Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore: Not Recommended
Aug 22, 2010
This is a review of the Swissotel Merchant Court, 20 Merchant Road, Singapore 05828 located beside the North-East Line (NEL) at the Clarke Quay Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station.
I stayed in this hotel for one week on business travel in June 2010.
The location of this hotel is rather convenient. It is adjacent to Clarke Quay, an overpriced touristy area with restaurants, shops, and night clubs. There is also a mall right across the street and it is within easy walking distance to Chinatown. The mass transit station is basically right in the hotel and appears rather easy to navigate, although I never did make use of it.
Downtown Singapore is easy to get around in by cab and the cabs are not too expensive for Americans as the exchange rate is about three Singapore dollars to one American dollar (at least it was in June) and tipping is not customary.
I hated this hotel on so many levels. But suffice it to say that this hotel is overpriced, there are better locations for tourists and business travelers, and the rooms were not that comfortable, especially for the business traveler. I would definitely not recommend it, especially since there so many similar priced and most likely much better options.
The lobby space is very large but does not have a lot of character. It is essentially a huge white walled space with a lot of activity going on. It appears to cater more to tourists than business travelers . It does have a currency exchange booth and concierge stand. It is not a particularly inviting lobby or one you would want to hang out in.
I found the door and service people to be modestly but not overly helpful. The check-in counter is to the left immediately when you walk in. It was fast and efficient enough, but the demeanor of the counter staff is more like trying to get you in and out like a McDonald's than a five star hotel.
Further, when I had a problem with my room, the staff was decidedly uninterested in assisting me and I and to insist on their help, which I found utterly annoying.
The service was serviceable, but more what you'd expect from a Motel 8, not a hotel purporting to be a five star accommodation.
The absolute worst thing about the room I was in was it was overly air conditioned and it was impossible to adjust the thermostat to be at comfortable level. I tried to get the staff to look into it but they did nothing to solve the problem. If I turned the thermostat to the maximum temperature and low the air conditioner would continue to run make the room to cold. Of course if it was off, being in a hot, humid climate like Singapore, it soon got too warm, especially during the day. My temperature control in the room was basically turning the air conditioning on and off constantly to keep it at a comfortable level. That, in and of itself, made the stay somewhat uncomfortable.
The desk area was rather small with a somewhat comfortable but not adjustable chair. Thus, working from the desk was not very pleasant and given it was a business trip I needed to work at the computer frequently.
I ended up with two twin mattresses in my room and at least the beds were comfortable enough. The mattress was about the right firmness, not too soft and not too hard, and the pillows were equally comfortable.
Another decent feature of the room was the balcony. While it was a small balcony, when I got too cold from the air conditioning I could step out and see a halfway decent view of the city. The only drawback to the balcony was there was a large overhang where the balcony wall ended with lots of bird droppings, which was not too attractive. But, there is not much the hotel could do about that.
The bathroom was quite clean and comfortable with penalty of the typical amenities, soap, shampoo, and even a small toothbrush and shaving materials for the forgetful traveler.
Another plus for the room was they had plenty of alternative electric outlets that fit American, European, and Indian electrical gadgets, which made hooking computers and other item into the power source convenient.
Otherwise, the room had a nice, flat screen television but not much in the way of programming. Mostly during my stay, when I had the televisios on for ambient noise, I was stuck watching international news which covered the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana incessantly. I was an up to the minute expert on what was going on with that tragic event during my stay.
The room had a mini-bar with a very limited choice of beverages and a safe in the closest which was free to use.
I also need to clearly point out that the internet connections in Southeast Asia are generally slow. The internet connection in this hotel, which I paid for ($12.95 a day), was excruciating bad, and no doubt worse than other areas of Singapore. It was so slow that is severely hampered my work as it often froze up and did not work properly. Given that the laptop I had was used before and after in other locations with no problems clearly indicates it was not a computer problem.
This, on top of the temperature control problems, made my stay even less pleasant and utterly annoying.
Given I was still somewhat on American time and working a lot after normal business hours in Singapore, the fact the business center was closed after normal business hours unfortunate. They did not have very many computers there anyway and it was a rather sterile environment. I didn't need to do any printing or faxing and only made use of their computer one time to get a faster internet connection to e-mail some documents.
The hotel did have a pool with a Jacuzzi that looked reasonably inviting but I never made use of it. It was a little out of the way from the rooms, which lent it some privacy.
Likewise, there is the obligatory fitness center that is open 24 hours a day. I never used it but cruised by it and it seemed to have the needed equipment such as treadmills and weights for those inclined to use it.
The gift shop is very small with a few souvenirs and postcards and various sundry items. It seemed to get a reasonable amount of business despite that there was a mall across the street and a 7-11 adjacent to the hotel.
Restaurants and Bars
There are two restaurants and a bar in the hotel. The bar does not serve food and is located right off the lobby next to the elevators. It is reasonably comfortable place to have a drink ($15 in Singapore currency) and the wait staff is friendly, but while I was there it rarely had much business given it was right next to Clarke Quay with all the restaurants and night clubs. It also closed at 11 p.m. which was a bit early for me, particularly being a bit upside down in my sleeping patterns. Of course, given they had no business and the bars around the area are open to the wee hours of the morning, I can understand why they didn't bother.
I ate at the Ellenborough Market Café in the hotel twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. The service was very good, the prices moderately expensive, and the food average at best. I had beef dishes twice and they were not that good.
The Blue Potato is located adjacent to the pool and I never ate there.
My room rate was in the $180 per night range in American dollars and similar to other comparable hotels in Singapore.
A couple of words of advice.
First, I do not recommend this hotel. I would definitely not say in this hotel were I to do it over. In fact, I almost switched hotels during my stay but was too lazy to do so.
Second, if do find yourself in this hotel, I'm sure the allure of people and activity at Clarke Quay will draw you there. But the food is overpriced and average at best. The same can be said for the restaurant in the hotel.
The Asian restaurants in the mall across the street were much better, there are some seafood places along a walk along the water to the South of Clarke Quay that are good, and Chinatown is just a short three or so blocks away and the restaurants there were all good. So I would recommend venturing beyond the aforementioned areas for food.
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About the reviewer
Doug Baker (cdbaker)
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