Cruise Control in Singapore
For those eyeing a holiday involving Singapore, choosing a cruise as a part of your break is a great way to ensure a holiday that has something for everyone, from the kids to the grandparents – and gives you an easy way to explore new and exotic cities without the hassle and pressure of regular airport transfers.
A lot of airports in far-flung places can be slow and lifeless, and there is something nice about the idea of only packing and unpacking once for your whole holiday. Then while you sleep, you sleep (far better than in economy class on a plane), while someone else steers you to a new and interesting spot in the morning.
Singapore is an ideal Asian destination for those on a cruise. Modern Singapore in many ways began in 1819 specifically because it was an ideal site for a port, making the bustling city-state into an entrepôt for the spice and silk trade between East and West. Singapore now not only has one of the busiest container ports in the world, but also boasts of two main cruise terminals.
The Singapore Cruise Centre, located on the island’s southern tip, caters for small and medium cruise ships (and has two large adjoining shopping malls), while the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, which opened in 2012, is a state-of-the-art terminal for larger cruise ships. The terminals play host to a number of cruise liners sailing between Australia and Singapore, including famous names like P&O, Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises.
Tiny Island, Tons to Do
For the tourist looking to pack in as much sightseeing as possible, Singapore’s tiny size is an advantage. As you dock, you can take the low-priced metro — the MRT — and be in the centre of town within a few minutes.
The island effectively has two centres; downtown is the CBD, which also fringes the Marina Bay area, complete with Marina Bay Sands (and its famous surfboard-style roof), where you can shop, have a flutter at the casino or simply chill by the river with a cool drink. Venture a bit further and you’re in the heart of Chinatown, with its brightly painted old shophouses, where you can pick up inexpensive souvenirs. To explore the island’s multicultural flavours further, Kampong Glam with the gold-roofed Sultan Mosque is Singapore’s Malay area, and in Little India you’ll find gold shops, temples and curry eateries – all a few stops away on public transport.
Orchard Road is the shopping centre, where you can escape the heat in the smart, air-conditioned shopping malls that sell everything from local souvenirs to the coveted but eye-wateringly expensive designer gear. (Look out for the Chinese-style architecture of the long-established Tangs on the corner of Orchard and Scotts Road).
If you have time to venture further afield Singapore’s zoos are among the best in the world: from Singapore Zoo itself, the nearby Night Safari and River Safari, plus Jurong Bird Park. Singapore Botanic Gardens has also recently gained World Heritage Status.
Oh, and did we mention that Singaporeans are serious foodies? You’re never far away from something delicious to eat. As they say in these parts, you “die-die must try” some local favourites like chicken rice, Katong laksa and sizzle satay, in amazing open-graze food centres like Lau Pa Sat or Makansutra Gluttons Bay. Or head out for a special-occasion meal in the evening, to enjoy generous trays of chilli crab and pepper crab (my personal favourite) at one of the many seafood restaurants; or the amazing Sunday brunch bonanza that is Super Peking Duck’s signature dish. Just be sure to book those tables, and those ducks, ahead of time!
Then if a big part of the cruise appeal is the places you visit, Singapore is a great combination destination with several incredible regional destinations. But do your homework. Unlike Singapore or Australia, some of Asia’s biggest cruise ports are actually far from the cities. You want your excursions to be imaginative, with smart guided interpretation, and places away from the usual tourist trap guided loop. Or, just opt to explore on your own, minding your valuables carefully of course.
If you are cruising in and out of Singapore, popular combos include Singapore-Thailand-Hong Kong. Or you might consider heading southeast via Bali, exploring the amazing Komodo National Park, home of the infamous Komodo dragons.
Heat, Rain and the Other Days
Think a little bit about the weather too. Sometimes a cut-price bargain will be available because it’s the monsoon time. To some, that’s fine, while to others it’s a major deterrent to your suntan.
The weather at sea may be breezy and cool, but remember that if it’s too hot for your group onshore, the excursions on land might not be as much fun as they should be.
Singapore has a monsoon season from around November to January, when it rains a bit more than usual but the temperature is a welcome few degrees lower. It’s less likely to be a deterrent than in other countries, where much of the adventure will be outdoors and there aren’t so many stylish indoor venues to while away the time until the downpour stops.
Remember that you don’t need to achieve everything either. For many, a cruise will be one of many, and catching up on sleep and your favourite authors are more than suitable reasons for cruising too.
And lastly, think carefully about having extra shore time either side of the cruise. In Singapore for instance, heading to an amazing theme park, a Broadway show, a food-driven coffee shop spree — or just heading to the beach — can be the perfect complement to a week at sea.