Travel Story Live the Dream on a South-East Asia Cruise

Dream Cruises? Never heard of them? We like to bring you new travel suggestions, and we like this one, sailing from Singapore. MICHAEL FERRANTE joins the ship.

As I approach the Marina Bay Sands Cruise Centre terminal in Singapore from my taxi I notice on the horizon the hull of my cruise ship, the burst of colour from the “journey of love” livery punches through the hazy air. In an instant there is a sense that I have arrived for a fun week aboard a big cruise ship. 

And I am about to board the Genting Dream …

The Port Terminal

Considering the huge number of people arriving within a short space of time and eager to board to begin their adventure, check-in and embarkation from the impressive Marina Bay Sands Cruise Centre Singapore is relatively smooth.

This is despite a move away from processing tour groups together — everybody is checked in individually.

The modern two-berth, deepwater terminal — which features a roof that mimics the breaking of waves — was designed to handle big cruise ships like Genting Dream.

 It also provides a convenient connection with other attractions and facilities including inner-city hotels and shops, the Singapore Flyer and Gardens By the Bay. 

If you’re concerned about security aboard a cruise ship from Asia, then don’t be. I am asked to place all my belongings on the X-ray belt for scanning and there are security and baggage checks every bit as rigorous as a modern airport; I lose count of the number times I need to present my passport to ensure I’m safe at sea.    

More than 3000 passengers have turned up and I feel like I’m in a big, shiny new sports stadium before a footy game — the punters are excited, the atmosphere palpable and the masses start to board for a five-night voyage through South-East Asia on the Wonders of Asia cruise.

Onboard

I am finally aboard and keen to check out my home for the next five days. I open the door to cabin 10262 and enter a spacious area with a generous bathroom, balcony and sea views. It is a sanctuary to return to after busy sea and shore days.

Despite carrying up to 3352 passengers, the sheer size of Genting Dream, at 335m long, 40m wide and 18 decks tall, means I have plenty of space to mingle, move around, and, importantly, my personal space is not compromised. The company says a ship of this size could accommodate more than 5000 guests but its configuration adds a sense of spaciousness.

Early mornings are glorious as I drag myself out of bed to watch the sunrise from my balcony. Each horizon reveals a different tinge of orangey-red every morning depending on where we’re sailing. 

It’s quiet, time to reflect, to be inspired to write and, well … watch the sea go by. It’s my time.

The ship’s water-based activities are popular by day — parents splash around with their children in the main swimming pool, couples relax in pool spas while others swish and swoosh down waterslides.

 There’s “easy does it” chutes for families and heart-racing thrills on the long, winding tubes that hang over the edge of the ship adding an extreme-sport type of feel. 

But the fun doesn’t stop at the pool — the sports and recreation zones on the upper decks offer a range of activities from the more extreme like the ropes course, rock climbing wall or over-sea zip line to the more casual such as mini golf, games arcade and bowling alley with glowing pins, neon balls and pumping music.

Duration: 8m 0s

Wining and Dining

The week’s program is full-on. The first evening item on the schedule is, rather aptly, the Penfolds Wine Experience inside the cosy wine vault on deck eight — a great way to break the ice with my media colleagues from over east on tour with me and to enjoy samples of Penfolds’ finest wine paired with morsels of fish and meat on a tasting plate. 

There are many dining options aboard Genting Dream. Restaurants included in the cruise fare serve combinations of Chinese, Western and other international set menu and buffet options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

The Lido buffet has a nice selection of popular Western hot breakfast food as well as vegetarian, halal, Indian and Asian noodles and rice.

Decide to kick up your heels, have a few drinks and get the munchies late, then head to Il Lido Outdoor. As the name suggests, it’s alfresco-style conveniently close to the pool on deck 16 and offers free, fried snacks round-the-clock.

“Exclusive specialty” dining aboard comes at a price, but from what I’m able to sample in five days it’s definitely worth the extra cost. Exclusive specialty restaurants include the Prime Steakhouse and Seafood Grill by acclaimed Australian chef Mark Best.

Best designed the menus and appears aboard Dream Cruises ships occasionally as its brand ambassador, including on this cruise, where he takes us on a journey from market to plate in Bangkok (more on this in the June 8 Cruising Guide).

Our first evening was kicked off in fine fashion at the wine vault and next we sit down for dinner with chef Best at his restaurant. It’s a godsend to be sitting at the table with the bloke who developed the extensive menu, which is crafted into both Western and Asian-inspired dishes using Australian meat and seafood — I need help to make my choices. 

Finally, I settle for tagliatelle with veal ragu and reggiano (Italian cow’s milk cheese). It scores highly in my book for freshness and flavour — the ragus melt in the mouth moments are really good; I want more.

I’m enjoying the flavour and texture combinations of the black cod baked in tomato, chilli and olives for the main dish, and I’ll usually pick a custard or brulee-based dessert so the Sauternes custard and caramel is an ideal finish to my meal.

Another night we sit around the teppanyaki barbecue at Umi Uma Japanese restaurant, the food every bit as enjoyable as the entertainment. 

It’s as if Brian Pallagud is half chef, half street performer as he juggles utensils, then launches eggs high into the air and catches them with his spatula to shouts and applause. He breaks the eggs onto the barbecue we are seated around and within seconds they become an omelette. 

I sip miso soup and eat teppanyaki vegetables and garlic fried rice with omelette as I watch Brian work the hotplate at breakneck speed to brown the meat. He serves up moist, tender beef fillet mignon chunks on my plate in between mouthfuls and it’s accompanied by three gorgeous dipping sauces — miso, creamy mustard and ginger onion.

Other pay-as-you-go dining options that I get to check out are Blue Lagoon — a 24-hour Asian hawker food centre for old-fashioned, spicy Asian comfort food. The mee goreng mamak (Indian Muslim stir-fried spicy noodles) is worth a detour, as is the fried kway teow a colleague tells me, but there are heaps of tasty options on the menu. 

The Gelateria sells homemade ice-cream — perfect for the hot, humid climes of Asia and for something a little more healthy, try a fresh fruit juice made to order from Crystal Life Cuisine.

Wherever you see the Crystal name aboard rest assured you are entering a world of beauty and wellness — whether it’s a spa treatment, hair do, workout or meal. 

Bars, lounges and entertainment

As with most big cruise ships there’s plenty of choice for most things. And in this case it’s bars and on-board entertainment. In fact, the list of activities and events takes up a full page of the daily A4 newsletter delivered to my cabin.

A precinct mid-ship on deck eight is called Bar City — the name needs no introduction and MIXT cocktail bar is my favourite evening hangout with my new friends — different night, different cocktail. I judge the joint on how good they make my favourite cocktail — Espresso Martini — the balance of flavours lives up to my lofty expectations.

Bar City is home to the Penfolds Wine Vault, of course, but also other esteemed names — Johnny Walker House (for a nice Scotch whisky selection); Bubbles champagne bar and the Humidor cigar lounge.

Upstairs at Zouk, party the night away at the nightclub or catch a movie on the big LED screen at Zouk Beach Club. I choose to chill out in a private cabana under the stars and catch some live cover music by The Elevation Band, engulfed in pitch darkness and breathing in the fresh air off the ocean. I’m in paradise.

At a mid-cruise evening at the Zodiac Theatre we watch a high-energy cabaret show, Some Like It Hot, which celebrates the 50s and 60s through music, vibrant costumes and lighting, smooth vocals, ballroom dance sets and sizzling salsa at the climax. 

Some in my group are done for the night, I and a few others feed off the energy of the show and kick-on into the night. 

There is a host of events and on-board activities to keep passengers of any age happy — talent and game shows, dance classes, kids’ sushi and pizza-making classes and karaoke, an indoor and outdoor cinema, to name just a few. For those who enjoy a punt, there are plenty of casino tables and gaming machines in the smoking area of the ship to satisfy the urge.

The final night arrives and it’s time to party and it’s one of my most memorable aboard. The pool deck is bursting at the seams with passengers across the age spectrum, bopping and singing along to live pop music in an open-air event themed Colour My World.

 The mood is festive; we pop another bottle of champagne before fireworks launched from the back of the ship explode and crackle above us, adding to the party atmosphere but bringing a sense of closure to the cruise. 

Itinerary

Genting Dream has a dozen cruise itineraries from Singapore. I am on the five-night Wonders of Asia voyage with day visits to picturesque Pulau Redang island off the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula, for a relaxing day at the beach swimming in tropical, clean, turquoise waters. 

The spot is popular for snorkelling and diving, as well as swimming, and I get to see why. Undoubtedly the best of the three-day visits of the cruise. 

We also visit Bangkok, Thailand, where we are accompanied by chef Best to a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant for a lunch banquet, a gastronomic journey consisting of 10 tasting dishes, including succulent grilled river prawns wrapped in mulberry leaves with northern mah kwan pepper and ant eggs … amazing, fragrant flavours prepared by award-winning chef, Bee Satongun. 

Duration: 12s

Fact File

Dream has a Buy One Get One Free promotion on Genting Dream cruises (all from Singapore) at the moment, for bookings until July 31. Families may therefore opt for two cabins rather than one quad share and get interconnecting rooms.

Fares specific to the Wonders of Asia cruise (Singapore-Redang Island-Sihanoukville-Bangkok-Singapore) for departures on September 8 and October 13 are as follows: 

 

Disclaimer

Michael Ferrante was a guest of Dream Cruises. They have not read or approved this story.

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