Once again, the world is our oyster. Travel lanes are open and there are flights to almost every part of the earth. But if the thought of folding yourself into a standard airline seat induces mental cramps, why not consider a cruise? Even better; say “bye” to those maundering cruises to nowhere that were de rigueur during COVID days, and voyage on a vessel to a destination – or three.
That’s what the child and I did when we were invited to cruise with Genting Dream on its inaugural sailing from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang), Penang, and Phuket. Genting Dream, which is run by Resorts World Cruises, offers specially curated shore excursions for each port of call. These are run by independent tour operators and can be booked onboard at least 24 hours before.
(See also: SingaporeMotherhood’s first 6D5N cruise on Genting Dream)
KUALA LUMPUR (PORT KLANG)
It is a 45-minute journey from Port Klang jetty to Batu Caves. This limestone outcrop north of Kuala Lumpur consists of three main caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines. A massive gold-painted statue of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan stands guard next to the iconic rainbow steps. Plain-clothed devotees ascending to worship cut a stark contrast against influencers twirling in gauzy skirts for that perfect social media shot. We buy a packet of seeds to feed the pigeons, but there is not enough time to climb the 272 steps and enter the caves to explore.
From here it’s a journey back in time to the 1960s, the golden era of KL’s Chinatown. Lovingly restored and meticulously curated, Kwai Chai Hong is a celebration of chinois nostalgia. Snap a photo with an installation, pose before a mural, and grab a cuppa of ‘gao’ coffee at the nearby Kafei Dian, a retro kopitiam housed in a 109-year-old Pos Malaysia Office building.
Chop Chop curry pok and we’re back on the bus heading to Petronas Twin Towers for lunch at Madam Kwan’s. This KL foodie institution serves classic Malaysian dishes, and its signature Nasi Lemak has been recommended as the best nasi lemak by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia. We’re feasting on Nasi Bojari today though, a hefty indulgence of tri-coloured rice, Assam Prawn, Beef Rendang, vegetables, and deep fried chicken drumstick.
We need a walk around the mall to help move the meal down. By the way, the 88-storey Twin Towers is also home to Petrosains, The Discovery Centre. If you have the time, this science and STEM centre is definitely worth a visit with the kids.
Our final stop is the Regent Layered Cake Shop, an old school bakery whose layer cakes that alternate spongy chiffon and silky jelly were named ‘cake of the world’ by CNN Travel. In terms of flavour, pandan is the classic, but they also have corn, yam, a mix of the two, and, when it’s in season, durian.
If “Char Kway Teow” is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Penang”, it might be a good idea to sign up for a shore excursion and learn more about this Pearl of the Orient. For instance, did you know that there’s a Penang Hill? And that a cool funicular takes you up there? At 833m above sea level, Penang Hill is where you can get breathtaking views of the city, and eat, hike, stay, and visit the UNESCO awarded Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve.
We descend one peak to scale another, this time in the heart of the city, and by less exciting means. Top @ Komtar has a Rainbow Skywalk on Level 68, and an Observatory Deck on Level 65. It’s a touristy thing but the view is spectacular, and there are cute installations to take photos with. The queues to the lifts for each viewing level are slow-moving, something to keep in mind as you will have to factor in time to return to the ship.
It is peak lunch hour when we make it to Lebuh Keng Kwee in George Town and the coffee shop is heaving with customers. There is more waiting to do, this time for our Char Kway Teow and cendol, but the flavours are worth it. We order the oyster omelette and Assam Laksa as well. When it comes to Penang hawker food, resistance is futile.
Of course we get to admire the street art that this UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for. After all, if you went to Penang and didn’t take a photo of the street art, did you even go to Penang?
Genting Dream is the first cruise ship to visit post-pandemic Phuket and the island is ready and waiting. The sun’s rays streak through a cloud mesh as we board our shuttle for our five-minute ride across the sea. Stepping onto the shore, it seems as if the entire island has come out to welcome us. Music is playing. The Governor of Phuket is here. Thai dancers in shiny costumes flow with grace in welcome. Tourism officials shake our hands and present us with specially-sewn tote bags. You win. I have my Baht and am ready to spend, spend, spend! But first…
We head for Phuket Old Town, a vibrant enclave of historic Sino-Portuguese architecture, cafes, museums, and shops. Our first stop is Woo Gallery, a shophouse museum that showcases how Chinese migrants in Phuket lived a 100 years ago. There are antiques and artefacts galore, from priceless glass-blown vases that signify wealth and status by their shape and colour, to ancient gramophones, porcelain, and even a wooden baby rocker.
From there we walk a few doors down to the quaint Bann 92 cafe where a couple of Nonya matriarchs teach us how to cook our Thai Hokkien Mee lunch. We eat in the lush backyard garden, and try our hands at making ang ku kueh. There is time to wander around the very photogenic and Instagrammable Phuket Old Town after this. Later we stop by Pornthip for edible souvenirs, and the Madunan T-Shirt Shop which sells tees at wholesale prices.
The van drops us back at the jetty. We’re free to wander, as long as we return to the ship by 6pm. Should we get a massage? Eat some Thai food? Go to the beach? Do some shopping? There’s enough time to do it all but the sky is darkening and the child – who has been waking up early for three consecutive days – is drooping like a withered daffodil. So we hop onto a shuttle and head back to our home at sea, the Genting Dream.
Shore and Sea on the Genting Dream
Three shore excursions over three consecutive days on a six day, five night cruise is no joke. Call times are at 8am and by the time we make it back to the ship after the excursions it is late afternoon. Hence there is only one full day to take advantage of the ship’s facilities.
To give you an idea:
- Sunday – board Genting Dream in the afternoon
- Monday – Kuala Lumpur
- Tuesday – Penang
- Wednesday – Phuket
- Thursday – At sea
- Friday – Back in Singapore
Of course, it is possible to plan your own shore excursions and return earlier, or skip the shore completely and enjoy a relatively less crowded ship. However the shore excursions are a good idea if you are new to the destination, or prefer to leave the planning in the hands of the experts. It may also be easier if you are cruising with young ones or the elderly.
To be honest, I’d have liked an extra day at sea to decompress and enjoy more of Genting Dream’s facilities (more on them in our first Genting Dream trip report here), which is what the child and I did whenever we could. The best part? Chilling out at the cabin balcony, watching the sea meet the sky, and knowing that there’s more of this out there for us to enjoy and explore on another cruise, another day.
Genting Dream’s next 6D5N cruise to KL, Penang, and Phuket is on 12 March 2023 (during the March school hols, btw). Three-night cruises from Singapore to Phuket will start in May this year. See the latest deals and book your cruise at https://rwcruises.com/