TOURISM With five-star luxury, theme park entertainment, fine dining and family focus, Resorts World Sentosa offers fun for everyone, says Anjana Rajan

Singapore, as well known for its shopping and business attractions as for its zoo and underwater park, has added a new feather to its cap — Resorts World Sentosa, a 6.59 billion dollar (4.32 billion U.S. dollars) project combining five-star luxury with theme park entertainment, fine dining and a family focus.

Phase I of the integrated resort, owned by the Genting group, has recently opened, and Sunday, the first day of the Chinese Year of the Tiger, saw the soft launch of one of its most anticipated elements — the casino.

The four operational hotels of the integrated resort — Festive (targeted at families), Michael (a designer hotel dedicated to the favourite concepts of the project's master architect Michael Graves), Hard Rock (for music fans to live out their rock star fantasies) and Crockfords Tower (for exclusive club members) — besides the casino, numerous fine dining outlets and a theme park, Universal Studios Singapore, have all come up in an astonishing three years, starting April 2007.

The great Indian family

At a recent media briefing at the resort, RWS's Director, Destination Sales, Liang Wern Ling, stated that India is an important target country for her team, and tie-ups with Jet Airways as well as Indian travel agents are in the pipeline. RWS has certainly taken into account at least one characteristic of Indians: families flock together. So, Festive Hotel welcomes families, not only with its balloons and colourful art works on the walls, including giant orchid motifs on the room ceilings, but with an additional bunk bed in the room. The child's bed near the ceiling makes an inviting loft for the young ones to create a world of their own.

As for fantasy worlds, who needs imagination when Universal Studios Singapore makes Hollywood's iconic movies come alive? The theme park's structures add an uncanny dimension to Singapore's already diverse skyline: the spires and battlements of the castle from the “Shrek” series; the mysterious caves with their hieroglyphics where a scary ride based on “Revenge of the Mummy” awaits you; duel rollercoaster tracks for opposing spaceships from the “Battlestar Galactica” adventures; and famous facades such as New York's Rockefeller Centre and Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Given its position as the only such theme park in the region and Hollywood's popularity, USS is sure to attract plenty of tourist attention, not just from India.

If hair-raising boat rides, heart-stopping rollercoaster battles and a 4-D experience with Shrek

Signature cuisine

A food court with all the aromatic specialities Singapore's outdoor restaurants are renowned for is an added bonanza, not far from the casino. Interestingly, the street food section has down-to-earth prices, not dressed up to meet international menu standards. As for the rest of the restaurants and room tariffs, though, this resort is aimed at high-end customers. Even if rooms are costlier than other Singapore hotels in the same bracket, say communications officials, the difference is made up in the integrated nature of services offered.

On the cards for Phase II are a maritime museum, a spectacular waterfront show, a hotel for nature lovers — Equarius — and spa villas. “We expect some Bollywood stars to come to hide from the paparazzi,” quips the director.

Once the project is fully operational you won't really need to step off Sentosa island to have fun. Even before that, though, we have to agree that “whether you like thrills or whether you just like a walk in the park,” RWS is a many-splendoured world.