First timer's guide to a good cruise holiday

With a wide selection of food, one can never go hungry on cruises.

Walking along Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong to embark on Dream Cruises’ World Dream, I quickly snap a photo of the ship and post it on my Instagram account. Moments later, messages from friends begin to pour in.

“You’re going on a cruise?!?!?!”

“Have fun! I’m sure you’ll find many things to do.”

As a first-time “cruiser”, I honestly don’t know what to expect from the three-day, two-night (work) trip. Preconceptions about cruises have been shaped by older relatives who wax lyrical about their holidays at sea.

Since cruises tend to offer all-inclusive packages (covering accommodation, meals and entertainment), I can see the appeal for seniors or families with small children who might enjoy the convenience. But will the younger Instagram-savvy crowd enjoy it just as much?

The writer's room on board is pleasantly spacious and comes with a balcony.

All aboard!

On board the ship, I’m immediately greeted by warm smiles from the crew that comprise an international staff. Checking-in can be chaotic at times as newly arrived passengers scramble around.

Armed with a tag containing my cruise ship ID card, I join the crowd in search of my cabin. For the uninitiated, a cruise ship ID card is scanned at various points throughout the ship and store details such as passengers’ bill purchases and cabin access.

Arriving outside my cabin on a quieter floor, I push open the heavy door to find a sumptuous room with luxurious fittings. My assigned stateroom is decently roomy, and comes complete with a balcony that offers views of the ocean.

Viewing the open seas from the confines of the room, I begin to feel a slight nausea kicking in. Uh oh, I think I’m getting seasick!

The Internet would suggest an array of cures – taking motion sickness medications, avoiding fatty foods, putting on a special kind of patch and eating ginger, just to name a few. But the best remedy might actually be to just get busy and immerse yourself in the slew of activities on board.

How about doing the ropes course for some adventure on board?

Fun at sea

There’s a galore of activities on the ship that are catered to passengers of all ages. Highlights on the World Dream cruise include live production shows, waterslide park, ropes course and of course – the casino.

A fellow cruiser shares that it’s a good idea to board early as some activities operate well before the ship sets sail. But if you think cruises are just about the casino, well think again. Many ships these days are equipped with an assortment of facilities.

Looking at the list of amenities can be pretty daunting at first. So perhaps what first-time cruisers can do is take note of the timing (especially for live shows) and build your schedule from there.

It’s also a good idea to keep a lookout for the daily cruise itinerary. Some activities might require prior reservations, so be wary of that.

The sports and recreational facilities are open throughout the day, so there’s a bit more flexibility there. The World Dream ship houses a rock climbing wall, a rope course, waterslides and more. It’s worth noting that queues can get long later into the day, so you might want to start your day early to avoid the crowd.

The ESC Experience Lab offers virtual reality gaming experience. Photo: CHESTER CHIN/The Star

As I start my day relatively late, I head to the ESC Experience Lab instead. The venue offers virtual reality experience in an arcade-like setting. Here’s where I encounter my first paywall.

Now, although cruises tend to offer a myriad of free entertainment (included in the package, of course), some facilities are available at additional costs.

The games at the arcade range between HKD20 (RM9.90) and HKD118 (RM58.20). The charges are credited into a passenger’s account, which you can view on the ship’s smartphone app. Since I have a special voucher, I give the games a go and find them to be immensely entertaining.

What about entertainment for the hip young ones? Well, there’s always the Zouk Beach Club.

With a wide selection of food, one can never go hungry on cruises.

Dining and beyond

One can never go hungry on a cruise. The selection of food on the World Dream ranges from Asian to Western and everything in between.

Since it’s been included in the cruise fare, dining at certain restaurants won’t require additional payment. Breakfast is your usual buffet spread. As we sail off from Hong Kong, dim sum is naturally a fixture during my time on board.

The options on display are certainly mouth-watering, but the slight seasickness certainly put a damper on the experience. So perhaps what first-time cruisers might want to do is pop a pill for a more enjoyable dining experience.

As for other things to do on board, well, roaming the length of the ship can be quite an adventure in itself. Strolling the deck will give plenty of photo opportunities with the clear blue ocean in the background.

It might take a first timer a while to get used to a ship’s layout, though. Be sure to take a photo of the floor directory for easy reference.

Now, to answer that question about whether or not cruises are for the Instagram-savvy group? Well, let’s just say there won’t be a dull moment.

Dream Cruises World Dream ship offers plenty of comfort and fun things for passengers. Photo: Dream Cruises

Cruise celebration

Genting Cruise Lines hosted essential travel partners off the waters of Hong Kong for its Travel Partners Tribute awards ceremony recently. The three-day event took place on board Dream Cruises’ flagship World Dream and saw hundreds of travel insiders and media in attendance.

Genting Cruise Lines president Kent Zhu said the awards sought to recognise the significant contributions of its partners that include travel agents across the region. The event, he added, came at a time when the cruise industry seeks to tap further into the middle-class population.

“Asia Pacific is home to the largest middle class in the world. The potential size of the large middle class makes the region a market with huge potential,” he said, adding that it is an ongoing challenge to capture various consumer markets.

Genting Cruise Lines – which is under Genting Group – comprises Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises. The company is one of the pioneers in the Asian cruise industry. The importance of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Events) travellers was highlighted during the event by Dream Cruises president Thatcher Brown.

“The Asian MICE market is a well-developed one, with discerning guests who have high expectations that go beyond the conventional MICE experience,” he said, adding that it’s important to make this travel segment fun and productive.

The Malaysian travel companies that were honoured at the Travel Partners Tribute awards ceremony were Airlink Travel & Tour, Malaysian Harmony Tour & Travel and Hwajing Travel & Tours.

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