My previous trips to Desaru have been via road from Singapore. On a good day, it took me about one hour and 40 minutes to cover the 94km, depending on traffic conditions and Customs clearance.
This time I decided to try out the recently-launched ferry, which I read was relaxing, comfortable and provided good service.
But the day I set out, it was raining like crazy early in the morning. The sky was cloudy, the air damp and sea choppy.
I dreaded the trip on the ferry, operated by Desaru Link Ferry Services, a subsidiary of Batam Fast Ferry (Batam Fast). The boat, Ocean Raider, heaved and rolled as I climbed aboard for the 8.30am departure from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
It was raining as I settled myself into the VIP lounge on the covered, air-conditioned upper deck. My worry was that I would throw up or develop a severe headache.
But I must say, after an initial 10 minutes of pitching and rolling, it was a fairly smooth ride all the way to Desaru Coast. Though it was drizzling for the major part of the ride, the captain and crew were skilful.
They found the best route to take me to my destination in 90 minutes. About 20 minutes more than the usual time. But that was understandable given the poor weather conditions and the bumpy sealane.
It was sunny when we approached the Desaru Coast terminal for berthing.
Disembarking was a breeze. Had to wait for about 30 minutes to clear Immigration. There were no problems at the Customs.
The Desaru Coast Ferry Terminal features the latest bidirectional immigration automated e-gate. It is fully equipped with a Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex and maritime facilities.
The new generation e-gate offers a double swing door and enhanced security features, making immigration screening more efficient and effective at peak travel times. The ferry terminal can handle 300 passengers at any given time.
The terminal spaces include consumer amenities such as Desaru Coast hospitality lounges, Duty-Free outlets, F&B offerings, ATM and convenience shops. In future, it will have car rental, money changers and facilities such as fuel bunkering and boat ramp.
The ferry terminal has been built for future expansion as demand develops. Future scalability includes provision for an additional pontoon to increase ferry arrival capacity and frequency as well as plans for developing a berth for a marina.
The Desaru Coast Ferry Terminal was officially launched on March 31, 2022, by Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. He was accompanied by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong and the state’s chief minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi.
During the event, the minister explained that the ferry terminal would kick off operations in two phases, beginning with services between Singapore-Desaru. The second phase would witness service between the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan islands.
My bus picked me up outside the Desaru Ferry Terminal, which is located adjacent to the Desaru Coast project, which encompasses Hard Rock Hotel, Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast and luxury seaside resorts One&Only and Anantara.
I checked in at the Hard Rock Hotel at around 11am.
If you are seeking a beach, golf, eco and wellness holiday on Desaru Coast, the Desaru Coast operators offer an easy fly and ferry service for travellers into Singapore.
The Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal is only 10 minutes away from Changi Airport. And from then on it is a smooth trip all the way to Desaru Coast.
Before the pandemic, travellers could take a 30-minute ferry ride from Changi Ferry Terminal to the Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal in Kota Tinggi in Johor, followed by a 30- to 45-minute drive to Desaru. The ferry service was suspended from March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From July 7 to October 6, ferry operator Batam Fast charged $98 for a return ticket for bookings via its website and social media pages.
Now a return ticket will cost $118, while a one-way ticket is $70.
Passengers are permitted up to 10 kg of free hand-carry luggage, or 20 kg for check-in luggage from either terminal.
Excess weight for both hand-carry or checked-in luggage will be charged S$1 or RM3 per kg. Bicycles or other odd-sized items will be charged S$10 or RM30 per item.
The ferry, which can take 250 passengers, operates from Thursdays to Sundays. It leaves Singapore at 8.30am and departs from Desaru at 5.30pm.
I stayed on Desaru Coast for two nights. Thet return trip was a smooth affair. I reached Singapore in 65 minutes and could attend a dinner scheduled for 7.30pm.
I needed a break after slooging for nearly three years and this trip by ferry was fantastic.
I love travelling by ferry because it gives off more holiday vibes than travelling by road.
I don’t own a car, so it was cumbersome to travel all the way to Desaru.
Now, with the ferry, it is easy to visit Desaru without all the hassle.
Read Part 2: Tour of One&Only, the most luxurious resort in South-east Asia