Whistling Popeye The Sailor Man while sipping complimentary tea on my cabin’s private balcony, the calm, dark green South China Sea felt surprisingly therapeutic.
I was on the Genting Dream – an 18-deck, 151,300-tonne, US$1bil (RM4.45bil) luxurious floating resort – at the invitation of Dream Cruises under Genting Hong Kong.
The 335m-long and 40m-wide vessel currently operates out of her dual homeport of Hong Kong and Nansha in Guangzhou, catering primarily to the vast Chinese market. Come December, she will deploy to her new home in Singapore for her Asean stint.
For the uninitiated, life on board the modern cruise ship has evolved into a cashless society. Before boarding, every passenger is issued with a smart card that functions as the cabin key and a credit card. Just swipe it to settle the bill at dozens of F&B outlets, for entertainment or duty-free shopping, or for that much-needed facial or massage at the wellness centre.
Castle on the sea
One of Genting Dream’s major selling points is the luxury redefined Dream Palace, which is a boutique hotel and private clubhouse for people with a finer taste in life.
Dream Palace offers unsurpassed service and unbeatable perks.
The 142 luxury suites, including two duplex penthouses, come with private atrium, private lounges, private dining area, private gym and a private pool.
On a ship that houses another 1,600-plus cabins and with a maximum capacity north of 3,000 passengers, naturally there will be fierce competition for tables and chairs. Dream Palacers have an ace up their sleeve – priority reservation for everything, VIP seats in the theatre, and first to board or leave.
And did I mention the 24/7 European butler service? The men and women on butler detail have been meticulously trained to make Dream Palace guests feel like a king, maharajah or empress.
Mark of the Best
Dining on Genting Dream is truly a gastronomic journey. It is impossible to go hungry, with more than 35 restaurants and concept bars.
From Asian favourites at the round-the-clock Food Federation to mouth-watering wagyu beef or lobster at Japanese Umi Uma, one is truly, pardon the cliche, spoilt for choice. Why not allocate a slot for an elegant afternoon high tea at Palm Court, and then outdoor steamboat dinner at Genting Room caressed by the cooling sea wind?
A typical lazy day during my week-long stay started with dim sum breakfast there, prawn lunch here, club sandwich snack somewhere starboard, ice cream with sunset thrown in portside, five-course dinner, followed by midnight wanton noodle soup.
To quench your thirst the connoisseur way, have a rare Scotch whiskey at the Johnnie Walker House, pop a bottle of champagne at Bubbles or “break” the Penfolds Wine Vault.
Somehow, Dream Cruises managed to pull off a coup by roping in acclaimed Australian chef Mark Best. With a family name like that, diners should, er … expect only the best.
Best has a merciless approach to food preparation and sources for the freshest, premium-quality ingredients from small producers.
With sheer luck, we (there are two other Malaysian journalists and three Genting hosts in our group) landed a table, which is amazing, considering Best’s Bistro was fully booked for the entire journey on the very first day.
He had created two exclusive dishes for this adventure – Steamed Murray Cod “Three Rivers” and Super Vanilla Ice Cream, Berries & Meringue – which we sampled, among other things.
The verdict: They were devilishly delicious. Not bad for a chef who had started out as an electrician.
Heaven above, ocean below
Having fulfilled the “eat” and “drink” part, let’s proceed to the “be merry” segment. In this department, Genting Dream passes with flying colours. At the pool deck, there are six water slides for thrill-seekers. It is common to hear kids and adults screaming in delight as they negotiate the tubes.
Also try the rock-climbing wall, mini-golf course or the adrenaline-pumping zip line, which is perched on top of the ship with an unobstructed view of the sea below.
If you are tempted to spend quality time with the missus and happened to have brought a young child along, the Little Pandas Club – a professional babysitting centre – will take care of that.
Since the Rooster falls under the Chinese zodiac, why not adjourn to the 999-seat live entertainment Zodiac Theatre. Here you get to relive China’s Got Talent, an exact reproduction of the reality show featuring the real McCoys.
On alternating nights, don’t miss the Voyage Of A Lover’s Dream, the ship’s signature show. The Broadway-class production tells an improbable story about an astronaut and a mermaid falling in love. I watched it twice.
The hands of time indicated 11.38pm so I decided to call it a day. My fellow travellers had the option of partying all night long at Zouk. Yes, the legendary Singapore club is on board and it welcomes all creatures of the zodiac, nocturnal or not.
Back on my cabin’s balcony, I sipped wine and glanced occasionally at the ridiculously comfy bed. I saw stars in the sky, I heard the lullaby of the waves. My dream (the cruise) had come true even before I fell asleep!
For more information, go to www.dreamcruiseline.com, or call 03-2302 1288 (Kuala Lumpur) or 04-269 8388 (Penang).