When I first heard about the return of cruises, my heart skipped a beat. Was this the first sign of leisure travel returning? I had scoffed at the idea of flights to nowhere — what a waste of fuel! — but a cruise to nowhere? Why not? I’d been on a couple of cruises before, albeit with offshore excursions, and enjoyed them more than I expected to. So when Genting Cruise Lines invited SingaporeMotherhood on a Super Seacation on the new World Dream, I was eager to accept.
My only concern was, of course, the very real threat of COVID-19 (and the swab test I’d have to undergo). The number of new cases daily in Singapore has fallen and holds steady at an almost negligible level. Yes, it’s folly to let our guards down. But since Dream Cruises was given the green light to operate, I was confident that only safe cruising awaited.
Pre-Boarding Process and That Dreaded Swab Test
Just after 11am last Sunday morning, I met up with my colleague at Marina Bay Cruise Terminal. An intrepid traveller though she may be, this was to be her first cruise. But even cruise veterans would find the pre-boarding process quite different now. Is it a new normal? Who knows?
The first stop was to check in our luggage at makeshift counters at the drop-off point at the main terminal. Then we were directed to the third level of the carpark a.k.a. swab central. Passengers have to be tested and certified negative for COVID-19 before they can board. As we were ushered to the waiting area cordoned off for our timeslot, I figured it was too late to back out now!
All passengers above six months of age must take the COVID-19 test prior to boarding (and upon return). But don’t worry. We can attest to the fact that there is minimal discomfort and no pain at all.
In fact, while awaiting my turn, I witnessed two little boys about two and four years old taking it like champs. The older brother sneezed several times after the swab, while the younger one looked a little stunned, but there was no crying or even a whimper from both. When I met them later on board the ship, they were running around happily, like it had never even happened.
Unlike the polymerase chain reaction test, the antigen rapid test doesn’t require the swab (like a cotton bud but thinner and longer) to penetrate as deeply. The cheerful PPE-clad doc asked me to hold my breath for five seconds as he swished the swab up one nostril, and then repeated with the other. The sensation was a little strange, and my eyes watered, but having experienced it, my nerves melted away. It’s not something that would keep me from attending events or potential travels.
Just 15 minutes later, we received our ‘negative’ certificate and the friendly guides ushered us back to the departure terminal. After the usual SafeEntry scans along the way, we proceeded to pass through immigration and board the ship. Yes, passports are still required as we do sail beyond Singapore waters.
Safely Aboard the World Dream!
A running theme throughout our three-night Super Seacation World Dream cruise was undoubtedly safe management measures. Everywhere we went on the 335-metre-long ship, we were met with friendly but unrelentless reminders.
Each of us had also received a MICE pod (a tracking token like the TraceTogether token) and our personalised cruise card (which acts as the key to your stateroom and your onboard identity card and credit card). Passengers are required to bring both along everywhere. The cruise card doubles up for tapping in at various gantries and venues throughout the ship.
Footprint stickers one metre apart on the plush carpets indicate where to stand while queuing to enter various venues. Hand sanitiser dispensers are ubiquitous, especially at restaurant entrances. We were soon holding out our palms for that mandatory squirt even before the cheerful crew could begin to say “Please sanitise your hands!”
It may all sound like a hassle, but with the cruises only allowed to operate at a maximum of 50 per cent capacity, there wasn’t much queueing or crowding to contend with anyway.
The one feature that really amazed us on board the World Dream is its Medical Centre. During a tour of the ship’s facilities, we saw a fully equipped ICU, an operating theatre for minor surgical procedures, a medical lab boasting a state-of-the-art PCR testing system, and a series of smaller staterooms converted into isolation and quarantine wards.
It’s reassuring to know that should someone exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, there are protocols in place to test and treat the patient, while keeping the rest of the ship safe.
Suite Palace Life
The World Dream is the twin sister ship to the Genting Dream, which I had the pleasure of cruising on back in 2019. So if you’ve cruised on the Genting Dream previously, you’ll find the World Dream as familiar as I did. The layout of the 19 decks, for instance. Even the restaurants and attractions, save for a few. And of course, the elegantly appointed staterooms.
This time, Genting Cruise Lines had kindly upgraded us to a Palace Suite. The 37-sqm suite boasts a queen-size “Dream Bed” with Italian luxury linens, a double sofa bed, and spacious balcony. It’s perfect for a family of three or four.
A walk-in wardrobe and vanity lead into a large bathroom with his-and-hers sinks, full bathtub, and shower cubicle. Premium bath amenities from Etro complete the luxurious experience. Oh, and did I mention the complimentary mini bar, snack station, and Nespresso machine?
And this is only the entry level suite here. There are four types, each more indulgent than the last. We got to tour the Palace Villa, which is among the largest two-bedroom accommodations at sea. It features a grand piano, gold-plated cutlery, private whirlpool, sauna, and sun deck. Never mind the ‘suite life’ — the Palace life wins hands down!
Being a Palace guest means a host of exclusive perks. VIP facilities include a private pool, spa, gym, and the 24-hour Palace Restaurant. We also enjoyed unlimited premium drinks and special set meals at all the specialty restaurants. Which our personal butler offered to help us make reservations for. All we had to do was hit the speed dial on our in-room telephone to have our requests fulfilled 24/7. Thank you, Butler Clarence!
Endless Delicious Dining Options
Which brings us to a very important topic — food! Among the specialty restaurants we tried, our favourites were Umi Uma Teppanyaki, and Seafood Grill by Mark Best.
At Umi Uma, our set meal gave us the options of salmon, chicken, or beef for the mains. It came with sides, an oh-so-yummy garlic fried rice, choice of dessert, and an entertaining teppanyaki performance by the talented Chef Harmie. If you’re looking for a meal your restless kid can sit through, this is it!
As Seafood Grill is paired with Prime Steakhouse, we had the option of set menus featuring either seafood or steak. After trying both, we thought the ribeye steak was a tad overdone for medium-rare. The seafood platter, on the other hand, was divine. From a plump oyster with a spicy topping to perfectly seared scallops, and a succulent half lobster, it felt like we had the pick of the ocean on our plates!
Of course, a big draw of cruises is the all-you-can-eat inclusive dining. You’ll find these at the Dream Dining Rooms on Decks 7 and 8, and at The Lido, the casual international buffet restaurant that shares Deck 16 with the main pool deck. You can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner there, complete with dedicated sections for Halal, Indian, and vegetarian cuisine. Not forgetting desserts and drinks too.
What’s changed is that it’s no longer a self-service buffet; instead, chefs are on hand to plate your choices. You’re also limited to five diners per table when dining, with no mingling allowed between tables. Yup, the same rules that apply in Singapore apply on board the World Dream too.
There is also an outdoor section which serves snacks and beverages all day and night. It’s perfect after a rigorous afternoon encounter with waterslides, or for supper fiends like me. If you’d been there for a midnight snack on any of the three nights during our Super Seacation, you would’ve caught us tucking into stir-fried beehoon, spring rolls, French fries…
Who Needs Port Days and Offshore Excursions?
Decks 16 to 18 are where all the (outdoor) action happens. The main pool comes complete with bubbling Jacuzzis and a water playground with kid-friendly slides. But thrill-seekers won’t be able to resist zooming through the long curving waterslides overhead. Remember to slap on lots of sunscreen!
For an extra adrenaline boost, attempt the mini rock-climbing wall and ropes course, which culminate in zip-lining over the sea, hanging over the side of the ship! Prefer more sedate activities? Organise family challenges at giant chess, table tennis, and mini golf. All these outdoor activities are free.
Do check out the Dream Daily newsletter which is delivered to your stateroom each day. That’s where you’ll find the programme schedule that tells you when to be where at any point in the day. For instance, the wittily named Vitamin Sea & Dream Program, where celebrity trainers offer complimentary fitness classes. One of these is Lucas Lim of FITLUC, who led an eclectic group — from young adults (including my colleague) to some very sporting older folk — in a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session.
Want a different kind of workout? Dive into the Esc EXPERIENCE LAB, where state-of-the-art VR technology transports you into fantastical worlds from $5 per ride. Speed through underwater realms on the Icaros simulator, experience the dark side in Star Wars Battle Pods, and challenge your kids to an F1 race. You can even design your own loop-de-loops on the Finger Coaster full-motion VR rollercoaster!
Big Adventures for Little Dreamers
And what’s a resort without a dedicated kids’ club? On the World Dream, the bright and spacious Little Dreamers Club is where it’s at. There are toys, movies, board games, role-play activities, even Nintendo games. Furthermore, scheduled activities range from Christmas crafts to STEAM workshops, and interactive storytelling sessions with professional stage performers. Parents can choose to join their kiddos, or simply leave them in the capable hands of professionally trained childcare staff.
Which is perfect if you need some adult time. For a romantic drink or complimentary ballroom dancing class with an international ballroom couple, for instance. In fact, the World Dream is very much an integrated resort on the high seas, so there’s always something to do. Need some retail therapy or a pampering spa treatment? You got it. Feel like catching a movie? No problem. In fact, Zouk Beach Club, once the setting for foam parties by night and kids’ dance-offs by day is now one of three venues for cinema-at-sea.
Apart from movies, the Zodiac Theatre is where we got to enjoy complimentary world-class productions and concerts by international stars. Just like on land, seats are marked for safe distancing, with a maximum of 250 seats available at each performance. The current headline act is the new holiday production, Verry Christmas. Classical ballet? Check. Playful cabaret-style act? Check. Acrobatic Santas, trampolining elves, adorable fairytale characters? Check, check check! You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Another major highlight was the Adventure Laser Display on the second evening of our cruise. Young and old dotted the main pool deck, while maintaining the requisite one metre distance between groups. At exactly 9pm, the music started up and laser lights danced across the night sky. It only lasted five minutes, but in that moment, it was as if we had found utopia in the middle of the ocean, where things like COVID-19 didn’t exist.
Escape on a Super Seacation!
With so much to do 24 hours a day, we found time on Dream Cruises passing way too quickly. The next thing we knew, the ship was once again docked alongside the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal. After a final hearty breakfast, it was time for us to disembark, get our second swab, and head home.
Three nights on the World Dream certainly helped make up for being stuck at home all these months. But don’t take our word for it. Book your own Dream Cruises and take advantage of the year-end launch promotions from now till 30 December 2020. A Super Seacation on the World Dream awaits!