Visiting Singapore is the highlight of many voyages in the South China Sea, including Grand Asia sailings, and has been a marquee stop for our five World Cruises on Holland America’s Amsterdam. This affluent and independent Asian city-state is notable for its amazing sights and heights as well as its world-famous Singapore Sling cocktails.
Singapore, one of Asia’s southernmost points, has five million inhabitants of diverse cultures who reside in its 277 square miles. It is known for its strict rules regarding littering (the ban on chewing gum in public has been relaxed, but while you can chew gum in public, you still cannot litter the used gum). Many cruise ships overnight in Singapore – ours always has – which is fantastic as there is so much to offer visitors, including its safe and clean ambiance, astonishing architecture and abundance of attractions.
Here are seven must-sees in Singapore:
Singapore’s architecture is a professional and amateur photographer’s delight. Its magnificent skyline features, among others, the durian-fruit-shaped Esplanade – Theatres on The Bay, the UFO-like Old Supreme Court Building, the lotus-flower-inspired ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands building. This last structure is composed of three high towers crowned with the Sands SkyPark, a 2.5-acre platform-cantilever, housing the park and hotel amenities, in addition to the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool (495-feet long). The Marina Bay Sands has an observation deck 57 levels up for fabulous panoramic views, and the SkyPark has bars and restaurants.
Another notable height is the Ferris-wheel-like Singapore Flyer, an observation wheel that stands 541 feet tall (about the height of a 42-story building). It’s one of the tallest observation wheels in the world, offering awesome views of the city-state. Its air-conditioned capsules, which ascend and descend slowly, can be booked for private dinners, parties and other events.
When visiting Singapore, perusing the local neighborhoods is a must: they include the Padang district, with its wide greenspace encompassed by colonial architecture; colorful Chinatown and Little India with shops, restaurants and temples; the Arab Quarter with the gold-domed Sultan Mosque and Orchard Street with western-style department stores and designer boutiques.
One great place for selfies is the iconic Merlion, a half lion/half fish creature. With eyes aglow and bathed in light at night, this statue has become a symbol of Singapore. It is located in its own park plaza in the city-state’s business district.
The Raffles Hotel is a luxurious property that has hosted the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, James Michener, Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Chan and John Wayne. Raffles was closed for renovations during our March visit, but its famous Long Bar, the birthplace of the potent potable, Singapore Sling, was open.
The beautiful Gardens by the Bay is one of Asia’s foremost floral and horticultural displays. Highlights include the impressive and beautiful Flower Dome, with Tulipmania and Orchid Extravaganza areas, showcasing an abundance of these blossoms. The Flower Dome, listed as the world’s largest glass greenhouse in the 2015 Guinness World Records with more than three acres of space, has attractions for young and old including a whimsical section themed to nursery rhymes such as the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” Nursery rhymes and fairytale characters are displayed amidst colorful foxgloves, delphiniums and lupins, among many other flowers. Be sure to also see the gardens’ iconic Supertree Grove, vertical, tree-like gardens measure 25 to 50 meters, with canopies that provide shade during the day as well as light and sound displays at night. Another Singapore attraction for flower lovers is the National Orchid Garden, a fragrant and beautiful oasis with 60,000-plus blooms.
Sentosa Island, located off Singapore’s southern coast, is host to resorts, theme parks and beaches. Enjoy manmade beaches with white sand, a water park and several venues including a Universal Studios park. Explore a Madame Tussauds attraction or the S.E.A. Aquarium, with more than 100,000 marine creatures representing some 1,000 species across 50 habitats. Sentosa Island also has museums including the Maritime Experiential Museum with 15 thematic galleries, and the Trick Eye Museum with a collection of 3D artworks that turn two-dimensional paintings into three-dimensional images through optical illusions. Other attractions of Sentosa Island include an additional, larger Merlion that visitors can enter and climb for views of the island. The trip to Sentosa is also enjoyable: visitors can take a monorail from VivoCity Mall to Harbourfront or the Singapore Cable Car from Harbourfront Station and delight in panoramas of the city-state along the route, as well as views of ships at the harbor.