Explorer Dream, the latest ship from Asia’s first luxury cruise line, has arrived in Sydney – marking the line’s first sailing beyond Asia.

The 1,856-passenger ship, described as “Asia at heart and international in spirit”, recently joined the line’s fleet in April 2019, after her $43.5 million (US$30 million) refurbishment, with new offerings for the Australian market.

It marks a significant milestone for the line, with one ship in Hong Kong and one in Singapore. It is building two “global ships” designed to carry Asians into Europe and America, taking it from local to international player.

“Dream Cruises is excited to begin a new chapter as we chart new waters beyond Asia to homeport in Australia starting this year for the very first time, creating new milestones as Dream Cruises evolve into ‘Asia’s Global Cruise Line’,” says Mr Michael Goh, President of Dream Cruises and Head of International Sales, Genting Cruise Lines.

The ship, once SuperStar Virgo of Star Cruises, remerged from its refit with modern, light and airy public spaces, a luxury “ship within a ship” concept called The Palace, updated staterooms, new gaming area, The Zone featuring the latest VR technology and game consoles, brand new kids area and more.

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The lido buffet

The line is expecting an 80 per cent to 20 per cent Australian to International passenger ratio during her season Down Under. Dream Cruises also announced plans to return to the region for the 2020/21 season and to bring more ships here in the future.

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The balcony stateroom

For food and dining, Explorer Dream partners acclaimed Australian Chef Mark Best to introduce new al fresco dining Seafood Grill and bring the Australian touch to the fusion style dishes in the Dream Dining Room.

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Mark Best in the Dream Dining Room

The dishes feature local ingredients paired with Asian influences, like a Pumpkin Dashi Soup with Parmesan Gnocchi, Australian Freshwater Crayfish with Hot and Sour Sauce, Saffron Risotto with Artichoke and Hot Bean Paste, Braised Wagyu Short Rib with Gai Choy and a peppery black truffle sauce.

Even the dessert combines the flavours of two cultures with a mandarin curd topped with passion fruit and kaffir lime leaves.

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Australian Freshwater Crayfish with Hot and Sour Sauce

For the menus on Explorer Dream, Chef Best will be using oysters from local growers, Murray cod from Batemans Bay, Australian beef and native Australian Marron crayfish. “I have brought a Shanghainese classic, the hot and sour sauce to the Marron, that’s the type of approach I’ve had with the cuisine here,” says Chef Best.

The ship also has specialty restaurants like Umi Uma for Japanese delights, Silk Road for traditional Chinese fare, Blue Lagoon for Southeast Asian comfort food and Palm Court for informal refreshments and breath-taking views. And an all new Mozzarella Ristorante e Pizzeria will tantalise with a modern fusion of classic Italian dishes and pizzas with a Japanese twist.

Another highlight of the Explorer Dream is the luxury “ship within a ship” concept The Palace which boasts an incomparable “True Asian Luxury” experience.

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The Palace exclusive pool

It has an industry leading staff to guest ratio, majority of suites at over 40 square meters and butlers trained by a Crystal Cruises endorsed program, their sister line renowned for great butler service.

“Australians work extremely hard, people want to treat themselves and The Palace is for people wanting to experience affordable luxury. It is very exclusive and there is many inclusive benefits that come with it, from the drinks package to the Wi-Fi and the minute you reach the cruise terminal, there is a butler waiting for you,” says Ms Brigita Devries, Dream Cruises’ Vice President Australia and New Zealand.

The Palace butlers will be at your service 24 hours, guests also has access to a range of private facilities: pool and deck area, restaurant, casino and more. Guests of The Palace will also enjoy one complimentary meal at a specialty restaurant daily, a complimentary shore excursion at each port.

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The Palace cafe

Access to The Palace is offered at around triple the price of their regular Balcony Staterooms, starting from $9,727 for seven-night Sydney roundtrip in February 2020.

We asked but there are no Australian butlers currently on board. However Chef Best who is staying in one of the 44 sold out suites in The Palace at the moment is hooked on the 1000 thread count “pretty sheets”.

“No nationality can resist the 1,000 thread count sheets, once you get used to that, there’s no going back,” says Chef Best.

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The Palace restaurant

Ms Devries also says that The Palace is a “fair few notches higher” and even ‘incomparable” to ship within a ship concepts on other lines, and guests have given feedback that “this is the best service they have ever experienced”.

The ship will sail a series of roundtrip cruises of about a week from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland this summer. Cruisers also have the option to embark at Brisbane for short cruises to Sydney.

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Music and dance on Explorer Dream

explorer dream acrobatic dance e1572235284878While on board, guests can look forward to modern acrobatic dance and music for entertainment, in a similar style that is found across their fleet. The line is also looking to cater to multi-generational travel with their new high-tech gaming area The Zone and Little Dreamers Club kids area.

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The brand new Little Dreamers Club

The Little Dreamers Club features different stations for children of different ages, including a large LED screen for movie viewing, Nintendo switch gaming console and an outdoor Playpark exclusive to Explorer Dream. The Parthenon Pool deck also features a Caesar’s Slide.

“The arrival of Explorer Dream in Sydney will not only bring more choice to Australian cruisers but also more opportunity for international passengers to reach Australia,” says Joel Katz, Managing Director Australasia of CLIA.