In the winter season, there are fewer and less varied cruises departing from Australian ports - and some keen cruisers look further afield for their fix. Singapore is an increasingly popular port for Australasians for many reasons - it is not too far away, easily accessed by all manner of flights, clean and safe, and offers a huge amount of things to see and do before or after a cruise.
Mark and Anita headed to Singapore in early August to get onboard the first P&O cruise departing the city in more than a decade. Their 7-night itinerary began in the Singapore Cruise Centre and visited Langkawi in Malaysia, Krabi and Phuket in Thailand and Sabang in Indonesia before returning, with two days at sea along the way. They had a great time, and answered some questions for us to share the experience with anyone considering a cruise from Singapore.
With a few days to spare before embarking, Mark and Anita took the opportunity to explore Singapore with their travel buddies. The city is clean and tidy and packed with things to do and see - they recommend buying a ticket for one of the "hop on, hop off" buses which circulate past all of the main sights. That way, you can get your bearings and decide what you really want to go back and investigate.
Sentosa Island is tourist central, home to Universal Studios, beaches, a luge track and much more. If you are looking for some harmless fun, it's a great option! Something a little more natural which was also a highlight for Anita and Mark was the tropical botanic gardens. They also enjoyed participating in some slightly whacky experiences on offer in this worldly city, like the fishy foot massage during which tiny fish nibble off dead skin. Mark described himself as "like a kid in a candy store" with all of the different possibilities on offer in Singapore.
The shopping and the food were also on their list of favourites. This included going to the local market to have lunch like a true Singaporean. However, trying to fit in did come with a cultural faux pas! They sat down at a table which had a box of tissues on it, and thought how lovely customer service was in the city and how great that they supplied tissues even for tables in the market. Little did they know that Singaporeans leave tissues on tables to reserve them during the busy lunch hour! It took some explaining for them to figure out where they had gone wrong.
Getting onboard and off
Due to its relatively small size, the Pacific Eden docked at the Singapore Cruise Centre rather than in Marina Bay, requiring a bit of a drive out there. Despite that, Anita said the facility was great, and both the onshore staff and P&O crew made embarkation easy. In fact, she found that great service was a theme of their time both in the city and on the ship!
They did have some waiting during disembarkation, but found it overall to be well-organised. The terminal itself was great, despite playing second fiddle to the newer Marina Bay - with duty-free shopping available and plenty of food options, very much like an airport terminal.
Aboard the Pacific Eden in Southeast Asia
Mark and Anita found that the demographic of passengers on a P&O cruise from Singapore did not differ much from a sailing departing Australia for the South Pacific or elsewhere. Anita remarked that the vast majority of those fellow passengers they met onboard were Australians, with a few fellow kiwis. The staff and crew were the same as you might find on any P&O cruise, and all notices and communications were in English. This can be a concern for some cruisers when it comes to regional cruising, so it is good to know that for this line at least, it's easy and familiar to cruise in this different region.
Beyond that, our duo said that cruising there was fantastic. They benefited from the shelter of the Malacca Strait for most of the cruise so did not deal with any seasickness or noticeable ship movement like one might encounter in the South Pacific, and the weather was balmy the entire time - no cooling down as you return to a wintery port!
The Pacific Eden itself was a fantastic holiday base. The public areas are new and modernised since their refurbishment upon joining the fleet last year, and Mark and Anita hugely enjoyed their balcony cabin - in fact, both said that their favourite part of the cruise was waking up in the morning and stepping outside to see what exotic new location they were in that day. They recommended a balcony cabin as a top priority for anyone considering a cruise from Singapore.
The ports - Langkawi, Krabi, Phuket and Sabang
Of the four ports visited, Sabang in Indonesia was their favourite. Here they paid a driver to take them on their own tour, which included stops at many beaches and a nature walk, as well as a visit to their driver's home to meet his family. They enjoyed not being restricted by an organised tour, and did plenty of research to ensure they would not be caught short and miss the boat.
Theirs was also the first cruise ship to visit Sabang, so there was literally a red carpet rolled out and a ceremony to greet them. Quite a welcome!
Another highlight for Anita were the markets in Thailand, and she wished she had more time to explore them.
All of the places they visited were gorgeous, but they hadn't realised that the tour they booked to Phang Na Bay would involve six hours of travel all up! If there is someplace you really need to see, Mark said, it's worth the line-organised tour for the security, but otherwise it can be nicer to hang around closer to the ship and do your own thing or hire a driver.
Try it for yourself
If you like the idea of a Singapore cruise, you're in luck - the 2017 season is looking good, with three Royal Caribbean ships based there amongst many others including P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises. There are also ships departing year-round, so you can make it a summer holiday too.
For all the various options, take a look at our Cruises from Singapore sale page. That's where you can not only see what's available but nab a deal - there are onboard credit giveaways, last minute deals and other bonus offers all clearly marked and waiting for a bargain-seeking cruiser.