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The best Singapore boat charters
Singapore's waters aren't just for tankers. Yacht cruises and island hopping are all part of the sailing scene
Singapore is one of the busiest container ports in the world.
With so many mega-vessels cruising through the Singapore Straits, sailing excursions out of the city may seem an unlikely diversion.
Local operators run party boats, motor cruisers, sailing vessels and super yachts to plenty of destinations in the region.
Before you book, experts say it's key to pay close attention to the small print.
“My advice is never book a yacht that has advertised their services through daily deals sites," says Jayden Ng, head of sales at Marine Bookings, the largest yacht charter management firm in Singapore.
"What happens on a trip like that is that you get a transfer instead of a charter, and the experience just isn't there."
One of the most popular Singapore boat charter options available with Marine Bookings is a four-hour cruise, which starts from SG$800 ($630) for up to 10 guests.
Marine Bookings can customize the marine experience to include local fish farm ("kelong") visits, or organize add-on water activities such as wind surfing, wake boarding and inflatable rides.
Here are other boating options available out of Singapore.
Two-hour sunset cruise
A few Singapore companies offer sunset cruises, including Lloyd Marine, which provides free-flow bubbly, aperitifs and canapes from 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays aboard one of its catamarans based out of Marina at Keppel Bay.
There's a 12-guest minimum, starting from SG$160 ($125) per head. The sunset cruises revolve around city lights and harbor views, plus you get to see the Sentosa Island Sounds of the Sea fireworks from the water.
Private parties of 18 can charter a catamaran from Lloyd for two hours for SG$970 ($761), exclusive of food and drink, which is catered through the same company.
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Yachts –- flashy ones –- make headlines with their multi-million-dollar price tags. But luxury yachting doesn't have to be only for the rich.
"A majority of our cruises are four hours long and this can range from SG$950 to SG$1,200 ($748 to $945) for 10 to 20 guests on board a luxury catamaran, which is about SG$60 to SG$95 per person," says Steven Weeks, owner of Lifestyle Adventures Asia.
The Southern Islands are a good place to start.
Kusu, Lazarus, St. John's and Two Sisters' Islands are all nearby, just a few kilometers from Sentosa. Yachties can swim in lagoons, stroll on beaches and kayak straight from the yacht.
Kusu (aka Tortoise Island) is home to Malay religious shrines plus a Chinese temple, Da Bo Gong, where guests can pray for health, wealth and other good stuff.
For a more zen-like sail, you can head the other way. A circumnavigation cruise around Pulau Ubin just off the northwest coast of Singapore takes four hours.
Derek Mazzone, owner and skipper of Yacht Ventures, suggests a sail through the mangroves between Pulau Ketam and Pulau Ubin.
A half-day charter on his two-masted ketch comes at a flat fee of SG$400 ($313), plus SG$20 ($16) per person.
If you don't mind having your ear bent for a bit, ask the captain about Martin Heidegger's essay on motor boating versus sailing.
You've got a day to kill. You already memorized the layout of Orchard Road, did all the Marina Bay stuff and ate your weight in hawker center fare.
If you're traveling in a group, Yacht Long Ranger offers day trips for up to 37 guests aboard a 90-foot trimaran.
"Within Singapore waters, she's the most apt party boat, suitable for people who want to have fun," says Kiran Sujanani, head of operations.
In this case, fun comes in the form of "boom netting" in the sheltered waters off St. John's (you're dragged along the water in a net, not unlike being in a Jacuzzi in the high seas), kayaking in the bay off Lazarus, lounging on the beach and enjoying a sunset barbecue.
After dinner, tables are cleared to make way for a dance floor, where you can dance to your own iPod playlist piped through the on-deck sound system.
A full day (11 a.m. to midnight) on Yacht Long Ranger will set you back from SG$5,250 ($4,119), exclusive of food and drinks.
If you've got more than a day to spare, you can cross borders and spend a night in Indonesia or Malaysia.
Yacht Ventures offers an overnight sail to Sebana Cove in Johor, Malaysia.
The trip leaves Singapore's Changi Sailing Club at 10 a.m. and returns at 6 p.m. the following day. The cost, including berthing and immigration but excluding accommodation (either on the boat or onshore) and food, is SG$1,400 ($1,098) plus SG$40 ($31) per person with a max of 10 guests.
Another popular itinerary is a voyage to Indonesia's Riau archipelago. Aqua Voyage offers an overnight trip to Nongsa (Batam island) and Lagoi Bay (Bintan island), embarking from One°15 Marina at 10 a.m., returning at 6 p.m. the following day.
The first day is mainly spent cruising. Day two includes time for snorkeling, fishing and beach activities in Lagoi Bay.
The package costs SG$9,800+ ($7,712+) for a maximum of six guests, including a night on the boat. Lunch and dinner on day one at Nongsa Point Marina or Montigo Resorts are included in the rates, as is breakfast and light lunch on day two, served aboard the yacht.
The price also includes all the beer and soft beverages you can consume, light snacks, fishing equipment and onboard water sports facilities, plus two butlers who are on hand for the duration of the voyage.
Extended weekend cruise
Nikoi island (off Bintan, Indonesia) and the Malaysian island of Tioman are popular cruising destinations, both best visited on a weekened trip.
After Bali, Bintan is probably the best-known resort island in Indonesia and easily reachable from Singapore.
Lloyd Marine offers a two-night itinerary to the island that departs at 9 a.m. on day one, returning to Singapore at 9 p.m. on day three.
After dropping anchor, guests enjoy water sports or head ashore for spa treatments and golf before returning for a sunset barbecue onboard or hitting up one of the island's restaurants.
The cost is SG$6,900 ($5,430) for up to eight guests, excluding food and drink, mooring costs and visas on arrival, if needed.
Aqua Voyage also offers a three-day/two-night itinerary combining Nongsa and Nikoi for SG$16,000+ ($12,591+) for six guests, inclusive of all meals, unlimited beer and usage of onboard amenities.
A similar trip to Tioman is priced at SG$20,000+ ($15,739+), inclusive of all but the final dinner.
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Adventure weekend cruise
For pirate fantasists or seafaring adventurers, Yacht Long Ranger offers a three-day/two-night jaunt to the Malaysian island of Pulau Aur.
This can be crammed into an overnighter, but Kiran suggests three days to allow time to enjoy the island (it's a 12-hour trip one way).
In addition to kayaking, snorkeling, lazing on the beach and boom netting, guests can hike up a 34-meter rock for views of the Malaysian mainland and surrounding islands.
Abseiling is also possible, with slopes of varying degrees, ranging from novice to overhang.
The average 24-hour overnight charter is SG$5,950 ($4,682) for up to 18 guests, excluding meals.
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