Singapore makes cruising smooth sailing

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The Mariner of the Seas has only been alongside for a couple of hours, but most of her 3,000 passengers have already sailed through the arrivals halls of one of Asia’s largest cruise terminals and vanished into the city state.

Outside, a downpour has cooled tropical temperatures. Inside, the departures hall is filling with Christmas-clad reservation clerks waiting for the outgoing passengers to board.

The Marina Bay Cruise Centre aims to make the republic the industry’s number-one port of choice in a region with a growing armada of ships and local passengers.

Singapore has already been named Destination of the Year at the eighth Seatrade Insider Cruise Awards last year, which recognises achievements in the global cruise industry.

Designed to look like a series of waves and built for $500 million, it is a short hop from the architecturally iconic Marina Bay Sands. The famed city skyline is clearly visible and is just a couple of stops by underground to the centre of this shopper’s mecca.

Taxis receive extra payments from the centre, and are plentiful.

The terminal is home to the Mariner, which is doing very nicely with three-night cruises to historic beach cities like Penang from just S$368. The Sapphire Princess is also home porting at Marina Bay on its first season, and offering Malaysian four-nighters from S$486.

The 28,000-square-metre terminal — equivalent to about three football fields — is one of the biggest in Asia. It can berth two Mariners at once and take 6,800 passengers at any one time with Singapore’s customary efficiency.

It is run the same management group that handles Changi Airport and the Spanish cruise port operator Creuers del Port de Barcelona S.A.

Azamara, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, and Holland America all use its facilities, which include a luxury VIP lounge.

It offers the region’s first fly-cruise facility. For US$28 you can check your luggage in at the terminal and see some sights while your bags are whisked to the airport (check the terminal’s website for which airlines offer this service, as not all do).

There is a massive car park, so locals can hop on a short cruise knowing their expensive vehicles are under cover close by.

Our verdict: efficient, friendly and completely dedicated to speeding you onto your ship or on your way home with minimum fuss and formality. It’s not a destination – there are just a couple of cafes and a convenience store. But it works.

“Cruise companies want their passengers on-board, not standing around on the shore,” explained a spokesman. “And anyway, we’re close to one of the best shopping cities in the world!”