It might not rank quite as highly as the likes of Singapore or Hong Kong when it comes to the most popular ports of call on an Asia cruise, but Manila is an exciting and dynamic Asian metropolis that should not be overlooked. Visitors to Philippines’ capital will discover the rich history of its Spanish colonial past, still visible throughout the city, while enjoying the throng and excitement of the city’s teeming modern streets, complete with cultural centres, bars, clubs and restaurants. This is truly the city that never sleeps.
Why cruise Manila
Home to 12 million people, Manila is one of the world’s most populous metro areas and has an exciting and frenetic buzz and energy that’s quite addictive. Along with modern skyscrapers and edifices, the city is packed full of historic and cultural heritage, with a rich colonial history dating to 1565, when the Spanish arrived. Some of the most popular attractions include the historic Intramuros district, the elegant Malacanang Palace, the National Museum of the Philippines and Rizal Park. It is also well worth visiting the poignant, 150-acre American Cemetery and Memorial, which holds US and Allied servicemen who sacrificed their lives during WWII. Leading cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, NCL, P&O Cruises and Celebrity sail to Manila as part of their Asia cruise itineraries.
What to see and do
Those interested in Manila’s Spanish colonial past should head straight to the historic walled city Intramuros, Manila’s oldest district which still possesses traces of the Spanish colonial period. The area is rich in Spanish-era landmarks, including Fort Santiago, which served as the military headquarters of the Spanish, American and Japanese colonists until it was destroyed in 1945. Today, it houses a shrine dedicated to national hero José Rizal. Stop at the ornate Manila Cathedral just a few metres away from the fort to admire its beautiful stained glass windows and bronze carvings. The Unesco-listed Agustín Church is another must see. Completed in 1607, it is the oldest stone church in the country and was the only thing left intact after the destruction of Intramuros during World War II.
Paco and Rizal Parks
Those in need of respite from the chaos and franticness of the city will no doubt welcome the calming green spaces of Manila’s two parks. Rizal Park is home to the remains of the country’s national hero, José Rizal, a Filipino nationalist and polymath during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. The park also houses the National Museum of Natural History and National Planetarium, an impressive 16-metre dome in which daily regular shows are held. It is also a popular spot for events with an open-air auditorium and Quirino Grandstand. Meanwhile, Paco Park, which was a cemetery in the 19th century, is where José Rizal was interred after he was shot in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park).
This waterfront promenade, which runs along the shores of Manila Bay and lined with coconut trees, is a popular spot for watching the sunset. It is also home to a yacht club, hotels, restaurants, commercial buildings and parks. The boulevard has been renamed several times, highlighting Manila’s various colonists over the years, but its current name was eventually chosen in the 1960s to honour President Manuel Roxas, the fifth president of the Republic of Philippines.
Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex
Located along Roxas Boulevard, those with an interest in modernist architecture should pay a centre to the Culture Center of the Philippines Complex. The complex features several brutalist structures designed in the 1960s and ‘70s by Leandro Locsin, such as the Tanghalang Pambansa (National Theater), the Philippine International Convention Center, and the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. It is also home to the Coconut Palace, a building made mostly out of coconut, the Manila Film Center, and Star City amusement park.
Port Manila on Manila Bay is the biggest port facility in the Philippines. The cruise terminal is located at pier 4, which is within walking distance of the historic Intramuros district. Plans are now under way for a new terminal pier with berths for two mega cruise ships in the Solaire Resort in Manila’s Entertainment City, south of the centre. Construction was scheduled to begin in autumn 2019.
When to go
The cruise season runs from October through to April. Typhoon season the Philippines is between September and October.
The currency used in Manila is the Philippine Peso.
British citizens can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days.
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