Cruise ship in Singapore harbor

Southeast Asia is heating up as a cruise destination, particularly as lines create new itineraries to exotic destinations like Myanmar (also known as Burma). A first-time itinerary choice for many, though, is the Singapore to Hong Kong route (for more info, check out Southeast Asia Cruise Basics).

Why's that? Singapore is a great hub, with excellent air service, modern infrastructure, heavenly shopping, a great food scene -- and did we mention the shopping? Once you depart Singapore, the classic route visits Thailand, with stops near Bangkok and often the island of Koh Samui, then heads for Cambodia and Vietnam, with port calls including Sihanoukville, Nha Trang, Phy My (for Saigon), Da Nang and Halong Bay. Finally, you cruise past thousands of high-rises and into Hong Kong harbor.

But if you've already sailed that itinerary, what's next? Luckily, there are plenty of other sights to explore in Southeast Asia. Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia star in a number of itineraries; the latter two countries' many islands make them particularly cruise-friendly. A few lines also call on the Philippines. But you can go further afield, too. You'll find cruises departing Singapore that head to Sri Lanka, India and even Australia.

Here are our three top alternatives for cruises that begin or end in Singapore.

The Floating Barge, Karaweik Hall, Yangon, Burma Go for the Gold

Singapore - Malaysia - Myanmar (Burma) - Singapore

With Burma becoming friendlier (both to local political dissidents and foreign travelers), this itinerary has great allure. Departing Singapore, you head up the western side of the Malay Peninsula (the opposite side from cruises headed to Hong Kong). Most lines call on Phuket, Thailand, then make interesting stops in Malaysia to break up the trip in both directions. They typically spend a night or more docked in or near Yangon (also known as Rangoon), Myanmar.

Smaller ships can dock right in the heart of Yangon, where you're less than a 10-minute walk from the famous Strand Hotel, and a short cab ride from other major sights. Bigger ships dock at a port that's about an hour outside the city. Most lines also offer overland trips out of Yangon to visit one of the three ancient Burmese capitals.

What You'll See

Singapore: Chinatown, Little India, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, hawker food centers, the biospheres and "super-trees" of Marina Bay Gardens, and innumerable spots to shop 'til you drop.

Phuket: Beaches, snorkeling reefs, coconut plantations, beautiful rock formations, frisky monkeys and temples.

Kuala Lumpur: Petronas Towers, British colonial architecture, the Batu Caves, handicrafts and more great food.

Yangon: Golden Shwedagon Pagoda and other dazzling gold stupas, boggling Bogyoke Aung San Market, and the ancients sites of Bagan and Mandalay via overland trips.

Penang: Ornate Chinese clan houses, Botanical Garden, British colonial architecture, multi-cultural street food, fascinating museums, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Melaka: Crazy decorated trishaw rides, museums, UNESCO World Heritage Site with vestiges of Malay, Chinese, British, Portuguese and Dutch history.

Who Goes There

Cruise lines that frequently offer this itinerary include Celebrity, Silversea, Voyages to Antiquity, Crystal and Seabourn.

Note: Other lines may include this itinerary as part of a longer voyage.

Komodo Dragon in Komodo Island National Park, Indonesia There Be Dragons

Singapore - Islands of Indonesia - Singapore

Cruising is the perfect way to island-hop, and this itinerary takes you to Indonesia's most intriguing island destinations, including Jakarta, Bali, Komodo and Lombok. Plus, you get to sail across the equator!

Each of these destinations is considerably different, even though they're in the same country. You'll get to experience a mix of religions, culture and arts, as well as a bustling city and a national park inhabited by Komodo's famous dragons.

If you like longer cruises, some variations on this itinerary travel all the way down to Australia rather than returning to Singapore. Other shorter cruises end in Bali, but add a port or two along the way instead of circling back to Singapore.

What You'll See

Singapore: Chinatown, Little India, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, hawker food centers, the biospheres and "super-trees" of Marina Bay Gardens, and innumerable spots to shop 'til you drop.

Jakarta: Old Jakarta, Indonesia in miniature, views from atop the National Monument, the old port's schooners, a cultural stew of ethnic cuisines, amazing malls and a water park with 15 slides/

Bali: Beautiful Hindu temples, gamelan orchestras, unique crafts including batik and shadow puppets, and graceful dances.

Komodo: Giant 11-foot long, 300-pound carnivorous lizards (aka Komodo Dragons) on their home turf, UNESCO-designated Komodo National Park, a pink sand beach (for the timid).

Lombok: What Bali was like 30 years ago, local handicrafts, a salt-and-pepper sand beach, a "fountain of youth," rice terraces and a 12,000-foot volcano.

Who Goes There

Cruise lines that frequently offer this itinerary include Princess, Holland America, Azamara, Silversea (ends in Bali), Voyages to Antiquity (ends in Bali), Seabourn (starts in Bali), Crystal (starts in Bali), Celebrity (also goes up the Malay Peninsula).

Note: Other lines may include this itinerary as part of a longer voyage.

Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai Hello, Dubai!

Singapore - Dubai

If you're looking for something really different, consider a one-way cruise from Singapore to Dubai (or vice-versa). You'll experience a broad range of cultures, from the Arab world to India, Sri Lanka and a bevy of alternative ports in Malaysia, depending on the cruise line. Some itineraries even toss in a call on Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar, or Phuket, Thailand.

You'll be traveling over ancient spice routes, and the sights, sounds and smells will be a true kaleidoscope for your senses. Plus, you'll be going from the arid desert to lush tropical climates, and visiting ports where several major religions are practiced. All in all, for a trip that typically spans around two weeks, we can't think of any other itineraries that offer quite the variety that Singapore to Dubai does.

What You'll See

Singapore: Chinatown, Little India, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, hawker food centers, the biospheres and "super-trees" of Marina Bay Gardens, and innumerable spots to shop 'til you drop.

Penang: Ornate Chinese clan houses, Botanical Garden, British colonial architecture, multi-cultural street food, museums, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Colombo: British Victorian architecture, temples, mosques, tea plantations, cricket matches and cinnamon trees.

Cochin: Portuguese colonial architecture, historic churches, the Jewish quarter, canals you can explore by boat.

Mangalore: Ancient architecture, beaches of the Arabian Sea, cashew nut vendors, and markets selling jewelry, sandalwood and spices.

Mumbai: Hindu temples, shops selling silks, harbor cruises, the Gandhi Memorial Museum, afternoon tea at the grand Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Dubai: Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building and other boggling modern architecture, the souks of UNESCO-listed Sharjah, Old Dubai, dinner on the dunes.

Who Goes There

Cruise lines that frequently offer this itinerary include Holland America, Cunard, Oceania, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Seabourn.

Note: Other lines may include this itinerary as part of a longer voyage.