Having been 'confined' within Singapore since the year began, I was naturally eager to embark about my first 'overseas' trip—a two-night cruise journey on board World Dream.
The excitement, of course, also comes from fact that I'd be among the first cohort of passengers to sail on Genting Cruise Lines’ (GCL) 19-deck World Dream, some eight months after the last cruise ship called into the ports of Singapore.
What separates this trip from staycations was the need to check in with my passport—nothing revolutionary, but a standard part of travelling that is very much missed at a time when most country borders remain closed for tourism.
The expansive Palace Suite on World Dream
Throughout my short two-night 'seacation', I discovered there were some new protocols—hello, Covid testing—but overall the voyage was a delightful and fun one, and definitely not as different as what most people think.
Here's a look at the passenger journey and what travel agents should know about cruise experience in Singapore, from pre-boarding to post-disembarkation.
1. New boarding systems at the cruise terminal
Expect to spend a little bit more time at the cruise terminal, which is done to ensure the safety as well as overall enjoyment of the sailing journey for passengers.
At the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS), the slew of safety measures include one-way traffic throughout for the public and vehicles alike, and entire levels being sealed off for specific activities. For instance, level two is for drop-off only, while level three has been transformed into a make-shift swabbing zone.
The Singapore government’s Safe Entry log in procedure is mandatory at multiple points. An army of GCL’s cruise ambassadors, MBCCS staff and Immigration Checkpoint Authority officials are stationed at key areas to guide movement and order of passengers.
Passengers are allocated different time slots to arrive for the Rapid Antigen Test.
To avoid overcrowding during checking in, passengers will receive their usual booking confirmations with personal details as well as stipulated timings to arrive for the Rapid Antigen Test. These are set at one-hour intervals, with 250 guests allowed per slot.
At check in, all counters have been fitted with protective acrylic screens, while floor markers ensure safe distancing is adhered to. With key cards in hand, move one floor up to pick up the MICE pod for contact tracing purposes. GCL encourages online check-in 36 hours in advance, as it speeds up the process of getting the key card printed via machine.
Auto-clearance immigration lanes have also been upgraded with a new biometric system that uses face and iris recognition technology, instead of traditional fingerprint-scanning.
Rapid antigen test embarkation
After luggage drop-off, proceed to the third floor for pre-departure testing. Health declaration forms can be filed electronically or on paper; we found the latter to be way quicker.
A guest taking the Antigen Rapid Test prior to boarding the ship.
Next, registration is done over 10 counters spaced about two metres apart, then move towards one of 15 swab stations, each manned by three staff all fully decked out in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) suit. The entire process was swift, and supported by both staff and clear signages to direct the flow of passengers efficiently.
We waited in separate zones and results came back in 20 minutes. Everyone with negative results will be given a Covid-test barcode sticker—a vital document that must be kept for use at disembarkation.
Sailing with cleanliness and safety practices
Luggage are sanitised before being sent onboard, while all passengers are subject to temperature screening before entering the ship.
A family of five enjoying a teppanyaki meal.
Once on board, passengers will find the same safety and cleanliness standards just like on land. This includes floor markers and signages, alternating seats marked out at public areas such as the Zodiac Theatre, lobby area and F&B outlets, sanitiser bottles placed at key touchpoints, and increased cleaning frequency of high-touch surfaces. At the casinos, even the roulette and chips are sprayed and cleaned after every game play.
At F&B outlets, safety practices include cleaning the table after every use, wash stations that automatically dispenses water and soap, and instead of taking whatever you like at buffet lines, it’s now been changed to full-service. Alcohol will also not be served past 10.30pm.
A hand washing station outside the restaurant.
Playing by new rules in the new norm
Two must-haves wherever you go: the MICE pod and room key card. Instead of having to scan and check-in for Safe Entry, stations are set up at multiple entry points on every floor. For instance, tap once to enter Dream boutiques for duty free shopping located at the front of ship, and another time if you’re heading to Zodiac Theatre at the other end.
The MICE pod is given to every passenger for safety distancing.
To avoid overcrowding, a fair number of ship facilities and activities require advanced bookings, such as the main pool, outdoor jacuzzi, spa, rope and rock climbing walls, ping pong tables, and waterslide park. Also, with reduced capacities at restaurants due to social distancing requirements and tables sitting no more than five, it is highly recommended to make dining reservations in advance, done easily via the Dream Cruises app.
Ship equipped with PCR machine
The medical centre which was previously meant for staff spending months at end on sea, has also been upgraded for today’s times. Two doctors and four nurses operate the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) lab which allow for instant Covid-tests on board, with results out in an hour.
An isolation ward.
Should any passenger test positive, they will be brought to one of seven isolation wards—reconfigured into negative pressure rooms so even if the door opens, all air is kept within.
In addition, 34 quarantine cabins are also on standby to house suspected Covid-19 cases or passengers showing signs of the virus. This entire area is completely isolated from the rest of ship.
While in the past disembarking was free and easy, now, passengers can only leave the ship floor by floor, aided by announcements over the PA system. To speed up the check-out process, it’s recommended to settle all bills the day before either at the lobby, or GCL’s quick-pay system available 24-hours.
At the gangway, passengers will return their MICE pods and access key cards. Out of the ship, there’ll be one final Rapid Antigen Test although without a wait time this round. This is also where passengers will need to produce their Covid-test barcode sticker. Proceed to clear immigration, the journey now complete.
Celebrity yoga instructor Denise Keller leads a class