Saturday, May 23, 2009

Singapore’s latest luxury hotel, the Capella Sentosa, targets rich travellers and long-staying guests.


Singapore’s latest luxury hotel, the Capella Sentosa, targets rich travellers and long-staying guests.

Few have heard of the Capella hotels, and perhaps that is not at all surprising since there are only eight of them in the world. The Capella Sentosa in Singapore marks the group’s début in Asia.

Opened two months ago, The Capella Sentosa caters to guests with deep pockets — room rates start from S$750 (RM1,900).

Capella Sentosa’s three-tiered swimming pool

Sentosa island, now linked to the main island by bridge, is undergoing massive transformation. Malaysia’s Genting Bhd is building Singapore’s second casino here, Vivo Mall is nearby and then there is the Capella.

The Capella’s two main buildings resemble a stately colonial government office rather than a hotel. This is no accident because they are, in fact, the celebrated Tanah Merah buildings erected by the British in 1883 as military barracks.

Over time, the buildings became the nation’s favoured venue for afternoon tea, grand balls and New Year Eve parties. Restored by Lord Norman Foster of London into the Capella Sentosa’s main reception and public areas, the regal Tanah Merah buildings stand in stark contrast to the modernist double wings behind them.

I was mortified when I strolled into the foyer — not by the low ceilings or the large living room size of the reception — but by the signage. There were only two stars attached to the name of this hotel which is supposed to be a six-star establishment

“Fear not, there is a brilliant explanation,” beamed general manager Michael Luible.

A cosy library

“Capella is the name of the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga, which is also the name of our spa. Capella is the sixth brightest star in the northern hemisphere and, though it appears as a single star to the naked eye, it actually comprises two binary star systems. Hence the two-star logo.’’


The Capella Hotels’ German-born founder Horst Schulze, formerly president of the Ritz-Carlton, decided to position his group at the topmost end, offering a level of personalised service few hotels could match. Each guest, for example, is assigned a personal assistant and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. The lavish spread at the Library (a restaurant, not a repository of books) means you can eat almost 24/7, and service is exemplary.

Capella sits on 12ha of lush rainforest and most rooms face the South China Sea. Alas, the view is often of container ships and barges — not the most picturesque of boats, one must admit.

Army barracks now a luxury hotel. — KEE HUA CHEE

Capella boasts the largest hotel rooms in Singapore, with each one a junior suite. There are only 50 deluxe rooms, 61 premier rooms, 11 suites, 38 garden villas and a presidential manor fit for a king.

The décor is impossibly stylish, but you will have to ask your personal assistant to show you how the coffee machine works. The thing is so hi-tech that most coffee drinkers would be confounded as to how to get their fix from it.

Linens are by the prestigious Pratesi. My bed overlooked the gardens, forest, infinity pools and South China Sea. It was pure indulgence to be able to stretch my feet on the vast bed and to soak in the view from the Jacuzzi, and occasionally glimpsing peacocks!

But I swear the large bolster must be filled with rocks. It was so stiff and heavy, it took all my strength to kick it to the floor.

A touch-screen control panel operated everything, including the 46in plasma TV. However, whoever decided on the placement of the light switches should have his brains examined. Any mortal would have thought the bathroom switches should be positioned outside the bathroom, but I searched in vain for them.

Not wanting to call reception and appear a peasant, I pressed hard on the floor with my feet and even went down on my knees to grope furtively for the blasted switches. Finally I gave up and summoned housekeeping.

Guess where the switches were? On the wardrobe wall . . .

The lights in my wardrobe did not work either. Two technicians duly came, armed with a ladder, but after several bulb changes, my closet remained in darkness. Eventually, it transpired that the control panel inside my bedside drawer operated the lights!

There is something to be said about old-fashioned switches that can be pressed, pushed, pulled, clicked and most importantly, seen.

Still, I thought the amenities were stunning. Cassia Restaurant offers incredible Chinese cuisine in exquisite setting designed by Andre Fu of Hong Kong. The Knolls provides all-day dining with sensational views of three cascading pools, and Bob’s Bar is currently Singapore’s hottest watering hole — the republic’s beautiful people congregate here.

One hundred silver carps securely fixed to the walls (I tried removing one, so I know) lead one to Auriga, the other worldly spa, all 1,115 sq m of it. Its wellness philosophy and treatments are based on the phases of the moon.

Since our body is 90% liquid, the moon is said to exert a powerful influence on our inner “tides”! Auriga’s signature treatments reflect the varying energies caused by the waxing and waning of the moon, and are meant to rejuvenate and realign you with nature.

Meanwhile, Capella’s ballroom is Singapore’s first and only circular ballroom with no pillars in its midst and a skylit dome that juts into the garden above. The 780sq m ballroom accommodates 350 to 400 in style. No wonder it is making waves.

For more information, visit or call +65 6377 8888.


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