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Singapore (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Singapore

In its own way, Singapore is an oasis in Southeast Asia. It enjoys a low crime rate, and its infrastructure -- from road and mass-transit systems to a state-of-the-art airport at Changi -- is highly sophisticated. The city also is clean -- so much so that, for years, people were forbidden by law to chew gum in its streets, and eating on the subway can result in a heavy fine. This modern and dynamic destination -- which ranks either as a pro or a con, depending on your sensibilities -- is to cities what Disney is to theme parks.

About Singapore


Pro

A thoroughly modern destination, Singapore boasts excellent shopping and interesting outdoor attractions

Con

The weather can be oppressively hot and humid, making it difficult to remain outdoors for long stretches

Bottom Line

Singapore is a city in the true sense of the word -- full of character, culture and plenty of diversions


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Technically a city-state, Singapore, connected with manmade bridges to Malaysia, is made up of a main island and more than 60 surrounding islets. The mainland spans 42 kilometers east to west and 23 kilometers north to south. In the north, it shares a border with Malaysia; in the south, islands belonging to Indonesia can be visited via a short ferry ride. Singapore is located just north of the equator and is sultry, tropical and humid year-round.

Singapore is one of the world's biggest banking and transportation hubs. It's one of the most popular stopovers for folks traveling between Europe and Australia. Yet, Singapore is among the 20 smallest nations in the world -- though with 5.6 million people (6,430 per square kilometer), it's also the second most densely populated country. Despite busy streets, shopping areas and public transportation, it normally does not feel as crowded as large U.S. city centers. Its modern design helps eliminate any feeling of congestion.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a city with great cultural diversity, well-developed infrastructure and a very cosmopolitan feeling. Popular with cruise lines for day-long port calls, as well as embarkation, Singapore is easily navigable, with most tourist attractions concentrated in three areas: Orchard Road, the colonial district and Sentosa.

Where You're Docked

Since 2012, Singapore has had two separate cruise terminals. Previously, most ships docked at the Singapore Cruise Centre, which is part of the large Harbourfront Centre and VivoCity, about a 10- to 15-minute taxi drive from downtown. With the arrival of the larger mega-ships to Asia, Singapore has also constructed a new facility, Marina Bay Cruise Centre (MBCCS), which is located at the southernmost tip of the country, just 5 minutes away from downtown.

Singapore Cruise Centre is used by lines such as Holland America, and some others operating smaller ships. Dream Cruises uses MBCCS, as well as cruise lines with mega-ships. Cruise lines like Celebrity, Cunard, Princess and Royal Caribbean have moved their turnarounds to the new Marina Bay facility.

Port Facilities

The dramatic new Marina Bay Cruise Centre -- an iconic facility itself -- is large enough to accommodate two mega-ships at the same time. It is located next to Singapore's new downtown district (which is still in the planning and construction stages), but there are currently no large shopping facilities in walking distance. The terminal itself features one convenience store.

The closest attraction is the massive new Marina Bay Sands -- an integrated resort with a hotel, shopping center and casino. The new terminal is near a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station. Cruise lines provide shuttle service to the station.

If your ship is docked at the Singapore Cruise Centre, you're right in the heart of the VivoCity shopping mall. Though it's not as glitzy as downtown malls (though it's said to be the largest in Singapore), you'll find all the necessities and then some, including McDonald's and Costa Coffee, ATM's and sporting goods stores.

Downtown is a 10-minute cab trip (or an easy ride on the ultra-clean MRT), though visitors wanting to head over to Sentosa Island and Mount Faber can hop on the cable car or a train, which is adjacent to the center.

Good to Know

Singapore's tropical climate is hot, soupy and tiring, so don't plan too ambitious of a day, and balance outdoor activities with time inside.

Getting Around

The MRT offers a fast and efficient way to travel around Singapore. The system is clean, safe and air-conditioned; it features three separate rail lines, one of which stops at the Singapore Cruise Centre. Signage is in English.

More than 15,000 taxi cabs are available in Singapore, so getting one is pretty easy. Two kinds of taxis are available: Comfort City Cabs, which are mainly cheaper and older (but air-conditioned) Toyotas, and SMRT taxis, which are Mercedes-Benzes that come with higher fares.

The network of city buses is also extensive and affordable, though there are differences in fares between air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Local currency is the Singapore dollar; check for the most updated rates at Oando and XE, Major credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted. ATM's can be found easily, both in the airport and the Singapore Cruise Centre, which also houses a shopping centre. There are surcharges for using ATM's. Banks are normally open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Language

With a large amount of expats from all over the world, it's no wonder the country has four official languages: English, Tamil, Chinese and Malay. English is the language of business and administration. Most Singaporeans, from taxi drivers to hotel staff, speak English.

Food and Drink

Singapore offers great variety when it comes to its food, whether you're craving local Asian tastes or gourmet dining. Simply want to visit an international food chain? They are well represented and range from McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks to Coffee Bean, Hard Rock Cafe and Delifrance.

Various "dining districts" also are filled with restaurant choices.

Near Boat Quay is Clarke Quay, a waterfront strip of pubs, wine bars and restaurants. Cuisines represented include French, Turkish, Italian, Spanish (tapas), Japanese and Vietnamese.

In Little India, you'll find all manner of Indian eateries. The hottest restaurant in the area around the Esplanade/Raffles City is My Humble House, known for its contemporary take on Chinese cuisine. Advance reservations are strongly recommended -- we weren't able to get a seat on our trip. Adjacent is a more casual (still chic, still popular) spin-off called Space@My Humble House; we couldn't get in there, either!

On Orchard Road, there's a huge variety of eating places. One of our favorites was the food hall in the basement of Takashimaya, a Japanese department store.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens' Au Jardin, with both inside and alfresco seating, is a lovely spot for lunch. It's no surprise that it spotlights cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients, but the menu's originality is delightful. Try the black-pepper soft-shell crabs and vanilla-scented chicken in a ginger nougat parfait.

Shopping

While Singapore is undoubtedly a shopping mecca with the most famous labels and brands from around the world, you can find more local buys at the Singapore Handicraft Center in Chinatown. Merchants sell jade carvings, bronze statues and other crafts in the five-floor complex. Less serious shoppers can find items like Merlion (a fictitious creature with a lion's head and a fish's body -- a symbol of Singapore) keychains, statues or Tiger balm in all souvenir shops.


Singapore Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2018 Top-Rated Asia Destinations
2017 Top-Rated Asia & South Pacific Destinations
2016 Top-Rated Asia & South Pacific Destinations