How I overcame my fear of ships on a weekend cruise from Singapore with Dream Cruises. By Sumeet Keswani
I had never been on a cruise before. Until last month, my lone frame of reference for cruising, like many 90s kids, was Titanic. Not the best visual precedent to carry miles into the high seas. But this meant that every experience I would have on board the Genting Dream would suffer an irrational comparison with the doomed 1912 ship.
Right from the time we—a couple celebrating our second anniversary—arrived at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, we were told that we were travelling top of the class. From separate luggage kiosks to dedicated butlers, the passengers of The Palace—a private 10,000-square-metre ship-within-the-ship with 142 suites—availed the highest level of facilities and service. We even had our own restaurant, gym, and pool deck to avoid the crowds.
In a brief tour, we were informed that the 18-deck, 1,51,300-ton ship was capable of accommodating 3,400 guests and 2,000 crew members, a high crew-guest ratio. This focus on hospitality was further underlined in The Palace, where the ratio was 1:1 and personal butlers went the extra mile to entertain the wildest of requests. Ours were rather banal—booking onboard experiences, getting clothes ironed (no irons were allowed in the room for safety), and acquiring safety pins (you know this one if you’re a woman or married to one)—but the butlers are known to do much more. They even help you pack or unpack your luggage, and as the chief butler joked, “work out for you at the gym.” “We’re the top one per cent here,” remarked a fellow Palace guest, quite delighted at the distinction. Images of British elite, dressed in their regal best, ordering cups of tea as the RMS Titanic flooded, filled my mind and were promptly shoved out. My persisting fear of a calamity was put to rest by the Captain of the Genting Dream, Jukka Silvennoinen, during the Captain’s Gala. The Finland-born, Phuket-based Silvennoinen had seen a few accidents in his 36 years at sea. But he assured me that the safety measures on today’s ships were quite foolproof.
Once the ship left the port, I understood why people call today’s cruise liners ‘floating hotels’. I couldn’t even feel the Genting Dream move, except when we sat on a dining table with suspended cutlery that trembled quietly. There were over 35 restaurants and bars, including the first Johnnie Walker House at sea. As The Palace guests, we had the privilege of two complimentary set-menu meals in any of the six speciality restaurants, along with a premium-beverage package. My favourite of these was Umi Uma Teppanyaki, where Chef Brian from Philippines (“call me Justin Bieber Asian-Spice”) put up a culinary show, equal parts humour and food acrobatics, before serving each of us—a motley group of nine people with contrasting diet preferences—customised meals that used “Japanese produce—from China.” I do not remember a more entertaining meal.
Though the cruise had optional shore excursions on Bintan Island, Indonesia, there were far too many things to do on the ship as it followed a loopy trajectory from Singapore on the high seas and back over two nights. Bingo, fitness classes, a fashion show, t-shirt painting, belly-dancing classes, cocktail-making, graffiti, live cooking demos—who needed an excursion? The ship had buzzing nightlife too. Live music from multiple venues clashed in the art-speckled corridors; the slot machines were always occupied; kids and young adults made full use of the karaoke at Zouk Club; and a St Patrick Foam Party drenched the Zouk Beach Club and its revellers in neon-green light and soap foam.
There was also a strong line-up of shows in the 999-seat Zodiac Theatre. As The Palace guests, we had front-row seats to the jazz-centric Some Like It Hot. The performers were bafflingly skilled and put up a show that was highly entertaining, if a little thin on plot. But it was at the Silk Road Chinese Restaurant that I witnessed the most amusing show, Dreamgirls Save The World. Somewhere between a cabaret and a full-blown strip show, the ‘world saving’ involved a set of women dressing up in native garb from countries around the world that conformed to stereotypes (tribals in Africa, Eskimos in wintry Russia), only to take them off on-stage in meticulously choreographed dance moves. While this is expected of adult entertainment, what took us by surprise was the interactive nature of the performance. For some of the dances, male spectators were coaxed up onto the stage. Dressed as tribals, the women ‘worshipped’ one of the befuddled men, gyrating and disrobing in circles before ‘devouring’ him, all in gesticulation of course. Given that the volunteers were all newly-weds on honeymoon—with their wives sitting cross-armed in the audience—I think a marriage or two might have been ‘sacrificed’. Who said cruises were uneventful?
SUMMER CRUISES ON THE GENTING DREAM
Explore Thailand, Indonesia, Bali, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
A 5N Singapore-Nha Trang-Ho Chi Minh-Singapore cruise leaves on April 14, June 30, and September 29. From INR 39,130 per person on twin-sharing basis.
A 4N Singapore-Ko Samui-Pulau Redang-Singapore cruise leaves on May 20 and August 12. From INR 32,425 per person. Early bookings get 40 per cent discount (till November 5, 2019). (dreamcruiseline.com)