Now that Singapore has so successfully reinvented itself as a switched on "must-see" Asian city, that nation's focus has turned to becoming a leading Asian hub for international cruise ships.
The state-of-the-art International Cruise Terminal, only minutes from the buzzy downtown area, is a glorious backdrop for any cruise ship's arrival.The new terminal on Marina Bay has berths on either side of a roomy finger pier and will become an important gateway to Singapore with facilities to accommodate the world's biggest cruise ships from companies such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
One of the first mega-liners to use the new terminal is Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas which spends summer in Australasian waters from November this year.
Voyager of the Seas carries 3000 passengers and is the biggest cruise ship to home-port in Australia. An ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall, basketball court, mini-golf course, and promenade deck for street theatre, dancing, and duty-free shopping are among its attractions.
Singapore will be home base for Voyager of the Seas' short cruises to Malaysia and Thailand, before longer Asian cruises. It then cruises from Singapore to Australia via Thailand and Vietnam on October 22, calling into Port Hedland before arriving at Fremantle on November 5.
Singapore's new cruise terminal is close to the huge Marina Bay Sands Resort which is fast becoming a symbol of Singapore with its dramatic sky park and infinity pool that stretches, cantilever fashion, across three accommodation towers. Close by is the Singapore Flyer, a giant revolving wheel that offers an expansive view of the city.The new terminal is a timely construction as Asia expects huge growth in the cruise industry in coming decades as the worldwide cruise boom continues. At present only 10 per cent of the world's cruise ships include Asian ports on their itineraries.
Singapore's confidence in the terminal comes as new figures show that a record 13.2 million international visitors arrived in the island state last year by air, land and sea, representing a 13 per cent increase on the previous year.
Visitors from Australia rose nine per cent in 2011 to 956,000 visitors, with signs of even greater growth this year.
Western Australians are continuing their love affair with Asia, seen as a familiar backyard, and are likely to be among the first cruise aficionados to make use of the Singapore terminal for cruises back to Australia, as well as using the city as a departure port for cruises further afield.
In December, Silver Shadow will sail on a 15-day cruise from Singapore to Australia via Bali, spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at sea, and arriving in Darwin on Boxing Day. Seabourn Odyssey will also sail from Singapore to Australia in mid-December with port calls in Indonesia and Komodo Island, which is home to the world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be celebrated at sea, and Seabourn Odyssey will arrive in Darwin on Boxing Day.
Athena, so well known to West Australians after several years based in Fremantle over summer seasons Down Under, will return to WA from Marseilles in France, with a visit to Singapore's new port before docking here on December 18 for the start of her summer season in Australia.
&bul; See www.singaporecruise.com.sg .There's more on itineraries from Singapore in our Cruising Guide in _Travel _ in The Weekend West.