We knew we were in for a special experience when we arrived at the Singapore Cruise Center. There were thousands of people lined up for the Holland America cruise leaving from the next berth, as we were waved past all of them, dropped off our luggage, sped through customs, and directly onto the ship.
Our inside stateroom was lovely, and quite spacious. Every member of the staff was friendly and gracious, and made a point of remembering our names. I have a culinary background, and asked if I could tour the galley. Sadly, the answer was no, because of security concerns, but the next morning, the Food & Beverage manager found me and made sure I met the Executive Chef.
We booked most of our excursions through Oceania, since it was our first time in this part of the world, and found them generally satisfying. One exception was the tour to the ancient kingdom ruins in Thailand. We were promised a Thai luncheon, but our tour guide took us to a mediocre Chinese luncheon at a western hotel. And it was a bit wearing to have a "shopping opportunity" on each and every excursion, when you know that the cruise line and the shop have their hands in each others' pockets. But that's a small objection to an overall fantastic cruise.
Since the ship arrived in town, we decided to wander around on our own. Most of the town is rather poor, with limited tourist shopping. However, we found a very good restaurant (with free wifi!), and a legitimate Thai massage business. We lay on mats on the floor next to each other, got worked over by the masseuses, and were charged $7 per person for an hour.
If you've ever been to a place where you thought the vendors, dealers, or sellers were hungry and aggressive (Jamaica comes to mind), those people paled in comparison to the tuk-tuk drivers of Snookieville! We boarded a ship shuttle to go downtown, and once we left the secure area of the dock, we were surrounded by at least 50 drivers, all jostling for position to see us and remember our faces to hound us unmercifully once we alit at city center. A tuk-tuk driver practically joined us at the hip on our way through the central market, never leaving us alone, imploring us to let him take us on a tour of the local environs, shops, beaches, etc. We weren't interested. Then we saw the incredible poverty of Cambodia, and realized that these guys (and they were all men) were doing everything they could to provide for their families. The Central Market is fascinating, because it isn't geared to tourists at all. It's the central shopping point for the locals to buy food, clothing, and every day necessities. And the poverty is heartbreaking. Families of 5 get onboard little Honda motor scooters to transport their purchases. Dad drives, little kids get sandwiched in the middle, and Mom or Grandma rides in back. Lots of begging from authentic beggars. Not for the soft- or faint-of-heart.