Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean article! On this shiok Sunday, I’ll be chronicling and reviewing my recent staycation over at Orchard Hotel.
With COVID-19 hindering international travel for the foreseeable future, I’ve – like many Singaporeans – turned to staycations in an attempt to evade the humdrum of everyday life. I’ve also really liked reading staycations reviews, in particular by The MileLion (my go-to website for finance-related news and advice). But not everyone can afford a stay at a double-storied suite in the Grand Hyatt. While researching for more affordable hotels to use my Singapore Rediscover Vouchers on, I realised that there was a lack of reviews on lower-priced but still very decent options.
As such, since I’ve got a platform, I thought it would be fun but also interesting for me to do a brief review on my staycations. I know this is a slight deviation from my usual content of watches/menswear, but one that I nevertheless suspect would be intriguing to many of my readers. The first of my staycations is at Orchard Hotel, so let’s see if it’s any good!
Orchard Hotel – the Brand
Orchard Hotel, as its name suggests, is located on the Western end of the iconic Orchard Road, right beside the infamous Orchard Towers (which has one of my favourite Thai food stalls). It’s about a ten-minute walk from Orchard MRT, and provides easy access to all the shopping that Orchard Road has to offer.
Currently managed by the Millennium Group, Orchard Hotel first opened in 1981. The 656-room establishment underwent a major renovation in 2019, which facelifted most of the hotel’s rooms, its lobby, and its dining premises, though the facade of the hotel still looks stuck in the last century. Still, I saw some of the hotel’s renovated rooms on its website, and thought it looked pretty good.
The lead-in category is the Grand Deluxe rooms, but I felt it was a bit small at 28 Sqm and it also didn’t come with a bathtub. The next category, which I eventually booked, was the Premier rooms that were significantly larger at 35 Sqm and notably featured separate bathtub and showers. The room currently goes for about $120, which is pretty affordable all things considered for a 5-star hotel located in Orchard, especially after using the $100 SRV voucher.
Orchard Hotel – Check-in
Because I’m a penny pincher, I booked the staycation on a weekday, where the rates were the cheapest.
And perhaps as it was a weekday, there weren’t many guests waiting to be checked in. The stipulated check-in time was 3pm, but I went a tad early at 2pm and was promptly given a room within 10-15 minutes. The receptionist also granted my late checkout request, delaying the checkout timing from 11am to noon.
As the pandemic is still ongoing, the hotel facilities – namely the pool and the gym – require a prior reservation. I’ve read reports on being unable to get a pool slot at some of the other hotels, but was able to secure one at 6pm with not much trouble. While I didn’t actually use the gym, one of my companions managed to book a gym slot the following morning as well.
The hotel lobby was one of the areas that underwent major refurbishment in 2019, and it shows. The pièce de résistance is definitely the historic clock tower, which adds a nice heritage feel to the hotel. The dining premises (comprising of the Orchard Cafe on the right, Bar Intermezzo on the left, and Chinese restaurant Hua Ting on the second floor) are clearly visible and accessible too. I never got why some hotels decide to hide their dining establishments on some obscure floor in another wing (cough, Shangri-La) where it feels like I’m Dora the Explorer when I’m just in desperate need of a stiff drink. Overall, the hotel lobby exuded a classy vibe that gave the hotel an upscale look.
Orchard Hotel – Rooms
I asked for a high floor, and was given a room on the 11th storey.
The corridor is carpeted, with the occasional painting to jazz up the ambience a tad.
To recap, I booked the Premier King room, which as its name suggests comes with a king-sized bed. The bed was honestly pretty comfortable, as were the pillows, though there wasn’t any pillow menu as one might find at other five-star hotels. Two bedside lamps flank the bed, as do a pair of framed monochrome photos. However, my initial impression was that the bedroom was cosier than I had expected – I booked the larger, 35 Sqm room (as opposed to the smaller, 28 Sqm Grand Deluxe room) in expectation of added opulence, and while I wouldn’t call the room small, it certainly didn’t feel too luxurious. It was however clean, and I couldn’t find any obvious areas that indicated a slip-up in the housekeeping.
Temperature control is available in the guise of a Honeywell control panel, located right beside the door. Unlike other hotels, Orchard Hotel doesn’t restrict its guests to a certain range of temperatures under the pretense of “saving the environment”, so you’re free to make your room as freezing or as warm as you want it to be.
The renovation updated the gadgets in the room, with the room now featuring a newish 40 inch Samsung television. A wide range of both local and international channels were available, as were a curation of local radio stations.
The quality is good, as one would expect of a modern TV. I watched some Serie A football to pass the time, with the thick American accent of Fox Sports’ commentators coming through loud and clear. The TV supports Youtube as well, though the absence of Netflix is a surprise.
There’s also an HDMI port, so you’re able to screen your own content if you wish. However, I did find it weird for the work desk to be placed directly under the TV. Not that I come to a staycation to do work, but still the arrangement – which was probably done in this manner to save space – is peculiar.
Those with trust issues would be happy to know that there’s a safe included in the room for precious items. In addition, useful items like laundry bag, hair dryer, and disposable slippers are also provided.
There’s also a fridge, though it was empty and switched off when I arrived. I’m not sure if the lack of F&B items is a result of COVID measures, but since those are usually chargeable (at an exorbitant rate), I didn’t mind their absence.
A kettle is provided, as are complimentary (more are available upon request) coffee and tea sachets. A quick Google search indicates that these Raffles Lighthouse tea sachets are being sold for $25 (for 15 sachets), which makes them similarly priced to TWG. While I personally prefer TWG tea, these are definitely a step up from your regular Lipton tea sachets – no complaints at all here.
My room faced the swimming pool, so I would say that it was a pleasant enough view. I wouldn’t call it breathtaking, but I guess it’s better than facing Orchard Towers.
Orchard Hotel – Bathroom
I soon realised that the bedroom area felt small because a significant portion of the room’s size went towards the bathroom space.
I was impressed by the size and finishing of the bathroom. Marble-tiled, the bathroom had a good-sized bathtub, a separate shower cubicle, and a large mirror and sink.
The bathtub is full sized, and looked pretty clean and new, with no signs of rust, hair or stains. I had a good time soaking in the bathtub and enjoying some Netflix. I make it a point to book rooms with either a bathtub or a rain shower – a good bathing/showering experience really does wonders for destressing. Here, the bathtub was the highlight of the bathroom.
Most hotels combine the shower and the bathtub in one, which needless to say isn’t the most hygienic. I’m glad to say Orchard Hotel was an exception, with a decent-sized shower cubicle with strong water pressure. This also means that theoretically, it is possible for you to soak in the bathtub, while your partner/companion takes a shower, which cuts down on waiting time. If I could make an improvement, it would probably be to have say, a Grohe rain shower installed instead of a regular fixed shower head – that would have elevated the showering experience substantially.
I was slightly disappointed to see that the showering amenities provided were generic Millennium branded ones, instead of specific beauty labels as one might expect of a 5-star hotel. They certainly did the job, but were just unremarkable to use. There also wasn’t bath foam provided (it makes bubbles for a bubble bath) which was a curious exclusion given the prominent bathtub in the room.
The toilet bowl looked modern (no doubt a beneficiary of the 2019 renovation), and had a concealed cistern. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a bidet, nor did it come with any rear-washing features. That’s again a slight disappointment, given how one can nowadays find TOTO Eco-wash toilet bowls even in public shopping mall toilets. I mean, I’m not asking/expecting Japan-level toilet bowl technology, but having a bidet is really the least a 5-star hotel can do.
Orchard Hotel – Amenities
Of course, a hotel’s amenities play a large part in a stayaction.
I always book a hotel with a swimming pool – without a swimming pool, what’s there to do at a hotel, right? (The owner of Hotel 81 would probably disagree with me on this though.) I’m pleased to report that the pool of the Orchard Hotel is pretty big, and was generally well-maintained, with a mini (unheated) jacuzzi nestled in the corner. I was quite surprised that the pool was virtually empty when I arrived for my 6pm timeslot – I had thought that the evening slot would be popular. I assume it gets more crowded on the weekends, but I had a great time swimming and soaking in an empty pool/jacuzzi, and resting on one of the multiple longue chairs afterwards. Showers and dedicated restrooms are available at the swimming pool itself too, though I naturally chose to shower back in the room.
Interestingly, the pool also had a giant chess set, something that I don’t think I’ve seen before except in some newer condos. I picked up chess a while ago after watching The Queen’s Gambit, so I had a fun time playing a game or two. The pieces were pretty heavy (not meant for kids, that’s for sure) so it was a bit of a workout too.
The hotel gym is located right beside the pool, and from the exterior it looks substantial and well-maintained. I didn’t visit it during my stay there (going to the gym isn’t my idea of R&R) but my companion did the following morning and there were no complaints.
Orchard Hotel – Service
It’s not called the hospitality industry for no reason – service is supposed to be the most important aspect of the hotelier business. I would say that the service of the staff at Orchard Hotel is satisfactory. Everyone I met was pleasant, and requests (more tea packets, slippers, late check-out, etc) were generally fulfilled promptly. But it certainly wasn’t exceptional. I emailed a few days prior to arrival that the staycation was meant to be a birthday celebration, in the hopes of being provided with a complimentary slice of cake (the norm for established hotels) and cutlery. The request was forgotten, and despite me prompting them once again upon check-in, the celebratory platter never arrived. And don’t expect personalised service either – the staff makes no attempt to know your name or show any interest in how the stay is going. Interactions with the staff felt efficient, transactional almost. When I asked for bath foam for a bubble bath, the staff just straight up replied “sorry, don’t have”, instead of making an attempt at fulfilling my request, leaving me disappointed to say the least.
Conclusion – so Orchard Hotel “shiok” or not?
Orchard Hotel is classified as a 5-star hotel on most booking websites, but I would say that it felt more like 4.5 stars. On the plus side, the hotel definitely benefitted from the renovation – the lobby felt modern, and the rooms showed no signs of wear and tear and were generally well-equipped. The swimming pool area was large as well (much bigger than the Hilton, which is located just a few blocks down), perfect for a swim and lounge thereafter for a relaxed afternoon. But the devil is in the details, and it was in these details where I would say Orchard Hotel isn’t at the 5-star standard yet. Service could have been more personalised (especially since there didn’t seem to be many guests on the day I checked in), and some of the room amenities could be better, like having branded showering accessories, or a toilet with a bidet.
Still, the main selling point of Orchard Hotel is its price. At around $120 a night (even cheaper if you book the smaller Grand Deluxe room), it’s one of the cheapest hotels in the Orchard area. The only hotel that comes close to its price is the Hilton, which is starting to show its age. If you want to do a shopping staycation in Orchard, Orchard Hotel is a good value proposition. In fact, I’m curious to try out their suites, which I understand are filled with oriental flavour. If I do, I’ll be sure to do another article on it!
Those interested in booking a stay at Orchard Hotel can do so on the Traveloka app. Traveloka constantly has some sort of ongoing promotions, with prices so ridiculously low that I’ve personally booked about 90% of my staycations on Traveloka. Just for my readers, you guys can use the promo code “WAHTVLKSRV” (if you’re using SRV) and “WAHTVLK” (non-SRV) for $10 off any hotels or attractions purchase with a minimum spending of $100. My promo codes are stackable with any of Traveloka’s app or bank coupon codes, so be sure to stack them all for the best deal. Here’s a pro tip: keep a lookout for Traveloka’s Weekend Flash Sales which occurs every Friday to Sunday for the lowest prices! However, this post is not sponsored – I paid my own dime to book the hotel.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.