In some respects, I like the Singapore Air schedule to Singapore better than United's. Since it's a late departure, I don't have to take a day off just to fly out. And it gets in at a decent hour (around noon local time) instead of midnight. And the return is a late afternoon departure with an early evening arrival. The outbound works well for adjusting to Singapore time. But the return is not well-timed to be adjusted to Pacific time because you're kind of ready to sleep after departure, but you should be staying awake because it's really a day-long trip to arrive in the evening on the West Coast.
I arrived for my SFO departure with enough time to enjoy the Singapore Air Lounge experience, which I had not had the opportunity in many years. It was comparable to the United International First Class Lounge in terms of ambiance, but has slightly better food.
When departure time approached, I started the long trek to the other end of the gate area for boarding. First and Business Class enter the gate are from the upper level and then take the escalator down to the airplane. It is the same gate that all the A-380 planes use when at SFO.
Singapore Air's First and Business Class seats are the widest that I have experienced. The First Class seats convert to beds, while the Business Class seats just recline to be flat-beds (more later on this).
Because this was a late-night departure, the initial meal service is called a light supper. Nevertheless, I could "book the cook" as Singapore calls special-order meals, which I did. The menu selections looked fine (there was a roast turkey dinner), but the special-order lobster thermador was too good to pass up.
|Iberico jamon bellota, walnuts and figs with bleu cheese|
|Twice-cooked chicken soup|
|Fruit for dessert|
After dinner, I changed into my supplied Givenchy-designed pajamas (more like sleep pants and a long-sleeve knit top). The lavatories are not huge (like the LH A-380 ones), but they are roomy enough to make changing easier. They took my clothes to hang up in a closet and I headed towards my made-up bed.
Prior to landing, they offered an Asian breakfast or made-to-order eggs -- I went for the eggs. I changed and then we were on the ground. Unfortunately, they do not fly directly to Singapore, so we stopped in Hong Kong for a couple of hours. The same plane would continue the trip, but everyone had to disembark, go through security and then re-board at the appropriate time. I hung out at the Singapore Air Silver Kris Lounge located right across from the departure gate. The First Class section of the Lounge was at the far end, it was just a different section to sit in. The food and drinks were located in the other part of the lounge.
After passing through immigration and collecting my luggage, I looked for the Coach station. I planned to start out my stay with one night at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. They provide free half-hourly service to the hotel. I was soon on my way to the hotel.
The Marina bay Sands Hotel is an amazing structure to look at. It consists of three hotel towers topped by a Skydeck. If you are not staying at the hotel or dining at the restaurant on the Skydeck, you have to pay to go up there. As a hotel guest, you are permitted access for free and can use the amazing infinity pool. Additionally, if you are in a Club Room, the Club Lounge area is also on the Skydeck (providing breakfast, afternoon tea service, and a generous evening pre-dinner service of cocktails and hot and cold food).
|Club Room bathroom|
|Room view of the new gardens by the Bay|
|The Club Lounge area|
|A few evening canapes and champagne|
|The Infinity Pool from the Adult section|
|Panorama view from the pool|
|Sea urchin and caviar|
|Cooking tomato sauce and fregola pasta|
During my stay, I also visited the new Gardens by the Bay. This was designed to educate and demonstrate the variety and value of plants and how they can be integrated into a "green" system. The expansive area includes two conservatories ("Cloud" and "Flower" domes) and "Supertrees" with an aerial walkway (all attractions have a fee, although you can walk the grounds and outdoor gardens for free).
The nice thing about the conservatories is that they are cooler and drier than the outside environment. It's a nice break from the heat and humidity to be inside them. The Cloud Dome is definitely the more dramatic, with a large mountaintop from which a waterfall drops and within which you can walk inside and down to explore various exhibits.
I also visited the ArtScience Museum, the lotus-flower-looking building located on the other side of the hotel from the Gardens by the Bay. They have been advertising a "Lego as Art" exhibit which I thought would be interesting to see. They were nice enough to let us take pictures in this exhibit.
Since my departure from Singapore was in the late afternoon, I could take public transportation to the airport. It took almost an hour, which was a little longer than the estimates give, but it only costs S$1.78. Once I arrive at Changi Airport, I headed for Terminal 3. I wandered around for a bit looking for a special check-in area for First Class. I thought I had read somewhere that there was a special room for checking in. Eventually, I just asked someone and they directed me to the regular counters. Once I checked-in, I cleared immigration and then headed for the Lounge. Upon arrival at the SilverKris Lounge, I was escorted through three "layers" the the club -- the Business Class section, the First Class section and then the section called "The Private Room." It reminded me a little of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal: It was quiet, empty, and nicely appointed. There was a dining section of tables where food could be ordered from a menu (I had the poached Boston Lobster).
|The Private Room|
|The Private Room Dining Area|
It was almost as nice experience as the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. The shower room is not quite like the bathtub with jets, and there is no car to the airplane. But the staff were very attentive and helpful.
There are 12 First Suites on the Singapore Air A-380. They are located in the nose of the airplane on the first deck. There is a wide stairway at the front that leads up to the mostly business class seats.
|Stairs to Business Class|
|My First Suite|
The lounge was very nice, and empty except for me. There was a menu from which I could order, but I was still very full from dinner on the plane.
It was the exact same plane and I had the same seat assignment. As I settled in, I had more champagne and some warmed nuts (chocolate walnuts and cashews this time). I had "booked the cook" again for Lobster Thermador, but I would not be ready to eat after take-off. I requested after they took the rest of my order if I could postpone eating until after I took a little nap. So once the seat belt sign was turned off, I went back to change and they turned down my bed.
It was a relatively fast flight, as we were about 40 minutes early. But it was a bumpier flight than I had expected. For some portions, we bounced around significantly That surprised me given the size of the airplane, so it must have been pretty rough by any standard.
Flying in the First Suite on the return was a nice way to end the trip. I enjoyed the experience and the stellar service, but I did feel a little closed in, even though the space inside the suite was roomy enough, especially with the extra-wide seats. There was a small hanging closet accessible outside each suite for coats and clothing, but not much storage inside the Suite except for on the floor and some small compartments. Perhaps the open design that other airlines use, like Lufthansa, feels more comfortable to me (albeit less private). I also prefer a softer bed, so the seats that go flat or the separate mattresses like Lufthansa has on the upgraded 747 planes, work better for sleeping.
I know, based on how most people travel, I'm being picky. But then why spend all the miles to sample the different products if you can't compare and contrast :-)