Singapore – Malaysia – Singapore Cruise

Cruise is an experience in itself. Something enchanting, something mesmerizing, something unknown and with tonnes of anticipation. We’d never been on a cruise before. This made me anticipate a lot more, right from the time of deciding on a cruise, to booking right till the moment we embarked and even after that.

We landed in Singapore in the evening and headed straight to Singapore Harbourfront Cruise Centre. Its a 30 minutes drive from Changi airport. You need to be there at least 3 hours before the scheduled time considering the crowd and the lengthy clearance process. Ours was to disembark at 11.55 pm. The place was flooded with cruise enthusiasts. A lot more than we’d imagined.
Superstar Virgo – The ship of my dreams. I took this pic when we were transferred to a small ferry for our Melaka excursion.
After clearing all the embarkation steps and mandates, we were escorted to our cabin. We had booked the Oceanview Stateroom with Window on Deck 9. It was a comfortable room with 2 parallel beds and one pull-over bed, a dressing table and toilet/bath, enough to accommodate 3 people. A goody bag of Chinese Tea was kept on the table before we entered. I’m always thrilled about the goodies, no matter whats there in it.
There’s an assortment of activities to explore on a Cruise. It was 12 am when the ship disembarked. Two nights and a half day was all that we had to explore the ship. That’s because, we had opted for an excursion to Melaka, Malaysia the next day.

I will first take you around the ship with me. Will put in my Melaka Excursion later.

Tour de Virgo: This pic, though a bit blurry, will give you an idea of what every deck has to offer.
The Grand Piazza – A grand spot for a great photo op. There cannot be a single passenger on the ship whose lenses mustn’t have captured these 3 royal golden horses.
Grand Piazza
The Galaxy of Stars – It was amazing to see the gorgeous Chinese girls effortlessly croon our very own Bollywood numbers. Never knew Bollywood was such a hit in China and Singapore too. All was so very interactive.
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The Lido – The famous shows here are the Jewel of Atlantis, the Magic show, the Comedy show, etc. Show timings are fixed. You need to rush to grab a prominent front seat.
The Celebrity Area –
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The Video Arcade – the gaming section
Video Arcade
The Mediterranean Terrace – You can see a live band performing by the pool.
The Taverna – the roof-top cafe
The Captain’s Den –
men in white and at work
The Captain’s Gallery –
stand behind this wheel and you are bound to get a feeling of controlling the ship… Just a feeling… a great spot for a memorable photo.
Gaptains Gallery
The Observatory –Observatory
The Deck – 
Wanna set your mind free, the desk is the place to be. You can sit here for hours, doing absolutely nothing. Just let go of yourself and let the wandering sea-breeze take you wherever she wants to… DSC_5098
Or just stand by the railings gazing at the sparkling blue sea, sometimes calm, sometimes naughty, while its unruly waves hit the ship and then disappear. It may sound funny, but I did try my luck at spotting the dolphins, although I didn’t succeed. May be there weren’t any. 
The View Point –
Extreme end of the ship, reminiscent of the super-famous Titanic pose.
View Point
The Megaslide –
only for the brave hearts. That’s because, the transparent part of the slide which curls, is out of the ship. So you can find yourself sliding down straight out of the ship.
The Neptune Pool – for all age groups
Swimming pool
The Child Care Centre – 
Child care centre
The Library – Who has time to read when there’s so much to explore. We visited library only for a click 🙂
Mediterranean Buffet – 
There’s nothing like eating your first meal of the day, sitting besides a window that offers an unobstructed view of the sea.
Mediterranen buffet
Bella Vista Restaurant – 
specialises in Italian cuisine this one. There are also others like the Taj, Blue Lagoon, etc.
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The Tea Corner –
I knew nothing other than Barrista and Starbucks until I came to this place.
Tea corner
The Duty-free Shoppe – 
Over-priced stuff. Makes for a good memorabilia from the mighty Superstar Virgo.

Excursion to Melaka, Malaysia:

There’s a dedicated customer service desk at the Piazza which takes care of the excursion bookings and all the other customer related services. You need to book the excursion in advance, i.e., the night you embark the ship. There’s an array of shore excursions to choose from. We rounded off on the Half Day Historical Tour of Melaka which also included lunch at a local Nyonya restaurant.

We were asked to report at the Lido at 8.30 am sharp, which we did after hurrying up with the delicious breakfast spread.
We were given stickers bearing our group number which we had to stick in a way they could be visible to our tour guide. There’s also a procedure with the documents which needs to be followed before proceeding with the excursion.
From a big ship to a small one, we were transferred by a ferry to Melaka.

Our Tour Guide – Mr. William was our tour guide for the day. Being 72 years old (or young) and a grandfather of 6, didn’t stop him from guiding, managing and keeping intact a group of 22 youngsters or may I say, bundles of energy. He was incredibly vivacious, loaded with knowledge about the place, true sense of belonging and so very enthused to impart all of it to us. I’m mentioning so much about him as I was completely in awe of him. I was all ears for each and every word he said. Yeah, and he’s also a huge storehouse of jokes…jokes for every occasion. I did have a personal conversation with him over a bowl of Cendol (a local sweet delicacy, which I’ve described later), when he told us about his youth, his schooling and his grandchildren. Each time our group split for sight-seeing, that many times he would do a headcount…literally… count our heads 🙂 .  Salute to Mr. William for being the person he is! Always smiling!T his pic is all that I have of him as a memory.
Porta de Santiago – is one of the four main gates of the A Famosa fortress, and is the best evidence of Portuguese occupation hundreds of years ago. It was built by the Portuguese in 1511 under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque.
St Paul’s Church – the Portuguese built this church in 1521 and called it “Our Lady of the Hill.” It acquired its present name from the Dutch, who built a new Lutheran church down the hill, while St. Paul’s became a funereal ground and a white-washed navigational marker for passing ships.
Stadthuys – a piece of artistry built circa 1650, with traces of Dutch masonry and carpentry. Find it in the walls, the doors and windows, the iron hinges and floral-engraved wooden ceiling.
The Trishaws – The three-tire cycle-rickshaws all decked up, look like a festival of colours and cuteness. You can have a joy ride of 15 minutes, if its included in your excursion.
Cheng Ho Cultural Museum
– It was built in the honor of a Chinese Ming Dynasty admiral called Cheng Ho or Zheng He. Cheng Ho was a famous Chinese explorer, who went to the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia between 1405 and 1433. He is credited with the honor of discovering the Melaka Port for the Chinese. They have a high-octane 20 minutes slide presentation which takes you through his journey.
onker Bird House – This is the first and only walk through exhibit that comprises of heritage dating back to 300 years ago and the famous bird nest products.

Bird nests
See for yourself and understand the nestling area and the process involved in the edible bird nests which are loaded with nutrition. Its an industry in itself. This house is declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the pic, the light-brown cone-like things are the bird nests.
bird nest
Jonker Street – was once renowned for its antique shops, however over the years it has turned to clothing and crafts outlets as well as restaurants.

jonker street
Melaka Houses – love the celebration of colours here
Cendol – 
Cendol is a refreshing Malaysian dessert. Made of shaved ice, coconut milk, coconut sugar, kidney beans and cendol, which is made out of flour.
Friends for Life – My trip to Singapore did not end here. I took back home a lot more than the memorabilia I gathered from each place I visited. I made 4 new friends from different parts of the world – Lily, Doreen from Singapore with their aunt, and Julie from Australia. I could be with Julie only for those 2 days of cruise. But Lily and Doreen are still with me…thanks to social media. We are friends forever…

That’s Lily and Doreen
That’s me with them…
Friends 2
We met as strangers during our excursion. Who knew we would bond for life….

Singapore City Tour

A mecca of shopping, sightseeing, food and fun, Singapore is the microcosm and the island country in Southeast Asia.
Singapore also known as the “Lion City”, is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, with the fourth-biggest financial centre and one of the five busiest ports. It has a rich social mix of Singaporean, Chinese, Malay, Indian and the European cultures.
Singapore’s Changi airport, rated as the world’s best, proves every worth of its sash. If you have enough of time at your hands, you can easily spend half a day just exploring the airport.

Enter Singapore and you are sure to get more than what you bargained for. We were received at the airport by Raj, a Tamil and a third generation Singaporean. Speaking to him we realised, not only does Singapore, but its citizens too have their own history to tell. He was friendly enough to explain some of the important rules and regulations of Singapore which run in the blood of every resident of this Lion City.

Day 1: We were transferred to our Hotel Aqueen Lavender in Little India. As the name suggests, Little India houses lot of Indians, which is why the tour operators press a lot on this one. With so many fellow Indians around, it makes you feel at home even in a foreign country.

We reached our hotel at 3.30 and had a nice little snooze. We were booked at 6pm for Night Safari, the world’s first ever night wildlife adventure. When they say 6, you gotta be there by 5.45. Singaporeans are very particular about the time. From 6 to 6.45 is the animals show. The Safari actually starts at 7. Due to heavy traffic in the evening, we missed the Animals Show, but luckily got the Safari.
NightSafari3The guided open tram-ride is fascinating and the close encounter with wild animals… spectacular. Lions, tigers, tuskers, wild boars, leopards, deer… all in their natural habitat and less than few metres away from you. Its breathtaking !
You are not allowed to use the flash of your cameras, which made it difficult to click.
NightSafari1There are walking trails like the Leopard Trail and the Wallaby Trail. We did the latter one.
NightSafari2There are lot of food counters to stuff yourselves after you are done with the wildlife rendezvous.
Later, we returned to our hotel, only step out again and explore the place. We dined at the nearby hawker street and took a stroll down to explore further.
Singapore Street
Clark Quay:
To explore the high-end night-life of Singapore, pay a visit to Clark Quay. Clarke Quay, Singapore’s choice dining and entertainment destination, is a colourful kaleidoscope of buildings housing antiques, restaurants, hip cafes, jazz clubs and more. At night, the entire zone is a sight to behold with all five blocks of restored warehouses lit up and beamed with an array of quirky alternative to mainstream clubs.

Day 2:
was reserved for guided City Tour. We were booked on a seat-in-coach basis. Our guide was Mr. Jack who has claimed to have guided the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and also our respected PM, Mr. Modi. He is a Chinese settled in China Town area of Singapore. So you see, there is an array of cultures and people whom Singapore has sheltered with open arms.
ChinatownFurther down is the Haji Lane which houses Singapore’s Muslim community. It is also a haven for fashion fanatics, where local designers and entrepreneurs have set up their boutiques.

SIC experience is way different than a private cab one. Everything is timebound. This was the reason we had no stop-over at Haji Lane.
We were then whisked to Singapore’s major attraction – The Singapore Flyer. The 165-metre-high flyer is Singapore’s answer to the London Eye—with the title of being the world’s largest ‘Ferris wheel’ up until March 2014.
SingaporeFlyerThe 30-minute ride offers stunning views of the Colonial District, Marina Bay and the South China Sea extending all the way to parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Marina Bay, situated in the heart of the city is the island’s largest and the most urbanised catchment. You have a lot of photo-ops here.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel is the star attraction.
The ArtScience Museum
is one of the attractions at the Bayfront. The lotus shaped architectural marvel is also referred to as “The welcoming hand of Singapore”.
is the national mascot which is the head of a lion and the body of a fish. This is the marketing icon and the national personification of Singapore.
It was noon and we had to break for lunch. We were told to gather at a specified point at 2.30 pm to continue our sojourn to the very famous Sentosa Island.
Getting to Sentosa is a memorablia in itself. Its a 15 minutes cable-car ride which takes you to the top. Pay a visit to the Butterfly Park and the Insect Kingdom.
And then time for some adventure – The Luge Ride and the Sky Ride

The Luge Ride, something you might have never done before and will wanna do again and again.
The Sky Ride
– I got stoked the moment I got into it…as if I was possessed by a child’s soul. And that over-excitement led me dropping one of my slippers down somewhere in the woods. But the staff were kind enough to search and get it for me. Such courteous behaviour is a rare find. The best part is when you get clicked in all your natural expressions by the unnoticeable cameras here and there.
The Dolphin Lagoon
– adorable pink dolphins performing their antics alongside the black seals. We were booked in the VIP lounge. Its time-slotted so better rush before time.DolphinLagoonDolphinLagoon2
The Underwater World-
You have an up, close and personal rendezvous with the aquatic world. Its an underwater glass tunnel with automatic walk-through which offers a super-close view of the sharks, sting rays and many others swimming right above your head and all around.
Songs of the Sea – One day visit to Sentosa comes to a closure with the spectacular Songs of the Sea show located at Siloso Beach on the Sentosa Island.
This show is one stupendous feast to your eyes with  the mindblowing pyrotecnic displays, water jets that shoot up to 40 meteflrs, laser show, flame bursts, a live 7-person cast, and an open-air viewing gallery. Be sure to choose the seats at the centre to have a direct and undisturbed view. This show is ought to leave you spell-bound.
Day 3: We chose to be on our own with a quest of exploring the city. As per me, the best way to explore a new place is grab a map, be on your own, get lost, speak to the locals, ask for directions, hop on the metro, bus or just keep walking. This is exactly what we did and made our way to Jurong Bird Park.

Jurong Bird Park – Its is one of the most renowned bird sanctuaries with the largest free-flying aviaries.
JurongBirdPark3Take a guided hop-on hop-off tram tour or just walk it out and take your own sweet time to explore the place. There’s multitude of birds you can ever imagine – flamingoes, pelicans, eagles, kites, scarlets, swans, macaws, penguins, spoonbills… the list is never-ending.
JurongBirdPark4Can anything be more beautiful…
JurongBirdPark5They also have various shows lined up like the Kings of Skies show, the High Fliers Show, etc. These are very informative and interactive.
JurongBirdPark1You have to have one full day at your hand to explore the entire park and be one with nature.

Day 4: We were on our own to explore.
Gardens by the Bay – 
Enter a world of perpetual spring, where unique plants bloom in an ever changing display of flowers.

Flower Dome: Step into the Flower Dome and you’ll be standing in awe of nature.
FlowerDomeIt replicates a mild, dry climate and features plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America, South Africa).
The Supertree Grove: Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 metres and 50 metres. There is an elevated walkway, between two of the larger Supertrees for visitors to enjoy a breathtaking aerial view of the Gardens.
There’s also the Cloud Forest which replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 3,300 ft and 9,800 ft above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. We could not make it here as it was closed for the day.

Shopping in Singapore:
China Town: Chinatown is Singapore’s largest historic district, nestled close to the bustling business hub. The best time to visit Chinatown is during Chinese New Year, when the Chinatown Food Market is abuzz with activity, from lion dances to Chinese opera performances. Here you will find everything from fine silk and jade jewellery to traditional handicrafts.

Kampong Glam: To explore Kampong Glam, hop on the MRT and alight at Bugis MRT Station. A stone’s throw away from Bugis MRT Station, you’ll find shopping haunts such as Bugis Junction, the bustling Bugis Street Market, and of course Kampong Glam. Its also line with  restaurants, caterers, art galleries, and craft and curios shops.

Little India: As its name suggests, Little India is Singapore’s foremost Indian enclave. Look out for stalls selling Ayurvedic massage oils, gold, incense and fabrics in a variety of textures.
No trip to Little India is complete without an all-night shopping spree at the 24-hour emporium, Mustafa Centre, located at the corner of Serangoon and Syed Alwi Roads. Despite its modest exterior, Mustafa Center is a treasure trove of household knick-knacks, decorative items, foodstuff, Indian spices, apparel and textiles, electronic items and more–at some of the lowest fixed prices in Singapore. Legend has it that Mr. Mustafa, a hawker from Hyderabad, started off with just one stall in Singapore which is now an empire in itself.

Dining In Singapore: Old airport road hawker centre, Singapore food trail near Singapore flyer, Maxwell Food Centre in China Town, Newton Food Centre near Orchard Road are some of the places to enjoy Singapore’s best street food. Do not dare miss these places when you are in town.

Cuisines: Singapore is a hot pot of cuisines, incorporating a rich heritage of food dishes consisting of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. Here are some of the must-try delicacies you cannot afford to miss. Walk down any of the hawker centres and see for yourself. Its pocket-friendly and delicious.

Chilli Crabs: The sight of it is enough to get you drooling. The crabs are cooked in a sweet, spicy tomatoish chilli sauce or with black pepper sauce.
Chilli crabs
Its a traditional Singapore Curry which uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (beancurd puffs), fish slices and shrimp.
LaksaCarrot Cake: No, this isn’t a dessert and is far from being one. The Fried Carrot cake is made with eggs, preserved radish (chai poh) and white radish flour cake, which resembles a ‘white carrot’ and how the name comes about.
Chicken Rice:
This is one of Singapore’s most well-known and celebrated dish. No coffee shop in Singapore is complete without a chicken rice stall.
Satay is a dish of skewered, Turmeric marinated meat that is grilled on an open fire. Typical meats include chicken, beef, mutton and even pork. A spicy peanut dip is also provided for the Satay and sides as well.
Hokkien Prawn Mee:
Its a combination of egg noodles and rice noodles in a rich prawn stock with cubes of fried chicken, prawns, fish cake and squid.
Hokkien prawn mee
Culture, food, shopping, sight-seeing… 3 days were just not enough to soak in the whole of Singapore. Looking forward to a longer stay to experience all that we missed.