Grey, cloudy, skies for the last two days of the cruise. Perhaps a prescient reminder, if it were needed, of our return to the UK.
Journey now feels like home. Familiar, friendly, faces. We are not sure we want to leave. Sailing into Singapore, however, on a very humid and drizzly day, nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for our new, albeit final, destination.
We had half a day to explore before spending our last night on board and disembarkation early the following day. We took a local bus at the cruise terminal. Front seats, top deck, great views. Unsure exactly where we were going, but Singapore is a small island – 26 miles east to west, 14 miles north to south – what could go wrong? Of course, we got lost. But that’s when all the best adventures happen. And, nudge nudge, wink wink, if you want to see a very colourful neighbourhood I now know which bus to catch!
As we drove along the wide tree-lined roads we were struck by the abundance of tropical greenery, cleanliness and high-rise apartments. I had heard Singapore referred to as a concrete jungle and it’s true it is very built-up. However, with all the plants and trees, open manicured spaces and an area of natural tropical rain forest left untouched, we like Singapore.
We returned to the ship to pack. Well, I say pack. Thrown in, in record time, would be a more accurate description. With the additional purchases during the trip it took all his strength and my additional weight – but let’s not talk about that – to squeeze the cases closed. Still, it helped work up an appetite for our last supper on board.
An a la carte restaurant specializing in Mediterranean and seafood, dinner at the Aqualina was a fitting end for our last night. An amuse-bouche beforehand and iced sorbets to cleanse the palate between all four excellent courses, we were in foodie heaven; the porridge and water diet looming large on the very distant UK horizon.
The final cabaret, as expected, was a show-stopper with standing room only as Eric and his ensemble belted out their numbers to rapturous applause. Sadly, I was unable to have a last flutter on the roulette-table as the casino can’t operate in Singapore port due to licensing laws. But, as Lady Luck had not been with me previously, perhaps it was just as well.
Early breakfast on the deck of the Windows Café and, sadly, it was time to leave. Attentive to the end, the Captain and senior officers lined up to say goodbye before we stepped onto the dock, permanently back on dry land. Although my body felt very much ‘on board’ for the next couple of days, until I found my land legs again.
Our cruise over, we stayed for an additional night at the luxurious Conrad Centennial, one of three hotels in Singapore that Azamara recommend. It proved to be a great choice, well located and a perfect finale to our trip. I would also recommended staying an extra day or so after the cruise to avoid going cold turkey ship to shore, before the reality of looking after yourself again finally hits at home.
With our EZ link card for Singapore’s excellent underground, rail and bus system, we set off to do some more exploration. Travelling around the city and island is extremely easy and very cheap, particularly when compared to prices in London. For example, a six stop journey on the MRT (tube) cost less than 50p – Boris please take note. We happily walked around the old Colonial quarter, along the river walk to the newly renovated Clarke Quay and the area around Fort Canning Park where the main museums are located.
Early evening, suitably dressed, we visited the famous Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. Invented at the turn of the century, when drinking by women in public was frowned upon, the hotel’s barman created a highly potent, pink, alcoholic drink. In essence, a turn of the century, guilt-free alcopop, which the ladies of the day could enjoy. We both loved our Singapore Sling and meeting Annie Choy of Raffles who showed us around the historic hotel. We ate dinner in the Tiffin Room where a curry buffet has been served since 1899. Needless to say, the food was delicious.
Afterwards we hopped a taxi (again very cheap) to Chinatown and walked through the narrow, brightly lit, bustling streets, in the warm evening. One of three distinct and vibrant migrant communities on the island, reflecting the country’s historical and cultural roots, Chinatown, Little India and Haji Lane – the Arab area – are a maze of streets. Original two-storey, brightly coloured buildings with an exotic array of shops, pagodas, temples and mosques stand in stark contrast to the gleaming, architecturally stunning, tower blocks that are more typical throughout Singapore. Although some of the old buildings have been renovated and now comprise trendy boutiques and cafes, each area has its own distinct character and is definitely worth a visit.
After an excellent breakfast at the Centennial we went to the nearby Marina Bay area of the city. A new development, the Marina Bay Sands hotel consists of three towers with a Sky Deck that straddles the top of the buildings. At ear-popping speed the lift whisked us to the public viewing deck on the 55th floor for a breathtaking 360 degree view. The top two floors, reserved for hotel guests, have an amazing infinity pool surrounded by palm trees. Swimming here must feel a little scary!
Of course a visit to Singapore would not be complete without a trip to Orchard Road, famous for its malls and upmarket stores. Coming from the UK we should have known better. We didn’t take an umbrella. When the rain came, it was ferocious and noisy, like an automatic machine gun, which had people running for cover in all directions. There was no escape from the huge drops bouncing off the pavement and within seconds anyone without an umbrella was literally soaked to their skin. Unlike London, though, no umbrella sellers in sight – banished from the pavement to an a/c Hawkers market. Tidy, cool, yes, but not very handy when it rains.
So with frizzy hair and dripping wet clothes we ran through the warm, tropical deluge, ankle deep in water, whooping like kids all the way to the hotel.
Read Chapter 1: Introduction: Is a cruise going to be the right choice for me?
Read Chapter 2: We’re on our way! Hong Kong
Read Chapter 3: Down time onboard the ship
Read Chapter 4: Vietnam: Hanoi and Halong Bay
Read Chapter 5: Vietnam: Denang and Anhoi
Read Chapter 6: Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Read Chapter 7: Thailand: Bangkok
Read Chapter 8: Thailand: Ko Samui
Read Chapter 10: Azamara Club Cruises: the verdict
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.