Singapore is fast becoming the cruising hub of Asia. And Australians are discovering how the island state provides them with a very special bonus: the best pre- and post-cruise holiday in the region.
With an unbeatable location, two world-class cruise terminals and some of the best ships basing themselves there, many Australians are making the choice to cruise from Singapore this season.
The island metropolis is the natural gateway to emerging cruising destinations in Southeast Asia. There are more than 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites close by, including the historic town of Malacca in Malaysia, Kinabalu National Park in Borneo and the majestic Halong Bay in Vietnam.
It’s possible to visit two or three countries in just one short cruise or extend the journey and travel further afield to China, Japan and South Korea.
Australian travellers are increasingly happy to fly to Singapore as it allows them to enjoy two holidays in one: a terrific stopover with great food and entertainment, and an exciting cruise through a region rich in history and adventure. And with more than 25 direct flights a day from six Australian cities, getting there is a breeze.
Ships depart from two terminals, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and Singapore Cruise Centre, and there are plenty of cruises to choose from.
Royal Caribbean’s largest ship in the southern hemisphere, Ovation of the Seas is homeported in Singapore. She is the most technologically advanced ship with amazing new activities like the iFly, North Star and SeaPlex area, fitted out with bumper cars and a roller rink.
Mariner of the Seas and Legend of the Seas are also homeported in Singapore. The line expects the longer itineraries of 10 to 14 days to be the most popular with Australians.
Princess Cruises will return to the Lion City. Sapphire Princess was based in Singapore last year and received an overwhelming response. The premium cruise line will cater to the growing number of high-end travellers keen to cruise Asia.
P&O will base one of its newest ship, Pacific Eden, in Singapore. This will be the first time P&O has offered round-trip cruises from Singapore since 2006. P&O expects the majority of Eden’s passengers will be Australian.
SuperStar Gemini is a Singapore favourite and based in the city year-round. It specialises in short cruises around Malaysia, calling at Penang, Langkawi, Malacca, Tioman and Redang, and recently added Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur) to its itineraries.
Walk the walk
Discover the history and design secrets behind Singapore’s neighbourhoods with guided walking tours from Architecture Walks. With restored art deco shophouses, street art and historic places of worship, it’s the perfect chance to see Singapore through the eyes of a local and, best of all, the walks are free.
Eat like a local
If you’re an avid food lover, there’s no better place than Chinatown Food Street. The assembly of specialty local dishes and outdoor dining makes it the best way to enjoy an authentic experience in Singapore. But it can be a bit daunting if you don’t know where to start. Urban Adventures runs half-day tours through Chinatown.
Country meets city
Inspired by New York’s High Line, the Green Corridor is a park created from a disused railway that winds its way through forests and gardens, under old railway bridges and past historic stations.
Hip new haunts
The latest hotspot for the hip crowd is Tiong Bahru. The quirky neighbourhood is filled with art deco houses, artisan coffee shops, boutiques and small bars. Bincho is a compact cafe/bar/restaurant in a 70-year-old kopitiam, inspired by the yakitori-ya grilling stands in Japan. For Italian with a Singapore twist, head to Day & Night. for great pizza alongside Singaporean appetisers like har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken).
Whet your whistle
Singapore’s bar scene is exploding. You’ll need a password to get into the speakeasy-style Library where the Shrub-a-dub-dub cocktail (below), is served. Ask the concierge or check Facebook. 28 Hong Kong Street is another hidden gem and feels like a chic private lounge club. For a cocktail with a Singapore flavour try the chilli crab cocktail from Mars Bars, a dirty Chinese martini flavoured with century egg at Nutmeg & Clove or design your own cocktail at Bitters & Love.
Singapore has a rich cultural mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions, which come alive in the city’s language, food and architecture. Visit the Malay-Arab quarter of Kampong Glam to see the beautiful Sultan Mosque, where glass bottles were donated by the local community to help with its construction. For Singapore’s Peranakan culture, head to Joo Chiat and Katong. Once home to wealthy merchants, it is now dotted with stately villas, home museums and colourful shophouses.
Australian celebrity Tetsuya Wakuda opened his Singapore restaurant, Waku Ghin, in 2010 and considers Singapore one of his favourite cities. So what are his favourites? Imperial Treasure Teochew Cuisine is great for Teochew food. There are some adventurous items on the menu like jellyfish and duck’s tongue but you can also stick to the delicious dim sum or signature yam omelette. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are an oasis of green in the heart of the city. The garden is the perfect antidote to the city’s hustle and ideal for just lazing about under the sun with the locals.