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REVIEW: Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, Guest Twin Room

Comfy rooms, fantastic location, excellent service; this brand new Hilton in Melbourne may just change your mind about the brand.

Hilton properties are incredibly ubiquitous; you will find it in virtually every city in the world. However, the brand was conspicuously missing from Australia’s most fashionable city: Melbourne, or at least until earlier this year.

Hilton existed in Melbourne for more than four decades since the 1970s, until it decided to pull out of the city in 2014, leaving the city only with a DoubleTree property. That unfortunately has the effect of a mistaken identity, where DoubleTree Melbourne on Flinders St is being dubbed as the “Hilton”, leaving many locals confused when a new, bone fide Hilton popped up earlier this year in the heart of the city.

In this post:
About the hotel
Location
Parking
Checking in
The room – Twin Guest Room
Evening cocktails
Breakfast – Luci
The facilities
Final thoughts

The Hotel

The 244-room property opened its doors in March 2021, after a bit of a delay no thanks to Covid-19.

Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street

The hotel stands at the former Equity Trustees building (which, by the way, still exists today but in a different location). Designed by tenant architects Oakley and Parkes and built by 1931, Equity Chambers is a late addition to the exotic commercial styles prevalent in the late 1920’s and said at the time to be Romanesque but displaying Byzantine characterisation.

While the frontage retains its façade from its former glory, the back has been extended with a six-level wing as well as a new 16-story tower, designed by architecture and design studio Bates Smart.  

Hilton Melbourne comprises 239 guest rooms and only five suites across nine room types:

  • King/Twin Guest Room (27 sqm)
  • King Superior Room (27 sqm)
  • King Deluxe Room with City View (27 sqm)
  • King Premier Room with City View (27 sqm)
  • King Premier Corner Room (33 sqm)
  • King Junior Suite (43 sqm)
  • King Premium Suite (55 sqm)
  • King Master Suite (55 sqm)

As you can see above, if you need a twin room, you only have a single option. For those who are staying alone or don’t mind sharing a bed with your travel companion, you have more options to choose from, with upgrades sometimes available for Hilton Honors elite members.

The first four room types are essentially the same room, difference being the view and the type of windows in your room. Unfortunately, the twin rooms, along with the entry-level King Guest Room, are located on the poorer side of the hotel, with practically no view.

Those facing Bourke Street Mall will be in for a treat, with full-length windows overlooking the city. The larger rooms come with a separate seating/lounging area, which may be ideal for couples with a child or two in tow.

At the top end there’s the King Master Suite. While it’s the same size as the Premium Suite, the premium is in the finishing: think oak-cladded walls, high ceilings, rustic feels. The room boasts of restored heritage features, preserving the charm of the original architecture, while mixing in modern comfort. The suites come with a separate living area with enough sofa space for a party.

Hilton Melbourne – Master Suite (photo: Hilton)

Note that bathtubs are only available for the King Premier Corner Room and above; all lower category rooms come only with a standing shower. 

Location 

Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street is located in the heart of Melbourne CBD, just a 5-minute downhill walk away from the Bourke Street Mall.

Hilton Melbourne location (not to scale)

If you are walking from the hotel to the Mall, you will also pass by Hardware Lane, a quaint little street lined with restaurants and pubs famous for alfresco dining.

Everywhere within Melbourne CBD is walkable from the hotel, but if you are feeling lazy there’s always the tram, which you can take for free within the CBD.

If you are arriving at the hotel by Uber or driving yourself, be sure to turn into Little Queen Street to access the hotel lobby on the inclined slope. Once at the entrance, A colourful large-scale mural by local graffiti artist Kitt Bennett, part of the Juddy Roller collective, along with an array of angled bronze panels will greet you at the hobby’s entrance.

Driveway

You could also pull your luggage through the entrance along Bourke Street, but that means that you will have to traverse through the restaurant and take the lift up to the Mezzanine level where the lobby is, which is probably not the best idea.

Parking

There are two parking options available: valet-parking with your vehicle stored on-site at AUD 65 per day, or self-parking at a car park along Hardware Lane for AUD 25 a day.

If you wish to park at the off-site car park, the entrance is via Bourke St. The carpark entrance is indeed by Hardware Lane, so it may seem like you are driving onto the pavement, but keep cool and follow the signs to turn into the car park.

Just following the signs and yes, drive on the pavement!

For those who choose the self-parking option, be sure to validate your parking ticket at the front desk before collecting the car. There is no limit to the number of times you can enter and exit the car park each day, but you will need to validate your coupon each time you want to drive out, otherwise you are subject to the prevailing parking rates which are sky-high even by Australian standards.

Checking in

The lobby is perched on the slope of Little Queen Street, which will greet you once you enter the understated door.

The lobby is located on a mezzanine level, halfway between the restaurant floor and the first floor where the meeting rooms are located. On the same floor you will find the concierge desk, as well as some sofa seating in case you have to wait around for a bit.

Hilton Melbourne lobby

Australian hotels tend to have a later check-in time and earlier check-out time than hotels in Asia, so you might want to factor that as part of your planning. As a norm, most Australian hotels require either an 11am or 12pm check-out, with check-in time at 3pm or later.

We checked in at about 12pm, and the hotel had no issues giving us access to the room earlier than the stipulated check-in time.

While elite members should get a (non-guaranteed) late check-out, this is largely dependent on the hotel’s discretion. On the last day, we requested for a 12pm check-out, which was promptly granted for us. If you need the room till much later in the day, you are unlikely to get a much extended late check out, but instead will be encourage to dump your bags at the concierge so you can head out to town.

The Room

For this stay, we booked ourselves into a Deluxe Twin Room. Note that this is the only room type with twin beds available, so if you are looking for a larger room, you are out of luck. What this also means is that Hilton elite members will certainly not be upgraded, given that there are no higher room categories that has two beds.

Hilton Melbourne – Twin Guest Room

The room is what I call functional chic: the décor is rather simple with elegant modern touches that make it work. The twin beds, each larger than a standard single-sized bed, is backed by a fabric headboard that brackets them nicely, complete with a small table in between.

Each bed has a reading lamp above it, and both beds share a set of power sockets located just above the bedside table.

Hilton Melbourne – Twin Guest Room
Bedside power sockets

What I love is also the alarm clock: it comes with both a wireless charging pod and built-in cables for charging, which is a nice thought if you forgot your cables, or are simply lazy to unpack it.

Alarm clock with charging cables and wireless charging pod

Near the window is an armchair which we ended up using as a storage area.

On the other side of the room, there was a little ledge that runs from the window to underneath the television, providing extra holding space when you need to unpack your suitcase while not taking up precious floor space. The television is wall-mounted and flushed into the wall, which saves considerable space given that modern hotel rooms are compact.

In the corner of the room, there’s also a day bed of sorts flanking the window, with a round small dining table next to it. There is also a small armchair, so the entire setup is sufficient for in-room dining for two also.

Daybed

Near the door was the wardrobe, where you will be able to find in-room amenities including bathrobes, iron, ironing board and laundry bags. There is also an open rack next to the wardrobe where you can hang more clothes (or anything for that matter). Underneath it is where you will find a drawer containing the in-room safe.

Wardrobe – Bathrobes, ironing kit and more

For in-room refreshments, the hotel has emptied out the minibar, but there’s a menu that you can order from.

The room also comes with a kettle and some teabags and filtered coffee bags that you can enjoy. The one-cup drip coffee bags are from Dukes Coffee, which also supplies the hotel restaurant’s coffee.

Complimentary coffee and tea

The bathroom is fairly spacious. The vanity counter top is a simple marble-like surface affixed on a black metal frame, with a large rounded rectangular mirror that runs the entire length of the vanity.

Twin Guest Room – Bathroom

Bathtub lovers should note that most rooms come only with a standing shower, with bathtubs being found only in the higher room categories.

Hunter Lab amenities

Hilton Melbourne uses Hunter Labs amenities, in the form of pump bottles affixed to the walls. Hunter Labs is a fairly new Australian home-grown skincare brand founded initially for men but later on garnered enough appeal to become unisex. The scent is decidedly a little more botanical with a hint of citrus, which has a generally wide appeal.

Disposable amenities

Notwithstanding Covid-19 which saw hotels returning to using one-off disposable amenities, pump bottles are increasingly common as hotels move towards sustainability options, including common-use pump bottles in the bathrooms, so as to reduce single-use plastic bottles.

Wifi

Australian hotels typically charge for Wifi even though mobile data is pretty ubiquitous today; Hilton Melbourne is no different. Wifi access costs A$19.95 per day, but this is complimentary for Hilton Honors Gold & Diamond members.

Evening cocktails

Despite being a Hilton property, Hilton Melbourne does not have a club lounge, and also does not offer club-level rooms for booking. 

What this means for Diamond members – where lounge access is complimentary – is an in-room evening cocktail experience.

The hotel serves up two bottles of wines (a red and a white), as well as two bottles of beers, along with some canepes to the room each evening between 5pm and 7pm, prepared by the hotel restaurant Luci. While no non-alcoholic options were provided at the time of service, there’s no harm in checking with the front desk if you prefer to have non-alcoholic drinks.

In-room evening cocktails for Diamond members

While this is a daily allotment, note that the provision of your beverages is on a replenishment basis – if you have an unopened bottle in the room, they will not provide a new bottle the next day unless you specifically ask for it. 

The canepes do rotate daily, but they are nary a meal in itself, so don’t expect it to be a dinner replacement. 

Breakfast – Luci

Breakfast is served at the hotel’s sole restaurant Luci, located on the ground floor of the hotel. Available between 6.30am and 10am on weekdays and 7am to 10am on weekends, breakfast is served as a buffet.

Luci

As a Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond member, breakfast is included in your room rate.

During our stay, the hotel offered an a la carte continental breakfast menu, right up to the last morning when they changed it to a buffet breakfast instead.

A la carte breakfast

For our breakfast, we were allowed to order up to three items and two sides. The menu was fairly simple, but the servings were reasonable and ample. Strangely enough, coffee was not included as part of breakfast (what nonsense, isn’t it?), while tea and juices are.

Unfortunately,  the a la carte breakfast service is a temporary fixture. A check with the hotel also confirmed that it has permanently switched to a buffet breakfast service, which we didn’t try on the last morning as we were headed elsewhere for breakfast instead. Based on the little visual survey we took on the last day, it seems like the spread includes items already on the menu: toast, pastries, cereal, yoghurt, fruit, a made-to-order egg station, as well as some other hot entrees such as chipolata sausages and bacon.

If you didn’t have breakfast as part of your room rate, Luci offers an a la carte menu for breakfast as well, which I presume will be similar to what I was given during my stay. Regular breakfast fare such as eggs, toast, yoghurt, bircher muesli are all available, with prices ranging between AUD6 for a slice of toast with condiments to AUD24 for eggs benedict. While the quality is good, you might find better value elsewhere outside of the hotel.

Outside of breakfast service, Luci also opens for dinner on Wednesdays to Saturdays, serving up contemporary Italian-inspired fare for dinners.

The facilities

Despite its size, Hilton Melbourne does not boast of a wide array of facilities. Apart from the food and beverage offerings by Luci and Douglas Club, the hotel pales in comparison in terms of recreational facilities, with only a fitness centre nested on the first floor and no spa nor swimming pool.

Fitness centre

The fitness centre is located on the first floor of the hotel, and is accessible 24/7 with your room key.

Taking up about the size slightly larger than a guestroom, the gym is compact yet sufficient for a quick workout without leaving the hotel. There’s a good rack of dumbbells available with two adjustable benches, as well as a cable machine tucked at the corner.

For your cardio options, there are three treadmills available for use, as well as an elliptical, a rowing machine and a stationary bike as alternatives.

For a serious workout, there are plenty of commercial gyms and workout studios within CBD that you can check out as well, particularly if you have access to Classpass.

Final thoughts

The stay was a surprisingly comfortable one, even though the size of the hotel doesn’t exactly scream “Hilton”. For those familiar with the brand, Hilton is not particularly an exciting property to be staying in. In many cities, Hilton evokes the image of a large, business travel-centric decades-old hotel, with dated rooms complete with fittings that are long due to be replaced. Business travellers continue to stick with the brand mainly because of familiarity and location, and many of these mature properties are also full service ones, with plenty of restaurants, bars, large gyms and even spas available for guests to use without having to step out of the hotel.

This quaint brand-new property in Melbourne changed all of that image, and proved that Hilton has not lost its touch; it is still capable of modernising itself in terms of how it presents its rooms, joining the league of chic hotels.

The hotel has also possibly cut away some frills such as a spa and swimming pool, thereby allowing itself with work with smaller footprints and focusing on core offerings without compromising on standards. In markets such as Australia, on-site swimming pools are sometimes quite useless as they would usually be tiny and have to be closed half the year due to weather.

What needs to be polished is in the area of service. 

During my stay, never once did we see the Concierge desk being manned, leaving me to wonder if the hotel even offers a concierge service which is rather precious for time-strapped business travellers.

The servicing of the rooms were also a little inconsistent, such as having housekeeping leaving a bottle of cleaning agent (by accident I hope) in our bathroom one day. Our request for additional items at night also took an incredibly long time to come, leaving us to wonder if the hotel had overnight staff.

Having said that, the front office manager, Resh, was incredible. There had been some hiccups during our stay due to a reservation oversight, but she was fast to identify and rectify the problem and did an amazing job in service recovery.

This will not be the only Hilton property you will find; Hilton is expected to open another Hilton-branded property in Melbourne Square come 2024.

REVIEW: PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore – Urban Room with COLLECTION Club access

Revitalised, gorgeous garden-in-a-hotel concept, this hotel has transformed into a stunning property. The software however has much to catch up on.

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay opened to little fanfare late last year, no thanks to Covid-19. After a S$45 million dollar refresh from its former days of Marina Mandarin, the newly-minted Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay reopened its doors officially to a local audience.

The new hotel, as PPHG envisioned, features Singapore’s first “garden-in-a-hotel” concept, in line with the hotel brand’s ode to sustainability and wellness. 

With a brand new club lounge and refurbished rooms, we checked out the hotel twice: once in August, and another time in October, to see how it measured up with its sister property, Parkroyal Collection Pickering.

In this post:
About the hotel
Location
Parking
Checking in
The room – Urban Room, COLLECTION Room
COLLECTION Club Lounge
Afternoon tea
Evening cocktails
Breakfast – Peppermint
Breakfast – COLLECTION Club Lounge
The facilities
Dining
Peppermint
Peach Blossoms
Final thoughts

The hotel

PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay (credit: Pan Pacific Hotel Group)

Back in December 2019 right before Covid-19 hit, Pan Pacific Hotel Group (PPHG), who manages the Parkroyal Collection brand, announced that it was taking over the former Marina Mandarin property for a refresh and rebranding of the hotel as a Parkroyal Collection hotel.

This move can be traced back to April 2019, when UOL Group – of which PPHG is a subsidiary – bought out the minority stake of the former Marina Mandarin from OUE to attain full control of the property.

The hotel was one of Singapore’s earliest hotels in the Marina Bay area. Completed in 1984, the 575-room property was designed by John Portman, the hotel has one of the largest open atriums in Southeast Asia, which rises through 21 levels and is permeated by natural light. 

Who is John Portman?

John Calvin Portman Jr. (1924-2017) was an American neofuturistic architect and real estate developer widely known for building hotels multi-storied interior atria (large volumes of space within a building). In Singapore, Portman designed the entire Marina Centre, comprising Marina Square and the three hotels – Pan Pacific Hotel, Mandarin Oriental and Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay. Another lesser known work of Portman’s was Regent Hotel, where you can find his signature design style.

The refurbishment was originally planned to be done progressively, with the hotel continuing operations through the refresh. With Covid-19 virtually drying up foreign visitors to Singapore, PPHG closed the hotel in mid-2020 to expedite upgrading works, and subsequently reopened the hotel in December 2020.

What the hotel did with the space was amazing.

Foyer

Upon stepping into the hotel through the main entrance, you will be greeted by a 13-metre green wall behind the Concierge desk, flanked by planters to project a 180-degree view of a forest. More than 2,400 plants, trees, shrubs and ground cover from 60 varieties of flora has been installed throughout the hotel, with the plants designed to blend into the hotel’s interior.

Take a ride up to the hotel lobby on the fourth floor in the hotel’s signature bubble lifts, it’s as though you took a ride through a vertical nature park. The second and third floors are void areas, but decked out in lush greenery.

Orchidea sculpture

Once you are on the fourth floor, the first thing that will catch your attention is a sculpture suspended through the atria titled Orchidea, a design evoking a windfall of coins dropping into cupped hands.

Aside from its green interiors, the hotel has also committed to other eco-friendly and sustainability initiatives, such as having filtered water tap in the room as opposed to bottled water. Another interesting initiative is the rooftop farm outside the hotel’s signature restaurant Peppermint, which supplies some herbs and vegetables to the restaurant, while kitchen waste is composted for the hotel’s gardens using a specialised food digester.

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay comprises 583 rooms, across 10 different room types: 4 room types; 2 club-level room types and 4 suite types.

Room TypeSizeQty
Urban Room 31-33 sqm227
Lifestyle Room33-35 sqm182
Signature Marina Bay Room31-33 sqm 88
Family Room (two connecting rooms)63-66 sqm4
COLLECTION Room31-33 sqm38
COLLECTION Marina Bay Room 31-33 sqm22
Urban Suite63-66 sqm12
Lifestyle Suite66-70 sqm3
Signature Marina Bay Suite63-66 sqm 6
PARKROYAL COLLECTION Suite199 sqm1

So you may ask – what’s the difference between the Urban Room, Lifestyle Room and the Signature Marina Bay Room?

Essentially, the location of the room matters:

The rooms facing the Padang are the Urban Rooms, while the Lifestyle Rooms are those facing Suntec City/Pan Pacific Hotel. The Signature Marina Bay Room are those facing Marina Bay Sands, with supposedly the best view in the house. Of course, this may not hold true, depending on which floor you are on. Reports have shown that those on the lower floors are blocked by Mandarin Oriental, so you get a half view of the bay.

Google Earth view of the hotel – obviously taken a while ago with the Meritus brand still visible

Location

The hotel is located in the heart of Marina area, flanked by major shopping centres including Suntec City, Marina Square and Millenia Walk.

If you are arriving by public transport, you definitely have plenty of options. The three nearest MRT stations (subway stations) are:

  • City Hall (EW13/NS25) – 15 min walk
  • Esplanade (CC3) – 5 min walk
  • Promenade (CC4/DT15) – 10 min walk

Parking

For those who are driving to the hotel, note that hotel uses the Marina Square car park. Drivers familiar with the area will know that the car park is a labyrinth in itself.

Visitors to the hotel should park in the green zone and make their way to the ground level before entering the hotel by the main entrance. There used to be a small entrance linking from the mall to the hotel, due to Covid-19 this has been disabled, so all guests will have to enter via the main entrance.

Marina Square car park – PRMB is in the green zone

Personally, I recommend that you drop off any luggage and companions at the hotel lobby, before entering the car park right next to the hotel driveway.

The hotel provides complimentary parking, you can collect a free ticket from the concierge at level 1 before you head for your car. There seems to be no limit to the number of coupons you can take throughout your stay, but each time you take a coupon you are required to log your name and room number.

Check-in

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay have been actively running a lot of promotions since the beginning of this year with a good level of success, and this was exemplified by the buzz and the large number of guests when I was staying at the hotel.

The first sign of this was at check-in. My stay in August was over Saturday to Sunday, and this is what I saw:

Reception area

My stay in October was Sunday to Monday and this was the check-in line at 3pm:

Check-in line

In my first stay in August, I arrived just before the standard check-in time of 3pm, and I estimated my own wait time to be about 15 to 20 minutes.

For my second stay, I had the option of checking in at the COLLECTION Lounge, which I did, so thankfully I could bypass the front desk.

Despite the hotel being a Pan Pacific property, the hotel did not have a dedicated GHA Discovery counter for members to check in at the reception desk. Guests booked into the COLLECTION rooms and suites could check in at the COLLECTION club lounge at the fifth floor, however doing so is rather difficult given that you actually need a key card to access the swimming pool and the club lounge. If the doors are locked, you will need to get the Concierge’s help to open that door, so it’s kind of a poor guest experience there.

Having said that, the check-in process itself was rather fuss free. I was given an overview of my room, briefed on my entitlements for the stay and soon I was on my way to my room. Both times, I was given a complimentary late check-out at 4pm for my stay, even though I was not a GHA Discovery member.

For the August stay, we were booked into an Urban Room with COLLECTION Club benefits, while the October stay was a COLLECTION room (more on the subtle differences later). As our room came with lounge benefits, we were informed that we could either have my breakfast at the COLLECTION lounge, or at Peppermint, the hotel’s main restaurant. If you are having breakfast at Peppermint, note that you will have reserve your preferring dining time at either 7am, 8am or 9am with a dining time of 1 hour.

Urban Room & COLLECTION Club Room

For the August stay, we booked ourselves into an Urban Room, with COLLECTION Club lounge access, while for the October stay, we booked into a COLLECTION Room.

Note that the Urban Room with COLLECTION Club access is technically not a room category offered by the hotel, this was possible because of a pre-opening sale I took advantage of some time ago.

Urban Room

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay has refurbished all the rooms since taking them over from the former Marina Mandarin, to provide a much needed fresh look to the rooms.

One good thing about inheriting an older hotel is space; newer hotel rooms tend to skim on size (Sofitel Singapore City Centre is an exception), but here at Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay the rooms measure at least a decent 31 sqm.

Due to the architecture of the building, the room sizes tend to differ slightly depending on which floor and where along the floor you are at. The difference can be observed along the full-length windows and the balconies, where they adhere to the curvature of the building.

First things first, there’s virtually no size difference between the non-club rooms (i.e. Urban, Lifestyle and Marina Bay view rooms) and the COLLECTION-grade rooms, the difference comes with the COLLECTION Club benefits as well as some in-room amenities.

You can see how the room looked newly refreshed the moment once you opened the door. Sleek new carpentry, new upholstery on walls, and brand new electrical fittings are some of the things you will notice.

Urban Room

The room comes with an oversized king bed, big enough for parents with a young kid in tow if you must. The bed lies nicely on a grey fabric headboard, extended beyond both sides of the bed with a reading light, wall sockets and a side table on each side of the bed.

For those who prefer twin bed configurations, both beds are large and comfy, without compromising the size of the room.

COLLECTION Marina Bay Twin Room

Next to the bed, there’s also a small round table and a lounge chair. While the chair is pretty comfortable, the lack of armrests was kind of annoying, it’s almost impossible to lounge properly on the chair or take a nap.

Urban Room – Side table and chair

The table is sufficient for a drink or two, but if you are hosting a small gathering in the room or trying to eat from this table, the size might pose a problem.

Urban Room – TV console and desk

Right across from bed is a long table built into the wall, with a stylish chair accompanied. The table is pretty much the default workspace, with a set of wall power sockets next to the TV. While some may be disappointed that the room doesn’t come with a proper workdesk and a Herman Miller chair, this chair suffices for those short work-in-room moments for business travellers.

In a cabinet to the left holds the mini-fridge, as well as a kettle along with complimentary tea and coffee sachets. Unfortunately, the room doesn’t come with Nespresso or other coffee makers, so instant coffee is what you will get.

Urban Room – Tea & Coffee compliments

Note that if you have booked yourself into a proper COLLECTION Room like what I did in the October stay, you will get a Nespresso machine and TWG tea, instead of this ‘basic’ coffee and tea amenities.

COLLECTION Room – Nespresso machine

As a sustainable hotel, note that you will not find disposable bottled water in your room. Instead, water in the room is filled in reusable glass bottles, in a bid to be environmentally friendly. These bottles cannot be removed from the room (you will be charged for them if you do so), and will be refilled and resealed for every guest.

Bottled water

Closer to the main door is where the wardrobe is. Inside the wardrobe you will find other amenities fitting of a standard hotel room: an in-room safe, an ironing board and iron (not pictures), bedroom slippers as well laundry bags should you require laundry services.

In-room safe, ironing board

Next on to the bathroom. The bathroom has not been modified since its former days as Marina Mandarin, with a slight enhancement to the fittings done only.

Bathroom

First thing you will notice is probably the second ‘toilet bowl’, which essentially is an older-school bidet (if you don’t know how to use one, see this video).

The room is clearly a throwback to the good old glorious days of the 80s, where golden marble was a mark of luxury.

Bathroom

The bathroom is pretty compact by rooms of yesteryears, but still very well equipped and efficiently designed. There’s one single vanity and sink, stacked with a small drawer where you can find all the disposable items you might need: toothbrush, shaving kits and more.

Packed with both a bathtub and a shower stall, guests who look forward to a good night’s soak will not be disappointed. However, we personally found the bathroom a little too low, and the proximity to the toilet bowl is also a little disturbing when one is trying to relax in the bathtub.

Metis amenities

Similar to Parkroyal Collection Pickering, the Marina Bay hotel uses Metis amenities, an Australian dermatology brand that is commonly found in Australian serviced apartments and hotels. Metis has two ranges of hotel amenities: the Daily Solution range and the Ultra Hydration range, and Parkroyal Collection Pickering uses the latter. I’m personally not a big fan of this brand, and feel that the hotel could use with a slightly better brand to reflect the standing of its brand among its competitors.

COLLECTION Club Lounge

Parkroyal Collection properties has dully named their club lounges as COLLECTION Club Lounge. For Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, the hotel has built a new complex out on the swimming pool deck to serve as the lounge.

COLLECTION Club Lounge & swimming pool

As a recap, the COLLECTION rooms and suites come with the following benefits:

  • Access to the COLLECTION Club Lounge from 7am to 10pm for all-day non-alcoholic refreshments and the following:
    • Breakfast from 7am to 10.30am
    • Afternoon tea from 2.30pm to 4pm
    • Evening cocktails from 6pm to 8pm
  • Two pieces of laundry per room, per day, non-accumulative during your stay (excludes dry cleaning or extra services such as express service and stain removal) 
COLLECTION Club lounge

The COLLECTION Club Lounge is open from 7am to 10.30am, and non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee and soft drinks are always available whenever the lounge is open.

From the outside, it seemed like the glass facade is opaque, but once you step in, you will notice that the lounge space is built to allow as much natural light in as possible, while keeping the heat out.

COLLECTION Club Lounge

The first sight to greet you is this reception area, with a desk on the right (not pictured) where you check in.

Step further in and you will find a voluminous seating area, with plenty of options for either both sofa-coffee table style seating or dining table seats.

The inner half of the lounge comes with a double volume ceiling height with large window panes, allowing more natural light to come in and providing a pleasant view of the Esplanade Theatres.

COLLECTION Club Lounge
COLLECTION Club Lounge
COLLECTION Club Lounge

Given the current setting, naturally most tables are for two people, but the beauty of this setup is that it can be easily reconfigured for larger groups. There are also some larger communal tables that can accommodate bigger groups in the eventuality when one day restrictions are lifted.

In the event you want somewhere that’s a little more private or darker, there are also some tables behind the main seating area, closer to the rear of the venue.

COLLECTION Club Lounge

Afternoon tea

I came to check out the afternoon tea shortly after check in. The only menu available was a beverage menu, and the food menu was a rotation between a Wellness Lifestyle set and a Heritage Redefined set, served on alternate days.

COLLECTION Club Lounge afternoon tea menu

During our August stay, the afternoon tea spread was a simple affair comprising sandwiches, a pastry puff and an assortment of sweets, such as kueh-kuehs and cakes.

COLLECTION Lounge afternoon tea

In our October stay, this was what we got:

COLLECTION Club high tea

Evening cocktails

Evening cocktails is held from 6pm to 8pm daily at the lounge with a daily rotation of menus. Both times I went, there wasn’t a menu available, so the staff will explain to you what’s available for the day.

My August stay, which was over a Saturday to Sunday, featured a BBQ spread, including steaks, lamb, and chicken on stick. It was a very decent selection, sufficient as a dinner replacement.

COLLECTION Lounge evening cocktails

In October, my stay was on a Sunday, and this is what I got:

COLLECTION Club lounge – Evening cocktails
COLLECTION Club lounge – Evening cocktails

It’s cute that they had try to make some of the items Halloween themed, but the novelty probably ended there. I wasn’t too big on the spread, but instead focused on the drinks instead.

The downside to the food offering is that it is wildly inconsistent in terms of selection depending on the day of the week, and unfortunately it’s almost like a lucky draw each time you go.

In the area of beverage, the lounge offers an excellent collection of cocktails and mocktails, as well as some passable wines, including a red, a white and a sparkling option. Beer wise, you have an option of either Tiger or Heineken; a selection of spirits are also available if you prefer.

COLLECTION Club Lounge – Evening cocktails drinks menu

Breakfast – Peppermint

For guests with breakfast included in their room rate, breakfast is served at the all-day restaurant on level 4, Peppermint. For the uninitiated, Peppermint is a halal-certified buffet restaurant, and is fairly popular among Muslim families and visitors.

Guests with lounge access can also opt to take their breakfast at the COLLECTION lounge. If you prefer a quieter and fuss-free breakfast environment, this is the place to go.

For those who are having breakfast at Peppermint, breakfast hours are between 7am to 11am daily. Upon check in, you will be asked to book your one-hour breakfast slot, available on the hour (i.e. 7am, 8am, 9am or 10am).

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the restaurant can only take about 150 guests during my stay which unfortunately caused quite a bit of a wait during my first stay.

For my first stay in August, we opted to have breakfast at Peppermint on Sunday morning. We booked for breakfast at 8am. When we got to the restaurant, there was nary a queue, although the restaurant was already full and guests were starting to be seated at overflow areas over at Portman’s lounge.

Portman’s Lounge – Breakfast overflow area

Guests seated at Peppermint would have access to a digital ordering system available through the QR codes on their table, while guests seated in overflow areas will have their orders taken manually.

This was the breakfast menu provided:

Peppermint Breakfast Menu

The orders were taken within minutes of us being seated, and coffee came rather promptly.

As we waited for food to come around, you could see the queue at Peppermint starting to build up. A rough count I did saw at least 15 to 20 people in line, waiting for a table. This is when we thanked our lucky stars we booked a slot at 8am, and not 9am.

Breakfast queue

The first of our food – the Asian selections, including nasi lemak and dim sum – came by about 30 minutes after we seated. There was clearly a lack of manpower serving the guests in the overflow section over at Portman’s lounge and even getting a refill of my coffee proved difficult.

Breakfast – Nasi Lemak
Breakfast – Dim Sum

While we wolved down the food, the remaining items has not arrived. We waited another half hour for the eggs that we ordered to no avail. We then managed to enquire with a staff on the status of the our orders, only to be told that it was still in the queue, much to our disbelief – imagine waiting for almost an hour for eggs at a hotel breakfast restaraurant!

As we had to rush off for something else, we told the wait staff to cancel our orders, and we headed off from the breakfast area. At that point in time, it was probably about 9.15am, and the breakfast queue only got longer. I can only hope they got something to eat.

Some asked, why didn’t I go to the COLLECTION Club lounge for breakfast instead? Very good question indeed. The lounge uses a QR code digital menu system, so when I was in the lounge for evening cocktails the day before, I navigated through the breakfast menu at the lounge and this was what I saw:

COLLECTION Club Lounge – breakfast menu (August 2021)

Needless to say, I didn’t want a continental offering, so I decided to book a table at Peppermint instead.

I was later advised that there were actually hot food on offer in the lounge, but for some reason this wasn’t reflected on the digital menu.

Breakfast – COLLECTION Club Lounge

So, for my visit in October, we chose to have breakfast in the lounge instead, which didn’t disappoint.

Breakfast is offered at the lounge from 7am to 10.30am, and prior reservations aren’t necessary. I had my breakfast on a Monday at about 9am, and at no point in time when I was there was the entire lounge filled up.

This time round, the lounge removed the digital menu and instead offered a small A5 sized menu.

COLLECTION Club Lounge – Breakfast menu

If you were to compare this with the menu from Peppermint, this is a slightly reduced menu, but still adequately varied to cater to different tastes.

I ordered a crispy prata with curry, along with a side of eggs, while my companion went for the “Energy of the Day”, which is essentially an American breakfast.

Breakfast – Crispy prata with ‘curry’

Unfortunately what came wasn’t exactly prata but really more a crispy puff. The ‘curry’ wasn’t curry either, it’s closer to a dhal (I suspect it’s chickpea).

The eggs, fortunately, were more reliable:

Breakfast – Ommelette

All the egg items come with a side of bite-sized hashbrowns, cherry tomatoes and a single stalk of asparagus.

If you like, you could also choose one protein to go with your eggs, such as a sausage, bacon or a chicken patty.

Pro-tip: As Peppermint is a halal-certified restaurant, the COLLECTION Club Lounge is the only place you can get bacon and pork sausages as part of your breakfast.

We also got a couple of servings of dim sum to go along with the rest of our food, while they are not spectacular, they are pretty tasty and warrants a re-order.

Breakfast – Energy of the Day
Breakfast – Dimsum

Facilities

At a glance

FacilityLocationOperating HoursRemarks
Outdoor Mineral Swimming PoolLevel 5 (Outdoors, near Lounge)7am to 10.30pmAdvanced booking required
Fitness CentreLevel 57am to 10pmAdvanced booking required (1 hour slots)
Max of 8 guests at a time
St Gregory SpaLevel 5Weekdays: 11am to 8pm
Weekends: 10am to 8pm
Urban FarmLevel 4 (Outdoors)7am to 10pm

Swimming pool

As part of the refurbishment, the hotel has transformed its 25-metre lap pool into a mineral pool, complete with 1,380 fibre-optic lights illuminating the pool when night falls.

Swimming pool

The result is an amazingly picturesque sight at night, which is fast becoming an Instagram-worthy moment while swimming at night.

Swimming pool at night (Photo credit: Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay)

For those who want to lounge by the pool with a drink in hand, you will be pleased to see a poolside bar available for that as well.

Skyline Bar

Fitness centre

The gym is available for guest use between 7am to 10pm daily, but pre-booking of slots is required as the maximum number of guests allowed in the gym is eight at any point in time. Each room can book an hour-long slot per day. Having said that, there is no staff at the fitness centre to enforce this, so I believe you are free to stay on if the gym looks relatively empty after your slot.

Fitness Centre

In a separate studio closer to the entrance to the pool, there’s also a fitness studio equipped with indoor cycling bikes and a large LED wall for group fitness workouts.

The hotel also offers a lifestyle membership for unlimited use of its gym and swimming pool, priced from $1,888 nett per year (about $150 per month), which also gives members discounts at hotel. There are also souped up membership packages that include a free night stay, massages and more, which you can check out here.

Dining

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay has four restaurants and two bars housed within its premise. Of which, all are managed by the hotel except for two restaurants: Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Sushi Jiro.

During my stays and one other time we managed to try both Peppermint and Peach Blossoms, and here’s our take:

Peppermint

Peppermint is the hotel’s flagship restaurant, opened for all-day dining and is also the restaurant serving breakfast to all guests. As mentioned earlier, Peppermint, even as its former self Aquamarine, is a halal-certified buffet restaurant and therefore serves no pork and alcohol. Buffets are served for both lunch and dinner daily, with seasonal menus planned from time to time.

Peppermint is styled to focus on “sustainability and a farm-to-table concept”, with Asian and international menus created by its executive chef, Chan Tuck Wai.

With its vast, garden-inspired surroundings, what’s hidden from sight is the urban farm on the side terrace, where a range of 60 different herbs, edible flowers and vegetables can be harvested for use in salads or as garnishes for dishes in the restaurant.

While Covid-19 measures are still in place, the restaurant offers its buffet a la carte-style, so the items are plated and served to your table without you having to leave your seat. Ordering is done through your mobile phone, via a unique QR code available at each table.

On a separate visit, we checked out Peppermint some time in October. The restaurant was offering a Hong Kong-themed buffet dinner.

May be an image of standing
Photo credit: Cuisine Wine Asia FB

For the thematic dinner, the menu featured close to 50 items from appetisers, starters, main courses to desserts. Of which, about 10 over items are Hong Kong styled dishes, including several dim sum items, while the remaining are from its regular international buffet menu.

For appetisers and starters, Peppermint offers us sashimi moriawase, assorted seafood on ice, edamame, some soup options, chawanmushi and more.

Peppermint buffet dinner – Lobster on ice

If you only preferred select items for instance from the assorted seafood on ice (say, you just want lobsters), you can always inform the staff and they can customise it for you.

Hong Kong-themed items include Braised fish puff with sea cucumber, Kowloon wall city claypot duck, Luffa gourd with bean stick, Oyster poached rice broth and some others.

There was also a one-time serve of a braised lobster, which was a nice touch. This was not available from the menu, but will be brought to you by the wait staff.

Braised lobster

From the regular menu, you get options such as laksa, Indian selections such as vegetable korma, western fare including honey glazed spring chicken and mussels cooked with garlic and chilli. There are also some interesting items, including a Spanish octopus and Korean-style veal leg.

In terms of desserts, there are a handful of traditional Hong Kong desserts on offer, including a steamed egg pudding, glutinous rice balls with peanut and sugar, egg tarts and bolo bun, on top of the usual suspects including cakes, fruits and ice cream.

Peppermint – Dessert selection

Whoever decided on the serving sizes definitely thought through this. The portions served are small enough, such that for a party of two we could order 10 over dishes and still keep going. This is definitely an upside to an a la carte buffet, given the plated portions generally tend to be more than what I would personally take from a buffet line.

While 50 items is a commendable number of items for a buffet restaurant, the quality of the items unfortunately leaves much to be desired.

The oysters were not what I’d expect out of fresh oysters; it was far from briny, and a tad hard on the bite. Normally oysters would gracefully slide off their shells; this bunch needed a bit of coaxing, as though they have gotten way too comfortable in them. The lobsters are also a little dried out and rubbery, and needed a big dash of tabasco sauce to help. The saving grace were that the prawns were pretty much on point, and sufficiently large.

For the Hong Kong-themed items, unfortunately most of them missed the mark too. The braised beef brisket was a tad too hard to chew and ironically needed more braising for the flavour of the broth to be infused. Several other items were either over seasoned, or too bland.

The international items looked promising, but the taste and texture were a complete letdown. One of my personal favourite food – the octopus – turned out to be overcooked, resulting a mushy texture that I couldn’t associate with an octopus. The veal was arguably the best of the lot, but even that was pretty much forgettable.

A special mention for the Hong Kong desserts: the Put Chai Gou completely lacked any type of flavour and sweetness, but instead was just a tasteless chewy rice cake.

What’s worth mentioning is that Peppermint’s service, despite being fairly busy on a weeknight, was up to scale. The staff were attentive and personable, willing to customise orders for us and regularly topped up our (complimentary) water for us. This was probably it’s only saving grace, despite the failure in the kitchen.

Peach Blossoms

On my second stay in October, we decided to drop in for dinner at Peach Blossoms. Helmed by Executive Chinese Chef Edward Chong, the restaurant features traditional Cantonese dishes, but updated with some modern touches to the food presentation, and also feature some interesting use of ingredients to create a pleasing sensory experience.

Peach Blossoms retained its name from its former days, and has gone on to modernise the space after the transformation. The update in the dressing was a much overdue one, and indeed made over a very traditional Chinese restaurant to an elegant and serene dining space.

Peach Blossoms offers an exquisite menu comprising traditional cantonese fare, as well as a selection of dim sum available for both lunch and dinner.

Set menus are available for both lunch and dinner, but one will be better ordering a la carte from the menu to customise to your palate.

There were only two of us, so we ordered a selection of items to share. The menu lists only a small portion fit for 2-3 guests, but you can always order larger portions if you are dining out in a big group.

Deep-fried ‘Cigar’ Rolls filled with Black Truffle, Foie Gras and Prawn (S$24)

Deep-fried ‘Cigar’ Rolls filled with Black Truffle, Foie Gras and Prawn

Despite it looking quite small in photo, the actual spring roll is larger than the average cigar.

Served on an actual cigar ash tray, this deep fried spring roll is power packed with an assorted paste comprising prawn paste, truffle and foie gras, giving it the umami taste with every bite. On the ash tray is also a sweet sauce, serving as an optional accompaniment to your ‘cigar’.

Barbecued Meat Trio Combination (S$48)

Barbecued Meat Trio Combination

This dish is usually offered as a trio of meats comprising Peach Blossoms’ famous Crispy Roasted Pork, Applewood Smoked
Jamón ibérico Pork Char Siew and Roasted Duck, but the restaurant unfortunately ran out of its roasted pork for dinner. As such, we were offered a duo of meats instead, with larger portions of the char siew and roasted duck.

A special mention about the Jamón ibérico Pork Char Siew: this was a very unique take on Char Siew. I didn’t like it at first (I’m a purist, don’t mess with my char siew), but the applewood smoke flavour won me over after a while. The pork was also well caramelised, giving it a good crunch, while maintaining a good amount of juiciness within.

Hot and Sour Seafood Soup (S$14)

Hot and Sour Seafood Soup

Most guests would normally go for a more exquisite soup or broth in a Cantonese restaurant, but my go to soup is always a hot and sour soup. While this is strictly not a Cantonese dish, I enjoy it for its strong flavours with a tangy finish.

The hot and sour seafood soup here was a pleasant surprise: the broth is of the right texture with a good amount of seafood in it that didn’t compromise the broth. The difficult thing to get right with hot and sour soup is the consistency, as I generally don’t like the broth to be to thick nor too watery, so this was just right.

The portion here is also large enough for two smaller bowls, so you are getting good value here.

Braised Fish Paste Noodles with King Prawn and Ikura (S$38)

Braised Fish Paste Noodles with King Prawn and Ikura

This dish was probably the star of my meal. While visually not the most fascinating given the strong gravy, what’s amazing about it was the noodles.

Braised Fish Paste Noodles with King Prawn and Ikura

The noodles were made out of fish paste. While it still have some amount of binders to make it into long strand of noodles, you are going to get far lesser amount of carbs with this dish while still giving the dish a bite you expect out of regular noodles. The king prawn was a great accompaniment to the dish, although deshelling it in a sea of gravy can be rather challenging.

Stir-fried Celtuce Stems with Sakura Ebi, Fresh Lily Bulbs and Lotus Root stuffed with Minced Shrimp Paste (S$28)

Stir-fried Celtuce Stems with Sakura Ebi, Fresh Lily Bulbs and Lotus Root stuffed with Minced Shrimp Paste

Celtuce Stem, or 莴笋 in Chinese, is a common Chinese ingredient, as is lotus roots and lily bulbs. The winning combination here is the use of shrimp paste as a filling for the lotus roots, resulting in a perfect pairing of crunch and meat.

We didn’t order any dessert, but you will notice a visible absence of traditional Chinese desserts. Chef Edward has upped the ante with a modernisation or fusion on some of the traditional sweets, including Chilled Mango Purée served with Coconut Kaffir Lime, Baked Alaska with Lychee and Wolfberries and more.

Overall the food was beyond my expectation, especially after the previous disappointing experience with Peppermint. While some other reviews have mentioned that the service can be slow on some occasions, we personally felt the pace was perfect and not overly attentive.

The full menu can be found here.

Final thoughts

I always had a personal favourite towards older standalone hotels in Singapore, especially those featuring large atria such as Marina Mandarin.

Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay lobby

What is clearly lacking from Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay is a worthy food and beverage offering fit of its hotel positioning. The flagship restaurant Peppermint is mediocre at best, while the lounge offering is hardly anything to shout about and incredibly inconsistent.

In terms of service, the staff is clearly tired from being under resourced and overworked: in my August stay, the COLLECTION Lounge saw only three staff members serving the entire lounge even during the busy evening cocktail session, akin to an expert level Diner Dash game. They beefed this up to four team members in October, which thankfully was more than sufficient to deal with a more mellowed out crowd for a Sunday stay.

The breakfast situation at Peppermint also needs a lot more work. A 150 seater restaurant cannot sufficiently serve a full occupancy 500-room hotel, especially when more than half the rooms have breakfast as part of their entitlements. While this is not the norm in a non-Covid situation, the hotel clearly didn’t plan for sufficient capacity in its F&B department when the sales team were aggressive peddling rooms for local staycations.

The saving grace of the hotel’s restaurant ambition is Peach Blossoms, which has served up some pretty clever and ingenious creations, in a cuisine that typically commands difficult cooking techniques and high standards.

Overall the hotel delivered in its hardware, but the software leaves much to be desired. While guest hospitality can often be a make or break for the hotel, the overall experience still relies on other aspects to come together in order to make an excellent stay.

Earn both Qantas and Accor ALL points for your flights and stays from today

New partnership between Qantas and Accor lets you double-dip by earning points in both programmes for a single flight or stay

In a partnership between Qantas and Accor that goes live today, Qantas Frequent Flyers and some Accor ALL members can now earn points in both programmes when they stay and spend at Accor hotels, or by taking a Qantas flight, under a new partnership between the airline and hospitality group.

The partnership was first announced in November 2020, but the details are only made known today as the partnership takes off.

First and foremost, members must sign up for an account (if they don’t already have one) with both Qantas Frequent Flyer (QFF) and Accor ALL, and link them, before they can double-dip on the points.

All Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn Qantas points on Accor hotel stays

All QFF members, regardless of status, will earn 3 Qantas points per Australian dollar spent at Accor properties across Asia Pacific, including properties in Singapore. This is on top of what you will earn as an Accor ALL member.

For instance, if you spend S$1,200 (about A$1,210) on a night’s stay at Raffles Hotel, that will rake in 3,630 Qantas points, on top of your usual Accor points based on your status.

Earn Qantas points for your stays in Accor properties across Asia Pacific

Eligible spend at the hotel includes all other expenses incurred during your stay, including restaurant meals, spa services, internet (where there’s a fee), room service and more.

Note that the rate of earning is regardless of your status with both QFF and Accor ALL, the earn rate remains the same at 3 Qantas points per A$1 spent, without any status bonus.

Select Accor ALL members and QFF members can also earn Accor points on Qantas flights

However, earning Accor points for flights is only limited to elite members of both programmes. Eligible members are:

  • Qantas Platinum and Platinum One members, or
  • Accor ALL Gold, Platinum and Diamond status members

For every A$10 eligible spend on a Qantas flight, all the above-mentioned members will earn 2 Accor points, with the exception of Accor ALL Gold members who will earn 1 Accor point. Again, this is on top of the usual Qantas points and status credits you will earn.

ALL Platinum (and above) members will earn 2 ALL points per A$10 spent on eligible flights

One very specific requirement in order to receive your Accor ALL points is that the flight must be marketed (carries a QF flight number) and operated by Qantas. So if you are flying Jetstar with a QF flight number, you are out of luck.

Qantas defines eligible spend as “the price paid for the seat including fare and carrier charges, but excluding government imposed taxes or optional fees such as seats, bags, upgrades”.

If you recall, Accor points are essentially a flat-rate rebate, every 2,000 points will net you 40 Euros that you can use to offset your hotel spend. As such, each Accor point is worth 2 Euro cent, or about 3 Singapore (or Australian) cents. This translate to an effective rebate of 0.3% for Accor Gold members or 0.6% for Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Accor Platinum and Diamond members.

Fast-track to Accor ALL Silver

For QFF Gold or higher members who do not hold any status with Accor ALL, Accor is also offering a fast-track to its Silver tier for Qantas Frequent Flyers holding Gold status or above with just one stay.

Accor ALL Silver is the first elite tier in its programme, with only some nominal perks. The only noteworthy benefits are a ‘priority welcome’ at select hotels, as well as a welcome drink and late checkout where available.

Note that Accor ALL Silver is also given with the Accor Plus membership, so this fast track is not particularly attractive. Moreover, there are no additional fast-track for higher tiers, including Accor ALL Gold or Platinum.

To link your membership between both programmes, you can head to either the Qantas website or Accor ALL website to do so.

Link your accounts on Qantas website

Of course, you must be members of both programmes in order to link them, but if you don’t have a membership with either, there will be a link to sign up along the way.

Process flow to link accounts

Final thoughts

This partnership moves in the right direction for its members, by allowing an official double dipping in both programmes for either a stay or a flight. What this also does is to further encourage loyalty to both programmes, given that all other rival programmes now only allow you to credit points into a single programme at any point in time.

Accor Pacific CEO Simon McGrath said this was a major milestone for the travel industry, enabling greater benefits for loyalty members across more than 1,200 Accor hotels, apartments and resorts in the Asia Pacific region.

“We are joining forces to reward our customers, delivering exceptional travel benefits and unrivalled service for people who enjoy our two much-loved brands,” Mr McGrath said.

“Our partnership with Accor launches at an ideal time, with domestic and international borders reopening and frequent flyers starting to plan and book their next getaway,” said Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth.

While Qantas points are not as highly valued as some other frequent flyer programmes, this added bonus of earning Accor ALL points may drive up the value by a little more, especially if one travels a lot within the region. The only downside is the definition of ‘eligible flights’ for the earning of Accor ALL points on Qantas flights – for Singapore-based travellers, it would be an added incentive if Jetstar flights are also included in the programme.

Australia opens quarantine-free travel for Singaporeans

Leisure travel to Sydney and Melbourne for Singapore citizens will be possible from 21 November

Hot off the most recent announcements that Australia and Switzerland would be added to Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, Singaporeans will be allowed to travel to select states in Australia from 21 Nov 2021, sans quarantine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at the G20 summit that Australia will be opening its borders for vaccinated Singapore citizens.

The initial announcement last week of Australia’s addition to the VTL scheme was with a caveat: the two-way quarantine-free travel would only apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families. Reciprocal arrangements for students and business pass holders was slated to be in place from late November, while leisure travel was last in the pecking order, to only take effect in December. 

Two-way quarantine-free travel to Australia to start in November

While Australia has yet to announce specifics for this latest development, this is what has been reported so far:

From 8 Nov 2021, Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families will be able to travel between Singapore and Australia with no quarantine on either side, but with Covid-19 tests instead.

Singapore Airlines has already scheduled For Eligible Passengers Only (FEPO) flights from Singapore to Melbourne and Sydney to cater to this group. 

From 21 Nov 2021, this arrangement will be extended to Singapore citizens, as long as they board the flight from Singapore.

Vaccination and testing requirements

To be able to enter Australia, travellers must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be a Singapore citizen. PRs and employment pass holders are not eligible for the time being.
  • Being fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine, such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen-Cilag, Moderna, Coronavac, or Covishield, at least 7 days prior to arrival in Australia. Children under the age of 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated due to a medical condition are exempted from this requirement.
  • Presenting a valid vaccination certificate in English, i.e. either the Australian Government issued International Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) or a paper or digital vaccination certification issued by a national or state/provincial level authority or accredited vaccination provider. In Singapore, this means a notarised vaccination certificate.
  • Completing the Australia Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before flight departure. 
  • For travellers going to Melbourne: All travellers will need to download the Service Victoria app. This allows users to check in and display their COVID-19 vaccination status. 

Travellers going to Australia are looking at a minimum of 3-4 tests, depending on the length of travel. Both legs of the travel (i.e. Singapore to Australia and vice versa) will require a pre-departure test and an on-arrival test.

Test (Testing Country)Testing deadlineEstimated Price
Pre-Departure to Australia (Singapore)72 hours before departureFrom S$128
On-Arrival in Australia (Australia)Within 24 hoursFrom A$145
Pre-Departure to Singapore (Australia)48 hours before departureFrom A$145
On-Arrival in Singapore (Singapore)On arrivalS$160 (before 18 Nov)
S$125 (18 Nov and after)

As you can see from above, the total testing costs for travelling to Australia can easily rack up to about $550. For visitors to New South Wales who are staying for longer than a week, note that you will need a second swab on Day 7, setting you back by about another $150.

For now, you can get more information on arriving into both New South Wales and Victoria from the respective state governments websites:

Designated VTL flights

Travellers from Singapore to Australia may take any direct flight from Singapore to Melbourne or Sydney. This means that travellers have a choice of Singapore Airlines, Scoot and even Qantas from late November.

However, travellers from Australia to Singapore must take designated VTL flights. Currently, only Singapore Airlines and Scoot have announced their VTL flights. Qantas and Jetstar are expected to join the VTL list in the weeks to come, although they have yet to mention anything.

VTL flights from Melbourne

VTL FlightDay of OpsDepartureArrivalFlight TimeAircraft
SQ218Daily003505157h 40mAirbus A350-900
SQ228Daily164021207h 40mAirbus A350-900
TR19Daily19400045(+1)8h 5mBoeing 787-9
Melbourne-Singapore VTL schedule (8 November 2021 – 26 March 2022)

VTL flights from Sydney

VTL FlightDay of OpsDepartureArrivalFlight TimeAircraft
SQ212Daily090514158h 10mAirbus A350-900 /
Boeing 777-300ER
SQ222Daily161021208h 10mBoeing 777-300ER /
Airbus A380-800
TR13Tue, Thu,
Sat, Sun
21450310(+1)8h 25mBoeing 787-9
Sydney-Singapore VTL schedule (8 November 2021 – 26 March 2022)

All remaining services are non-VTL flights, including flights on Qantas and Jetstar (for now). Passengers on non-VTL flights will be subject to the prevailing SHN requirements on arrival in Singapore. 

Qantas has earlier announced that it is restarting its flights to Singapore (from Sydney and Melbourne) from 22 Nov 21, while its low-cost arm Jetstar will fly from Melbourne to Singapore from mid December onwards.

Flights from other parts of Australia are not part of this plan as yet, but we expect them to join the party in due course.

A note about Australia ETA

While Singapore citizens do not need a visa to visit Australia, you will however need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority or ETA.

This can previously be done via the ETA website or through travel agents, but is now no longer possible.

Users are instead pointed to a mobile app – AustralianETA – if they are eligible for ETA under current rules and are holders of passports from the following countries/territories: Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea or the United States of America.

The app can be downloaded (free) from App Store (Apple) or Google Play store (Android).

For more information, visit this website.

Final thoughts

This latest announcement is somewhat unexpected in its limitation to just Singapore citizens, but as countries move towards reopening their borders, we expect this to be an interim restriction.

It’s definitely a move in the right direction, with leisure travel to Australia now possible, adding another option to the existing suite of destinations under the VTL scheme.

While the testing costs may seem daunting, our view is that this should be regarded as the ‘new normal’ when planning and budgeting travel costs. In time to come as the world truly lives in an endemic manner, these costs will also naturally come down, making affordable travel possible once agian.

Cathay Pacific discontinues waitlist for award flights

You can no longer waitlist for an award flight from 22 Oct 2021 when you book with Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific has most recently added the ability to mix miles and cash in booking Cathay Pacific tickets earlier this year, and along with it, made a small but critical change to the rewards programme.

Asia Miles eliminates award waitlisting

From 22 Oct 2021, you can no longer waitlist for an award ticket using Asia Miles. This function has been removed across all platforms (i.e. online or through a call centre).

This means, awards are either available or unavailable, and if the award space runs out, you are out of luck. As a transitionary measure, existing waitlist bookings will continue to be valid. 

Cathay Pacific business class

If you were already on the waitlist for an award prior to 22 October 2021, that booking will continue to be valid and clear/not clear under the old system.

Asia Miles, along with many other frequent flyer programmes such as Krisflyer, used to allow members to waitlist for an award when booking on Cathay Pacific (or Cathay Dragon). Waitlisting on Cathay Pacific was only available to Asia Miles members, so this means that members of other oneworld FFPs (e.g. Qantas Frequent Flyer or AAdvantage) won’t have priority to these seats when they become available.

One other thing to note: while the waitlist function is removed from Standard awards, they remain available for upgrade and companion awards.

Push for Miles Plus Cash

Cathay Pacific’s Miles Plus Cash

If you have has much as read through the FAQs for this change, you will notice that Cathay Pacific is pushing its members towards using their Asia Miles for cash payments through its Miles Plus Cash feature.

In short: don’t do it.

Miles Plus Cash is conceptually similar to buying a revenue ticket, with a fixed value for each mile you spend. This is similar to Singapore Airlines’ Mix Miles and Cash, where you can use your miles to partially offset the cost of your ticket.

Miles Plus Cash can be used on any seat that is available for purchase in cash, if you can use cash for a seat, you can use Miles Plus Cash. The key problem with Miles Plus Cash is the value it offers (no surprises there), with you getting back no more than 1 cent per mile spent.

Final thoughts

The removal of the waitlist feature strikes both ends of the programme’s value: while it offers more certainty for customers (no more clinging on to hope), it also kills that very same hope of snagging an award seat closer to date, as frequent fliers are known to book award tickets pre-emptively only to cancel them later.

Awards waitlist is nonetheless quite an important function for members: the ability to have priority of any award inventory that opens up, before members from partner programs have access to it, is important in cultivating loyalty, and this may just push members to move to other oneworld programmes instead.

It is also evident that Cathay Pacific is agressively pushing its Miles Plus Cash, providing a lower cash burn rate for the miles out in the hands of the members. Along with this, it is likely that Cathay may tighten the supply of award availability to give that nudge.

Let’s hope that Krisflyer doesn’t follow suit!