Peter Lynch samples life aboard the Genting Dream, where Josip the butler is on hand to smooth our every little wrinkle.
We’ve never arrived at an immigration counter in such style.
It’s early morning , and the Genting Dream is disgourging over 4,000 passengers, including many famies with discordant gangs of adrenalin-charged children.
Singapore’s usually well-oiled welcome is wilting. But for us, there is no queueing.
Our fabulous Dream Butler Josip is walking us right up to the counter, balancing our bags with good humour and apologetic that he can’t actually sweep us past the uniformed officials. He’s a blonde haired, six feet four Croation wearing full tail-coat, wastcoat and tie. So he’s hard to miss in the throng of Asian passengers. We feel like movie stars.
It’s the perfect end to five days in which Josip managed to make himself an indespensible part of our lives.
“Josip, we need tickets for tonight’s show”, we’d say half way through the day. No problem. And there he would be at the theatre entrance, beaming like Bertie Wooster’s Jeeves, ready to conduct us to our seats.
At breakfast, he helped families feed their ravenous kids with a mix of dumplings and baked beans. At dinner, he was ready with recommendations and a quiet word to the maitre d.
How did we ever cruise without him? More importantly, how could we smuggle him through Australian immigration?
Asia’s first luxury cruise line is now homeported in Singapore, and is proving a big draw card for a country determined to make itself Asia’s cruse hub.
When she first launched onto the market last year, Genting Dream was billed as “Asia’s first luxury cruise line”. And indeed, this handsome German-built vessel is full to the brim with fabulous places to relax and indulge.
She boasts magnificent suites in The Palace – it’s VIP ship-within-a-ship area – 35 restaurants, a Penfolds wine and a Johnny Walker whisky bar, water slides, a bowling alley, a poolside cinema, two enormous spas (one Asian, one European) and a massive nightclub.
But there is more to the Dream experience than butlers and fine dining. It’s a United Nations at sea.
Indian families, Indonesians and Straits Chinese are the vast majority of the ship’s compliment during our cruise. And as families rubbed shoulders in the Jacuzzi or pool, it was amazing to see this cultural melting pot at work.
One huge contingent of Chinese is celebrating their grandparent’s 40th wedding anniversary. Twenty family members from toddlers to Octogenarians are sporting red Our Family First T shirts.
Dream cruises now has two ships – near identical twins – allowing Genting Dream to be based year-round in Singapore and World Dream in Hongkong.
So Australians and New Zealanders are a target for the line which boasts it can provide a true East meets West experience. The enormous growth of fly-cruise and easy access to Singapore – one of Australia’s favourite destinations – makes Dream Cruises a new and different alternative to the already successful Singapore fly-cruise market.
They are making some mouth-watering offers. Our cruise had a smattering of Aussie early adopters in the Palace. Jasmine, a caterer from Perth, bought tickets at half price and was loving every minute.
We met her at the teppanyaki table. “Please don’t make to much of a fuss of this,” she begged. “We don’t want everyone back home to know how good it is!”
Sorry Jasmine. We just let the cat out of the bag.
So what can Aussie or NZ cruisers expect from this fascinating floating melting pot? A cruise full of surprises, that’s for sure. There’s never a dull moment aboard the Genting Dream.
You can be at a top Broadway show one minute, and a naughty topless night club review the next. You can witness the winners of China’s Got Talent (some of the most amazing acrobats we’ve ever seen), and a bizarre night market where cut-price noodles jostle with classy watches and handbags.
The one thing Genting Dream doesn’t do is boring.
Our cruise to Phuket took place during schools holidays. So there were plenty of families with kids. But there were still plenty of places to spend some tranquil down-time.
Genting Dream sails to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket or Surabaya and North Bali.
Right now, you can get a Buy One Get One Free” offer on a five night summer season cruise. Kids under 12 sail free in the same stateroom as two adults, and there are special fares for adults over 50. See more at dreamcruiseline.com.
Here’s our verdict on a fascinating Asian odyssey:
With over 30 venues to choosse from, you’re spoilt for choice. Start your day with Dim Sum. The main dining room serves buns and dumplings from 6.30, along with lots of other great Chinese delicacies. There is a full Western breakfast.
The Lobby Café and Blue Lagoon is like a hawker centre in Singapore – full of gorgeous, spicy South East Asian dishes. You can even enjoy a game of mahjong.
If you’re in the Palace suites, there is a private dining room just for you, with a truly eclectic mix of east and west.
Silk Road is a stunning explosion of crimson décor with a set menu that includes abalone – the great Chinese delicacy. Umi Uma’s teppanyaki tables are sheer exuberance, with singing and juggling chefs and fresh seafood and steaks.
Our highlight was Australian chef Mark Best’s Bistro – an Aussie beacon in a sea of Asian cuisine. Mark was on board and served us creations from his team, including lobster rendang, his famous three rivers Murray cod and the best coconut icecream we’ve ever had.
We even took Mark on a food tour of Penang – a global foodie capital. Mark loved it
Walking through the Genting Dream is a bit like wondering through New Orleans – except with an Asian twist. There’s an entertainer around every corner, from an accordian/saxophone couple to a Chinese duet singing Mandarin love songs.
The shows were explosive, including China’s Got Talent – a clever mix of top TV and live acts (the Chinese twins who performed contortions which made us wriggle in our seats!).
A risque midnight show (lucky Josip managed to get us tickets!) swept us to the Parisienne West Bank.
Ten pin bowling near to Zouk, an open air cinema, Bollywood discos and zip lining – there really was never a dull moment.
We had access to The Palace – a special area for VIP guests where Josip and his colleagues served up drinks and food to the ship’s VIPs.
The Palace Villas are huge, with grand pianos that play themselves, private bars, jacuzzi and roof gardens.
Our balcony stateroom was on level 9, and had everything we needed for our five day stay.
Interesting to see the line’s relationship with Crystal Cruises – one of the world’s most awarded lines – celebrated with bathroom amenities in the Crystal Life range.
There are more than seven styles of accommodation. Our recommendation: get into the Palace if you can (and tell Josip we miss him!).
Beautifully designed and built in Germany, the Genting Dream features water slides, pools, a bowling alley, 35 restaurants, a theatre, shopping and much more.
She has room for almost 4,000 passengers, and features a host of venues for everything from music to food and entertainment. Like a town square, there’s never a dull moment on the entertainment deck. And we loved the multi-cultural atmosphere.
Of course, the suites in The Palace are the place to be.
The shore Excursions
Our five-day journey took us to Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, and Phuket in Thailand. In every port, we gorged on the local food, took in the sites and our guides were happy to tailor make our experiences.
We loved the complexity of the Malaysian experience – modern Asia blended with tradition. And Phuket is a high-octane tourist town and heaps to do.
You can read a full report on our shore experiences in our magazine, available for subscription at our website.
Dream Cruises have a very special offer right now – your partner can go free. Some terms and conditions apply, so contact Dream Cruises to find out the details. see www.dreamcruiseline.com