This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, spring 2019, issue 112
Stepping on board Genting Dream in Singapore, a massive ship with 3,300 passengers and 2,000 crew, we are joined by acclaimed Australian chef Mark Best, well-known for his Sydney-based restaurant Marque. The fact that his first-ever restaurants at sea are on the ship – Seafood Grill, Prime Steakhouse and Boardwalk Burger by Mark Best – has us salivating in anticipation for what dining delights lie ahead.
“As we sail out, the view of Singapore will be on port side,” explains the captain of Genting Dream. “We’ll then head for Pulau Redang Island in Malaysia, Sihanoukville in Cambodia and Laem Chabang in Thailand. I hope you have a wonderful trip on Genting Dream.”
The top three officers on board are from Sweden but the passengers are predominantly Asian. The Genting Dream has 35 restaurant and bar concepts including the Penfolds Wine Vault where, for $26 per person, a minimum of five people can be entertained by the ship’s chief sommelier while he decants and serves premium wines creating quite a theatrical half hour. For whisky lovers an expert will immerse you in the history, provenance and spirit of the world’s finest whiskies at Johnny Walker House.
The Japanese Umi Uma restaurant provides another performance where the chef, while juggling his utensils, proudly demonstrates his teppanyaki cooking skills on the large, steel grill producing premium Japanese cuisine.
At the prestigious Prime Steakhouse by Mark Best and Seafood Grill by Mark Best, the man himself, joined us for dinner and happily shared his culinary knowledge. I took up his recommendation of lobster rendang while others chose pasta or steak. On another night we dined outside on the open deck at the Boardwalk Burger with the most delicious Wagu beef hamburgers ever.
There’s no shortage of Asian fare with, for instance, the Blue Lagoon exploring its signature noodle hawker food 24 hours a day, Snack Corner ready constantly for the occasional top-up, the Korean BBQ for lunch or dinner, the Lido international buffet featuring Indian, Halal and Chinese food and the fabulous lolly shop which has taster dishes out for potential buyers.
Placed in the cabin each morning is the Dream Daily where activities for young and old are listed along with opening hours for all facilities. Among many are the main swimming pool, water slide park, outdoor movies, a rock climbing wall, an open play mini-golf course and a ropes course where special safety attire is needed.
Importantly for many, WiFi, either standard or premium, is available for a nominal charge on a daily or full cruise basis.
Five-star treatments with special packages at Crystal Life Spa can precede the nightly singing and dancing spectacular at the Zodiac Theatre where the performers were as outstanding as the costumes.
On a large ship like Genting Dream with 19 decks, it’s noticeable how swift the lifts are with minimum waiting time despite the amount of passengers that are on board.
On the first morning of the five-day cruise, we arrive at Pulau Redang in Malaysia where tenders transport us to the beach resort. Some chose to swim in the bluer than blue water, some sunbaked or snorkelled and others sat in the shade sipping on perhaps a gin and tonic to help eliminate the humidity.
Day two was allocated to a visit to Cambodia, a country I’d never been. We docked near Sihanoukville, a 250,000-strong city which is overwhelmed with construction. The aim is to compete with other gaming cities for gambling outlets and although there are already many in operation many more are on the way. There’s construction everywhere you look. We did however, manage to get to the main beach stopping off at Meditation Temple with its two hundred steps and a sprinkling of statues. Included was a river trip through the mangroves in a small wooden boat exposing the poverty in the area with many ramshackle houses on the way. Still, as the guide said, “It’s progress which Cambodia needs.”
On the next day we were in for a busy trip from the port of Laem Chabang to one of Bangkok’s main and busiest food markets. Escorted by Mark, he bought the ingredients for his up-coming cooking presentation. On return to the ship he showed us how to make one of Thailand’s most popular dishes, larb gai. While at the market we came across a number of durian stalls where the owners cut wedges from this very smelly but apparently very nice-tasting fruit. The saying goes that they ‘smell like hell but taste like heaven’.
A totally exclusive area is The Palace. Spread across three decks, there are 142 suites including a Palace Penthouse and a Palace Villa; and Palace Deluxe Suites and Palace Suites – and all are fitted out with stocked mini bars espresso machines and to make it even more special the linen is Frette, an Italian textile company known for its luxury linens. Palace passengers receive priority embarkation, full butler service from the moment they arrive, a beverage package, a private pool and two Jacuzzis, WiFi, shore excursions and access to the specialist restaurants. On some cruises, depending on availability, there’s the opportunity to upgrade to The Palace at a moderate price.
In the meantime however, I was more than happy sitting on the balcony of my spacious stateroom with its king-size bed and comfy couch. This does the trick for me as we sail along the coastline of Cambodia and Thailand.
Genting Dream offers an excellent Asian cruise and at the end of the year, a new but smaller ship carrying 1,800 passengers, Explorer Dream will begin cruising around Australia and New Zealand.
Find out more: dreamcruiseline.com