Singapore’s new city by the Bay

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P1030454.jpgLike much of modern Singapore, the Marina Bay Cruise Centre (above) is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility. Officially opened just last month, its design is supposed to evoke “cubic waves;” the painted ceilings and the acres of carpet – so new they are still shedding fluff – are the colour of the ocean.
The terminal has been built to handle the biggest cruise ships in the world, even though Royal Caribbean has not yet made a decision on whether to deploy its Oasis-class vessels to the region (but watch this space).
Transport links to the city centre and Changi airport are still to be completed, but the 80 check-in desks and 40 immigration counters are sufficient to cope with up to 6,800 embarking passengers a day in air-conditioned comfort.
All of which left me wondering why passengers boarding Silver Shadow yesterday had to queue on a concrete walkway outside, in the tropical heat, for Silversea staff to carry out the embarkation procedures.
The delay was short, and we were soon lunching on board as we waited for our suites to become available. There was time to reflect on a hectic 24 hours exploring the attractions of Singapore’s new Downtown, the Marina Bay area.
Since a barrage was built to keep sea water out of the Bay, and vast areas of reclaimed land have emerged, the focus of the city state has moved from the traditional shopping and hotel area of Orchard Road.
The Marina Bay Sands hotel, with its three gigantic tower blocks supporting a pool and observation deck the size and shape of an ocean liner, has quickly established itself as an iconic symbol as recognisable as Dubai’s Burj al Arab.
Between the hotel and the waterfront is a vast convention centre and the sprawling Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands complex, with every designer brand and high street name a shopaholic could dream about.
The Singapore Flyer observation wheel rotates slowly above the pits complex built for the Grand Prix street circuit, while on the other side of the bay the Merlion – symbol of the lion city – spouts a continuous fountain in the shadow of the Financial District’s towering office blocks.
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P1030317.jpgThe most potent symbol of the new Singapore is Gardens by the Bay. The 130-acre Bay South, opened in June, is a bit like Cornwall’s Eden Centre – on steroids.
Spectacular hardly comes close to describing the groves of “supertrees” – steel structures up to 50 metres (160 ft tall) – and the two glass pavilions described in an unexpected understatement as “conservatories.”
The larger Flower Dome contains 1,000-year-old olive trees, Mediterranean gardens and bizarre Baobob rrees, but the most breathtaking sight is in the Cloud Forest, where 35-metre (115 ft) waterfalls plunge from a man-made mountain.
I visited on a public holiday for Deepavali , and Singaporeans were out in force to take in the delights of the park, which also contains a selection of high-end restaurants including Pollen, masterminded by Jason Atherton, from London’s Pollen Street Social.
I’m told that the view is the best thing about the roof of the Marina Bay Sands, and with a thunderstorm threatening I’m glad I didn’t stay to sample the mediocre burgers. Traditional chicken and rice from a food stall by the Flyer had been much more enjoyable.
P1030351.jpgAcross the other side of the water my own hotel, the Fullerton Bay (centre, above) – imposing and impressive up close – looked no bigger than a shoe box. In the evening I could watch from its own delightful rooftop pool bar as a sound and light laser show illuminated the waterfront.
It might not yet rival the daily performance played out on the soaring tower blocks of Hong Kong, but I’m sure it won’t be long before Singapore vows to match it.
Silver Shadow is now taking us to Saigon. More from the ship, and from Vietnam, soon.
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Singapore’s laws are more lenient than they once were, but there are still lots of things you CANNOT do. This sign lists some of the prohibitions on the OCBC Skyway slung between the Supertrees in Bay Gardens South
By | 2017-06-15T15:59:41+00:00 15 November 2012|Cruise destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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