Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hilton Sydney

Hilton Sydney Hotel Review

Hotel Review of the Hilton Sydney

Last weekend we managed to get away from the kids and travelled up to Sydney to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. Being Hilton Honors Diamond members, we stayed at the Hilton Sydney (the only property in the Hilton chain in Sydney). We had previously stayed here before and really loved the location as well as the friendly staff and fantastic service.

From the airport we caught the Airport Link train to Town Hall station which was hassle free as we only had little travel bags with us. The trip takes about 23 minutes and cost $17 per adult. As there was only two of us, this was a cheaper option than grabbing a Taxi (which can cost between $40-$50). After arriving at Town Hall station it is only 100 metres away to walk, nice and handy!

We had booked a King Hilton Guest room and upon check in were upgraded to an executive level room due to our HH Status. The rooms at the Hilton Sydney are a lot smaller than other Hilton Hotels. The decor though is modern and stylish and they do try to make the most of this smaller space. The bathroom especially while very nice is quite cramped and not easy for two people to be in there at the same time. When we arrived in the room there were some complimentary chocolates with a note from the Manager wishing us a very Happy Anniversary which was a nice gesture. Our 2 bottles of complimentary water that HH members are entitled to however were not. We made a quick call to their MAGIC service and they were delivered in about 5 minutes (note: we only received the water on first night not the second like some other Hilton Hotels will do).

Be advised that the mini bar is an automatic system where if something is moved, it is charged. We are not particularly fond of these automated systems especially when traveling with kids, as it is sometimes pretty easy for little fingers to move items around. You can avoid this however by using the MAGIC service to bring up a mini fridge to store bottles of water and juice etc. which is what we did last time we stayed here with the kids.

We took advantage of the Executive Lounge on level 36 which has canapés and drinks in the evening from 6.00pm-8.30pm (mon-fri) and 6.00pm-8.00pm (sat-sun). There is a nice variety of foods with two hot dishes a night along with cold cuts, breads, cheese board and crackers, seafood options and salad. They also have a selection of little desserts which were very nice. They put out tubs of beers to help yourself but you have to go up to staff to get wines and spirits. Coffee, tea and soft drinks are available all throughout the day. There is afternoon tea available from 3.00pm-600pm daily which has freshly made cakes and cookies. Continental Breakfast is served from 6.30-10.00am (mon-fri) and 6.30-11.00am (sat-sun).

Being Diamond members we were given the option to have the buffet breakfast at Glass Brasserie which we opted for instead of the lounge. This is a really nice restaurant, loved the high ceilings and it has a great ambience. There were plenty of staff on hand and they provided efficient service. The food was excellent with a selection of asian and western foods with a nice fruit and juice bar. Pastries were also aplenty so we left here feeling very full and satisfied. Glass Brasserie is operated by Luke Mangan and apparently lunch and dinner here is excellent as well. We didn’t get a chance to dine at Glass other than for breakfast on this stay but will definitely try it out on our next stay.

In the lobby there is Cafe Cino which is also open for breakfast if you don’t want to shell out the $38 per person for the buffet breakfast. Prices here seemed very reasonable and you can dine in or take away fresh snacks from 7.00am to 7.00pm. You can even relax with a beer or wine in the evening at this cafe. There are another two bars, Marble Bar and Zeta Bar which are open from 4.00pm for drinks or cocktails.

There is a Gymnasium and 25 metre pool with Jacuzzi and Steam Rooms which is part of the Living Well Health Club. There is also the Alysium day spa but didn’t try it so can’t make comment on it.

Situated at 488 George St, the location is great and very centrally located. It is just a short stroll to Darling Harbour (between 5-10 mins depending on your pace) if you want to catch a ferry. Hilton Sydney is also close to Town Hall station if you need to catch a train as well as a bus stop right outside. If you love shopping, its right across the road from the QV Shops and just a short distance from Pitt St Mall. It is also walking distance to Circular Quay and The Rocks area. Walk straight down George St and you will be there in 20-30 mins depending on your pace. Recommend the walk on a Saturday or Sunday as The Rocks Markets are on from 10.00am-5.00pm on those days.

Overall the Hilton Sydney is very nice hotel, but our advice would be to book early to get cheaper rates as prices seem to become very high at times (especially for weekends). To see rates go to www.hilton.com

Sydney Harbour Tall Ship

Sydney Harbour Tall Ships

Sydney Harbour Tall Ships – Lunch Cruise

We recently tried out one of the Sydney Harbour Tall Ships cruises and had a really great relaxing afternoon. We opted to do the Lunch Cruise which included two hours sailing time aboard the Soren Larsen as well as lunch dining. As an extra we also booked the open bar package (includes unlimited soft drinks, juices, beer, wine and sparkling) and for an extra $22 per person and would definitely recommend that optional extra.

We boarded promptly and on time. The boat takes off under motor for the first half of the trip. Once the boat is unmoored, the bar is open and the drinks flow freely. A few canapés start to be handed out about 15 minutes into the cruise. There is also an option to purchase a Mast Climb if you are brave enough! They get people started doing the mast climbs pretty much straight away due to the rule that no alcohol can be consumed before you climb.

The boat sets out around Sydney Harbour and the friendly crew (we had Tom as our main guide) and the Captain Marty will provide any answers for questions you might have as well as giving you commentary on historical events and general information about Sydney itself. After around 45 minutes, the boat starts to turn around, then the crew brings the sails down (you can help out if that is something you want to try) and the engine is switched off. This provides a more quiet slow-moving time to start lunch.

Now don’t expect too much from the Tall Ships lunch experience, it is not a gourmet feast. It consists of a green salad, coleslaw, potato salad, pulled meats (pork, chicken and beef) with bread rolls. Chocolate brownies are offered around for dessert also. The lunch was actually fine for us as we had earlier had a big buffet breakfast at our hotel and weren’t really very hungry anyway. It may not be enough though if you hadn’t eaten very much earlier in the day. It is then a nice slow cruise heading back to port under sail while you take in the beautiful scenery of Sydney Harbour.

There are different cruise options available leaving from Campbells Cove, The Rocks which are;

  •  Lunch Cruise – sails daily except for Tuesdays (1.45pm to 3.45pm)
  • Afternoon Discovery Cruise – sails daily except Tuesdays (4.00pm to 5.30pm)
  • Twilight Dinner Cruise – sails daily except for Tuesdays (5.45pm to 7.45pm)
  • Convicts, Castles and Champagne Tour – Mon, Thur, Fri, Sat and Sun (1.00pm to 4.45pm)
  • Champagne Brunch Cruise – Sundays (11.00am to 1.00pm)
  • Attack of the Pirates (great for families!) for a limited time on Saturdays and Sundays (1.30pm to 2.45pm from Campbells Cove) (3.15pm to 4.45pm from Milsons Point Wharf)

If the Sydney Harbour Tall Ships is something you might like to do, a tip would be to join the mailing list on their website. You will then receive weekly email updates and specials that may help cut costs. We were travelling to Sydney on a Friday and got an email the Thursday before we travelled offering us a great deal on the Saturday Lunch Cruise, which we then happily booked. Cost through that was $65 per person (and we paid an additional $22 pp for open bar) which also included the mast climb (although we were not brave enough to do it!) so it was a really great deal. It worked out that we saved $84 pp from the standard prices on the website.

This was a really enjoyable experience and suitable for both couples and families. For more information on the Sydney Tall Ships go to www.sydneytallships.com.au or call on (02) 8015 5571

Singapore

Family Fun in Singapore

Exploring Singapore with Kids

Singapore is a wonderful, clean, vibrant city and a perfect place to visit with kids. It has a great public transport system and taxis are easy to get and inexpensive. There are so many fun places for families to visit, whether it be theme parks, water parks, zoos or just exploring the different cultures that Singapore offers. The city also comes to life at night-time with lots of free family fun entertainment around the city.

If you don’t have a lot of time in Singapore then a good way to see the main sights is the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus. It is a good way for you to explore and visit all the different attractions such as Little India, Raffles Hotel, Boat Quay, Chinatown, Marina Bay, Clarke Quay, Orchard Rd, Singapore Flyer and the Botanic Gardens. The buses also have speakers for guided commentary available in selected languages. We purchased the pass that included a river cruise on a traditional Bumboat that went along Singapore River into Marina Bay giving great views of the famous Merlion.  For more information go to www.ducktours.com.sg

A good way to see the views of Singapore is to hop aboard the Singapore Flyer. While not cheap at $78 SGD for a family pass – if your budget allows, definitely check it out. It is the worlds largest observation wheel and offers stunning panoramic views of the city. To go around one rotation takes about half an hour and is open from 8.30am – 10.30pm.  www.singaporeflyer.com

The Marina Bay area is pretty special and you can take in all the stunning views of Singapore from the public Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck. Pricing for this is $23 SGD per adult and $17 SGD per child but the views are pretty amazing. Another option if you can get a babysitter like we did one night is to go up to Ku De Ta Sky Deck and enjoy a couple of drinks  (you do not have to pay the Skypark admission fee) and get the spectacular views (especially at night). It is a good idea to check on the website www.marinabaysands.com to make sure the Skypark is open as it can be closed when the weather is inclement.

Sentosa Island is a must do when travelling with kids. It’s only a short drive, train, bus or cable car trip from the city and with so many things to do, you need more than one day here to see everything on offer. Just a few of the main attractions are:

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Universal Studios

To find out more information on things to do at Sentosa Island go to www.sentosa.com.sg

While Adventure Cove on Sentosa is the main  water park in Singapore, there a few other options. We have tried and enjoyed Wild Wild Wet (see review here) which is a bit further out-of-town but lots of fun. If travelling on a budget another option is Jurong East Swimming complex. For less than $2 SGD per adult and $1 SGD for kids, it is a much cheaper option and still has a swimming pool, wave pool, jacuzzi, lazy river, kiddy fun station and three water slides but is still a bit out-of-town www.singaporeswimming.com.

The Singapore Zoo is a world-class zoo and we would highly recommend it for families. It has plenty to keep you busy (see review here ) and you can combine tickets to take in the River Safari and Night Zoo or Jurong Bird Park.

Night time in Singapore is a whole new amazing experience, and the best part is that most of it is free! Gardens by the Bay provides a mesmerising 15 minute light show with accompanying music called Garden RhapsodyThis is not to be missed, the kids loved it as the huge Supertrees come to life with vibrant electrifying colours.  The shows are daily at 7.45pm and 8.45pm with an extra show at 9.30pm on Friday and Saturday nights.  For more information go to www.gardensbythebay.com.sg

We caught the 8.45pm show and then afterwards headed over to the Event Plaza at the Marina Bay Sands to catch another free entertaining display. This time is was the Wonder Full light and water show on the bay which transforms water into moving images and dancing fountains all accompanied to music and songs. You actually need to watch this show twice, once from the Marina Bay side and another time from across the bay along the Esplanade where the Merlion is. When you watch from the Merlion side you get the full effects of the laser beams and it is truly amazing! This is held daily (weather permitting) at 8.00pm and 9.30pm with an extra show at 11.00pm on Friday and Saturday nights.  You can watch a video about Wonder Full on the Marina Bay Sands website www.marinabaysands.com

Lastly, don’t forget to take the kids to the Bugis Street Markets.  This is a great place to buy cheap clothes, shoes, accessories and souvenirs. There are plenty of food and drink stalls as well as a huge shopping mall making it the largest street shopping location in Singapore. It is open from 11.00am to 10.00pm but wouldn’t recommend getting there before midday as they are still setting up the stalls until then. Best time to go is definitely at night. www.bugisstreet.com.sg

You can also check out our pinterest board on Singapore https://www.pinterest.com/rochwillo/singapore/

While in Singapore we have stayed at the Conrad Hotel (see review here) and the Hilton Singapore (see review here).

Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo

Review of Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo is a world-class attraction and definitely one of the best zoos we have ever been to. We visited in August 2014 and absolutely loved our visit there. This zoo is so clean with fantastic facilities and all the enclosures are well laid out and maintained. We took a taxi which took about 30 mins from the Marina Bay area. There are public transport options available, but you have to take a train then get on a bus so allow a bit more time to get there.

The Singapore Zoo opens at 8.30am and like most attractions in Singapore, it is best to get there as early as possible to beat the heat. One of the animal experiences that you can book online before you arrive is Breakfast with the Orang Utans from 9.00am -10.30am (extra fee applies).  Unfortunately we were not organised enough to pre book in time, but apparently it is a pretty amazing experience and we will definitely give it a try on our next visit.

Be prepared for a lot of walking throughout the day. There is a hop on/hop off tram service that will take you around the main part of the zoo – tickets for unlimited rides are $5.00 SGD for adults and $3.00 SGD for children. There is so much to see here, the star animal attractions being – Elephants of Asia, Hamadryas Baboons, Orang Utans, Australian Outback, Reptile Garden, Fragile Forest and Frozen Tundra.

There are also four different animal shows throughout the day;

One of the best parts of taking your kids to Singapore Zoo is the Rainforest Kidzworld area. Halfway through the day we came here so the kids could cool off and play in the water park and they loved it (don’t forget to bring some towels with you to dry off)! While the kids played, we grabbed something to eat and took advantage of the free Wi-Fi available.  There is also a carousel and pony rides available at an extra cost.

We left the zoo around 3.00pm and got a taxi back straight away, although have heard that wait times for taxis can get quite long after 4.00pm so keep that in mind too. Closing time here is 6.00pm.

Tickets to Singapore Zoo are $32 SGD per adult and $21 SGD per child. A tip though is that you can save up to 30% if you pre book tickets online. They also have park hopper packages available if you want to combine visits with the Night Safari, River Safari or Jurong Bird Park.

For more information go to www.zoo.com.sg