Confined to barracks In 1970, Singapore's Tourist Promotion Board (now the Singapore Tourism Board) wisely decided to change the name of Pulau Belakang Mati, which, translated from Malay to English, means something like "island of death from behind". This being a name unlikely to encourage many overseas arrivals, a competition was held to find something more appealing. Five winners - including a bus driver and, reportedly, one Lee Suan Yew, younger brother of then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew - shared S$500 for coming up with the name Sentosa, which in English means "tranquility". The decision was ironic, considering the island had been home to a major British army installation and a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, but it's that colonial military heritage that is now fuelling the growth of upmarket hotels on the island. Mövenpick Heritage Hotel Sentosa (above right), which opened in the spring of 2011, has just unveiled its Heritage Wing, which occupies a former Royal Artillery barracks, while British barrack buildings are also a major feature of the nearby Capella Singapore and Amara Sanctuary Resort. Next up is a luxury hotel scheduled to open in 2015 on a four-hectare site occupied by six barrack blocks and a parade square, much of which must be preserved, according to strict government guidelines. Inquire at www.moevenpick-hotels.com for opening rates at Mövenpick Heritage Hotel's 62 heritage suites.
Long-distance liners Luxury cruise line Silversea is offering a selection of Grand Voyages for 2013, with a 40-day cruise on the Silver Shadow departing Hong Kong for Auckland, New Zealand, on November 25, which leaves plenty of time to save up (or perhaps sell up) for the US$15,940 starting fare. This trip comprises three voyages - Hong Kong to Singapore, Singapore to Sydney, and Sydney to Auckland - so you could opt for a shorter, less expensive leg. Another option is the 54-day Three Continents Transatlantic cruise aboard the Silver Cloud (above), mostly sailing around the Mediterranean, priced from US$19,476 and departing from Istanbul, Turkey, for Barbados on September 16. For those wanting to venture farther afield, there's a 40-day Grand Voyage, also on the Silver Cloud, priced from US$17,526, leaving Barbados on November 26 and sailing to Santiago in Chile via Grenada, Tobago, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Don't count on that last stopover, though, as Silversea recently cancelled calls at the Falklands on a similar route with the same ship, due to what was reported in the British press as "intimidation from Argentinian nationalists". For a full list of Grand Voyages for 2013, go to www.silversea.com/destinations/grand-voyages.
By the book Cooks, Clowns and Cowboys: 101 Skills and Experiences to Discover on Your Travels is the title of a book just published by Lonely Planet. And while the name itself might not contain any original ideas, the contents page is filled with unusual holiday suggestions, such as joining a roller derby in California, becoming a Las Vegas pole dancer, and going dog-sledding in the Yukon. It's hard to imagine too many people signing up for mixing sheep's milk cheese in Malta or painting Easter eggs in Ukraine, but if you go to Amazon.co.uk, much of the book is available for preview, so you might be able to find something that tickles your fancy without purchasing a book filled with things you're never going to do.
Cannes do, the Nice way The Cannes Film Festival takes place this year from May 15 to 26 and while most hotel rooms in town have already been snapped up by celebs and paparazzi, you could fly to Nice with Air France for an advertised fare of HK$3,600 and base yourself there instead. Nice, where hotel rooms are easier to come by during the festival, is less than an hour's drive from Cannes (top), and there's a flat fare of just €1 (about HK$10) each way for the trip on Transports Alpes-Maritimes (TAM) coaches, which depart frequently throughout the day. Tax and fuel surcharges will bring the airfare up to about HK$7,000 but that's still a great price for round-trip tickets to the French Riviera. There's a change of planes in Paris, and you can stop over in the French capital for an extra HK$750 each way. For further details, go to www.airfrance.com.hk and click the best offers and promotions tag.
Deal of the week The 20-year-old Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so (below) was rebranded at the beginning of this year and is now the Hotel Chinzan-so Tokyo. Presumably to help promote the new name, the hotel is offering three nights for the price of two with a Cathay Pacific business-class package that starts from HK$9,795 per person, twin share, for business-class flights with Cathay and three nights' accommodation in a superior room. Extras include free in-room internet access, breakfast and use of the spa, which has onsen facilities. Tax and fuel surcharges add about HK$790 to the package price, which will be available until the middle of April. See www.cxholidays.com for details.