Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine arrived in Singapore Tuesday to kick off a Southeast Asian and Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

The nine-day trip through Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu will feature sentimental stops as well as the former Kate Middleton's first overseas speech as she settles into her duties with the British monarchy.

The glamorous couple's first visit will be to Singapore's Botanic Gardens, where an orchid will be named after them - an honour reserved for world-famous people and VIP visitors to Singapore.

William, wearing a dark blue suit and light blue tie, and Catherine, in a short-sleeved, knee-length cream dress, chatted with staff as they toured the gardens and were presented with a specially bred orchid.

National Parks Board CEO Poon Hong Yuen presented them with the Vanda William Catherine, a free-flowering orchid hybrid that is white and purple in colour.

They will also take a look at the Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana, an orchid named after the late princess Diana, and the dendrobium Queen Elizabeth II.

They were then taken to Singapore's grand, British colonial-era Raffles Hotel, where more than 100 people lined the gravel driveway and took pictures as the couple emerged from their car and stepped on to the red carpet.

Courtney Brassell, an American living in Singapore who brought her  five-month-old boy along, said of Catherine: "I love her. We've been waiting for half an hour. I personally would like to see Kate. She is always so pretty and I want to see what she is wearing."

Despite the crowds, it was a relatively low-key first few hours for William and Catherine, who will attend a state dinner at the presidential palace later and will meet the public in bigger numbers at their engagements on Wednesday.

Britain's younger royals are touring the globe this year as part of celebrations marking the 60-year reign of William's grandmother the queen as they seek to maintain the family's relevance in a rapidly changing world.

The royals also played a prominent role during the London Olympics but they suffered a public relations hiccup when William's younger brother, Harry, was photographed nude with a female friend at a Las Vegas hotel.

"The aim of the tour is to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee," said Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, principal private secretary and equerry to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are known under royal protocol.

"The Duke and Duchess will use the tour to pay tribute - through what they do and say and who they meet - to the Queen's lifetime and dedication to the mix of peoples and cultures that make up all of Her Majesty's realms and the Commonwealth," he said in London ahead of the tour.

William and Catherine, who were married in April 2011, will stay in Singapore until Thursday. They then head to Malaysia, where they will tour the capital Kuala Lumpur and Borneo's Sabah state from September 13-15.

It is in Malaysia that Catherine will give her first speech abroad, to staff and patients at a hospice.

The pair will fly to the Solomon Islands, an impoverished former British protectorate north-east of Australia, and stay from September 16-18 before a final stop in the tiny nation of Tuvalu until September 19.

The royals are also expected to take part in sporting activities and wear traditional dress when they visit the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, as well as travel by canoe at one point.

Queen Elizabeth is head of state in the Solomons and Tuvalu, both of which are members of the Commonwealth, as are Singapore and Malaysia.

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