The Marina Bay Centre is meant to supplement two existing ports, both located in less convenient and/or scenic locales. Smaller vessels dock at Harborfront Cruise Centre, about 10 kilometres from the heart of downtown, and larger vessels must berth at Singapore's vast cargo area, about a half hour's drive from the city.
The new multi-story terminal, in the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, located near Singapore's financial district, can accommodate the world's largest cruise ships including Royal Caribbean's record-setting 225,000-ton Oasis-class vessels (though at this time RCI has announced no plans to base one of its Oasis-class ships in Asia).
Beyond Singapore's own appeal as a cruise port (the fabulous shopping on Orchard Street, the lush Botanic Garden, and the beaches and family-friendly attractions of Sentosa Island), the nation-state serves as a core anchor for cruises that travel to and from India, the Middle East, China and Australia.
The importance of the new, more efficient and conveniently located terminal was evident as attendees at Monday's night launch included not just Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, but also several high ranking cruise line executives, such as Princess Cruises' President and CEO Alan Buckelew and Costa Crociere's Chairman Pier Luigi Foschi, who recently took over developing Carnival Corp.-related markets in Asia.
Beyond the festivities, the new facility at Marina Bay received a big challenge on Monday as two post-Panamax megaships – Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess and Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, arrived. The 137,308-ton, 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas completed a repositioning cruise from Tianjin, China with almost 3,000 passengers and embarked another complement of passengers heading to Australia, where the ship will spend the next few months before returning to China.
The 116,000-ton, 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess, meanwhile, was in town for the day on a port-of-call.
Marina Bay Cruise Centre was constructed on a reclaimed land just south of the future downtown of Singapore. Currently the closest attractions are the integrated resort Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay, both of which opened earlier this year.
Right now, passengers who arrive at the new Marina Bay facility still have to use taxi and/or shuttle transportation. But the cruise terminal will be connected by Singapore's famously tourist-friendly public transportation system, via the MRT North South Line in 2014, which will ease the passenger transfers to and from the city centre and various sightseeing spots of the city.
--by Teijo Niemela, Cruise Critic contributor
Photo courtesy of Teijo Niemela