Located just one street away from the busy walkways of Clarke Quay where tourists and locals both enjoy alfresco dining along the Singapore River lies the newest addition to the Singapore IHG family, the Holiday Inn Express (HIX) Clarke Quay. The HIX is a no-frills kind of accommodation that is a separate brand from Holiday Inn which caters towards a more value-conscious segment of travellers. I've chosen to stay at this property to explore the Clarke Quay/Robertson Quay areas which were within walking distances from the hotel. Additionally, this stay will help me complete my Big Win challenge for the first quarter of 2014.
Contacting this property for reservation confirmation was painful. My emails sent two weeks prior to arrival and then one more seven days later went unanswered. My Facebook messages to the official account for this property were marked read but ignored entirely. I did eventually get a reply from the property after sending a final message at 1230am on the day of arrival. The funny thing was that I received two conflicting responses (which I presume were sent by two different people on different devices) from the team at approximately 1am. Otherwise, it must be a serious case of schizophrenia.
My check-in process was almost painless and the staff had no trouble locating my reservation and prepayment. However, Platinum IHG guests do not get anything extra here. I understand that some international HIX properties offer bonus points or welcome drinks for Platinum Guests but you're not going to find such benefits here. Check-in staff also seemed rather fresh at their job and slightly flustered for some reason. I did however get a late checkout for 4pm the next day and a room on a higher floor but I don't think these benefits were reserved for Platinum members per se. No offer for a morning call or complimentary newspaper were extended.
The Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay has 442 appointed rooms which makes it one of the largest HIX in the region. Many of the rooms face the inner atrium and therefore rendering it without a decent view. If you arrive early, make sure to tell the staff at check-in that you want a room facing Clarke Quay or you may end up in one of these atrium-facing rooms.
The roof level (level 8) provides for travellers a rather unique 40m swimming pool and two jacuzzi pools that overlook certain areas of Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. The transparent glass makes the pool look like some kind of animal enclosure as people are able to see your swimming strokes from the outside. Yet again, the pool probably distinguishes itself from other hotel pools this way. Whilst the pools were only open from 7am to 7pm daily, the small fitness gym is open 24 hours a day - making it convenient for you to slip in a workout even if you arrive in the wee hours of the morning.
One problem that I faced while enjoying the facilities was the evident lack of pool chairs and tanning decks. The wood was also burning hot from the scorching sun making it difficult to walk barefooted for the common man. Moreover, this problem was already pertinent when the hotel is far from full occupancy. Some guests resorted to lying down on a towel over the wooden floor for a tan. I believe more needs to be done to ensure that hotel guests are able to enjoy a leisurely dip in the pool.
Unlike most hotels that I have been to, the rooms in Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay do not come with a bathtub. In fact, the rooms are all of similar configurations with an option of Queen bed or two Single beds. While the room had basic amenities that may suffice for a budget traveler, the rooms are small according to Singapore's general hotel standards.
While other hotels generally have a King sized bed, my room had a queen sized bed, four pillows, a small working desk and a flat screen television which I guess were pretty standard for more affordable hotels. The rooms were clean but slightly dusty as they were rather new. Personally, the sheets were coarse and could do with some softening up. In fact, I would highly recommend higher thread-count sheets. The distinct indication of soft or firm pillows on the pillow cases was redundant to me and served no purpose. The air-conditioning unit in my room went to a minimum of 24.5 degrees despite me trying to lower the temperature down even further. My sheets were also creased at the sides which I guess is another thing to deal with for staying in a relatively new hotel.
The room also came with an empty mini-bar that you can utilise to chill your own beverages or snacks. Basic tea and coffee making facilities (i.e. teabags and hot water kettle) were provided for hotel guests. In-room dining was almost non-existent for hotel guests as the dining menu was a combined fast food menu from nearby restaurants (e.g. Wendy's). Also, you will not be able to charge these to your room as payment is by cash only.
The bathroom was tiny and despite having a rain shower fixture, the water pressure was weak. A reader has previously shared with me that the fire alarm has gone off multiple times (even through the night) during her stay at the property when it first opened. The weaker pressure could be a temporary solution to the sensitive in-room smoke detectors until a more permanent solution is established. Fortunately for me, the fire alarms stayed silent throughout my stay. A sticker on the shower screen also suggests both sliding doors (one overlooks the bedroom - see photo below) to be closed so that the hot steam from the shower does not trigger the fire alarm.
The bathroom and the sliding window did not come with locks meaning that anyone in the room is able to open it at any time. This may be important for those of you who intend to share rooms with your friends. Having the sliding window however meant that I was (somehow) able to access the tap from my bed which could be useful if you get lazy.
All stays with Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay (both Orchard and Clarke Quay) comes with complimentary breakfast. I did not bother waking up for it as I had no intention of covering it. Besides after looking at some sponsored stays by other bloggers (who praised the breakfast service) whom made the breakfast look like a primary school canteen after being raided by a group of zombie apocalypse survivors, I decided to hit that snooze button a couple more times. With the hotel located near Robertson Walk, I would highly recommend exploring the area and have something decent at one of the restaurants nearby.
With all that being said, the Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay is still a pretty nice budget accommodation (when comparing to other substitutes like the Ibis hotel). While the current opening promotion does provide for 2,000 bonus points for Reward Club members, the average room rate for this hotel may be on the high side for what it has to offer.
However, the poor communication with the team prior to arrival and the lack of recognition for Platinum status members kills it for me. Not checking your mailbox is bad enough as it is but reading and then ignoring a guest's message is a huge failure in my opinion. The Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium albeit significantly older, sits a stone's throw away from this property. It boasts much greater service standards and better amenities at a lower price so I would highly recommend it if you wish to stay in this area.