Genting Dream

Prologue

Billed as the first Asian premium cruise brand, Dream Cruises was introduced in 2015 by Genting Hong Kong as part of the company’s plan to compete against international players that have been quick to expand their presence and products in Asia. Promising luxury service standards customised for the Chinese market, the line embarked on its inaugural season this November with the delivery of its first ship, the 3,400-guest Genting Dream. With the Asian cruise landscape increasingly saturated with bigger and newer products, can Dream Cruises stand out from the competition?

 

First Impressions

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Joining the ship on her repositioning voyage in Singapore, we arrived at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in the afternoon, several hours after the stated boarding time of 1200 hrs. With the bulk of passengers already onboard, security and check-in was a relatively organized and painless process. Passengers were directed to fill out landing cards for Vietnam and Hong Kong, before proceeding to check-in proper. The line had two sets of counters processing passengers (one dedicated to Suites/Dream Palace guests and one for the rest of the passengers) and we did not have to wait long in-line, although several passengers with incomplete paperwork lengthened the processing time.

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Past immigration, passengers could proceed to board the ship at their convenience. We got our first glimpse of the massive vessel here, strikingly beautiful with her oriental-influenced hull art from London-based contemporary artist Jacky Tsai. Specially commissioned by the line, the “Voyage of a Lovers Dream” serves as the central theme for the Genting Dream. As guests filed across the gangway ready for their week-long vacation onboard Asia’s newest cruise ship, provisioning was taking place in earnest below on the dock.

 

Cabin

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Booking the cruise, we did not have the option to select cabins in advance and could only put in a request for our preferences with cabin allocation by Dream Cruises on the sailing date. We were assigned a midship balcony cabin on deck 13, conveniently situated near the central bank of elevators and stairs. At over 20 square meters, the cabin is decently-sized for 2 occupants although we did find it narrower compared to cabins on other cruise ships.

 

The large Queen-sized bed was very comfortable with a firm mattress and clean, white Frette linens, accompanied by several plush pillows. The contrasting golden headboard serves as one of many visual reminders that this is an Asian ship, its design and colour resembling that of a goldfish symbolizing good luck. On a more practical note, an electrical outlet and double USB ports by the bedside for guests to keep personal devices charged are a thoughtful touch.

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Beside the bed is a small lounge space with an orange-coloured sofa. If required, this can be converted by the stateroom attendant into an additional bed with a separate bed pad, albeit at the expense of the already limited floor space.

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Our standard balcony was furnished with a pair of deck chairs (Suites / Dream Palace boast wicker furniture). Having this private space allowed us to take in the arrival festivities during Genting Dream’s maiden calls to Phu My and Danang in comfort. Being on the port side sailing north, we also spent our evenings on sea days catching uninterrupted sunset views from here, an especially therapeutic experience.

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The bathroom onboard was relatively spacious and modern in design with fittings in pristine condition, a consequence of the ship having been delivered only several weeks earlier. We thought the space was very well laid-out and did not feel claustrophobic unlike most cruise ships, with a plexiglass-framed shower stall, vacuum toilet and a compact vanity top.

 

Accompanying the bathroom fixtures are high-quality amenities provided by Dream Cruises. Standard cabins get bath products by Salvatore Ferragamo, while Suites / Dream Palace are provided items by Etro, in addition to standard toiletries with additional items available on-request.

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As is the standard in Asia, every cabin has its own complimentary coffee-/tea-making facilities for the convenience of guests. While the coffee was of the instant variety from a rather forgettable brand, teas are supplied by Singapore-based premium label TWG Teas. There was also a mini-fridge available for use, although this was not stocked and Housekeeping could have done better to remove the instruction manual and keys. A 32-inch IP television offers satellite programming and in-cabin movies, while storage space is plentiful with a good size wardrobe and multiple shelves. Families travelling together may wish to note that selected cabins feature connecting doors for added space and convenience.

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Our voyage being one of her inaugural sailings, a certificate signed by the master, Captain Jukka Silvennoinen, was waiting for us on boarding day together with a copy of the Dream Daily. This was the ship’s daily activity listing and schedule, although it should be noted that printed copies are not provided in the cabin each day and passengers are encouraged to utilize the smartphone application via the onboard Wi-Fi (or head to reception) for the programme.

 

Genting Dream offers a further 8 accommodation options, ranging from the lead-in Interior cabin to the opulent, duplex Garden Penthouse.

 

Dining

With over 35 restaurants and bars onboard, Dream Cruises touts the dining experience as a key highlight of its sailings. Included in the cruise fare are meals at the Genting and Dream dining rooms, The Lido buffet and the World Grill, with the remaining being additional charge venues.

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Located on deck 7 aft, the Dream Dining Room is the ship’s elegant main inclusive venue open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Offering both Asian and international cuisine with menus rotated daily, we dined here for breakfast and dinner several times during the cruise. Portions were adequate (and second helpings available on-request), but we thought there was room for improvement in food quality and presentation, which pale in comparison to the western lines. Being the early sailings, service delivery and management could also be refined further as there were often long waiting times for tables and food to be served (although to the credit of the serving staff, they were polite and trying their best to satisfy guest requests).

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One deck above, the Genting Dining Room is a more intimate venue serving family-style Chinese cuisine. Being familiar grounds for the line, food quality was much better here and we liked how the culinary team presented a different regional menu for dinner every evening, ranging from spicy Szechuan dishes to hometown Hakka staples. Unfortunately, the venue is plagued with the same service delivery glitches of long waiting times and an inexperienced crew.

 

The outdoor section of the dining room on the Boardwalk is dedicated as the ship’s hotpot restaurant. A staple of vessels sailing in China and a favourite of Chinese cruisers, this is an additional-charge restaurant where seafood, meat and vegetables are slow-cooked by diners in a tasty broth as they take in the surrounding views and sea breeze.

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Another popular venue onboard is The Lido buffet on deck 16 aft, where the casual, self-service dining style and varied cuisine were more suited to our fellow passengers. We found this a better place than the dining rooms for breakfast in the mornings, with a choice of Chinese, Indian and international food items to the view of the glistening water outside the window. Forming the outdoors section of the venue is the World Grill, serving flame-grilled steaks, burgers and hotdogs ideal for a satisfying lunch in between time spent by the poolside.

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Easily our favourite restaurant on the Genting Dream, the Bistro by Mark Best is a contemporary steakhouse focusing on small producer-sourced Australian beef, lamb and seafood. Dream Cruises partnered the celebrated chef of Sydney’s famed fine dining restaurant Marque for his first venture at sea, which did not disappoint with its curated menu and quality. We had a satisfying dinner of Alaskan King Crab starter, succulent fillet mignon and a unique rice pudding dessert, prepared by the culinary team under the guidance of Chef Best, who was onboard for the inaugural voyage.

   

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Umi Uma is the ship’s Japanese cuisine offering and incorporates 3 different concepts within its deck 8 location. Frustratingly we were not able to obtain a reservation for both the teppanyaki and sushi bar for the duration of the cruise (despite walking past unoccupied tables on several occasions), a sentiment echoed by our fellow passengers. We settled instead for the main restaurant, but found the set lunch to be rather forgettable in comparison with their equivalents ashore. On a positive note, the serving staff were polite and accommodating to our requests despite clearly working within operational constraints.

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Oriental decor and a deep red colour palette greet diners at the Silk Road & Cabaret, another specialty dining venue fully-booked on most nights and reservations are definitely recommended. This distinctly Chinese fine-dining restaurant serves modern interpretations of classic dishes and we indulge in a 6-course dinner set menu served by the predominantly female wait staff in elegant long red cheongsams.

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Other dining options include the Food Federation (paying homage to parent company Genting Hong Kong’s Malaysian origins with a focus on Southeast Asian street food), the British-style Red Lion Pub and the Breadbox delicatessen, a favourite on our cruise for its fresh bakery produce. Health-conscious diners have the option of an elegant high-tea at the serene Palm Court lounge on deck 19 overlooking the private Dream Palce pool area, or the Crystal Life Cuisine with its array of healthy foods and juices specially-designed for a balanced diet.

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Bars and watering holes are an integral part of the cruise experience. On the Genting Dream, the midship atrium hosts a collection of concepts dubbed “Bar City”.

 

In conjunction with liquor giant Diageo is the first Johnnie Walker House at-sea, offering the full suite of whiskeys bearing the famous Striding Man, while wine aficionados have the opportunity to sample rare wines and vintages at the Penfolds Wine Vault. Another first at-sea, the venue is home to home to the ultra-rare (1 of 5 in the world) “Penfolds Aevum Imperial Service Ritual” handcrafted by European glass and crystal house Saint-Louis for the winemaker’s exclusive 2012 Grange Imperial.

 

The aptly-named Bubbles is a specialty champagne bar stocked with premium labels including Veuve Clicquot, Louis Roderer and Dom Perginon. We took the opportunity to enjoy celebratory drinks with our fellow cruisers here and at the adjacent Mixt cocktail bar while overlooking the happenings at Bar360 located 3 decks below. The latter is the ship’s busiest bar (no doubt aided by its location at the heart of the casino) and an ideal place for people-watching over evening drinks or take in the live entertainment onstage.

 

Pools & Decks

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From her conceptualization, Genting Dream was designed specifically for the Asian market which favours indoor features and activities. As a consequence, the ship offers lesser outdoor deck space compared to her western counterparts, with a central pool and a quartet of hot tubs for the majority of the passengers. That said, the area was never crowded during our cruise and was well laid-out to provide users with comfortable personal space on-deck to enjoy the sun or entertainment from the central stage. The pool deck takes on a different persona after sunset, when the lights come on to give it an eclectic atmosphere.

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A second pool and sundeck is located forward of the central bank of elevators. This is exclusive to Dream Palace guests and part of the “ship within a ship” concept with nicer wicker deck furniture and private cabanas to replicate the atmosphere of a luxury beach club. Unfortunately the space remained largely underutilized throughout our 6 days onboard and it remains to be seen if Dream Cruises will adopt operational adjustments to reinvigorate it.

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Further astern by the funnel is the ship’s waterslide park, featuring 5 different adult waterslides. Varying in their thrill factor and speed, these descend 3 decks in a short 10 seconds from their start-point perched high above the sun deck and were one of the most popular outdoor activities onboard the ship on both sun-drenched and windy, overcast days. Our favorites were the yellow- and purple-coloured duelling slides, which featured a near-vertical initial drop to accelerate riders racing one another down the tube.

   

   

Genting Dream is also the first ship in Asia to feature a comprehensive outdoor ropes course, where adventurous cruisers enjoy the thrill of peering out to sea from more than 15 decks above the water while navigating the obstacles along the path and secured only by a harness. Horizontal ladders, balance beams and tightropes combine to form a test of physique and confidence, culminating in a zipline extending over the ship’s edge. Located in the same vicinity is the ship’s rock climbing wall and sports court hosting open play sessions during our cruise.

   

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While the top decks appeal to active cruisers, guests seeking a much slower pace are usually found on the Boardwalk on deck 8. This outdoor, teak-lined promenade wraps around the length of the vessel and was easily the choice of cruisers for walks in the morning against the slowly rising sun and gentle sea breeze. We also noticed guests relaxing here in the afternoons over light reading and the spot is also the place to take in the ship’s external LED lighting system, another world-first for the industry (although we think its full brilliance of intelligent messaging is best seen from shore).

 

Recreation

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Perched on each side of the forward Boardwalk are 2 striking red vehicles that make Genting Dream stand out from other large cruise ships currently at-sea. These are her C-Explorer 5 submersibles, designed to take 4 guests on excursions under the water’s surface, in yet another first for the cruise industry with such features once exclusive to smaller expedition ships. Unfortunately we were not able to experience them firsthand as they were not yet in-service during our repositioning sailing.

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A more traditional mini-golf and game of chess can also be found onboard, while the Crystal Life Spa complex (complete with a beauty salon and gentlemen’s barber shop) caters to those seeking luxury pampering and wellness. A separate Asian spa offers therapies unique to the far east, including Chinese therapeutic reflexology, herbal foot spa treatments, and meridian energy massages. A good-sized gymnasium, branded Crystal Life Fitness, is equipped with modern training equipment to burn off any excess calories gained onboard and also offers instructed classes ranging from TRX and spinning to yoga and pilates.

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Shopping is central to the vacation experience for Asians (in particular the Chinese) and the line has devoted over 1,100 square meters of space to its Dream Boutiques duty-free retail. On offer are fragrances, jewellery, timepieces and other premium goods from the various outlets, which open when the ship is in international waters. Not constrained by such regulations is the ubiquitous art gallery, which also hosts the onboard champagne art auctions.

   

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Unlike other cruise ships, passengers are not saddled with the traditional shipboard photographs and the photography corner correspondingly occupies a small area. This was also the case with the business centre, which was virtually unused and we suspect most of our fellow passengers do not even realize its presence on the ship. In contrast, the Little Pandas Club and video games arcade saw a number of younger cruisers participate in the supervised activities, although these were nowhere as comprehensive compared to more family-focused lines.

   

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In addition to the onboard facilities, there were also several activities such as a napkin folding demonstration, couples’ game show and line dancing classes organized by the entertainment crew. Despite this, we felt that the activity line-up on Genting Dream during our cruise was rather minimal compared to other lines and ships, with a noticeable lack of favourites like bingo.

 

Entertainment

   

As with the most modern cruise ships, a state-of-the-art theatre serves as the main performance venue onboard. The 999-seat Zodiac Theatre is named after the Chinese zodiac in keeping with the oriental theme and features memorabilia of the 12 animal signs that is familiar to Chinese cruisers. On our sailing, 3 different productions were staged here, which will also host enrichment lectures and guest artiste performances on future cruises.

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A collaboration between Dream Cruises, FremantleMedia and Emmy Award-winning activeTV, “China’s Got Talent – The Dream Experience” is a theatrical adaptation that brings the contestants and their performances out to sea for the first time. We witnessed 8 consecutive acts of acrobatics, song and dance compete to emerge as the night’s winner, although the lack of a host for the show took away some of the live viewing experience and left many in the audience (especially non-Asians) baffled on the events.

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“The Voyage of a Lover’s Dream” is the ship’s signature production and tells its central theme of the fairytale love story between a mermaid and an astronaut through energetic acrobatics, elaborate sets on stage, song and dance. Speaking with our fellow cruisers, we were in agreement on the artistic talents of the entertainers, despite the dreamy storyline being rather fluid at times.

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Our favourite show is without a doubt the passionate and energetic dance-centered “Rhythm Divine”, a performance so good we’d gladly pay to watch again on-shore! Featuring ballroom dance champions from Belarus, Italy, Moldova and Slovenia accompanied by live music from the Love Bugs, this was a showcase of excellent dance choreography and execution through various themed segments from the 1970s to today.

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Returning to the chinoiserie Silk Road & Cabaret later in the evening, we find the venue transformed into an intimate Shanghai-style show lounge for the adult-only burlesque performance, “Late Night with the Dream Girls”. Besides the sensual main show, the ticket price (depending on seat proximity to the main stage) includes live music entertainment late into the night.

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The entertainment offerings come alive after sunset and most of the bars and lounges throughout the ship feature live music by various singers and bands across different genres and styles. Among this is the central stage at Bar360, helmed by singers Anna and Emma as well as hosting an aerialist performance at its atrium-style space.

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Partygoers will find a familiar name in Zouk, the nightlife institution from Singapore acquired by Genting Hong Kong. Under dynamic neon lighting and energetic dance music, Zouk Beach on the aft open-deck of the ship is the venue for partying on the high seas under the stars. While it was rather quiet most nights of our cruise, the space will eventually host the club’s evergreen Mambo Nights, as well as music festivals and guest DJ performances. Complementing it is a more mainstream indoor nightclub, which also features its own 4-lane bowling alley.

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With Genting’s roots in gaming, the casino remains an integral part of the entertainment onboard Genting Dream. Operating under the Resorts World at Sea branding, slots and table games are spread across the gaming floor on decks 7 and 8 aft, becoming a hive of activity when it is open within international waters. Several VIP and high-limit private rooms are also found throughout the ship.

 

Service / Staff

With 2,000 crew members serving 3,400 passengers, Genting Dream boasts one of the highest crew-to-passenger ratios in the industry and as such, we boarded the ship with higher expectations on service standards. The multi-national crew are pleasant, patient and polite, but we found them to be rather inexperienced in handling and resolving unexpected situations. There was also instances of contrasting information and miscommunication (which admittedly was frustrating at-times). While we understand that hiccups occur given the ship has just entered service, we felt more staff training is needed to refine and polish service standards to the brand promise.

 

Verdict

Dream Cruises and its style of cruising is a welcome addition to the region’s cruise market with a product that is revolutionary, yet maintains a sense of familiarity to its core customer, the Asian cruiser. The Genting Dream is a very well-built vessel with a world-class product and easily rivals the latest ships from the American and European lines. However, like all service industries the soft product holds greater prominence over the hardware and the line has some work to do in this area. Nonetheless, we are confident that these teething issues will gradually be ironed out and the line will grow to be a major player in Asia and beyond.

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