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Your Essential Guide to Singapore

3rd January 2018

 

Cruising in Singapore is a fantastic introduction to Asia, as the country is thought of as a microcosm of the continent. With the population being made up of predominantly Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian immigrants, it’s no surprise that so much of the food, music, and other cultural traditions are an eclectic mix of these influences – as well as European due to historic events. To give you something of an idea about what to expect, we’ve put together this handy top tips guide.

 

The Language

The most commonly used language in Singapore is actually English, but in fact most of the population are bilingual – speaking one of the other three main languages too. These are Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. If you do want to mix in with locals and use a few popular phrases, try:

   -   'Lah’, at the end of a sentence, to emphasise what you’re saying – for instance, ‘That food was delicious, lah!’

   -   ‘Ni hao’, meaning ‘hello’ in Mandarin

   -   ‘Terima kasih’, meaning ‘thank you’ in Malay

   -   ‘Wah lau’, is used to express shock – for instance, ‘Wah lau! That’s expensive!’

The Currency

The currency used in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar. At the time of writing $1 equates to £0.55. Wining and dining in Singapore can be just about as cheap or expensive as you like, owing to the fact that there is a fantastic range of bars and restaurants. To give you a rough idea, a meal in a hawker centre will cost around $6 (£3.33), and a trip to a museum, for instance, won’t cost you more than about $20 (£11.10).

 

Local Transport

Singapore is largely thought of as one of the easiest places in Asia to navigate as a tourist. Probably the simplest way to get around is by using the MRT trains and buses. If you’re doing a cruise and stay holiday with a few extra nights in Singapore, it’s worth considering buying an EZ-link card. These can be topped up and used to access both of the aforementioned modes of transport. Alternatively, taxis are relatively easy to come by, and are good value during off-peak hours.

The Weather

One great thing about Singapore is that the weather remains pretty consistent throughout the year. The temperature range is generally 24 – 30°C, and you’re likely to find rain and haze quite regularly. The country actually has two monsoon seasons – a southwest season is usually June to September, and northeast is December to March. The quantity of rainfall at these times can be quite astounding to new visitors, and is a truly exciting sight, but generally it will last for just a few hours. This means that the rain will far from hinder your plans when it comes to things to see and do.

 

Other Useful Things to Know

   -   Medical expenses can be high in Singapore, so make sure you arrange adequate travel insurance before you leave, just in case.

   -   Eating and drinking on public transport is not allowed.

   -   Singapore is very wheelchair-friendly. Thanks to a government initiative, there are wide footpaths, ramps, and lifts found in most public spaces.

   -   It’s illegal to bring mainstream chewing gum into Singapore.

   -   Plug sockets in Singapore are the same as those in the UK.

 

Cruise to Singapore with Costa Cruises

costa cruises logo

Renowned for fantastic Italian hospitality and onboard comforts, Costa Cruises is a great option for your cruise to Singapore. Let their ship become your home away from home whilst exploring this exciting and exotic destination.

In Singapore, Costa Cruises host some brilliant excursion opportunities to help cruisers get to know this one of a kind destination. For example, there’s the cultural heritage tour, which takes you to Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street, or the gastronomic experience, on which you’ll visit Lau Pa Sat Market before heading to the Corner House Restaurant to dine. You can well and truly discover the delights of Singapore on one of these amazing shore adventures.

 

costa cruises lounge

 

Time spent onboard your Costa Cruises ship at the end of a long day out exploring will leave you feeling fresh and ready for the next day. If you haven’t dined whilst out and about, you can find a range of culinary options onboard, from a traditional evening in the main dining room, or casual buffet options, to speciality venues for something a little different. Local food is not for everyone, so rest assured if you fancy a hearty steak dinner you will find it onboard.

As well as the food, Costa Cruises know how to treat their guests when it comes to onboard activities and entertainment. There are plenty of bars and lounges to choose from if you’re looking to simply socialise and enjoy a few drinks, or there are full-blown production shows, casino games, and nightclubs if you want something a little more lively.

Browse through Costa Cruises holidays to Singapore to find your next cruise adventure.


Singapore: A Foodie's Haven

27th December 2017

 

South East Asia is known for delicious and diverse cuisine that has become popular the world over. For many people, this is reason enough to visit this incredible part of the world, and if this applies to you, it’s likely that you might be struggling to decide just which areas to visit. The answer to this dilemma could well be Singapore. With influences from China, India, Malaysia, and Europe, many argue that food in Singapore offers the best of a number of cultures. Discover incredible places to eat and things to try, on a cruise in Singapore.

Raffles Hotel

Even if you haven't heard of much traditional Singaporean food and drink, we'd be willing to bet that you do know about their signature cocktail: The Singapore Sling. Thought to have been created by a bartender in 1915, in Singapore this drink is synonymous with Raffles Hotel - a stunning colonial hotel which is home to the Long Bar, where said bartender rustled up this delicious concoction. The main ingredients of this refreshing cocktail are gin, pineapple juice, and grenadine.

Laksa

This classic is said to have been brought to Singapore by the Peranakan people – those who immigrated to the Malay region from China, between the 1600s and 1800s. As such it has become well integrated into the cuisine of Singapore, and today remains a firm favourite among both locals and tourists. Essentially laksa is a noodle soup (or broth), made with spices, coconut milk, and usually chicken or fish.

Maxwell Food Centre

Singapore is known among food lovers for its hawker (street food) stalls. These offer affordable and yet delicious meals and great variety. Hawker stalls can be found here, there, and everywhere, but you will also come across centres which are known for this type of cuisine, such as Maxwell Food Centre. Here there are over 100 stalls selling all kinds of Singaporean favourites, and indeed some more modern and even international dishes.

Abacus Seeds

Having originated with the Hakka Han, or Han, people of China, abacus seeds are sometimes referred to as Hakka abacus seeds. They are similar to gnocchi, but instead of potato they are made with yams. They are a tasty and fairly versatile creation that can be found in various dishes with noodles, prawns, chicken, and vegetables. They are said to represent wealth, and so are often found in meals at celebrations such as New Year.

Kueh

Kuehs are traditional, bite-sized snacks that can be sweet or savoury. These too are especially popular among the Peranakan people, and can most commonly be found in supermarkets and coffee shops. They also frequently make an appearance at food festivals. Look out for favourites such as sweet steamed sponge, meat dumplings, and mini crepes made with sugar, coconut, and pandan leaves and juice.

Michelin Star Hawker Stall

Like many of the world’s big cities, Singapore is home to a number of Michelin-star rated restaurants. But what makes this location slightly more unusual, is that it boasts Michelin-star holding street food stalls! Both Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, and Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle have been awarded this prestigious status, making Singapore one of the only places on earth where you can get a Michelin-star meal for about £3.

Pau

Singapore’s pau are known elsewhere in Asia as ‘bau’, ‘baozi’, and ‘mantou’, or to English-speakers, ‘steamed buns’. They are often stuffed with barbecue pork, however in Singapore potato, chicken, or beef curry are also popular fillings. These can be found at stalls or in restaurants, and are a really tasty option for lunch, or a snack to see you through until your evening meal.

Today, food is a highly regarded and significant part of Singaporean culture, and is something that the locals take great pride in – and rightly so. Foodies will not be disappointed with what they find here, and will hugely enjoy the countrywide celebration of cuisine. For an extra-special treat, consider a Singapore cruise in July, and see what’s in store at the annual Singapore Food Festival.

Find out more about things to do in Singapore.


What to Do in Singapore

14th September 2017

 

Singapore’s colourful history means a fusion of cultures have influenced the country, and made it the unique destination that it is today. Its ever-changing nature has caused it to appear something of a mystery to many people, and we think the best way to begin to uncover and understand it is to explore both the popular and the lesser known spots.

As a popular port of call on many cruise itineraries, Singapore is probably more reachable than many people realise. Whether stopping here during an Asia cruise for a few hours or a few days, when it comes to planning your stay, our list of top things to do is a great place to start.

1. Try a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel is a truly majestic hotel that dates back to 1887. It has hosted a plethora of historical figures including Charlie Chaplin and Rudyard Kipling, and is said to be the origin of gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling. The drink is thought to have been created in 1915, by a bar tender named Ngiam Tong Boon in the hotel’s Long Bar.

2. See some incredible animals

The Singapore Zoo is home to almost 3000 creatures, with everything from elephants, white tigers, and monkeys, to naked mole rats. Arguably one of the most ethical zoos in the world, the animals each have ample space, and the ability to roam free in some cases. For a more unusual experience, Singapore also boasts a Night Safari. This is a separate attraction to the zoo, and allows guests to see animals during the night while riding trams through the centre.

3. Eat local!

As a Southeast Asian country, Singapore can certainly compete with its neighbours when it comes to cuisine. There are so many choices ranging the whole culinary scale, from high end Michelin star restaurants to tiny carts selling street food – or hawker food as it’s known locally. You can even find the best of both worlds in Chinatown, with ‘Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle’ – a Michelin-starred street food vendor.

Our Commercial Manager Callum Buchanan feels that Singaporean food is really something special:

“Whenever I’m telling people about my time in Singapore the very first subject I talk about is the food. You’ll be blown away by the vast array of dining choices; I especially recommend ‘Mod Sin’ cuisine, simply meaning Modern Singaporean.”

4. See the Singapore Grand Prix

Combine your holiday with the Formula 1 racing schedule, and be a part of the brilliant experience that is the Singapore Grand Prix. With most activity taking place during the night, the atmosphere in the streets of Marina Bay is undoubtedly infectious and exciting. Find out more about the Singapore F1 Grand Prix and other F1 cruise holidays.

5. Stroll through stunning and tranquil gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, and is home to hundreds of different species. Visitors will find a spectacular rainforest quarter, the National Orchid Garden, pretty sparkling lakes, and more. Or, Gardens by the Bay offers an altogether more futuristic space, boasting extraordinary features such an aerial walkway, modern sculptures, and technological tree-shaped gardens among others.

Callum rates Singapore very highly as a holiday destination:

“Singapore is such an amazing city full of culture and energy, and I guarantee you’ll leave Singapore richer in life and you’ll be planning your next visit before you have even left!”

Might this be the next destination for you? Find out more about Singapore cruises, and be sure to sign up for our new Asia brochure.


6 Grand Prix To See By Cruise

19th March 2015

Updated October 2017

Have you ever considered combining the glamour and relaxation of a cruise holiday, with the thrill and exhilaration of the Grand Prix?

The Formula One Grand Prix takes place in prestigious cities all around the world, and each circuit is unique to its city - making every race as thrilling and unpredictable as the next. As the season approaches, we take a look at the top 5 Grand Prix destinations that can be incorporated into a unique cruise adventure.

 

Spanish Grand Prix – Barcelona

During the month of May, Barcelona welcomes the F1 at the Circuit du Catalunya, in the town of Montmelo, 12 miles North East of the city centre. The circuit is 4.655km long and usually holds the first European race of the season. The crowds are vibrant and the city is electric during the lead up to the event.

Cruise lines that can take you here include Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.
Mediterranean cruise itineraries can usually be combined with a Barcelona hotel stay before or after your cruise.

Take a look at this Barcelona Grand Prix Cruise

 

Singapore Grand Prix

The Singapore Grand Prix was the first Formula One street circuit in Asia. Taking place at night, the race is dramatic, fast-paced, and challenging. During this time, streets come alive with spectators.

A Singapore cruise will take you around Southeast Asia, or perhaps to or from the Middle East.

Take a look at this Singapore Grand Prix Cruise

 

United Arab Emirates Grand Prix – Abu Dhabi

 

 

A truly luxurious destination with a multi-million dollar custom-built Formula One track, Abu Dhabi has boasted the Yas Marina circuit since 2009. The track is 5.554km long, and holds very few overtaking opportunities - creating an extremely exciting race which takes place from dusk until dark.

Experience modern luxury with Celebrity Cruises during the Formula One season finale.

Take a look at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Cruise

 

United States Grand Prix – Austin, Texas

The only Formula One circuit in the States, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas was established in 2012. It’s 5.513km long and has long straights and high speed sections, delivering a fast paced and exciting race. The circuit is still considered fairly new and so the races are somewhat unpredictable and exciting.

Cruise holidays can be tailor-made with hotel stays and rail transfers in order to make the most of your trip. Carnival Cruise Lines will take you here during the US races.

 

Monaco Grand Prix – Monaco

 

 

The most glamourous and well known, the Monaco Grand Prix is considered one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world - with its circuit being referred to as 'an exceptional location of glamour and prestige'. Established in 1929, the race is held on a narrow course through the streets of Monaco, and is one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One.

The race sees visitors gather from all over the world, including the rich and famous who spectate from their super yachts. 5* luxury all-inclusive cruise line, Azamara Club Cruises sail to Monaco during the F1 season. Read more about the Monaco Grand Prix Cruise.

Italian Grand Prix – Monza

Opened in 1922, The Autodromo Nazionale Monza has a rich and interesting history. It was controversially rebuilt in 1955 with banking of just less than 40 degrees - which equates to a gradient of around 80%. Many deem this aspect of the track to be unsafe, and it even led to British teams boycotting the race in 1960.

This fascinating circuit is fabulously located just north of Milan, close to Lake Como. This makes an F1 cruise to Italy a superb choice, as there are so many alternative options when it comes to how to spend your time either side of the race. Find out more about an Italian Grand Prix Cruise.

 

With so many destinations and itineraries to choose from, we recommend signing up for our F1 Grand Prix brochure, to learn more about how to combine your cruise holiday with the F1 racing schedule.

Find more information on our Grand Prix Cruise Packages, or view our Grand Prix Cruise Deals.


Best Places To Celebrate Chinese New Year

13th February 2015

Also known as Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year celebrates the start of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. This year, it falls at the beginning of February, with vibrant festivals, fairs and parades taking place worldwide. Here, we take a look at the biggest and best Chinese New Year celebrations across the globe!

 

Beijing, China


Must visit:

  • Spring Festival Temple Fairs - A great opportunity to try traditional food, drink and gifts
  • Longtan Fair - For fantastic sporting events with audience participation

Chinese New Year in Beijing

Traditionally, residents of Beijing will begin by enjoying a family dinner at home. For this reason, many restaurants and shops are closed to allow staff the time to visit relatives but after this quieter time, the vibrantly-decorated streets of China come alive with the arrival of numerous firework displays. These displays are thought to chase away evil spirits and last the whole week. Beijing’s temples and parks are buzzing with fairs, carnivals and parades. Circus-style acrobats fill the streets alongside lion and dragon dancers as well as families celebrating alongside.

 

Singapore


Must visit:

  • Chingay Parade – A once-in-a-lifetime experience of Asia’s biggest celebration
  • River Hongbao Celebration – A perfect alternative to the above for those travelling with children

Chinese New Year in Singapore is an event everyone should have on their bucket list. The annual Chingay Parade, Asia’s largest street procession, is a spectacle of music, dancers, lights, acrobats and more, and is a mass celebration of good health, prosperity and luck for the coming year. The River Hongbao celebration is also considered one of the main festivities of Chinese New Year, as well as an ideal family event, with culture and entertainment for all ages. Huge lanterns illuminate the route and depict ancient myths and legends of China, while there are plenty of carnival games and amusement rides to enjoy.

 

Hong Kong


Must visit:

  • Chinese New Year Cup Horserace – An exhilarating experience for keen fans of racing
  • Victoria Harbour fireworks and lights show – This fascinatingly choreographed display is a must-see for all ages

Hong Kong Light Show

With one of the loudest and most lively celebrations of all, Hong Kong brings in lively crowds from all over the world to experince its Chinese New Year celebrations. Combining tradition with modern twists, this region brings exciting parades, spectacular firework and light displays, and hugely popular horse racing. The first three days of Chinese New Year are the primetime to visit Hong Kong to make the most of the celebrations. Visitors are guaranteed to enjoy authentic, delicious street food at the Temple Street night market before watching countless floats, acrobats and dragons dance well into midnight.

 

Penang, Malaysia


Must visit:

  • Kek Lok Si Temple – A stunning illumination of the temple and surrounding area
  • Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta – An incredible sight to behold as many hot air balloons take to the skies over Penang

For traditional Chinese performing arts, Penang, Malaysia is the place to visit. Temples, which are otherwise closed to the public, open their doors to visitors for lion dances and performances. Kek Lok Si Temple in Georgetown lights up with over 200,000 lights around the beginning of Chinese New Year, illuminating the area throughout the night. During the fifteenth night of Lantern Festival, single women and girls throw oranges into the sea in the belief that this will help them find good husbands. They write their contact details on the fruit, and the men scour the water for the oranges in the hope of finding ‘the one’.

 

London, Chinatown


Must visit:

  • Shaftsbury Avenue – For expertly-crafted martial arts, taekwondo and music demonstrations.
  • Leicester Square – The perfect destination for families and kids, with workshops and performances that all ages will enjoy

Lanterns in Chinatown

It’s not always possible to get to the other side of the globe for Chinese New Year. Fortunately, London is renowned for hosting fun, vibrant events for all ages in the city centre, saving you the journey! Boasting one of the biggest and best Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, you can expect inspiring performances, arts and crafts stools and hundreds of bars and restaurants with open doors. Events take place across the West End with Trafalgar Square providing the main stage performances, including a thanksgiving ceremony, dragon and lion dances, Chinese rock hits and so much more.

 

Our top tips:

  • Wherever you choose to celebrate Chinese New Year, remember – it will be very busy! To make your time as stress-free as possible and ensure you get to the events and restaurants you want to visit, try and book ahead.
  • Many restaurants close for the holidays, giving staff time to see their families. In the busiest areas, some may remain open but it’s always a good idea to contact them beforehand and book a table where possible.
  • Not all festivities will require tickets, but arriving to events early will ensure the best vantage point and optimal viewing opportunities.
  • It’s good to keep in mind that fireworks last all week. For very young children, bringing ear-guards allows them to enjoy the stunning displays without the concern of too much noise.
  • If you’re staying with friends or hosts throughout the festivities, bringing a small, modest gift is a great idea! Red, yellow and gold are all symbols of good luck, health and prosperity, while tea, fruit, health foods and healthcare products are widely-enjoyed as gifts for the new year.

Chinese New Year is a celebration of new beginnings, with fun for all the family. Whether you choose to join the festivities in China, Malaysia or at home in the UK, it promises to be an experience to remember for years to come. Combine a stop in Beijing with the gems of Japan, Australia or South Korea, and cross off multiple items on your bucket list – the possibilities are endless! Check out our Asia cruises, or contact one our friendly experts.


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