After reading various tweets on the visit to this year’s Navy Open House, we decided to pop by, since the first day it is opened to the public coincides with my son’s birthday. So on Saturday, we woke up bright and early to prepare for our trip. We prepared sandwiches for our snack and prepared sunblock, since it was recommended. We originally intended to take the MRT to Singapore Expo, but it was raining when we were leaving the house, we drove there instead.

We got to Singapore Expo at around 8.25am, and there was already a queue for the bus all the way from Hall 1 where the boarding point wass to Hall 2. It seemed that they were prepared for the large crowd coming in as the entire Hall 1 was converted into a huge check in centre with cordons for queues, metal detectors and bag scanners. The entire process took about 10 minutes from queue to boarding the bus.

The bus ride took about half an hour from Singapore Expo to Changi Naval Base. We proceeded to register for the balloting for the Frigate guided tour and the ship cruise. As it was still drizzling, we popped into the closest aircon to view the exhibits. We queued for the ST simulator exhibit and our boy had fun fiddling around the control panel for the simulator. The ST folks even had a portable printer set up so they could print instant photos for keepsake, which was a nice touch.

As the aircon in the tent was very cold, we decided to brave the weather and do a guided tour on board one of the vessels available for public viewing. This was where I felt the logistics arrangements and wet weather plan could have been better. While waiting in the queue, the rain started to pour and the wind blew the rain into the tent where the queue was.  From the way they were scrambling to try to keep the rain from coming in, there was no wet weather plan in place. Kudos to the quick reaction of the staff in trying to rearranging the cordon to keep everyone dry. The estimated waiting time sign on each queue was a good indicator as it helped us decide on whether we want to join the queue or not. It was quite accurate as we waited about 30 minutes as indicated on the sign. The guided tour of the Patrol Vessel RSS Independence was nice. We had a chance to try out the cannons and weapons on board, and tour the bunks and the bridge.

By the time we were done, it was almost noon and it was still raining. Initially, we wanted to try out the duck tour as we did not get the ballot for the cruise, but the waiting time for the duck tour was about 1 hour 30 minutes according to the sign. And the waiting time on most of the other attractions have swelled to at least an hour. So, instead of queuing, we went back to the parade area and watched some performances before calling it a day. The attention span of a 3 year old is that short. Normally excursions lasts half a day before he gets cranky.

In all, the visit was an eye-opener and I think the organizers did a great job. There is something for everyone in the family. I am definitely for the idea of balloting, as I would rather spend my time watching the performances or viewing the exhibits rather than in a queue waiting. This is especially so if you have kids in tow, and from the looks of it, there were a lot of kids when we were there.

Personally, I think the balloting system can be enhanced to a central virtual queuing system in which it distributes the opportunity to visit the guided tours and cruises evenly so that everyone actually gets a chance to try out something. Or alternatively have a virtual queuing system for each attraction in which queue numbers are assigned and displayed on LED like the ones found in various customer service centres. This way, visitors are free to tour the nearby areas while waiting for their turn. I understand that queuing is the norm when it comes to theme parks and attractions, but this Open House is a time-limited event where one will not be able to go back on another and try out the other attractions.