Cruise from Singapore – the essential guide

The whole family loved Singapore. For the kids, the highlights of our trip were the Night Safari and the day we spent on Santosa Island. Not to mention the awesome cable car ride to get there. The hawker centers were a hit too – we’ve never seen so much variety of multi-cultural cuisine in one place!

The world is full of fascinating destinations, but do you know where Asia’s most popular cruise departure destination is? It’s Singapore! Cruise ships arrive and depart from here daily, with tourists eager to explore this culturally diverse city.

If you’re looking for a vacation that will be perfect for your family, then look no further than a cruise from Singapore. This article will give you great tips on what to see and do while spending four days in the city before boarding a luxury cruise ship from Singapore.

Having been a visitor for nearly 20 years to Singapore, I have seen the city representing a crossroads between east and west, evolve quickly into an international hub for tourism, finance, and culture.

With the development of iconic architectural landmarks, the skyline has changed dramatically, creating new parks, riverside entertainment, and immense shopping malls. All of this sits alongside and around historical gems and whispers of Singapore’s colonial past.

Remember to look up as soon as you arrive – day or night. You’ll have your first glimpse of the famed Marina Bay Sands skyline that has transformed Singapore. The luxury hotel’s three towers are topped by the surf-board-shaped skypark that seems to hover in the air. It’s breathtaking.

Transfer options from Singapore Changi Airport

Singapore Changi Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. With over 60 airlines flying to and from Singapore, it can be challenging to know how to get around when you first arrive.

Let’s figure out what transfer options work best for you.

Taxi

Taxis are available at the official taxi stand outside of the terminals. Metered fares into the city will cost around S$30-$40 for the 30 minuter journey. Note! Airport taxis often have surcharges for peak hours or taxi rides after midnight!

Shuttle Bus

City Shuttle is inexpensive to get from the airport to the city. Buy your ticket at the information desk at the airport and tell them which hotel you need to get to. Shuttle buses leave around every 15 minutes. Follow the signs outside of the terminal.

Metro/train

Singapore’s metro system is called the MRT – Mass Rapid Transit. You can buy a pass for the MRT at Changi Airport, valid for trains and buses during your stay.

However, unless you have been to Singapore before and know which MRT station you need to disembark at to reach your hotel, you may not want to use the train on your first visit. The chances are you need to change station at least once to get to where you are going.

Getting around Singapore

Singapore is hot, big, busy, and spread out. Of course, you want to walk the city as much as possible to see everything. But you will need transport from one district to another in the heat.

We recommend that you start by purchasing the Singapore Tourist Pass to help you get around quickly. You can use the city’s excellent metro system (MRT) with the transit pass.

Buy a multi-day pass upon arrival at Changi Airport at the Transitlink Ticket Office. Alternatively, at an MRT station (for example, Bay Front station, Raffles Place station, or Orchard station).

You will find a complete list of stations that sell the Singapore Tourist Pass here. Your tourist pass is valid for all daily travel on trains and buses.

If you don’t want to use the MRT, then taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap, which is a surprise in an otherwise expensive city.

Where to stay before your cruise from Singapore

When you cruise from Singapore, do not feel you need to stay in a hotel close to the cruise port. The port is easily accessible from all areas of the city. We recommend instead staying more central and taking a taxi from your hotel to the cruise port on your day of departure.

We recommend a minimum of 4 stars when looking at hotel standards. And one of the hotels below is 5-star, but often reasonable prices can be found when booking, so look out for those special offers. Expect good rooms, great service, and an excellent location at each of these choices:

The Hilton Singapore

Are you a shopper at heart? Then this hotel, located between 2 large shopping malls and at the north end of the famed shopping street Orchard Road, is for you. You are less than a 10-minute walk from Orchard Road MRT station. And this is next to the outstanding ION Orchard Shopping Mall, with its fantastic basement food courts.

Park Hotel Clarke Quay

Park Hotel Clarke Quay is a firm favorite amongst cruise customers. Located on Clarke Quay, you are amongst vibrant shopping, riverside restaurants, outdoor evening shows, and much more!

Rendezvous Hotel Singapore at Bras Basah

This is a great hotel located in the trendy art district of Singapore. It’s close to the National Museum of Singapore, Raffles, and beautiful Fort Canning Park.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore

The Capitol Kempinski is our choice of a top 5-star hotel in a stunning neo-classical building. Here you will want for nothing and have many sights within walking distance. Look out for special online prices. You may find you can upgrade and choose this hotel without spending too much extra. It’s worth it if you are looking for a luxury start to your cruise vacation.

The Peninsula Excelsior Hotel

A good choice if you are a family looking for large family rooms in a city center hotel. Breakfast is rather basic, but there is a lot of it. And there are two swimming pools for the kids to enjoy. It’s a great location, on the doorstep of shopping, sightseeing, and transport options. A short walk away is Raffles Hotel. Ten minutes in the other direction is busy Clarke Quay for evening dining and entertainment.

4 fantastic days in the city before your cruise from Singapore

Day 1: Raffles, Little India, China Town, and Marina Bay

Raffles – a colonial gem with historical significance

Start your day at the Raffles Hotel. Raffles is one of the most classically luxurious hotels you will ever visit, representing the grand elegance of the old Colonial days. Spend time in the famous Long Bar.

Order a coffee, and it’s too early for a Singapore Sling! Walk the balconies and verandas, then explore the museum and gift shop inside the hotel before heading out into the beautiful hotel grounds.

If you didn’t eat much at breakfast, there is a new cafe, Gather, at the corner of the hotel which recently opened its doors.

Little India – quirky, hip, and authentic

From Raffles, take a taxi to Little India. This is less than a 10-minute ride. In Little India, visit the magnificent Hindu temple of Sri Veeramakaliamman. The temple has been an integral part of the community since it was built in 1856 and rebuilt in 1983.

Stop by to get some spiritual guidance or simply explore! If you want to go inside, you need to remove your shoes. It would be best if you covered your legs and shoulders.

Serangoon Road is the heart of Little India and has numerous sights to explore. At the start of the road near Little India, MRT station is the Little India Arcade, where you can shop from the locals.

Chinatown – a colorful and harmonious clash of cultures

In the afternoon, take a taxi to Chinatown. Start at the Chinatown Heritage Center on Pagoda Street. Experience the Chinatown pedestrian mall, where you find every kind of souvenir, art, and craft for sale in restored shop fronts and busy market squares.

There are plenty of opportunities for a local Chinese lunch, and it is well worth the stop. We recommend China Town’s hawker center. You will find dishes to suit the whole family at this food court and an astonishing array of choices.

Singapore Flyer – with views over to Indonesia & Malaysia

Later in the afternoon, take a taxi to the Marina, and ride the Singapore Flyer. This is the observation wheel in downtown Singapore that dominates the skyline. It stays open until 9 pm, and a sunset ride is terrific. For more information about the types of tickets, you can buy in advance, visit the Singapore Flyer website.

Alternatively, enjoy an evening at Marina Bay Walk, visiting Marina Bay Sands and the spectacular Gardens by the Bay. The last admissions into the gardens are at 8.30 pm, and seeing it all lit up at sunset is fantastic.

Take the elevator up to the Sands Skypark Infinity Pool inside the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Probably the most iconic view of Singapore where you are at one with the skyline.

Day 2: Botanical Gardens, Orchard Road, and Clarke Quay

Singapore Botanical Gardens and a world-class Orchid Garden

Start your day at Singapore Botanical Gardens. You can get there by taxi or by MRT. The nearest MRT stop to the gardens is Botanic Gardens MRT Station. Arrive in the morning when the air is much cooler and aim to leave by lunchtime when it often becomes unbearably hot.

As you enter the park, we recommend you begin with a walk through the National Orchid Garden. Here you will find a mind-blowing 3000 species of Orchid.

Include long sleeves and a hat in your packing list, as there is little shade here. The gardens are, however, fantastic. And an ideal place for the kids to run around this vast tropical landscape.

For children under 12, there is a beautiful playground. Carry a change of clothing as it can get wet! Inside the Botanical Gardens, there are numerous specialized gardens to visit. Such as the Ginger Garden (visit the restaurant here for a snack), the Spice and Herb Garden, and the Rain Forest.

The gardens are vast, and you will most likely spend the whole morning there. Use the MRT to get you back to Orchard Road, the shopping heart of Singapore.

Shopping on Singapore’s Orchard Street

Named for the plantations that used to occupy this area of Singapore where essential trading commodities such as nutmeg and peppers were grown, Orchard Street is a shopping district with something for everyone. World-class malls, luxury boutiques, and endless dining options await you. And hopping in and out of stores and malls is an excellent way to keep cool in the heat.

Start at The Hilton Shopping Gallery, and visit Tangs, Singapore’s original department store. Then head over to the spectacular ION Orchard. Visit the notable Ngee Ann City, much like a small city within a mall.

And then there is the Mandarin Gallery shopping mall. You may not manage to see it all in one afternoon, but if you reach Peranakan Place, then there are plenty of choices here for a bite to eat.

End your day by choosing a restaurant on Clarke Quay with outdoor seating, and enjoy a relaxing evening on the river amongst the stylish bars and waterfront night spots.

Day 3: Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island is Singapore’s playground. It’s located off the southern coast of Singapore and is an island resort. With a wide variety of activities in one place, you will need a whole day to explore this island!

Visit Universal Studios Singapore, SEA Aquarium, or lay in the sun on the clean, sandy artificial beaches (head to Tanjong Beach for great sunset views).

Alternatively, take the kids on a fun nature walk through Santosa’s forest. Free buses go around the island the whole day, so you can hop on and off as you wish.

Getting to Sentosa Island

Take the cable car; the views are fantastic. Get on at Faber Peak for the exciting ride across. You can buy a round-trip ticket at Faber Peak’s departure point.

If you don’t want to try the cable car, take the train to Harbourfront MRT station. This will take you to Vivocity shopping mall. Follow the signs to the third floor of the shopping mall and get on the Sentosa Express Monorail to take you to Sentosa Island. It’s easy, fast, and inexpensive!

Day 4 : Singapore Zoo and Night Safari

To get away from the busy city, venture further afield and visit the wonderful Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

This will be a hit, especially if you are traveling with children. The zoo has an open concept in a rainforest environment – and fantastic.

You must book entrance tickets to Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari on the Singapore Zoo’s website if you are not booking a guided tour where the entrance is included in your pre-paid price.

Singapore Zoo is about a 30-minute taxi ride north of the city. You can also get there by MRT or bus from Orchard Road. Start in the morning when it’s cooler, and you are most likely able to see more animals.

There are many activities for children, including wildlife talks with zoo keepers and wildlife tours by buggy cart. The guides do an excellent job of informing visitors about zoo conservation, education, and sustainability efforts.

This is a day excursion so eat lunch at the zoo. In the evening, you can book an outdoor barbeque grill. Follow this with the Night Safari. You will tour the zoo in the dark on a guided tram ride and get up close to over 1000 nocturnal animals. This will be the highlight of your kids’ visit and a perfect way to end your city vacation before you join your cruise from Singapore.

Port of Singapore – gateway to exotic Asia!

The main cruise port in Singapore where cruise lines dock and depart is Marina Bay Cruise Center. Check the details on your cruise ticket carefully, as this information can change.

Marina Bay Cruise Center Singapore is located at Marina Bay, quite close to the city center. We recommend you ask your hotel to pre-book a taxi to take you and your luggage to the port for an easy door-to-port terminal transfer.

If you want to take the train, get off at Marina South Pier MRT station, which is a short undercover walk to the cruise terminal. And this is your starting point for an unforgettable cruise from Singapore.

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Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..