Singapore’s “Fantasy Island”

Published: Travel Digest – February 2015

Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa has it all: from spectacular light shows to adrenalin-packed rollercoasters; from fun-filled water parks to luxury shopping.  As Debbie Griffiths writes, once you get there it’s hard to leave.

It’s the odd sight of a fairytale castle that gives the first clue that we’re nearing Sentosa Island. The massive statue of a mythical Merlion confirms it. We’ve just entered the delightful, perfectly designed, multi-award winning Resorts World Sentosa and our kids’ jaws have dropped. It’s easy to see why the destination’s taken the title of Best Integrated Resort at the TTG Travel Awards for the last four years.

On this 49 hectare peninsula south of Singpore’s CBD, almost 7-Billion dollars has been spent constructing a collection of six hotels that have more than 1500 rooms. The accommodation is cleverly integrated with a range of attractions that have some impressive boasts. It’s here that you’ll find Southeast Asia’s only Universal Studios, one of the world’s biggest aquariums and Singapore’s largest destination spa. Resorts World Sentosa began opening in phases from January 2010 and fully opened in December 2012. In the first three years of operation, the mega resort hosted a staggering 45 million visitors. About forty percent are locals while the majority of the overseas visitors are from Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan and India. A growing number of travellers are now making their way from Australia and New Zealand.

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What to do:

Ride the Movies – Universal Studios theme park on Sentosa has entertained more than 15 million visitors since it opened almost five years ago. It’s split into seven themed zones – Madagascar, Far Far Away, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, The Lost World, New York and Hollywood. You’ll be blown away by the attention to detail in the design of the buildings, the huge container ship and the dinosaurs that delighted the kids. My favourites were the Shrek 4-D attraction, the WaterWorld live stunt show and the tornado film set experience. The kids loved meeting their favourite movie characters, flying their own pterosaur and the Elmo spaghetti rocket ride. My thrillseeker husband described TRANSFORMERS The Ride and Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure as “awesome”. The Universal Express pass adds about $30 to the entry price but, in my opinion, is well worth it to cut to the front of queues.

Bright Lights – If you miss out on the fireworks at Universal Studios, there are plenty more to catch. There’s a free 15-minute musical extravaganza that combines fire, water and light in a breathtaking show every night at 9.30pm at the Lake of Dreams on Festive Walk. It’s an easy wander from the nightly 9pm Crane Dance on the waterfront that features the world’s largest pair of animatronic cranes, massive water fountains, spectacular lights and fireworks at the finale. It had the kids entranced and then buzzing.

Splash City – The pools at the hotels are amazing but Adventure Cove Waterpark takes the fun to another level. Take togs, a towel and some money and spend the entire day there. The wave pool is great fun and there are waterslides to suit everyone’s idea of fun including Southeast Asia’s first hydro-magnetic coaster. After lunch at the cafe (where everyone sits around in their togs) we did the confidence course and snorkelled along a reef in a tank with 20,000 fish. One of the highlights was floating on a tube down Lazy River through a cave, past the ray tank and through a glass tunnel where we were surrounded by fish.

Fin-tastic – Speaking of fish, you really do need to visit the S.E.A Aquarium. It has one of the world’s largest aquariums and not only offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with sharks, rays and dolphins, it’s also an extraordinary learning experience for the kids. When we visited, they were doing a “find the fish” style treasure hunt and the kids collected stamps on their maps, a hammerhead shark hat and lollies as they answered questions. The discovery touch pool offers the chance to feel sea life, divers give talks from inside the massive tank and the jellies lit by coloured lights was amazing.

Bird’s Eye View – The Tiger Sky Tower or the Singapore Cable Car give amazing views, but we were captivated by the Sentosa Merlion. The mythical beast is said to guard the prosperity of Singapore and Sentosa’s statue is the largest. At 37 metres tall it provided an amazing panoramic view over the Singapore Strait and back over the city as well.

Shop ‘til you Drop – Check out the luxury brands in the mall that links the Festive Hotel to Festive Walk. We’re talking Jimmy Choo and Bally shoes and jewellery by Bulgari and Swarovski. Versace has the distinctive Haute Couture and Pret-a-Porter ranges and there’s the glamorous lingerie of Victoria’s Secret.

Food glorious food – From Michelin-star dining to authentic Malaysian hawker street fare, Resorts World Sentosa has every style from around the world. Try Ruyi for fast, great value Chinese food. The Hard Rock Cafe lives up to its worldwide fame of generous potions, great cocktails and entertaining servers and Palio in Hotel Michael had an Italian style menu. We loved that iced Milo is offered in most restaurants.

Where to Stay

I was looking for family-friendly accommodation and the Festive Hotel’s contemporary and colourful design didn’t disappoint. Our room had a queen bed, a fold-out couch and a cool bunk that was safe and exciting for our six year-old. The hotel has a hair salon and was about to open a restaurant near the lobby. The pools were great – towels are provided and there are outdoor ‘cabanas’ where you can escape the sun if needed. We also spent a lot of time at the neighbouring Hard Rock Hotel. It has a cool, moody-musician vibe which stays true to the international brand. We had lovely buffet breakfasts there in the Starz Restaurant and the kids loved the beach pool and water slide. We ordered lunch beside the pool on the first day and thoroughly enjoyed it. Easily accessible via that high class shopping arcade is the ultra-luxurious Crockfords Tower. It’s an all-suite hotel with 24-hour butler service. Rooms have lavish touches such as a mirror that doubles as a TV screen and a personal steam room. Next door, Hotel Michael is named after the renowned American architect who designed it – Michael Graves. It’s the only one of its kind in the world and its style is sleek – yet with the whimsical flair that’s typical of the award-winning designer. The Equarius Hotel backs onto a pristine forest and has a more tropical, laid-back feeling. It’s described as an idyllic getaway for nature-lovers or couples looking for a tranquil resort stay. The hotel is home to Forest – the restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Sam Leong. Lastly, the Beach Villas offer a number of options for travellers. You can choose to sleep amongst the treetops in loft units, under the sea in the Ocean Suites or in rooms that overlook the harbour and Labrador Park.

Resorts World Sentosa provides you with all you need for an amazing family holiday. Forget having to catch a bus, train or taxi to attractions with hot, tired children in tow. Singapore’s mega-resort has the entertainment, food and accommodation all within easy reach.

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