Gent­ing Dream

Peter Lynch dis­cov­ers the joys of hav­ing a but­ler on a Þve-day cruise through South­east Asia.

Cruise Passenger - - CONTENTS -

We’ve never ar­rived at an im­mi­gra­tion counter in such style. It’s early morn­ing, and Gent­ing Dream is dis­em­bark­ing about 4,000 pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing many fam­i­lies with gangs of adrenalin-charged chil­dren.

Sin­ga­pore’s usu­ally well-oiled wel­come is wilt­ing. But for us, there is no queue­ing. Our fab­u­lous Dream Cruises but­ler Josip is walk­ing us right up to the counter, bal­anc­ing our bags with good hu­mour and apolo­getic that he can’t ac­tu­ally sweep us past the uni­formed of­fi­cials.

Josip is a blond, six-foot-four Croa­t­ian wear­ing full tail-coat, waist­coat and tie. He’s hard to miss in the throng of Asian pas­sen­gers. We feel like movie stars. It’s the per­fect end to five days in which Josip man­aged to make him­self an in­dis­pens­able part of our lives.

“Josip, we need tick­ets for tonight’s show,” we’d say half­way through the day. No prob­lem. And there he would be at the the­atre en­trance, beam­ing like Ber­tie Wooster’s Jeeves, ready to con­duct us to our seats.

At break­fast, he helped fam­i­lies feed their kids with a mix of dumplings and baked beans. At dinner, he was ready with rec­om­men­da­tions and a quiet word to the maître d’.

How did we ever cruise with­out him? More im­por­tantly, how could we smug­gle him through Aus­tralian im­mi­gra­tion?

Asia’s first lux­ury cruise ship is now home­ported in Sin­ga­pore, and is prov­ing a big draw card for a coun­try de­ter­mined to make it­self Asia’s cruse hub.

Launched onto the mar­ket last year, Gent­ing

Dream is full to the brim of fab­u­lous places to re­lax and in­dulge. She boasts mag­nif­i­cent suites in The Palace – the VIP ship-within-aship area – 35 restau­rants, a Pen­folds vault and a Johnny Walker whisky bar, wa­ter slides, a bowl­ing al­ley, a pool­side cin­ema, two enor­mous spas (one Asian, one Euro­pean) and the mas­sive Zouk night­club.

But there is more to the Dream ex­pe­ri­ence than but­lers and fine din­ing.

It’s a United Na­tions at sea. In­dian fam­i­lies, In­done­sians and Straits Chi­nese are the vast ma­jor­ity of the ship’s com­pli­ment dur­ing our cruise. And as fam­i­lies rubbed shoul­ders in the Jacuzzi or pool, it was amaz­ing to see this cul­tural melt­ing pot at work.

One con­tin­gent of Chi­nese was cel­e­brat­ing their grand­par­ent’s 40th wed­ding an­niver­sary, 20 fam­ily mem­bers from oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans to tod­dlers sport­ing red “Our Fam­ily First” t-shirts.

Dream Cruises now has two ships – near iden­ti­cal twins – al­low­ing Gent­ing Dream to be based year-round in Sin­ga­pore while sis­ter­ship World Dream calls Hong Kong home.

Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders are a tar­get for the line that boasts it can pro­vide a true East-meets-West ex­pe­ri­ence. The enor­mous growth of fly-cruise and easy ac­cess to Sin­ga­pore – one of Aus­tralia’s favourite desti­na­tions – makes Dream Cruises a new and dif­fer­ent al­ter­na­tive to the al­ready suc­cess­ful Sin­ga­pore fly-cruise mar­ket.

The line is mak­ing some mouth-wa­ter­ing of­fers. Our cruise had a smat­ter­ing of Aussie early adopters in the Dream Palace. Jas­mine, a caterer from Perth, bought tick­ets at half price and was lov­ing ev­ery minute.

We met her at the tep­pa­nyaki ta­ble. “Please don’t make too much of a fuss of this,” she begged. “We don’t want ev­ery­one back home to know how good it is!” Sorry Jas­mine. We just let the cat out of the bag.

So what can Aussie or NZ cruis­ers ex­pect from this fas­ci­nat­ing float­ing melt­ing pot? A cruise full of sur­prises, that’s for sure. There’s never a dull mo­ment aboard Gent­ing Dream.

You can be at a top Broad­way show one minute, and a naughty top­less night club re­view the next. You can wit­ness the win­ners of

China’s Got Tal­ent (some of the most amaz­ing ac­ro­bats we’ve ever seen), and a bizarre night mar­ket where in­stant noo­dles jos­tle with classy watches and hand­bags. The one thing

Gent­ing Dream doesn’t do is bor­ing.

Our cruise to Phuket took place dur­ing schools hol­i­days. So there were plenty of fam­i­lies with kids. But there were still places to spend some tran­quil down-time.

Gent­ing Dream sails five-day itin­er­ar­ies to Kuala Lumpur, Pe­nang and Phuket or Surabaya and North Bali.

Here’s our ver­dict on a fas­ci­nat­ing South­east Asian odyssey.

Wel­come to the Gent­ing Din­ing Room

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