Incorporating diverse cultural and geographic themes into its sailings is one way to bring the world closer to Asia’s cruise passengers at a time when most international travel is still restricted amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises president and head of international sales, Genting Cruise Lines.
The cruise line has recently unveiled a series of globe-trotting themes for the 2021 sailings of its two ships currently sailing in Asian waters. For the Singapore market, World Dream will bring on board themes such as South Korea, Thailand, Japan, night markets and Nordic Christmas, while in Taiwan, Explorer Dream will feature themes around bohemian and Japan's Okinawan culture.
These themes are specially crafted and tailored for their respective Singapore and Taiwan markets, keeping in mind the popular culture, dining preferences and traits of local cruisers, said Goh. For example, Singapore cruise passengers can look forward to local entertainment acts such as getai singers – Hao Hao, Michelle Choo and Lee Pei Fen – and local comedian and drag queen Kumar joining sailings in the coming weeks.
Yet, Dream Cruises remains committed to retaining a cosmopolitan flair for its offerings which will keep up its appeal to the regional and international markets when borders reopen, the cruise executive added.
“Whatever we do, we are prepared for the international market with an attractive programming,” said Goh, who added the cruise line is intent to live up to its positioning of being “Asian at heart, international in spirit”.
Themed sailings are specially crafted and tailored for their respective Singapore and Taiwan markets. For example, World Dream's March sailings are devoted to Korean cultural experiences.
Not only does having such globe-trotting sailing themes and on-board entertainment attract first-time cruisers, a constantly rejuvenated programming also helps to keep offerings fresh for discerning travellers and encourage them to rebook sailings in future.
A regular cruiser from Singapore was so enamoured with the cruise experience that she has already sailed 10 times on World Dream since the ship resumed services in October 2020, Goh told Travel Weekly Asia. “In fact, she’s sailing even more often than me,” Goh said, with a laugh. “Our chefs and staff know her so well that she’s immediately treated to her favourite dishes each time she comes on board.”
Notably, at a time when borders remain closed, Goh also observed more Singapore-based expatriates and their families taking to cruising. “We are seeing more British, Russian, Korean and Japanese customers who have never cruised before sailing with us. They used to travel to regional destinations for their holidays pre Covid, but after coming on board World Dream they told us it’s been an eye-opening experience for them.
“While we bring the world on board Dream Cruises, we also introduce the world’s citizens to cruising,” continued Goh, who added that the hitherto untapped expatriate segment is one of the opportunity areas for the cruise line amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rising wave of Muslim cruise market
Having a strong suite of thematic sailings and lifestyle offerings not only enables Dream Cruises to deliver an experiential cruise experience for a wide cross-section of the travel market, they also enable the cruise line to better court niche segments with “great potential” such as the Muslim travellers, according to Goh.
Dream Cruises’ efforts in this area are most apparent in the recently acquired halal certification and rating from the United World Halal Development for World Dream, which now boasts a halal kitchen, including halal food across all the F&B outlets on board and room service; dedicated prayer rooms equipped with Qurans, tasbihs (prayer beads), compasses and mats; as well as spa and a 24/7 medical centre that can cater to the requirements of female Muslim guests.
There’s still a market for Muslim travellers to travel during the fasting period, so long their requirements are met, said Goh. Photo Credit: Genting Cruise Lines
But such halal-friendly efforts are nothing new to Dream Cruises or parent Genting Cruise Lines, as Genting Dream was already providing halal food while sister Star Cruises had already kickstarted efforts in offering halal-friendly sailings about a decade back.
“The only difference is that we were just talking about halal food when we first started but now we’re talking about a wider landscape, about offering a halal-friendly lifestyle that allows Muslim passengers to have a peace of mind,” said Goh.
World Dream is sailing the extra mile by providing Ramadan-based services during the holy month, which will fall between April 12 and May 12 this year. With sahur/seharo (pre-dawn) meals delivered to rooms and iftar (fast-breaking) buffet for those fasting in the evenings, Goh said Muslim guests can comfortably carry out their Ramadan obligations and sunnahs when they sail with the cruise line during the holy month.
“During the fasting period, Muslims traditionally might not travel, but we realised there’s still a market for them to travel so long their requirements are met. So this year, we designed a special programme to cater to Muslim guests during Ramadan.”
Dream Cruises’ readiness to embrace a halal-friendly lifestyle is already yielding positive results, with Goh saying that the market response has been “tremendous” after the initial wave of interest among FITs has since expanded to families among Singapore’s Muslim community. “We’re really excited about the good progress we’ve made in this market,” he added.
As a cruise operator, Dream Cruises is keen to “bring the world experience” to all passengers and cater to all niche segments. “Muslim guests can enjoy all our facilities on board just like any other guests. Ultimately, we want guests to have a peace of mind when they cruise with us.”
As well, World Dream is also vegan certified from the Global Vegetarian Certification Services, which makes the ship ideal for Singapore’s Indian Muslim and Hindu communities as well as health-conscious travellers with vegetarian dietary requirements, Goh informed.