On a trip to Singapore recently, I booked in for a weekend at the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre, which is on the older, Somerset end of the Orchard Road shopping zone. (map)
I had previously stayed at the hotel when it was called the Holiday Inn Parkview, but with a 2009 name change and revamp, I was keen to see how the place had changed.
The hotel is a five to ten minute walk from Somerset MRT, and a slightly further walk away from Dhoby Ghaut, but in Singaporean heat I wouldn't want to do the walk with luggage. Fortunately, Singaporean taxis are cheap.
You may need to tell the driver about the name change of the hotel from the Holiday Inn Parkview to Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre, though.
Location & Impressions
There was a queue several people deep for check-in when I arrived at 2pm, with only one staffer on duty.
I'd have understood a five-minute queue if it had been 3am, but 2pm is the hotel's published check-in time. There was no evidence of a quick check-in queue for members of the Priority Club frequent guest program either.
While my room wasn't ready, I was offered a cocktail or beer at the lobby bar, but no sooner had I started to look at the drinks menu than the check-in staffer arrived with my room keys.
Inside the hotel, the room floors are clustered around a central atrium, which feels rather 1970s but is clean and in good condition.
The large, fresh-looking room on the 7th floor looked great in earthy browns and blues and an enormous picture window looking out onto leafy green treetops.
Past the bathroom and large wardrobe I found a king-sized bed (with ample room to get out on either side, unlike some hotels), small armchair with ottoman, side table, large desk with extra surface space to the side (perfect for unpacking and repacking my carryon bag) and a reasonably decent conference room-type chair.
There's a big flatscreen TV on the wall opposite the bed, but the channel list suffers a little from the international hotel problem of trying to have something from every country but not really having anything interesting from any of them.
Which is why it's great there's a DVD player and iPod dock too. (You can actually play movies from your iPod on the flatscreen if you're so inclined -- the rather lengthy instructions are in the desk.) The dock doesn't support newer iPod touches, iPhones or iPads, however.
Ten out of ten for power points in the room: one universal socket on either side of the bed, and a gadget-pleasing four (two universals, two Singapore/UK three-pin) at the desk. Here's the bedside switch layout:
I was particularly impressed with the bed, with a decent mattress and squashy mattress pad giving a bit a luxurious feel.
A range of pillows, marked "firm" and "soft" with little ribbons, are on the bed, but you can also make requests from the hotel's Pillow Menu, which includes pillow options like hypo-allergenic (big and squashy), body (to lie on), memory foam, water and "magnetic therapy" pillows.
Order early, though -- options run out once the hotel fills up in the evening.
It's a slightly whimsical but important touch that underlined my feeling that this Holiday Inn was punching above its brand weight in aiming towards the business and upmarket traveller.
The room was hot when I entered (the thermostat was showing 23.5°C) and the less than effectual air conditioning took hours to cool it down. I'm all in favour of energy efficiency, but in the tropics there's a balance to be struck between needless icebox and inescapable sauna.
While the colours in the bathroom (a rather 80s beige) were a little drab, and the shower was over the bath rather than in a cubicle, the excellent shower head with separate shower wand made up for it.
Extra points for a fog-free mirror, separate makeup/shaving magnifying mirror and fluffy towels. Waffle-pattern bathrobes were also provided in the wardrobe.
Toiletries were the relatively new Holiday Inn branded stuff, which isn't particularly to my liking, though there's not much the hotel itself can do about that. On the plus side, often-forgotten necessities like toothbrushes, cotton buds and a razor were in the toiletries stand too.
The docomo interTouch wifi is super-fast (17Mbps down, 21Mbps up) and login is integrated throughout the hotel -- no need to sign on again if you're shifting locations in the hotel. It's expensive, though, at SG$28 (A$22) a day.
[Note: The hotel's Internet pricing will change shortly. Current plans are for SG$25 a day for one device and a 1Mbps download speed, or SG$32 for four devices and a 3Mbps connection. Packages for four days (20 percent discount) and a week (25 percent discount) will be also available.]
Working at the desk itself was quite comfortable, with a decent enough chair to get a half-day's work done. With the comfortable chair and ottoman, and the small coffee table next to them, this was one of the better hotel rooms I've worked in recently.
The executive lounge is another option for working, but it is in the seven-storey main hotel atrium, so it's airy but prone to echo. That's especially true during the workday, when families staying at the hotel tend to make a fair bit of noise.
Room service was prompt and delicious, although as usual I recommend playing to the hotel's local strengths. The satay were superb (try the mutton), while the Thai tom yam soup was a little too close to Chinese hot and sour for my liking.
As ever in Singapore with its high alcohol taxes, the wine was expensive and not that great, advertised just as "Shiraz Cabernet". My Singapore advice, as ever is to BYO: there's a two-litre duty free limit.
Alternatively, if you fancy a drink then head down for the Executive Lounge's canapé hour, which had pretty good drops on offer and substantial enough nibbles for a light dinner.
It was so busy that the lounge was completely full while I was there, though, so don't expect a quiet, chilled out space (for that, head for the Crowne Plaza at Changi Airport, which Australian Business Traveller reviewed recently).
Breakfast downstairs in the main "Window on the Park" (which should really be called "Window on the Six-Lane Motorway in front of the Park") restaurant was very impressive, with a wide-ranging buffet including Japanese, northern and southern Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western options.
On-demand options included freshly squeezed juices, eggs cooked to order and -- for stuff that comes out of a machine -- pretty good coffee.
Staff were very pleasant, efficient and kept the coffee coming even when the restaurant was full.
In fact, this is one of those hotels where I recommend breakfast in the main restaurant over breakfast in the executive lounge, which I tried on my first morning.
The lounge is a little dark since it's at the bottom of the main hotel atrium, and the spread wasn't as varied. The business lounge staff also seemed rather disinterested.
The armchair and ottoman combo in the room is fine for reading, but at an odd angle for TV watching and a little under-padded.
The pool is great, though: square and long enough to get some laps done, with a separate family splashing pool that keeps the kids out of the way.
The small gym next to the pool is well-equipped with modern equipment and just about everything you need for a business trip workout: elliptical, bikes, treadmill, weight machine.
And, of course, if shopping is your favourite mode of relaxation, Orchard Road is a couple of minutes' walk away.
All in all, I was quite impressed by the hotel, and was pleased to see the improvements since my last stay when it was the Holiday Inn Parkview.
The Orchard City Centre certainly punches above its weight for the business traveller, with great beds, an excellent breakfast spread, superb staff, decent Internet (none of the buggy, rip-off Reivernet connections in Australian Holiday Inns), and more than enough power points in the rooms.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.