Singapore (& Embarkation)

28 December 2016:  Singapore, Singapore
We arrived in Singapore a little later than scheduled (due to a delay in Helsinki) and the immigration process was a wee bit slow due to a family with improper documentation that was ahead of us, however! all in all, we arrived within an hour of our scheduled time.

Our driver “Lee” of “Avenue Link Transport” was patiently waiting for us in the Arrivals time. He pointed us out to the “Mini Bus” pick up point and we made our way towards the meeting point, as he went to retrieve the van from the parking lot. The area was uncrowded and easy to find. Lee loaded our luggage easily into his large van with plenty of room to spare. We were soon off to find our hotel in Chinatown. The transport was relatively short – we were at our hotel within the half hour and we were greeted with smiles at “The Club”.

The Club is a renovated Chinatown shophouse and it is quite modern and chic. The standard room is quite large and comfortable. It comes with a Nespresso machine and a complimentary minibar that is stocked with juices, soda pop, and water. However, the best feature is the bed! I never thought I would say the bed would be the center piece of any room, as usually beds and my back have issues! too soft, too hard, too lumpy, etc., – but the Club uses the famed “Hypnos” brand and WOW!!!! an incredible bed / mattress system that delivered exceptional comfort for the five nights that we stayed.

The Club does have multiple restaurants and bars and the street itself is known to shut down to vehicular traffic on Fri / Sat evenings for “clubbing” on the weekends, so the streets can become a little noisy. The easy fix to this is to ask for a room in the back, which we did as suggested by reviews on Trip Advisor and sure enough, we had a sound sleep for our five nights including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!

Breakfast (included!) at the Club

The staff were all extremely helpful and went out of their way to ensure we had an excellent stay. We would most definitely consider staying at the Club again, if we were to return to Singapore. It is centrally located, just outside the heart of Chinatown and is conveniently located near three (3) MRT stations.

Local shophouses around the Hotel

29 December 2016:  Chinatown
As we were residing in Chinatown for five nights, we took our leisurely time exploring the area.  Highlights that were in close walking distance from The Club, included:

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple:
One of our favourite sites in Singapore.  Absolute beauty from outside and from within.  Put aside 2-3 hours and visit each floor!  

Sri Mariamman Temple:
This gorgeous, intricate temple dates back to 1827 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.  You can view beautiful sculptures and ornaments from outside the temple, or if you are willing to take off your shoes (we did!); you can enter the temple and view more from within.   Don’t worry!  your shoes will still be there when you come back outside 🙂

Take off your shoes outside, and then enter the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore

Chinatown & her Street Markets:
No trip to Singapore is complete, without a visit to the large ethnic enclave of Chinatown and her street markets.  You can easily get mentally lost in her streets, but physically – very easy to navigate!
Rows of shophouses adorn the streets of Chinatown.  For more on the historical significance of shophouses – visit this link:  
The Shophouse

Typical Chinatown “Shophouse”

Set aside a good day, or at least half a day to explore the street markets of Chinatown.  Looking for souvenirs to bring home?  THIS is the spot … pick up not so cheap looking items for cheap prices!!!  

There are many other items other than souvenirs that you may find in Chinatown as well!  The streets have a myriad of market stands that offers something for everyone!

There is also a main street full of food vendor stands where you can grab a quick bite to eat:

We opted for a vegetarian restaurant, “Ci Yan” that we found on Trip Advisor – it is a small restaurant in the heart of Chinatown with very good local cuisine that changes on a daily basis.

We really enjoyed our leisure time exploring the streets of Chinatown.  As everywhere else in Singapore, we felt safe at all times during the day and at night.  We were really happy to have a hotel within the area as we were only a 5-7 minute walk away from the bustling streets of such a diverse and interesting cultural area.

in the heart of Chinatown

30 & 31st December 2016:  Birding Singapore
Visit our sister site to read about our birding adventure!  We spent two glorious days with our guide, Kim who took us all over the island and off the island! as we explored different ecosystems searching for birds 🙂

and we saw more than just birds!

31 December 2016:  New Year’s Eve Celebrations

After another amazing day of birding with our guide, Kim – we had a very good rest at our boutique hotel. We then went to Chinatown to have dinner at “Eight Treasures” vegetarian restaurant. The main restaurant was full to capacity, but we were able to dine in her sister salad bar restaurant on the ground level, but order from the Eight Treasures menu. It was an excellent dinner and I would highly recommend Eight Treasures for veggies and non-veggies, alike!

Following dinner, we made our way towards the downtown core to meet our fellow Canadian cruisers, Steffany, Bernie, & Sabrina for a coffee at the “Central Perk” which is a cute restaurant mimicking the cafe portrayed in the hit series, “Friends”. We all enjoyed the atmosphere before we proceeded towards the Bay to find the Singapore Flyer.

MTR ride to the Bay area with our new Cruise Critic friends from Montreal.

We had pre-purchased “Champagne Flight” tickets on the Flyer for New Year’s Eve and when we arrived at the site, we discovered several people had the same idea! We were told there would only be 2-3 capsules in use for the premium flight, but in fact they sold 6 capsules – from 2 to 26 people per capsule. We were wondering where we would fit in within the order of capsules and we lucked out! we were right in the middle and ended up being first in line to enter our capsule. Our small group of five seeked out a corner in the capsule facing the Marina Bay area where the fireworks would be displayed. We were greeted inside the capsule with a glass of champagne each and loads of chocolate 🙂

After all the capsules were loaded, the rotation went very slow and the personnel timed it perfectly such that all the capsules were in good position for when the fireworks began. Our capsule being in the middle was just coming over the top as the fireworks were underway. It was an amazing view of the fireworks and a great way to bring in 2017.

After the show, “thousands” of people were leaving the Marina Bay Sands area to get back to their respective residences.  I have to say, Singapore Rocks!  when it comes to crowd control – they are amazing at “controlled chaos”.   Pedestrians and traffic were efficiently directed out of the area in a very civil, controlled, and calm manner.  We arrived at the MTR station and within the station itself, it was very controlled and the mega-traffic directed appropriately.   We felt safe at all times and were impressed with the speed and efficiency that the Singapore Crowd Control task force were able to handle the large numbers of people after such a significant event.

Riding the MTR back to Chinatown, after the Fireworks Event at Marina Bay

01 January 2017:  Fort Canning Park & Club 55 (Marina Bay Sands)

Clark Quay (opposite Fort Canning Park) – where you can take boat rides on the river

Today, we ventured to Fort Canning Park – “one stop” away from the Chinatown MTR. Fort Canning Park is a large park near the Clark Quay MTR that abounds in history in which Malay royalty once ruled, where the British surrendered to invading Japanese during the World War II, and in modern times, where the world’s biggest music acts have played.

We chose to explore Fort Canning Park at a leisurely pace following two intense days of birding. We slowly walked the well groomed pathways and observed birds along the way as we seeked the shady pathways from the hot Singapore sunshine. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring this busy, but relaxing park in the heart of the city.

We arrived back at our hotel just prior to a Monsoon rainstorm that engulfed the city. We refreshed ourselves and waited out the storm until it subsided to a level where it was safe to walk with an umbrella (lightening subsiding). We then proceeded to “Whole Earth” vegetarian restaurant which was only a 5-minute walk away from our hotel to meet fellow cruise critic roll call guests and fellow Canadians, Stefanny, Bernie, and Sabrina. Anthony & I shared a lovely vegetarian meal with Stefanny & Sabrina and then Bernie joined us afterwards. Then, as a group we took the very efficient MTR to the downtown core where we walked a short distance to the Marina Sands hotel. Our initial plan was to watch “Wonderfull” – the light and fountain show which is held nightly at the event plaza – but we were sadly rained out! We deviated from the plan and proceeded to “Adrift” within the Marina Bay Sands towers where we would meet other cruise critic guests before taking the lift up to “Club 55“. Club 55 is by reservation only and is located on the 55th deck of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Each evening they feature a “Cheese & Chocolate” Buffet for 48 SGD (24 for children) that includes coffee, water, or tea. The view was spectacular, but what we even more rewarding was meeting several of the roll call guests that we have chatted with over the summer months.

After having a very rich buffet (I’m not even sure where I stuffed it after the large dinner we had at Whole Earth)! we returned via MTR to Chinatown and crawled into bed, to have a good night’s rest before embarkation day.

02 January 2017:   Embarkation & The Millennium

We were picked up promptly by our pre-arranged transport (Avenue Link) and arrived at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in very good time (less than 30 minutes). Embarkation was not until 11:30 am, but there was already a good crowd within the centre for both the Celebrity Millennium and the Royal Caribbean ship that was also berthed. We dropped off our tagged luggage and then proceeded to the security lines.

After going through the first security leg, we went to the celebrity priority check-in desks. With express pass in hand, it is usually a fast service, however, there were no keys ready and we were to wait a good time before that was sorted out. There was no regular “suite package folder” that we have always received, but we didn’t question it as we felt lucky just to get a set of sea pass cards. We then proceeded to immigration (one by one – not by family) and then after immigration, we embarked the Millennium and went through the ship’s security lines. As we embarked, there was no “meet and greet” and escort to the Michael’s Lounge, which we have also always experienced in the past. Thankfully, this was our 4th suite experience and we knew the drill – i.e., go to Michael’s, check-in with the MCC, and then proceed to Luminae for embarkation lunch. I thought to myself, if I were a first-time suite guest, I would have been completely lost and would have also missed out on the “suite experience” on embarkation day.

Upon boarding the ship, I noticed that our sea-pass cards did not have our “Package” printed upon them, so we went to the Guest Relations desk immediately to have the “PALL” code imprinted, as without it – we would have all beverages charged to our room :(We also noticed that we were not given any internet voucher codes (also usually provided in the brochure welcome packet) and Guest Relations sorted that out by printing out voucher codes for us. Again, if you were a first-time cruiser and/or suite guest, these small but very important details would most likely not have been noticed until much later on (if at all). After straightening out these oversights, we proceeded to Michael’s.

When we arrived at Michael’s, we met our MCC, Lucy and had a short introduction. We informed her we were vegetarians (for the afternoon nibblies) and at that time she informed us that Celebrity has redirected that service to Michael’s Lounge at 3 pm daily. Truth be told, it felt more of another cutback by Celebrity rather than a redirect. We expressed our interest in any private tours that the MCC might have arranged (e.g., bridge, engine, or galley tours) and we were offered a 3-4 hour ship tour for $149 USD per couple. We politely declined and asked to be informed if there were any small group tours of individual areas (for no charge, as we have previously experienced on board the Constellation).

Michael’s Lounge (Suite & Zenith Guests)

We also informed Lucy of our visit to Guest Relations to sort out that our GO BEST package was overlooked and we had to straighten everything out. She asked if we had received the “suite brochure packet with welcome letter” and we responded that no, in fact we had not. She kindly apologized and said that it would be delivered to our room later that day (note – that was January 2nd and it is now January 4th, with no packet or welcome letter delivered).

After our introductions, we proceeded to Luminae for lunch and were pleasantly surprised to find “Nevin”, a waiter that we had in Luminae on board the Equinox in July 2015. The Maitre’D noticing that Nevin had served us on a previous cruise, assigned us to his table. We were happy with this, considering all the morning mishaps. After lunch, around 1:30 pm, the announcement came on that our rooms were ready. We had purchased a Suite Guarantee for this cruise and had been assigned Suite 8125 – an accessible Sky Suite. It was located mid-ship, beside the elevators and off the “Library” which is now used by a Concierge Desk. We were worried about the privacy and noise from the elevators, but were pleasantly surprised that it was a complete non-event.

Suite 8125 [M-Class]
We settled into our room and I began the “wish list” for when we would meet our butler (standard wish list that would enhance our stay). We noticed that the minibar had very few items within it, so wanted to make sure we were not charged for any missing items. In addition, usual welcome letters, “who’s on board” list, and the complimentary celebrity bag was missing. Later that afternoon we met our butler, “Sebastian Fernandes” and our stateroom steward, “Peter”. Sebastian explained that the mini bar was a complete inventory and that they no longer stock it fully. He also explained that the tote bag is now given out on the first evening chic night, not on embarkation day. I then requested that it be delivered when he could, as I would like to use it poolside and not wait a couple of days for it. Sebastian was most accommodating and provided the bag straight away, as well as an extra cardholder for us. He also was very accommodating to arrange afternoon vegetarian nibblies for us at 5 pm each day (versus the 3 pm Michael’s afternoon tea).

Now, from writing the above, please understand we are fans of Celebrity and sail Suite class with them and will likely continue to do so. However, this “makeover” or “cuts” is rather a shocker as it is a 180 of what we are used to. It raises flags of how much more Celebrity will change (or cut back) in the future and we will keep our finger on the pulse, as if it continues in that direction, will begin looking at the Celebrity sister company, “Azamara” which might provide us the service we were used to on board the Celebrity ships.

In summation, embarkation day was interesting and a slight disappointment to the stellar voyages we had on board the Constellation in May and October 2016. Anthony keeps on telling me not to compare the two, but I am the one who writes honest, to the point reviews, to assist and inform others of what is happening “in the moment”. Currently, there is no comparison – the Constellation’s crew and staff motivated us to keep on cruising.

03 January 2017:  Singapore Botanic Gardens & Sail-Away!

This morning a small group (5) of us ventured off to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the “Singapore Botanic Gardens”. The gardens are in easy reach via the MTR system, but we decided to hire Lee of “Avenue Link Transport” to pick us up directly from the cruise ship centre. Lee was there to meet and greet us, in fact, he found us vs. us finding him. It was less than a 30 minute drive to the Gardens and Lee dropped us off at the gate near the Orchid Garden. We split off into two smaller groups and agreed to meet back at the same spot by 1:30 pm (with Lee scheduled to pick us up by 2 pm). All aboard was announced to be by 2:30 pm, but we confirmed with staff on board that we could technically come back as late as 4:30 ish (as some of the Celebrity excursions wouldn’t be back by then); but as the ship had to collect all passports for the immigration officials, they had posted the time of 2:30 pm.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens was founded in 1859, following the initial botanic garden at Fort Canning (1822) by Sir Stamford Raffles. Since 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens boasts 82-Hectares of beautifully groomed grounds and varying landscapes (rainforest to orchids, for example) and over 150 years of history. The Gardens were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) on 4 July 2015. The Gardens is the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s
World Heritage List.

We explored the gardens at a leisurely pace, enjoying the carefully groomed landscaping, majestic trees, gorgeous flowers, and small lakes and ponds abounding with life of its own. We finally rested at a gazebo overlooking the Eco Lake, just in time, as a monsoon rain soon came upon us. We waited out the rain before heading back towards the Orchid Garden. We saw much wildlife along the way, but as birders found the Eco Lake a haven. From a stork-billed kingfisher, to white-breasted waterhens, to the migrant blue-tailed bee-eater – we were treated with a lovely selection of birds in one small area.

We would highly recommend to anyone visiting Singapore to visit the Botanic Gardens, a very natural and tranquil setting for a leisurely day with easy walking trails through varying botanical treasures.

Our group of five reconvened at the Orchid Garden for 1:30 and to our delight, Lee, our driver was also there to greet us early.. We decided to leave a half hour early, given the opportunity. Upon boarding the van, Lee presented to each of us a nicely chilled bottle of water. How thoughtful!

We arrived back to port just prior to 2 pm and in plenty of time to go through immigration and board the Millennium.

Singapore – view from the Millennium

Our roll call from Cruise Critic gathered at the Oceanview Bar (Deck 10 – Aft) and enjoyed an informal “meet and greet”, shared a few drinks, and enjoyed the view as we sailed away into the sunset from the marvellous country/island of Singapore!

To view our entire photo gallery from Singapore, please visit our on line photo gallery at:
Singapore Photo Gallery