Amazing Raffles

Raffles Hotel in Singapore has a long-standing reputation of being one of the world’s most iconic and storied hotels. And its ranking amongst the world’s best has only been enhanced by recent multi-million-dollar restorations.  

Previously we’d only visited Raffles for a Singapore Sling in the historic Long Bar or to browse the boutique shopping gallery, so when our first overseas trip for 2 years came around, we were beyond excited to be staying at this heritage property. 

We made the Raffles reservation on a whim in early 2021 after picking up business class award seats (thankyou Qantas) to Singapore in January 2022. I’ve lost count of how many flights and hotels I’ve cancelled because of covid, so we didn’t really think this trip would go ahead (always book with free cancellation!).  

But when January came around and Australia’s borders were still open (well, slightly ajar) and we had both somehow evaded Omicron, we found ourselves off to Singapore on the VTL (vaccinated travel lane).  

We timed our 2 night Raffles stay in the middle of our Singaporean holiday, staying at two other hotels either side. The Raffles experience began with a luxury Mercedes S Class limousine pickup from the front of our first hotel – the transfer would only take 20 minutes normally, and we were early for check in, so we told the driver to take his time. He generously obliged by taking a longer more scenic route to the hotel while we luxuriated in the air conditioned leather comfort of the Mercedes.  

As the Mercedes pulled into the Raffles forecourt, four staff descended the red carpet to greet us and welcome us warmly to the hotel.  

There is no check in desk at Raffles – we were invited to take a seat in the Grand Lobby while our luggage was collected from the car. We were then escorted to our suite to complete the check process in the quiet comfort of our sitting room before being introduced to our butler who showed the features of our suite. 

The suite consisted of an entry foyer, huge bathroom, luxurious bedroom with four-poster bed and tv, a parlour with bar, dining table, another tv, and French doors to a balcony. We are immediately wowed by the generous proportions of the rooms, the sophisticated furnishings and luxury amenities.  

Once alone in the room we check nook and cranny for hidden features, try out the bed (blissfully comfortable), and take inventory of the complimentary toiletries and bar offerings – this is easily one of the best hotel rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. 

As tempted as we are to remain inside our luxury oasis, we are also keen to fully explore the hotel as bonafide guests. Timeless elegance might be a tired phrase but it could never be more apt than for Raffles Hotel. There’s a cornucopia of bars and restaurants to choose from, beautiful gardens to enjoy, courtyards, sitting rooms, passageways and cul de sacs. And you are never too far from a friendly member of staff with a warm greeting or offer of assistance.  

We made good use of the third floor pool during our stay. It’s a great place to cool off from the city heat and we were well looked by the pool and bar attendants – the standard of personal service throughout the hotel is uncompromising. 

Our breakfasts were served in the famous Tiffin room. It’s an ala carte breakfast menu and its hard to choose between all of the options – but you can order every item on the menu if you think you can handle it. Its all included. We tried both western and Asian breakfast options – the mee goreng was the best I’ve ever had. 

The most remarkable thing about Raffles is that, despite the hotel’s reputation and its relative exclusivity, its history of attracting the world’s rich and famous, it manages to be sophisticated without ever being snobbish, it emanates elegance without feeling elitist. 

We were always made to feel welcome and comfortable and genuinely valued as guests – even if returning hot and sweaty from a sightseeing excursion. The hospitality was outstanding at all times, the staff were warm and friendly and seem to love the hotel as much as we did.  

After two days, Raffles felt like a home away from home, and we were sad to be leaving for one of Singapore’s other iconic hotels where we planned to finish our holiday.  

I won’t name the other hotel here (that will be the subject of another blog entry) but on arrival we were immediately aware of a very different guest experience, and not in a positive way. We were so unimpressed that after one night we decided to cancel our last night and transfer out to another hotel – and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend our last 24 hours in Singapore than by splurging one more night at Raffles.  

I booked Raffles online on Wednesday, we checked out Thursday and transferred to Raffles by taxi at 10am well before the official 3pm room-ready time.  

On arrival at Raffles we were again greeted by the front of house staff with a warm “Welcome back Mr Jobling, we’re so glad you’ve returned to us”. You can’t underestimate the difference that personalised service makes. 

We were given early access to our room and staff immediately arranged a late check out for us the next day. Limousine transfer to the airport was included. And they upgraded us from the base level room that I booked to the suite from our previous stay.  

In our room was a hand written note from the Lobby Manager: 

“Welcome back to Raffles Hotel Singapore. Thankyou for your loyalty and we are delighted to have you reside with us. Hope your time in the Grand Dame will be a memorable experience.” 

Thankyou Raffles – it was indeed an indelibly memorable experience and Raffles will be top of our list every time we visit Singapore.  

My First Time Flying First

An Emirates First Class Review

It may sound trite to say that the journey is just as important as the destination, but try flying first class with Emirates and you’ll have a new appreciation of Emerson’s oft-quoted platitude. 

Early in the year (whilst surfing Qantas’s booking engine – as I often do) I stumbled on a First Class Award flight, Melbourne to Singapore, on Emirates on a date that worked for me. I’d had no plans to visit Singapore, but the lure of my first ever first class flight was more than I could resist. It would prove to the best 90,000 points and $300 (taxes and carrier fees) I have ever spent in the air. 

Flight day and we’re at the airport early to make full use of our first class lounge privileges. In Melbourne, Emirates partners with Qantas to give first class passengers access to the Australian airline’s first class lounge – and I can tell you it is a massive step up from business class. 

The Qantas lounge is a sanctuary of style and serenity away from the crowds and queues of the International terminal and departure gates (dare I say, away from the common people?) – and its’ all  free with a first class ticket. 

We staked out a vantage point in the restaurant where we could watch the take offs and landings, sip some pre-flight cocktails, and peruse the Neil Perry menu.  The lounge offers genuine 5 star dining, the likes of which I never thought possible in an airport, and the wine list is pretty impressive too.  

Here’s a tip: put your name down as soon as you arrive for a massage or facial in the spa. That’s right… there’s a luxury spa in the lounge. I had the men’s detox facial and returned to the lounge feeling even more blissed. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone travels without a pre-flight spa treatment.  

Spa bookings are limited, but even if you miss out you could still freshen up with a shower before your flight. The bathroom facilities are replete with ASPAR toiletries.  

As tempting as it was to try all the cocktails in the bar and every dish on the menu, we knew that Emirates had plenty of culinary delights in store for us on the plane. And so it was time to head to the gate and make our way onto the Boeing 777-300ER.  

The welcome is gracious as we are introduced to our cabin crew and directed to our suites. There are 6 first class suites on this Emirates 777-300 and on this flight we are the only two passengers! The crew tell us we are welcome to use any suite we like, even to eat in one suite and sleep in another. 

The greatest luxury when flying is space, and the Emirates first class product gives you plenty of it. But they also deliver many more surprises to keep the wow factor going. My suite is furnished with a personal mini-bar and generous snacks, I have a wardrobe, a privacy screen for sleep time, and a huge entertainment screen and noise cancelling Bowers and Wilkins headphones. 

Complimentary amenities include Byredo facial products, a Bulgari pack of toiletries and perfume, a writing set, and a luxurious package of pyjamas and slippers.  

I’m still exploring the loot when the pre-take-off Moet is served and the crew explain some of the seat and suite functions. Once in the air and we have levelled off, the Dom Perignon is served. Don’t mind if I do! 

This really is next level luxury, and way beyond what you really need for an 8 hour flight to Singapore – but I can’t deny that I’m loving every minute of being treated like royalty. 

The food service commences with some tasty amuse bouche, followed by a mezza plate specially tailored to my vegetarian preferences. It includes two types of egg plant dip and a selection of warm breads that any fresh bakery would be proud of.  

I select a 98 French red wine, knowing nothing about French red wines but it sounds expensive so I go for it. After nodding my approval at the first sip, the host decants the rest of the bottle into a carafe and leaves it at my table! 

I’m encouraged to also have the caviar plate from the apetisers menu, and, paired with a Belvedere Vodka, it is absolutely divine.  

The food service is al a carte and on demand. I’m only half way through my French red when I order the pumpkin ravioli for mains – it’s delicious but more than I can finish.  

Sitting at adjacent suites we both watch the same movie together. Tea service is provided and we have a chocolate clairefontaine for dessert.  

Our host turns down the bed for a few hours of sleep before arrival into Singapore. Really nothing is too much for the crew, and they help to ensure that every aspect of our first class experience is an absolute delight. After we’ve safely landed, part of me doesn’t want to farewell the crew and leave this flying palace behind.  

Flying home in Economy is going to be tough! 

  • ** Brett and Stef flew MEL-SIN First Class on an Emirates 777-300 on an award flight using Qantas Frequent Flyer points. They flew home on a paid Qantas Economy flight.