Nothing prepares you for the sheer size of Genting Dream. From afar, it looked like a picture and even after we drove closer, I still could not fathom the enormousness of the vessel. Genting Dream has 18 decks — excluding the waterslide park and other recreational areas — with a length of 335m, width of 40m and passenger capacity of 3,352. It is said that there are two staff members for every guest.
After checking in at the designated counter, we set off to find our rooms while learning the boating lingo such as port (the side of a ship that is on the left when you are facing forward), starboard (right), forward (front) and aft (back). We had to travel through a maze of rooms on the lower decks and one of the friendly staff members told us to look down if we ever got lost — in the halls, the carpeted floors have flower motifs that grow towards the forward.
Genting Dream has an array of staterooms, from the Interior and Oceanview that are on the cosier side with two single beds and two single sofa beds, to the Balcony and Balcony Deluxe, which come with a queen size bed and a single sofa bed. I stayed in a Balcony Deluxe stateroom, where I was “welcomed” by macarons to start on a sweet note.
Those who prefer a more luxurious experience can indulge in a Palace or Palace Deluxe suite, which is more spacious, or go all out with a 56 sq m Palace Penthouse or a 224 sq m Palace Villa. The latter even comes with a grand piano, bar, hot tub and sauna, which we found out when we were given a tour. Palace guests are given access to VIP facilities such as a private swimming pool, spa, gym and dining venue, on top of having their own Dream Butler to see to their every whim.
For our welcome dinner, we were treated to a four-course meal at Seafood Grill by Mark Best, which was a delight. From the simple Caesar salad and warm cauliflower soup with caviar to the Rangers Valley steak, the meal was a symphony of flavours that got the cruise off to a great start. What’s more, we had the opportunity to meet chef Mark Best and his equally famous partner from Netflix show The Final Table, chef Shane Osborne. The fangirl in me was over the moon.
As Genting Dream sailed from Singapore to Nha Trang in Vietnam, we barely felt any movement. After a well-rested night, we were given the opportunity to speak at length with The Final Table stars, especially Best who gave us a little insight into managing a restaurant on the vessel. “The biggest difference is obviously the moving view, and the logistics. We have to adjust the way that we order things. There’s no real difference except trying to be organised for a greater volume of people.
“We’re moving to different countries, we’re picking up as we go, so there are changing relationships. We’ve had strong relationships with either providers or farmers, directly or one step removed … establishing new relationships and new supply chains, especially from Australia to here, so there’s a lot of bureaucratic issues to get through to get produce from country to country. That has been one of the things we are proudest of — getting on board a lot of Australian produce that wasn’t on board before,” Best explained. He and Osborne also did a live cooking demonstration for all passengers where they recreated their popular Thanksgiving Turkey Burger, which won over the judges on The Final Table.
It is difficult to get bored on Genting Dream. There are numerous bars such as Bar 360, Bubbles Champagne bar, Humidor Cigar Lounge, Johnnie Walker House and Penfolds Wine Vault. With private and public karaoke rooms, the Zouk night club, Zouk Beach Club, Glow Bowling, Crystal Life spa, outdoor waterslide park, rock climbing wall and arcade, you could have an endless list of activities, not to mention the slot machines at every corner and numerous shopping opportunities. The ship also always has something going on — whether it is yoga classes, a movie screening, caricature paintings, game shows or dance performances. We had a few opportunities to enjoy the gymnastic feats and groovy moves of performers who set up at the lobby or at Bar 360 for all to enjoy.
On our tour, we even had the opportunity to talk to the ship’s captain and learn a bit about the workings of the vessel. Unlike Captain Jack Sparrow with his exciting pirating adventures, Genting Dream’s captain often works behind the scenes doing paperwork while three of his crew members keep an eye on the operations of the ship, which has five generators for electricity and for boat propulsion. The vessel stores 4,000 tonnes of water and uses 700 tonnes of fuel for each journey.
With these dizzying facts and figures in mind, we explored the ship further before prepping for the next day’s excitement. For this cruise, there were two stops in Vietnam — Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City — before we returned to Singapore. Passengers had the option of disembarking for a day of adventure or remaining on board to enjoy the amenities.
On arrival off the shores of Nha Trang, we hopped onto smaller boats to make our way to the coastal city known as the Riviera of the South China Sea, with white sandy beaches and clear waters. We visited the Tram Huong Tower on one of these expansive beaches and our tour guide told us that it was built to represent two Vietnamese symbols — sandalwood and the lotus flower. From there, we enjoyed a view of untouched islands with verdant mountains while warming our feet in the pristine sands or soaking in the cool waters.
Next, we visited the Dam market — a wet market with myriad produce, including fruits and meats. With our haul, we headed to Champa Island Resort for a cooking class, starting with a fresh chicken salad and then moving on to trying to wrap the perfect Vietnamese spring roll, before dishing up Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit, also known as Vietnamese cabbage rolls soup. After feasting on this wonderful fare, we begrudgingly left for the next item on our agenda.
The Po Nagar Cham Towers, a temple built between the 7th and 12th centuries, are still being used for worship by Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists.
Our tour guide told us that the temple honours “the Goddess”, also known as the goddess of the Dua (Liu) clan. Considering their age, the sandstone structures were well maintained, with wear mostly visible on the once intricately carved roofs. Inside the buildings were shrines of Hindu and Buddhist deities and we were allowed to enter after removing our footwear.
On our long van ride back to the shore, our tour guide regaled us with a beautiful rendition of a Vietnamese song, said to be for those who want brighter days. We ended the evening with a sumptuous meal at teppanyaki restaurant Umi Uma on Genting Dream, before availing ourselves of the karaoke facilities.
Ho Chi Minh City
While the outside world calls it Ho Chi Minh City, most locals still prefer its old name — Saigon. The city was renamed after the spiritual leader of Vietnamese Communists in the 1970s. This vibrant metropolis is buzzing with the activity of about 13 million people, most of whom zip around on one of seven million motorcycles. With a mix of ancient temples and pagodas, French architecture and modern skyscrapers, the city is steeped in history and culture.
Our tour guide for this leg was cheekier than the last, often saying things like, “We are the same size as Japan, but we’re better at making babies.” The first place he brought us to was the Reunification Palace, a retro-looking structure surrounded by greenery and filled with official and eerie halls and rooms. It is a landmark for the fall of the city in 1975 when the first Communist tanks arrived. We explored its hallowed halls and war paraphernalia in the basement.
Next up was the Central Post Office, a great place to buy knick-knacks, and we admired the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral next door. Built between 1877 and 1883, the cathedral is said to have stunning stained-glass windows. Unfortunately, it was under construction when we were there, so we moved on to delve deeper into Vietnamese culture and religion at the history museum. Our final destination in the city was the Ben Thanh Market, where we spent our time bargaining for rattan wares and Vietnamese paper crafts.
The day before we arrived back in Singapore was spent exploring Genting Dream and monkeying around on a rope obstacle course, where we dangled above the open sea. After that adrenaline rush, we indulged in a special The Final Table experience with a specially curated menu concocted by Best and Osborne. Then, we headed to the Zodiac Theatre for a fun-filled performance — a combination of acrobatics, dancing and powerful vocals.
The cruise ended with a bang with colourful fireworks set off, followed by performances and upbeat dance-alongs. We left Genting Dream reluctantly the next day, with our fingers crossed for a chance to board her again.
This article first appeared on Jan 20, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.