Start with a river cruise from Clarke Quay in downtown Singapore. Hop aboard a modern amphibious boat that takes you around the city via road and river so you can stay in your seat whether you’re on land or on the water.
Or sail back in time on one of the many old-world boat replicas, which chug up and down the Singapore River past the wharves and warehouses that once housed the country’s grains, spices, silks, and satins. Today these refurbished sites are home to the trendiest offices, bars, and restaurants. But you can still catch a glimpse of the island’s history in a worn-down junk decorated with painted eyes on the side, and dangling with Chinese lanterns or Christmas lights, depending on the season.
Once you’re on the water, you’ll have a panoramic view of the country’s oldest colonial buildings and sites nestled among the powerhouses of Singapore’s financial centre. Dive into a chat with the captain and you just might discover why Singapore’s Cavenagh Bridge still has warning signs that were posted by the Police Chief in 1910.
Perhaps the most significant site of the Singapore River cruise is the statue of Singapore’s colonial founder, Sir Stamford Raffles. A statue marks the site where he was rumoured to have first stepped foot on Singapore in 1819, which was at the time a tiny fishing village. Recognising the trade advantages offered by Singapore's port and waterways, Raffles established a British settlement on the island.
The cruise continues past the relatively narrow strip of the river, past the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, before opening out into Marina Bay, where you won’t miss Singapore’s most iconic symbol — the Merlion. Part lion, part fish, the mythical creature is an emblem of the country.
If you’re on an evening cruise, you’ll likely catch Wonder Full, the Marina Bay Sands laser display and light show. Wonder Full plays twice nightly at 8pm and 10pm and never fails to draw a crowd along the Waterfront Promenade, but seeing the spectacle from the river will give you unique angles for some memorable photos - so don't forget to bring your camera!
Singapore also offers a unique indoor cruise experience with sampan rides inside Marina Bay Sands. A sampan is a flat-bottomed boat and native to the South East Asia region. Traditionally, sampans are elaborately decorated and propelled by a single boatman who uses a pole rather than oars.
A popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, the indoor sampan cruise traverses the resort along the canal by The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. A boatman punts the sampan and its passengers along the indoor water ways past the Rain Oculus that gathers and pours out 22,000 litres of water per minute, a major component in the resort’s sustainability efforts.