Welcome to a series of articles from Cruise Advice in which we showcase some of the best cruise destinations around the world. Here, we will share some information about where you can cruise if joining a ship from these ports. As well, you’ll find some recommendations on how to spend a few days seeing the sights before heading to the port or after you get back.
For years, many people have viewed the fairly tiny city-state of Singapore as a go-between while travelling from Australia to Europe. However, in the last decade or so, the city has broken out of this stopover mould to really establish itself as a destination in its own right. A huge number of new attractions have risen out of the ground after an extensive period of construction and redevelopment, particularly around the waterfront, including now-iconic marvels of modern architecture such as the trio of towers that make up Marina Bay Sands.
Iconic entertainment brands have set up shop in Singapore. The city also now has its own Formula 1 Grand Prix – one of the most popular events on the annual calendar. In turn, this has led to a proliferation of new restaurants, dazzling shopping centres and new hotels & resorts for guests to base themselves. And travellers are responding by coming in droves, which is leading to more interest by cruise ships keen to showcase the islands, straits and nations of Southeast Asia.
How can I get to Singapore?
As one of the world’s foremost business and finance hubs, air service from most of the world to Singapore is plentiful, with the well-known Singapore Airlines one of the most popular and prestigious carriers flying today. From Australia, Qantas flies daily from many capital cities to Singapore, as does Singapore Airlines, Emirates, British Airways, Etihad Airways and others, while for the budget conscious, low-cost carrier Scoot is growing in popularity.
Travellers from Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa to visit Singapore. On arrival, a permit to stay for up to 90 days will be issued.
Where can I cruise to from here?
Riding along with the boom in cruise, the Singapore Cruise Centre has been a beneficiary of significant state and private investment and has been transformed into one of Asia’s key holiday transport hubs, catering to around one million cruise travellers each year. When not cruising in Australia, many ships which spend the summer here travel to Singapore during our cooler months. The two-level terminal offers two berths for cruise ships, with the upper level exclusively set up for customs, immigration and security.
Boarding your ship in Singapore, travellers can enjoy voyages of a wide variety of lengths, from short three-night jaunts to massive 46-day excursions and in some cases, even longer.
Ships head in one of two directions – east or west. To the east, ships head to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, the Philippine ports of Boracay and Manila, or to Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Singapore to Hong Kong sector is one of the most popular and well-travelled routes in Asia and one-way voyages between the two cities are regularly served by cruise ships, mostly at the luxury end of the scale as they move around a particular region.
Alternatively, ships which base themselves in Singapore for all or part of a season will tend to travel west after departing on roundtrip voyages, heading up the Straits of Malacca to Malaysia and into the Andaman Sea. Many will call in tourist hotspot destinations such as Phuket, Thailand; Rangoon, Myanmar and Port Klang, which is the closest port to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Indonesia is another destination served by sea from Singapore, with a handful of major islands visited including Komodo Island and Bali.
Further west, cruises to the Indian subcontinent are also possible, with some ships heading to Colombo, Sri Lanka and ports up the east coast of India. Many of these voyages will continue across the Arabian Sea all the way to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Which ships will I find here?
Singapore is one of several Asian cities which welcomes cruise ships during Australia’s off-season, including Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. Fleet-mate Mariner of the Seas is based year-round in Asia and regularly visits Singapore. Travellers ticking ships off their list will also often find Volendam (Holland America Line), Sapphire Princess (Princess Cruises), Superstar Gemini (Star Cruises) & Celebrity Millennium (Celebrity Cruises) available.
On a less frequent basis, luxury ships visiting Asia during the peak season also offer opportunities to embark in Singapore. These ships are usually making their way around the world on a global voyage and selling cabins on shorter parts of these cruises, or running a very short series of cruises from one particular port before moving on to another. These include Aegean Odyssey (Voyages to Antiquity), Silver Shadow (Silversea Cruises), Seabourn Sojourn (Seabourn), Rotterdam (Holland America Line), Europa 2 (Hapag-Lloyd Cruises), Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises), Insignia (Oceania Cruises) and many more.
Where is the best place to stay?
Pockets of distinct multi-cultural flavours and activity abound throughout Singapore, with the main areas tourists tend to congregate being the Marina Bay Sands CBD area and Orchard Road. Major resort brands including Shangri-La will be found on nearby Sentosa as this is also where many beaches can be found. Fans of historic Singapore may also enjoy the Dempsey Hill region, where elements of the city’s colonial past are evident in the architecture.
Chinatown is where you’ll find many of the backpacker hostels if you’re keen to keep costs down. Lots of major hotel chains have expanded their presence across the city, so choose a hotel which resonates with your interests. Plentiful transport options will easily get you to the cruise port on embarkation day.
What can I see before boarding?
If art galleries and museums are your thing, many parts of Singapore are loaded with them. Many of the city’s newest attractions can be found around the Marina Bay Sands area, as this waterfront region has exploded in popularity of late. Attractions such as the Singapore Flyer ferris wheel takes passengers high into the sky, while the ArtScience Museum can take you much higher than that, albeit not literally.
Some of the most popular attractions in Singapore include the 150-year old Botanic Gardens, the Chinatown Heritage Centre or shopping at Haji Lane. Over on Sentosa Island itself, a Universal Studios theme park is only a couple of years old and is a popular draw for visitors keen to spend a day becoming immersed in the land of movies.
Singapore’s nightlife is also well known. An abundance of small hole-in-the-wall style bars are good places to mingle, while plenty of casual pubs and lounges exist in hotels across the city. Some of the best are the Cufflink Club, Operation Dagger or The Secret Mermaid.
Depending on the time of your visit, Singapore offers a packed events calendar. Chinese New Year is an annual party which takes place in February, while The Great Singapore Sale sends shopping into overdrive with big discounts. Cruise ships generally don’t have any excess luggage allowance, so if you’re prepared to carry the extra bags and store them in your cabin, that won’t be a problem with the cruise line.
The National Day Parade to celebrate Singapore’s independence takes place in early August, with a major parade taking place around Marina Bay Sands.