Singapore’s been a very popular stopover destination for Cantabrians for many years, with the daily Singapore Airlines flight from Christchurch connecting us to Europe via the magnificent Changi Airport; which has to be one of the few large world airports you don’t actually mind spending time in!
However not many of clients actually tend to spend much time in Singapore. Some may enjoy a few hours sleep at the convenient and reasonably priced airport transit hotels, or perhaps take advantage of the excellent value Singapore Stopover Packages for a night or two. It’s especially worth stopping over now the amazing ‘Gardens by the Bay’ botanical gardens complex is open at Marina Bay, but it’s never been widely considered a great family holiday stopover, until now. I heard that Sentosa Island’s recently opened ‘Resort World Sentosa’ was looking to change the perception of Singapore as being a bit, well, bland and austere, and instead attract families looking for some fun!
So we decided to try Sentosa out for ourselves – it’s an island connected to the southern side of Singapore’s mainland by a bridge – there’s also a monorail connection, and by the famous and somewhat vertigo-inducing cable car! We stayed at the Festive Hotel, where the rooms are designed to accommodate 2 adults and 2 children – not always a guaranteed in Singapore’s hotels, and built to service the newly opened Resorts World. The star attractions of RW are Universal Studios, the Adventure Cove Waterpark and the huge SE Asia Aquarium, reputedly the world’s largest!
Well, after 4 action-packed days, I can highly recommend Sentosa as a great family holiday destination – as you might imagine from Singapore, it’s certainly not a ‘bargain’ Asian destination like Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka or Vietnam, but incredibly well designed in that the entire island appears to be connected seamlessly by road and monorail, with excellent signage, making it an easy ‘one stop shop’ for family fun!
The big attractions mentioned above all delivered – our kids loved the giant lazy river through the waterpark that takes swimmers right though the aquarium full of tropical fish, and the hydroslides were a big hit of course. The Aquarium has real ‘wow’ factor and is worth a day in itself and Universal Studios was good fun – we especially enjoyed the Jurassic Park themed rides – and didn’t appear to suffer from the big queues that can sometimes detract, but it was certainly advisable to visit all of these attractions on a weekday rather than the weekends, when local Singaporeans flocked in.
Outside of the Resorts World itself, there’s an awful lot to do on Sentosa. We tried the beaches – imported sand and a rather offputting view of huge tankers offshore, but rather cute and well seviced by restaurants, bars and evening entertainment. We rode the impressive Luge (set up of course by Kiwis!), marvelled at the amazing ‘iFly’ indoor skydiving facility and decided that next time we’ll visit the huge ‘MegaZip’ Adventure Park. We met a few other families from Australia and NZ who had dedicated their entire holiday to the attractions now available on the Island and were having a ball.
Interestingly, the majority of tourists to Sentosa appeared to be locals, or from nearby Malaysia, and there were certainly plenty of willing gamblers ready to try their luck at the recently opened Casino, so Western tourists are still in the minority, which was reflected in the dining options, but the Resort is still in its infancy, and I imagine will only become more popular with Kiwis once they realise it’s so accessible from Changi!