With the exception of It’s The Ship, a festival cruise, I’ve never once considered going on a cruise for a holiday. True to the millennial stereotype, organised tours and fixed itineraries have never appealed to me. But last month, CLEO was invited to board the Genting Dream (which, coincidentally, plays host to It’s The Ship annually), so I got to step foot on a cruise ship for the very first time in my life, and experience what a cruise holiday is actually like.
What I did on the cruise
‘What’s there to do on a cruise?’ was the first thought that popped into my mind. As it turned out, plenty.
Here’s what I enjoyed: the water slides (I had a go on all five); Zouk, and Zouk Beach Club, with the latter screening movies on the big screen, so you can watch, say, Finding Dory under the stars at night.
Selected restaurants on board the cruise are included in the package, while the more premium dining options are charged separately. I would say that the restaurants that are part of the package cover a wide range of cuisines—from international buffets to a la carte-style dim sum—so I definitely wasn’t bored by the food options.
One of the highlights for me was just sunning myself out on the deck during sunsets—the views are amazing and the light situation is perfect for vacay photos because everything is washed in a super flattering golden glow.
Oh, and the sunrises from the balcony of my room were pretty epic too.
The Genting Dream also houses an arcade, spas, karaoke rooms and a mini golf course, and hosts shows nightly in its theatres.
PS: Your passport will be collected by the crew members once you board the ship, and it’ll be returned to you when you’re docking back in Singapore.
Places I visited
Typically, cruises would dock at destinations for half a day to a full day, and during this time, guests can head out to explore the area.
For guests on the Genting Dream, you can book shore excursions in advance at the reception area. The activities range from guided tours to activities like snorkeling and muay thai training.
Dream Cruises also recently launched voluntourism activities on selected cruises, for woke tourists who want to help the communities that they are visiting in small ways. Activities for these voluntourism efforts include beach clean ups, visiting orphanages, and so on. These voluntourism activities are complimentary.
“Apart from bringing volunteers to these places, we also had partnered with various foundations to raise funds and donate necessary provisions,” says a spokesperson from Genting Cruise Lines. “Besides that, we have also hosted various events on board our ships for the members of these communities and will continue to do so.”
Our first stop was Penang, where we made a stop at the Eden Handicap Service Center. The non-profit organisation provides vocational training and support for those who are mentally or physically disabled.
We spent the afternoon helping the residents with their current task, which is to pack items into individual toy capsules. The center also has a crafts shop selling accessories and various knick knacks that are handmade by their residents.
After a couple of hours at the center, we had the rest of the day to explore Penang’s clan jetties and Georgetown, where I promptly stuffed my face with Assam Laksa and Chendol before rushing back for boarding.
The next day, we docked at Phuket. The voluntourism activity offered at this stop was a visit to Baan Kalim school, a local government school that needed help with upgrading works. I never imagined that I’d be painting the walls of a school on my first visit to Phuket, but I didn’t mind it either.
Did I make a huge difference in anybody’s lives? Probably not. But did I feel like a helpful, conscious citizen of the world? I’d like to think that my tour group helped the school in a small way—the cruise provided the materials to paint with, while the visitors provided the manpower, which hopefully saves the school some funds in that aspect.
After we were done painting the room, we got onto a tour bus which dropped us off at a shopping mall. Time spent there was a little limited because we had to board the cruise again in the afternoon, but it was just enough to squeeze in an hour’s worth of Thai foot massage.
Is it worth it?
One of the things that pains me about going on vacation is the actual trip planning, especially if I’m traveling with friends. So if I ever traveled in a huge group—either with friends or family—I would think that this is a pretty fuss-free solution to the logistical headache that comes with group travel.
While I’d have loved to spend more time in each of the towns we visited, each stop gave me a brief glimpse into what each destination has to offer—as well as some photo ops for Instagram. And I got to experience—although very briefly—what it’s like to do volunteer work overseas. You won’t be changing the world with these efforts (you’re only popping by for a few hours after all, let’s be real), but it’s a way to get a feel of what it’s like before deciding if you want to make a more committed effort.