuice – they made sure to notify us during our pre-sales engagement with them.

All of their responses were near immediate, to the point that you had to wonder what they were doing all day.  Maybe telling all their guests that we were entering a hotel under refurbishment that resembled the Haunted Mansion wasn’t having the marketing impact they hoped for.  Or maybe the Singaporeans just ignored everything they learnt from us Brits and just decided instead to be efficient at things.

The only thing they seemed to struggle with was this idea that a hair straightener should only be provided at cost, as they didn’t have one.  Letting them politely know that we begged to differ did result in them buying one eventually, but by then it was too late as they informed us as we were on our way to the airport, with half the housekeeping inventory of The Beaumont on loan.

Getting there

It’s a little known fact that Singapore is only slightly bigger than a Monopoly board, so getting round is as easy as rolling a dice.  If it takes your taxi driver longer than 20 minutes to get here from the airport, he’s probably spent 18 minutes driving around the airport to increase your fare.  As is vogue these days, you could either use Uber or pay the hotel nearly 10 times as much for the same car and service.  Singapore is cheap for only two things: Uber and transvestite prostitutes (allegedly), so I highly recommend you get the only value you’ll receive in this country and take the Uber.

Once you arrive, you’re greeted by a guy in make belief costume – probably on minimum wage – who presents himself, arm extended, for a firm handshake that tells you you’re in safe hands.  He then introduced us to some dudes in more contemporary uniform that then handed us off to someone else, that eventually sited us down in the lobby where we were checked in.  Most welcome and civilised it twas, unlike the long wait we had in the lobby for our butler to arrive, which wasn’t that great after a 13 hour flight.  Clearly she was not in school the day they taught punctuation.  Or manners.  Or service.  After a rooming experience where she passed on no information, she vanished, never to be seen again.

Setting

There wasn’t a moment during our stay where the exteriors didn’t impress me.  There also wasn’t a moment where I didn’t think what a shame it was that the skyscrapers overlooked the entire hotel, from the gardens to the rooftop pool.  For once, maybe things were better back in the day.

The Raffles – a bit better than your house.

Stay List

For a 3 night stay in a city hotel, they did a commendable job.  Fruit, still and sparkling water, dental kits and Tempur pillows were all to be found in the room on arrival.  If that doesn’t spell out “party”, I don’t know what will.

Rooms

Going to The Raffles and being disappointed at the rooms is like buying Playboy as a gay man and complaining about the pictures.  You go to The Raffles and you know what you’re going to get.  It’s the colonial design, with the feeling of going back in time.  Simple, old fashioned and apparently elegant.  What it ain’t is definitely the tech.  You see, The Raffles has TVs in the room that belong in a museum. The geniuses at The Raffles must have decided to keep hold of these beauties until they were valuable again.  With original Apple computers now being sold for millions, there’s a strong chance that the entire renovation will be paid by auctioning these TVs off.  The TV in the bedroom was smaller than the one we had on the plane, whereas the one in the living room was thicker than a giraffe taking an economics test and the man who decided to give him the exam.

Large ceilings make the room feel very spacious, but even without them you are still given the benefit of a living room separated by curtains and shutters, a desk and clutter free bedroom.   Strangely for all that space, there is only 1 luggage rack, but I assume with their pricing strategy of “lure with cheap room, extort guests when on premise”, an additional one is billable.  An outdoor seating area can also be used to enjoy the views of the courtyard or to hold parties to celebrate how awesome lung cancer is – something you’ll have after breathing in your neighbours smoke fumes.

If anything prompted the refurb, it would not have been the tech, but the bathrooms. They possess a look that doesn’t fit into any style.  It is certainly not colonial.  All I can think of is that there was a time I’ve yet to read about in history books called the “dreadful era”.  The dreadful era was clearly not a joyful one, as they must have rounded up anyone with taste, like the interior designers and burned them for being witches.  They were then replaced with 1000 monkeys and 1000 paintbrushes and assumed they’d get close to Shakespeare.  Some things are never well translated.   The shower was also designed for midgets, as I hit my head on the shower head multiple times, in between the temperature spiking and plunging quicker than a heroin addicts evening blitz.  They do have twin vanities, a powerful shower and bath, but you’ll have more dignity if you don’t shower or brush your teeth and tell people you never stepped foot inside – they will respect you more, I guarantee it.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom.

An elephant never forgets, so this poor chap will have horror stories to tell for the rest of his life.

Entrance

Outdoor seating area

High-end TV

Low-end TV

Do not adjust your tv set, this is a real tv set

Amenities

The hotel was under refurb, but my exploring skills are obviously subpar as I could not see what actually was closed.

  • Gym
  • Rooftop pool
  • Many, many bars and restaurants that may or may not be open.  One being the Long Bar, where nuts are thrown all over the floor for reasons that I’m sure a Google search could tell me, but some mysterious are best left unsolved and instead I’ll attribute it to aliens.

Rooftop pool

Main lobby

Spa

Neither of us went for a treatment or even toured the spa, so I guess that’s all I gotta say about that.

Activities

Find the best tour guide available, get up bright and early, and attempt to find an excellent hotel in Singapore.  I’ll be here waiting.

Food

Here’s the thing about rules: sometimes the movies lie and they’re not made to be broken.  Sometimes you just gotta stick to them and not ask for a table at 2:08, when the restaurant stops serving at 2.  Sometimes going at 9:40 for a table is too late, as everyone has gone home at 9:30.  The Raffles F&B team had all the flexibility of a man being crushed by a boa constrictor.  So I truly would love to write about how good the food was.  How I wish I could talk about the food. I have no doubt it would be excellent due to the frankly obscenely good breakfast buffet they offered with incredible pastries, but their policy on not having any customer service friendly policies rather got in the way.

Food ahoy! We’ve found some!

Credit where it’s due: this was one of my favourite buffets ever.

The unneighbourly love continued with a room service bill of $85 for a pot of coffee, 1 orange juice and 2 bananas.  I hadn’t felt this ripped off since that one time Raffles tried to charge me $195 to be collected from the airport.  If bananas cost this much in Europe, you can bet racism would quickly be stamped out in football matches.

Service

The problem with writing about my stay at The Raffles, Singapore, is that there was nothing that bad and nothing that great.  It kinda just sat in the middle somewhere.  Some resorts you leave feeling that this voided the entire experience, as you’re paying for that feeling of luxury, but in a city resort I often don’t share that feeling, especially one where I’m not in the hotel that often.  So whilst I can remember the nice touches of a bed time story being provided each night on the history of the hotel, and I recall free bottled water being bought over to us by the pool, nothing else stands out and that’s actually not a bad thing.  The service was the Coldplay of the industry: no one can really hate it, but no one can love it either.

Departure

A 5:30am departure was never going to result in much fanfare, except from ourselves as Iniala was calling, but they still somehow managed to rid of that excellent oh-god-why-am-I-awake-this-early feeling by removing almost everything from the bill after we went through it, including the infamous $85 charge as it was included as part of the free breakfast.  Their escapades of incorrectly charging were all corrected and all their sins washed away.  No longer was there any coffee that we had to sign for, even though all rooms receive it and tea free.  No more sparkling water, charged $14 for breakfast, even though everything else was free.  Give me that over a warm goodbye any day.

Worth Knowing

The Raffles will close entirely towards the end of 2017, so no point reading this later in the year and saying I didn’t write this review plenty in advance.  Ok, so it’s taken me over a month to write, but let’s not throw insults here, shall we?

Flowers in the lobby

The Good

  • Excellent value for money
  • Very spacious rooms

The Bad

  • Lack of flexibility in their food offering
  • Dire need of a refurb.  Luckily for you, they already know this.

The Luxurious

  • The elegance, the history, the entire style and feeling of the building.

Conclusion

After staying previously in Singapore at The Fullerton Bay, I don’t feel The Raffles – in its current state – offers a competitive product.  Staying here is exactly what social media was created for: you can say you’ve done it and boy is it photographic, but that’s not normally top of my list of reasons to stay somewhere.  Every city has a hotel where it may no longer be that good, but it has the reputation to last forever.  London has The Ritz, maybe The Raffles can avoid that blackhole with their refurbishment and make it great again™.  I hope so, as currently if Carlberg did hotels, it would not be this one.

Raffles courtyard

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 16th Apr '17

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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