Singapore cruises have restarted, and we have full details from a passenger point of view.
With the seemingly never-ending stream of cruise cancellations and difficult-to-bear cruise news, it’s hard to believe cruising has safely resumed in several parts of the globe. This month, the list of countries to resume cruise operations has grown to include the island nation of Singapore. First, Dream Cruise’s World Dream, and now Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas have set off on successful port-free “cruises to nowhere” at extremely reduced capacities.
What are these Singapore cruises like?
We had the opportunity to interview a guest who recently returned from a Singapore Cruise on Dream Cruise’s “World Dream”, which left Marina Bay Cruise Center for a 3-day, 2-night Singapore cruise to “nowhere”. These cruises, for the time being are open only to residents of Singapore. Dream Cruises parent company was one of the first cruise companies to outline & publish their health and safety protocols in April, 2020.
We asked Singapore-based Muhammad R. who runs the Instagram account SaxOfTheSeas to share his experience & photographs – from masks to food protocols and what it felt like to cruise amidst the pandemic. Thank you Muhammad for taking the time to share this detailed information with our readers!
What prompted you to take this Singapore cruise?
Frankly speaking, it was an impromptu decision because I normally would not have considered Dream Cruises (I’m loyal to Royal). I say impromptu because my original plan was to make use of the then Singapore – Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) arrangement that was due to start on November 22 – though unfortunately this was put on hold for at least two weeks at the decision of both governments due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong last week. Not wanting to waste the vacation leaves that I had already applied for weeks prior, I thought that going on the cruise to nowhere on World Dream at that same time period would be a fitting replacement for a vacation.
How long was this Singapore cruise?
3 days 2 nights. World Dream left the Marina Bay Cruise Center (MBCC) at [9:00]PM on November 25, and was back by November 27 at [9:00]AM. Though, in reality, we set sail 15 minutes earlier at [8:45]PM – not that I’m complaining, of course!
Were there any port stops on your Singapore cruise?
No, there weren’t any port stops on the cruise. One of the requirements for these cruises to nowhere is that they’re really to nowhere, given the current ongoing border restrictions. It is a government requirement, and so Royal Caribbean International will also have to adhere to this rule.
Have you ever cruised with this cruise line before?
No, this sailing was my first time with Dream Cruises!
What was the process of getting on and off the ship?
During the purchase process of the sailing, you will be told that the cost of a COVID-19 swab test will be included in the price. During online checking in, you will be assigned a time slot that you need to report to the Cruise Center for the swab test (mine was [4:30]PM – [4:45]PM). Some passengers were assigned as early as [9:00]AM, for the purpose of social distancing and crowd management. For these early slots, after they are done with their swab tests, they are to leave the Cruise Center on shuttle buses to a nearby shopping mall while waiting for check in to open.
For me, I arrived at MBCC slightly before my test slot, and was told to drop off my bags first at the baggage drop counter (this was as usual in normal times). Afterwards, I was told to head to the third floor of the MBCC’s parking garage, which has been converted to a COVID-19 swab testing site. Upon reaching the first waiting area, guests had to scan a QR code on their mobile phones to fill in a short health declaration form. After that, we were to head over to the registration counter for the test, and we were given seven stickers bearing our personal details for our sample collection.
This was followed by the test proper, which was conducted at multiple booths by medical staff (a nasal swab test). After this, guests were directed to separately assigned waiting zones where we were to wait for our test results. Although it was announced to guests that the results would probably take about an hour to process, it actually took about 15 minutes – probably because I was in the tail end of the swab test time slots.
Once a negative result had been obtained, we were to proceed with the usual check in procedures. The only difference this time is that guests were each given a Singapore government issued bluetooth token called a MICE pod, for the purpose of safe management measures adherence and contact tracing, in the event of a COVID-19 case onboard. Guests are to carry their MICE pods with them wherever they go out of their staterooms during the cruise.
How was the COVID testing experience?
As far as the COVID-19 swab test experience goes, I found it to be quite ticklish, and actually couldn’t stop myself from laughing in response! I should mention that the specific test that was administered is an Antigen Rapid Test (ART), where the swab goes halfway up your nasal cavity. Medical staff would twist the swab in each nostril for about five seconds – and you’re done!
As for disembarkation, the cruise line had guests do so deck by deck in order to adhere to safe distancing measures. Guests were to wait in their staterooms, until an announcement was made over the PA system for that deck, while stateroom attendants would come by each stateroom to knock on doors to let guests know that it’s their turn to leave the ship.
Were you COVID tested more than once?
Yes, the second one would be after we have arrived back at MBCC. This was held at the baggage claim area after immigration. The only difference with this arrival swab test was that guests do not need to wait around for their results, and are free to leave the Cruise Center immediately. Although, should they be tested positive at this stage, they would be contacted separately for a more accurate Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to be done – the more invasive kind.
What was the cruise line’s policy if someone were to test positive prior to the cruise? Did the cruise line communicate that to you?
Should someone be tested positive prior to the cruise, they and their cruise companions will be denied boarding. In such a public health risk case, these guests will be extended the Dream Cruises’ Future Cruise Credits for their future cruise enjoyment. And yes, this was spelled out quite clearly by the cruise line. In fact, a four-page World Dream COVID-19 supplementary terms and conditions handout was given to all guests at the time when they reported for their swab test.
Were masks required on the ship?
Absolutely! Just as how it was mandatory in public spaces back on dry land in Singapore, guests can only remove their masks when they are having their meals or drinks at the various locations for such activities, when they are swimming at the pools, when they are engaging in strenuous sports activities, or when they are back in the safety of their own staterooms.
How crowded was your Singapore cruise?
World Dream has a full capacity of 3,000+ guests, but I’d estimate the final number during my sailing to be about 1,000. Again, this is in accordance with Singapore government regulations for businesses to have a cap of half their capacity – be it restaurants, hotels, et cetera.
What type of stateroom did you have? Were you able to choose your stateroom or the cruise line choose it for you?
As there was an ongoing promotion by one of the banks in Singapore, I had a free upgrade to a Balcony Deluxe stateroom for the price of a normal Balcony stateroom, which was about US$261 for my sailing date. Unfortunately, I was not given a choice to choose a specific stateroom. Do note that Inside and Outside staterooms were not open for bookings – only Balconies and Suites (or Palaces, as Dream Cruises calls it).
Tell us about the dining experience. Was it different for you than past cruises? Was there a buffet and if so what was it like?
There wasn’t much difference with the usual cruise experiences, with the exception of the buffet. Although it was still open, it was no longer self-service and staff members would serve guests instead, though the food was still what you would normally expect from a typical buffet, with more Chinese and Malay selections to cater to local guests. The bars also had to stop alcohol sales between [10:30]PM and [7:00]AM (in line with the local restrictions in Singapore), but otherwise the experience was much the same.
A minor complaint from the first night was that the restaurants and buffet closed pretty early (around [8:30]PM), which is probably the normal closing time, but considering the longer boarding process, I think a later closing time on Day 1 would have been less rushed.
I didn’t have the opportunity to try the main dining rooms for lunch or dinner, but these looked like they would be similar to the Main Dining Room experience on other lines. World Dream has two dining rooms, one serving a typical American/European set dinner and one serving a Chinese menu, to keep guests happy no matter which they prefer. A downside compared to cruises on other lines is that in the MDR, you can’t order as much as you like, and have to stick to just one appetizer/main/dessert each. Breakfast in the MDR was typical, with pancakes, cereal, eggs and so on.
I got to try a couple of specialty restaurants. One was a Japanese restaurant (Umi Uma) where I had some sushi and sashimi. This was decent, though nothing particularly special. The other was Dream Cruises’ signature Chinese restaurant (Silk Road), which is open to Palace (Suite) guests only for lunch, but everyone for dinner. This was a really good one, on par with the better specialty restaurants on Royal and other lines, especially for Chinese food. One difference with other lines’ specialty restaurants is that pricing tends to be a-la-carte instead of a single cover charge.
This was quite variable, we noted the steakhouse prices were way above what you’d have on other lines (US$70 for a set dinner or US$25 just for individual dishes), but the Asian food such as Silk Road was on par with or cheaper than on other lines (the set dinner at Silk Road was around US$35 for 5 items, while the sushi and sashimi set us back around US$20)
What precautions were the staff taking in regards to health and safety?
Staff were masked across the ship, and were out and about to enforce safe distancing measures. In particular, guests had to scan their stateroom cards as they entered each zone (such as restaurants, shops or the pool deck), and also have their temperature taken. The pools and jacuzzis were also available in hour-long slots and prior reservations had to be made at a counter on Deck 16. This is because masks weren’t possible in those areas, so the number of guests had to be tightly controlled, so it was quite understandable.
What should future cruise travelers expect from the cruise experience and how did this Singapore cruise feel “different” to you?
I think it felt mostly the same as any other cruise. If anything, most of the “differences” were more to cater to the Singapore cruise crowd than any differences because of the pandemic. However, the main thing was that it was much less crowded in the restaurants, buffet, pool deck and all, which made it feel quite different. In a way, I kind of missed the regular hustle and bustle of a pool deck filled with people enjoying their vacation, but the lack of queues was a plus too.
What surprised you the most about this cruise?
I was surprised about how normal the whole thing felt, to be honest. Other than the boarding procedure and the lack of people, it felt the same as any regular cruise. In addition, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ship and the Dream Cruise experience, since they’re a relatively new line and the reputation of their sister company (Star Cruise) isn’t very good in Singapore.
I understand you’re cruising with Royal Caribbean soon. Is that a short cruise and are there any port stops?
This will be a short 2 night cruise as well, with no port stops. However, I’ve also got a three-night cruise coming up later in the month as well as a four-night early next year (though all without any port stops whatsoever). Looking forward in particular to the four-night cruise in a Star-class loft suite, with the full Royal Suite class experience!
What else would you like our viewers to know about your Singapore cruise experience?
Whenever cruising starts in your area, go ahead, keep an open mind about the various restrictions and policies, stay safe, and enjoy the cruise!
Thank you Muhammad! Welcome home! For more photos and Instagram Stories, follow SaxOfTheSeas over on the Gram!
Are you onboard?
Would you consider a Singapore cruise? Are you ready to cruise in this new era? We certainly have our concerns, but when the time is right, we can’t wait to be back on the high seas! Come say hi and share your thoughts on the topic with us via direct message on Facebook or Instagram!
Interested in more about Singapore?
Check out our Singapore Mini Vlog.
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