“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 the most popular cruise departure destination in Asia is? It’s Singapore! Cruise ships arrive and depart from here every day 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 4 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 that represents 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 along with the creation of new parks, riverside entertainment and immense shopping malls. All of this sits alongside, in 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 3 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 difficult to know how to get around when you first arrive.
Let’s figure out what transfer options work best for you.
Taxis are available at the official taxi stand outside of the terminals. All fares into the city are metered. You will pay around S$30-$40 for the 30 minuter journey into the city. Note! Airport taxis often have surcharges for peak hours or for taxi rides after midnight!
City Shuttle are a great inexpensive way 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. Shuttlebuses leave around every 15 minutes. Follow the signs outside of the terminal.
Singapore’s metro system is called the MRT – Mass Rapid Transit. You can buy a pass for the MRT at Changi Airport which is 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, then 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 you can to really see everything. But you will need transport to get you from one district to another in the heat.
We recommend that you start off by purchasing the Singapore Tourist Pass to help you get around easily. With the transit pass you can use the city’s excellent metro system (MRT).
Buy a multi-day pass upon arrival at Changi Airport, at the Transitlink Ticket Office. Alternatively at a MRT station (for example at Bay Front station, Raffles Place station or Orchard station).
You will find a full list of stations that sell the Singapore Tourist Pass here. Your tourist pass is valid for all daily travel on the trains and buses.
If you don’t want to use the MRT then taxis are plentiful and quite cheap, which is a surprise in an otherwise expensive city.
Where to stay before you 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 standard. And one of the hotels below is 5 star but often good prices can be found when booking, so look out for those special offers. Expect good rooms, great service and an excellent location at each 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, complete with its fantastic basement food courts.
Park Hotel Clarke Quay
This 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 a easy from from the National Museum of Singapore, Raffles and beautiful Fort Canning Park.
The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore
Our choice of a top 5-star hotel in a stunning neo-classical building. Here you will want for nothing and have many sights withing 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 and are looking for large family rooms in a city center hotel. Breakfast is rather basic but there is a lot of it. And there are 2 swimming pools for the kids to enjoy. It’s a great location, literally on the doorstep to shopping, sightseeing and transport options. A short walk away is Raffles Hotel . 10 minutes in the other direction is busy Clarke Quay for evening dining and entertainment.
4 fantastic days in the city before you 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. Representing the grand elegance of old Colonial days, Raffles is one of the most classically luxurious hotels you will ever visit. Spend time in the famous Long Bar.
Order a coffee and it’s too early for a Singapore Sling!. Walk the balconies and varandras, 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 it’s 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 then rebuilt in 1983.
Stop by to get some spiritual guidance or just explore! If you want to go inside you need to remove your shoes. Your legs and shoulders must be covered.
Serangoon Road is the heart of little India and there are 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 sovenir, 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 9pm and a sunset ride is amazing. For more information about the types of tickets that 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 8.30pm and seeing it all lit up at sunset is fantastic.
If you are able to, inside the Marina Bay Sands hotel, take the elevator up to the Sands Skypark Infinity Pool. Probably the most iconic view of Singapore where you are at one with the sky line.
Day 2: Botanical Gardens, Orchard Road and Clarke Quay
Singapore Botanical Gardens and a world-class Orchid Garden
Start your visit 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 is 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 or 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 wonderful 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 important trading commodities such as nutmeg and peppers were grown, Orchard Street is a shopping district that has something for everyone. World-class malls, luxury boutiques and endless dining options await you. And hopping in and out of stores and malls is a good way to keep cool in the heat.
Start at The Hilton Shopping Gallery, and from there visit Tangs, Singapore’s original department store. Then head over to the spectacular ION Orchard. From there visit the notable Ngee Ann City, much like a small city within a mall.
And then there is the Madarin Gallery shopping mall and everything else in between. You may not manage to see it all in one afternoon, but if you reach Peranaken Place then there are plenty of choices here for a bite to eat.
End you say 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 huge variety of activities in one place, you will need a whole day to explore this island!.
Visit Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A Aquarium or lay in the sun on the clean, sandy man-made beaches (head to Tanjong Beach for great sunset views).
Alternatively, take the kids on a fun nature walk through Santosa’s forest. There are free buses that go around the island the whole day that 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 when you get to Faber Peak 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 up to the third floor of the shopping mall and get on the Sentosa Express Monorail to take you over 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 travelling with children. Our children were 9 and 11 when we visited Singapore as a family and still remember this day excursion. Not really being “zoo” enthusiasts we were not sure what to expect. But the zoo turned out to be an open concept in a rain-forest environment – and absolutely fantastic.
You must book entrance tickets to Singapore Zoo and also to the Night Safari in advance on the Singapore Zoo’s website, if you are not booking a guided tour where entrance is included in your pre-paid price.
Singapore Zoo is located about a 30 minute taxi ride north of the city. You can also get there by MRT or bus from Orchard Road. Start out in the morning when it’s cooler and you are most likely able to see more animals.
There are a huge amount of 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 conservation, educational and sustainability efforts within the zoo.
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 you get up close to over 1000 nocturnal animals. This was most definitely the highlight of our kids’ visit and a perfect way to end our city vacation before we joined our cruise from Singapore.
Port of Singapore – gateway to exotic Asia!
There are 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 that you ask your hotel to pre-book a taxi for you to take you and your luggage to the port for an easy door-to-port terminal transfer.
If you do want to take the train, then 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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