It’s 1 a.m. and the ballroom at the brand new 240-room W Singapore – Sentosa Cove is packed with hundreds of the city’s most fashionable scenesters dancing to the pulsing beats of international star DJ Mark Ronson, just off the plane from London. Club tunes thump from a state-of-the-art sound system while a bank of high-tech disco lights rain a swirl of colors throughout the room. Champagne flows as revelers raise glasses in celebration of the hotel’s grand opening gala.
Such a dramatic wow event is a prime example of what planners can do here in Singapore’s glitziest new resort. Located south of the city center on Sentosa Island, the spacious waterfront property is a departure from W’s typically compact urban retreats, highlighted by the 7,750-sf Great Room where the party rages well into the night.
“The W Singapore has a lot more meeting facilities than other W hotels,” says Charles Abbott, Starwood’s regional VP, South East Asia. “We have the Great Room and our outdoor facilities, so you can do a lot of specialty events. There’s a lot of potential for us to grow the meetings business here and become something special, especially with groups that want to be identified with the W brand.” The hotel offers a total of 17,800 sf of indoor meeting space.
From the moment you arrive, this fantastically plush hotel pushes the design envelope at every turn. A red carpet sweeps you from the car through the entryway, where a large LED panel projects colored lights behind a wall of cascading water. Red carpet continues up a grand staircase with a river of lights flowing into the lounge and lobby, featuring gorgeous rosewood block check-in desks framed by laser-cut rosewood panels. Those are backlit by shades of red, pink, white and violet light depending on the mood of the day.
After check-in, a DJ works the ultra-hip Living Room lounge and Woobar, a cool, relaxed gathering spot ideal for small group confabs in modern seed pod chairs, surrounded by views of the pool and ocean. Outside on the terrace, there’s an oversized rock garden and day beds. Right below, the sprawling circular lawn and pool lounge are rimmed by palm trees and bars and hors d’oeuvres stations. Attendees who fancy a swim in the 14,000-sf pool won’t miss a beat with 24 underwater speakers. As evident with tonight’s partygoers, it’s an ideal area for large events, especially with Singapore’s year-round summery weather.
Guests traveling by boat have no problem getting to the gala by easily docking at one of 10 slips on-property, a unique feature that offers a number of nautical options for groups.
“We’ve already organized sunset and night cruises,” says Stephane Fabregoul, GM. “Unlike other hotels, our groups can just walk down to our marina.”
From the pool lounge, I step into the Kitchen Table where I’m struck by the fabulous design. Like a Philippe Starck fantasy, it’s at once modern, conceptual and playful, yet as earthy as old Singapore. A communal table wraps from floor to ceiling while an enormous chandelier of hundreds of cockle shells hovers over rustic tables and chairs of solid rosewood. The casual buffet restaurant features cuisines representative of the melting pot of Singapore, including stations of Chinese, Indian and Japanese fare, as well as a main station with tureens hiding inventive fusion creations.
The Starck fantasy continues at the adjacent Skirt restaurant, where I pass beef cuts hung in aging cabinets under a whimsical chandelier made from an assortment polished cutlery. The design elevates the dining experience in this Argentinian grill with a steer horn motif and screens lowered to create private group dining areas.
The hotel’s modern floral design concept continues in its spacious guest rooms, which feature numerous high-tech amenities like charging plugs for virtually every type of smart phone and tablet. Bathed in purples, grays, browns and neutral tones, the rooms use ambient lighting under the bed and behind intricate rosewood headboards to create a calm mood for relaxing at the end of a busy day.
For the ultimate room experience, the top floor Extreme Wow Suite features opulent design touches, a balcony plunge pool and an actual DJ booth, which is perfect for intimate group receptions. The latest addition to W brand accommodations is found on the ground floor next to the Away Spa. Away rooms and suites are cocoons of comfort featuring a private terrace and plunge pools that are truly ideal for VIPs seeking a quiet refuge.
SENTOSA ISLAND & SINGAPORE
Groups in search of activities outside the hotel don’t have far to go with nearby attractions like the beachfront Wave House Sentosa water park, which produces perfect 10-foot waves and can accommodate groups up to 3,000.
“We work with Sentosa itself to organize different activities,” says Fabregoul. “We have the beach, a casino, an adventure park, a 1,800-foot mega zipline and two golf courses less than two minutes away. There are lots of options to create fantastic teambuilding and bonding experiences.”
Of course, no visit would be complete without seeing Singapore, a city-state on the leading edge of modernity. “Clean” is a word often associated with Singapore, but it’s also an incredibly vibrant place with a stew of cultures and influences from all over Asia, including India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, along with Dutch and British colonial roots.
The W Singapore offers three educational tour options for our group, focusing on fashion, music or design. I choose the latter and board a vintage 1960s VW Bus to visit some of the city’s award-winning architecture. Our first stop is Reflections at Keppel Bay, a new waterfront condo complex by architect Daniel Libeskind that rises above the horizon like a glittering Oz. This contrasts with our next stop at the Brutalist-style OCBC Centre designed by architect I.M. Pei in the 1970s, a massive concrete monolith that’s stunning in its own right.
We stroll along rows of shophouses and quaint 2-story retail shops (the owners live upstairs) from Singapore’s colonial period that are now protected under historic preservation laws. They make up the city’s colorful Little India and Chinatown districts. It’s here where we visit one of Singapore’s famed “hawker centers”—lively malls of street-food vendors where locals wait patiently in long lines for one of the city’s signature dishes, such as chili crab, chicken rice and barbecue stingray sambal. Eating here ranges from a favorite pastime to a fine art for many Singaporeans, and the affordable, delicious fare is worth the wait for any group. This just might be the most memorable activity of any meeting in this city.