Where peoples meet
Singapore is a great port of call when you’re travelling with MSC Cruises.
Each of the original ethnic enclaves of Singapore boasts a fair amount of period architecture in the form of neatly restored shophouses, and retains its own distinct flavour: Little India has its garland-sellers and curry houses, Chinatown its calligraphers and fortune-tellers, while Arab Street is home to cluttered stores selling fine cloths and curios. Right at the core of downtown Singapore are historic public buildings and the lofty cathedral of the Colonial District.
Old Singapore is looking better than ever thanks to belated conservation work, and that historical emphasis carries over into a clutch of fine museums – including the National Museum, recounting Singapore’s story from the fourteenth century onwards; the Chinatown Heritage Centre, evoking the harsh conditions endured by Chinatown’s earlier inhabitants; and the Peranakan Museum and Baba House, which celebrate Singapore’s Baba-Nonya heritage, just as important as that of Melaka and Penang.
<> />MSC Grand Voyages cruises also offer excursions to Singapore Zoo. On a promontory jutting into the peaceful Seletar Reservoir, off the Bukit Timah Expressway, it has an “open” philosophy, preferring to confine animals in naturalistic enclosures behind moats, though creatures such as big cats still have to be caged. Animal and feeding shows run throughout the day, including the excellent Splash Safari, featuring penguins, manatees and sea lions. Thirty years of rampant development have transformed another cruise excursion, Sentosa – whose name ironically means “tranquil” in Malay – into the most built-up of Singapore’s southern islands.
Contrived but enjoyable in parts, Sentosa is a hybrid of so-so resort island and out-of-town theme park, promoted for its rides, passable beaches and the massive new casino resort on its northern shore, which also features a Universal Studiostheme park and a maritime museum.