Cruise passengers will love Singapore as a home port for ships. It's a great location for getting over jetlag before your cruise.
Singapore, which began as a British trading post, is one of the world’s most modern cities and one of the largest commercial ports, feeding a free-trade zone that seems to have spawned more shopping malls than northern New Jersey.
Nearly everyone you meet speaks English. You can drink water from the tap. Restaurants abound. You could choose to eat Western meals, though that would be a shame in a city with enough pan-Asian fare to satisfy any foodie; everywhere you look a restaurant of some kind is cooking something you may not have tried in the United States.
Getting around is easy, safe and relatively inexpensive.
The city Cruise Center for smaller ships, for instance, sits next to a massive shopping mall with a movie theater, is connected to the city subway, and is walkable to a large island beach where you could spend the day. From this terminal, you can board ferries to nearby islands.
The city's impressive new Marina Bay Cruise Center, built for the biggest cruise ships, will be linked to the rest of the city by train by 2014.
Stunning architecture, gardens abound
As you walk around Singapore, your neck will tire from looking up, at new buildings and those under construction.
The architecture is stunning, from the city’s newest office buildings and hotels to the 250-acre Gardens by the Bay, a complex that includes a gigantic indoor Flower Dome of plants and exotic species.
One new hotel, the Parkroyal on Pickering, was designed with 15,000 square yards of gardens. It is one of Singapore’s greenest hotels, in all senses of the phrase. Club room guests have access to the rooftop Orchid Club lounge, with 360 degree views, including the picture, left, which is the side of the hotel as seen from the top.
The 2,500-room Marina Bay Sands changed the city’s skyline with its three towers that support a long concrete structure, shaped like a ship, which is longer than the Eiffel tower laid on its side.
This Skypark, on the 57th floor, includes an infinity swimming pool that is reason enough to book a room. If you’re not staying but want to catch the terrific views from the top, head for the restaurant or the bar, both expensive but a scene you won’t forget.
Some arrive early morn for same-day cruise
“Don’t do a six-hour stay in Singapore, with a 5 a.m. airplane arrival,” said Bob Guy, Singapore’s managing director for Destination Asia. “Singapore is an extraordinary city.” He recommends a popular tour about history and culture called Footsteps of the Founders.
Singapore may be the most planned city in the world. Land, at a premium because there’s so little of it -- despite heavy traffic, you can drive east to west in an hour, north to south in 30 minutes -- is tightly designed with parks, commercial and residential buildings, and roads, all landscaped as if beauty were required.
It is. So are health standards, manners and cleanliness. Street food stalls are inspected and graded. Litter is not allowed.
All of which has led to an image of a city that has been described as Asia light.
For this North American, Singapore is more Asia easy, foreign but familiar, a comfortable transition into a region that can be progressively challenging as you journey inland.
Next blog. Tips for a visit to Singapore include: Bring gum if you want to chew.
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com