Botanical gardens, incredible architecture, giant rooftop pools, an extraordinary zoo, amazing street food… Oh, and one of the world’s most famous cocktails. There’s a lot to see – and try – in Singapore by Bridget McGrouther
After 50 years of independence, Singapore has enjoyed a heady rise from its days as a British trading post, not only blossoming into a leading financial hub, but an enthralling tourist destination and gateway to Asia. The city-state’s sparkling skyline of skyscrapers sings with sci-fi architecture, glass domes, ship-shaped hotels, fun-fair rides and cash-rich casinos. This multi-cultural nation is affluent, hi-tech and densely populated and yet even crowded Orchard Road, famous for its busy shopping, is spotlessly clean.
Singapore’s national flower is the orchid and it is nicknamed the ‘Garden City’, but if you want to get a bit closer to real nature you can escape the downtown congestion by visiting its many parks or hiking through the rainforest at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
The Botanic Gardens, dating to 1822, is now the city’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the new Gardens by the Bay nature park is also impressive.
The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are two colossal conservatories near the OCBC Skyway of the Supertrees, where visitors can enjoy bird’s-eye views or dine among the colourful branches.
The Singapore Flyer, a Ferris wheel, also gives 360-degree panoramas by day or night of the Formula One race track, the Merlion, Keppel Harbour and Kallang River, and glimpses of Malaysia and Indonesia beyond.
Sentosa Island, fringed with beaches and a centre for theme parks and adventurous activities, can be reached by monorail or cable car.
Singapore’s Zoo has open-air enclosures giving animals such as orangutans and pandas freedom to roam. After dark, the Night Safari is the wildest ticket in town.
Singapore is one of the busiest harbours in the world and has two main cruise terminals. Small and medium cruise ships can dock at the International Passenger Terminal of Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) across from Sentosa Island at HarbourFront.
There is plenty of shopping here, including VivoCity, Singapore’s largest mall, as well as restaurants, cinemas, and a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stop. The cruise terminal is also next to the Regional Ferry Terminal.
Its innovative design has a rolling rooftop that resembles ocean waves. Its two-berth facility can accommodate up to6,800 passengers at any one time.
A CruiseFly service is particularly useful for anyone departing by air from Singapore. It is the region’s first sea-to-air baggage transfer service and allows early check-in for flights leaving within the same day of the ship’s arrival. In addition, passengers can check in, drop bags and collect boarding passes at the cruise terminal. Chengi International Airport is around a 20-minute drive.
The MBCCS waterfront location brings passengers close to attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage as well as the landmark Marina Bay Sands, where shuttle buses from the ships often run.
Visitors will need a head for heights to dare to swim in the hotel’s rooftop infinity pool or peep over the edge of Marina Bay Sands’ towering 57-floor SkyPark.
Cruise sailings from Singapore during 2016 include: Sapphire Princess, Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess and Sea Princess. Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager of the Seas, RCL Ovation of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas. Celebrity Solstice; Celebrity Millennium; Silversea Cruises: Silver Shadow; Silver Discoverer Costa Cruise Lines: Costa Luminosa Holland America Line: HAL Volendam Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Journey Norwegian Cruise Lines: NCL Norwegian Star Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Voyager Seabourn: Seabourn Sojourn Star Clippers: Star Clipper Destinations include Thailand, Vietnam, India, UAE, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan and The Philippines.
WHEN TO GO
Singapore is close to the equator and therefore it remains hot and humid all year round. The average daily temperature is around 30 degrees centigrade, while night-time temperatures rarely drop below 23 degrees centigrade. The warmest month is May and the coolest January. Although there is steady rainfall throughout the year, December is the wettest month and June the driest.
SHORE TO IMPRESS
The island nation has plenty to offer a pre-cruise stay, including a wealth of luxury hotels – from long-established landmarks such as Raffles or The Fullerton to the newly opened stylish Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa or Hotel Vagabond, with interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia. For more modest budgets, there are plenty of hostels, guesthouses, three-star properties and self-catering apartments.
SPICE IT UP
Street food is a taste sensation. Follow your nose to the hawker centres in Little India, Kampong Glam and Chinatown, where you can eat like a king for very little. For fine dining, try the Tippling Club, with its cool cocktails and tasting menus by celebrity chef owner Ryan Clift, or Blue Ginger, where local Peranakan dishes are a speciality. The Singapore Food Festival from July to August is a celebration of local cuisine with tastings and cooking demonstrations.
As for refreshment, only a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel will do. More than 2,000 of the cocktails are knocked back daily in the Long Bar, its floor littered with peanut shells. The cocktail is also served on direct Singapore Airline flights from London.For teetotallers, the fresh exotic juices make an excellent choice or you could treat yourself to afternoon tea at Raffles or one of the many upmarket hotels.
WATCH OUT FOR…
There are severe penalties for minor misdemeanours such as spitting out gum, eating on the subway, dropping litter, jaywalking of even forgetting to flush a public lavatory. As Singapore is such a busy harbour, it’s safer to dip in the swimming pools – even at the beach. Beach waters in Singapore are generally safe for activities like boating, canoeing and kayaking.
2016 HOT DATES
JUNE 3 TO AUGUST 14 Great Singapore Sale
AUGUST TO SEPTEMBER Singapore International Festival of Events
AUGUST 3-13 Hungry Ghost Festival
AUGUST 9 National Day
AUGUST 19 – 27 Singapore Night Festival
SEPTEMBER – Grand Prix Season.
Sell a cruise
DIAMOND PRINCESS 14 days from £1,249 departing Singapore on April 6, 2017 princess.com/go 0843 374 2401
STAR CLIPPER 14 nights from £2,120 departing Singapore to Bali on May 2, 2017 starclippers.co.uk 0808 231 4798
ARCADIA 34 nights from £2,199 departing Singapore to Southampton March 24, 2017 pandocruises.com call 0800 640 8189