As part of my birthday celebration, my family and I decided to go on a 2D2N Dream Cruise to Bintan – a new port of call for the largest cruise ship in Asia! This was my first ever cruise experience (as well as my parents’), so we were all really excited!
First of all, some practical tips before, during and after the cruise:
- What to expect:
- The Dream Cruise is, quite frankly, primarily geared towards gamblers, with 3 levels of casinos and a mostly middle-aged/elderly crowd. You’ll see the casino pretty much the moment you enter the ship, and most of the time 80% of the ship’s occupants will be there throughout the trip. I actually see this as a good thing – the pools, jacuzzis, slides, buffets, shows and events won’t ever be overcrowded!
- Checking In:
- Check-in times are just recommended slots for different rooms/levels of the ship to avoid congestion – recommended to go there early (perhaps even earlier than your designated slot) so you can start enjoying the facilities and food first! (before the crowds come in)
- Check-in was overall a rather efficient process. At the check-in counter, they will issue a cruise pass and hand you back your passport. Just make sure you have your passport and cruise pass in hand until you actually step into the elevator to your room, since they will ask for it multiple times. Before you board the ship, they will collect the passport and return it to you at the very end of the cruise.
- Cruise App:
- The app can be used to book stuff (see below under the “During” section), or to chat (text) with people in other cabins (you’ll need just the cabin number). The chat app is rather crappy though, but serviceable.
- The app also shows the itinerary, although the given flyer is a little easier to use.
- More importantly, you can pay via the app, which saves a lot of time queuing. So definitely download the app ahead of time.
- Booking your trip:
- Whatever price you have prepaid for the package usually does NOT include the S$40+ gratuity charge per person, which you have to pay at the end of the cruise.
- Look out for promotions and deals – ours came with S$210 of F&B credits per person, which we could not finish using up! (although bear in mind that 18% taxes still have to paid separately and aren’t covered by the credits)
- What to bring:
- Bring proper sport shoes if you intend to try out some of the outdoorsy stuff on the ship, like the ropes course or rock climbing. You will not be allowed to do them barefooted or with sandals.
- Bring swimwear if you intend to go on the water slides (there are 7 of them!), or the hot jacuzzi and swimming pools.
- A highlighter and a pen – to highlight the activities and events that you want to participate in, for easy reference. They will give you a pamphlet which contains the full itinerary and list of events.
- Maybe some digestive aids/medicine in case you overeat 😛
- The ship follows Singapore time at all times – so no need to adjust your phone’s time. But if you have auto-configuration of timezone turned on, your phone may switch to Indonesian time, so be careful.
- Mobile reception/3G/4G
- Within the ship, mobile reception is poor to non-existent, so you will definitely have to sign up for the wifi package if you want to stay connected at all times. (S$19 per day, I think)
- Near the areas with windows or on the deck of the ship, it is possible to get 3G or 4G signal on TPG’s free roaming service or StarHub’s roaming plan. However, the signal may fade as the ship moves away from the island.
- Cruise Pass:
- The all-important cruise pass is used to get into your room, as well as for all F&B purchases as well as activities – you only need cash for gambling 🙂
- This goes without saying, but do guard it with your life as on board the ship, it’s your identity, wallet and room entry method.
- Booking activities and restaurants:
- Book activities and restaurants the moment you get on board. You can do so either through the app (which is a bit unwieldy to navigate, to be honest – plus it’s only accessible when you are connected to the ship’s wifi), or at the concierge at Level 6. Do this because restaurants tend to get booked out early, and although the shows aren’t as popular because people are more preoccupied with gambling, they are extremely well worth watching, so don’t take any chances! There are usually 2 slots for a show each night – an earlier one, and a later one.
- F&B Credits:
- If your package comes with F&B credits, bear in mind that (a) they can only be used for specific restaurants – ask at the assistance/cashier desks at Level 6, and (b) the credits do not cover the 18% service charge that is tacked onto every single F&B purchase – alcohol included. Seems they were a little sneaky about this detail…
- And if you don’t have F&B credits, the onboard buffets (there are 3 – 4 of them, available nearly throughout the day) are more than sufficient without having to splash out on the restaurants. Food quality may not be the best, but should be good enough for the average diner. Outside of meal times, the Lido on level 16 offers 24-hour food (mostly small bites and beverages). Some
- If you want to play the slots machines etc, you can apply for a Genting card at the various counters at the casino levels (6 – 8). They’ll gladly teach you how to top it up etc – top-up can be done simply by inserting the card at any slot machine, then inserting cash into the slot machine. Withdrawal of cash (assuming you didn’t lose it all!) can be done either at the cashier desk, or at the designated machines.
- The casino levels have various manned stations offering free beverages – coffee, tea, milo, honey lemon (presumably to keep you healthy and gambling 🙂 )
- Shore excursions
- The ship will be anchored a couple of km off Bintan – so you need to take the ship’s chartered ferry to reach Bintan itself. This is NOT free – we were told that that it would cost ~S$32 or so. That’s about the same price as taking the ferry from Singapore to Bintan! I guess they really want to keep you on board and gambling…
- The ship-offered excursions are often pricey – but you can take it up if you want the convenience. Although Bintan doesn’t really have a whole lot to offer, and for such a short cruise, you might be better off just staying on board and enjoying the myriad activities and facilities on board…
- Playing the water slides
- If you’re planning to try out the water slides, keep your loose items (phones, camera etc) and all jewellery (including rings) in your room first, because for safety reasons they will NOT allow you to take the slides with those things on your body. If you have a companion who don’t want to take the slides, they could probably help to look after these things for you.
- Cross your arms and legs when going down to avoid knotting up in the narrow tubes…
- On the day before disembarkation, they will distribute a flyer telling you what to do on disembarkation day. If you’re in the room, they’ll knock on the door, else they will just put it outside your room.
- On the morning of the disembarkation day, collect your passport at various collection points (these points will move throughout the morning, and it’s all stated on the flyer)
- Payment can be done via the app (recommended to avoid queuing), or at the cashier desks on L6. Do this before disembarking since they will not allow you to leave if you still have outstanding bills.
- If your cabin has two persons, make sure you pay for both persons separately (like I said, the app is a little unwieldy so it’s not immediately obvious that you can’t pay for the entire cabin). Just double check that there are no outstanding bills stated in the app.
- Recommended checkout times are just that – recommended. You can check out and leave anytime once the ship docks in Singapore, and up till their designated cut-off timing, regardless of your cabin and level.
That was longer than I thought, but I hope you’ll find it useful as certain information aren’t stated clearly, if at all. Now on to the cruise itself!
We took the train to Marina South Pier MRT station, the southern terminus of the red NS line. From there, it was a ~10 min walk to the cruise terminal.
Check-in was simple – just follow the flow. Do keep your passport and cruise pass in hand as you’ll need it to pass through the various stages.
We got into our room eventually – there’s no reception once you get into the inner parts of the ship (and especially not in the interior staterooms).
No complaints about the room itself – it was cosy, clean and very comfortable (bed was awesome!)
We were also given a flyer upon boarding – do review it thoroughly as it contains loads of useful info, including the list of activities!
The ship was really massive – with levels 4 – 19!
And yes, we were greeted with 3 floors of casino, slot machines and various other contraptions designed to suck your money away – the moment we stepped in. This is a ship geared towards gamblers, no doubt about it:
While waiting for our parents to board, we went straight to the buffet on Level 8. Food was okay and the spread decent – we were hungry so everything tasted pretty good. There were various types of meats and seafood (lamb – somewhat rubbery but tasted nice), pork, chicken etc, as well as the usual suspects of salads. The prawn was not fresh though, unfortunately – some were powdery and near-inedible. So maybe try one or 1/10 of a prawn first and don’t take a mountain-load of them (there’s probably a good reason why the prawns were not very popular…)
Drinks were limited to cheap artificial juices and coffee, tea etc – though you could always shell out S$20 for 3 beers or S$10 per beer.
On Level 6, there’s an open area with a huge screen – for various activities as well as Bingo etc. Good place to chill, away from the slightly smoky and busy casino areas, since there is also a cafe here serving cakes and coffee, and a couple of nice sofas.
We finally met up with our parents, and headed to the Teppanyaki restaurant on Level 8. Apparently, the restaurant was quite popular, and the Teppanyaki section was the only one that was immediately available (if we wanted to take Shabu Shabu for instance, it would have been an hour or two wait).
Overall it was a really fantastic meal, with a very funny and friendly chef constantly performing tricks and cracking jokes. Definitely worth it if you have F&B credits (but might be a tad too pricey if you’re paying out of your own pocket):
Next, we went to explore the bridge:
And then it’s back to the casino level for some live shows (and a beer):
On our way to the first show of the night, we passed by an area where mahjong tables were set up, and you could just take one of the tables and play mahjong among yourselves (either for fun, or with casino chips, or just cash – up to you). Really interesting concept on a cruise ship 🙂
As for the show itself (Some Like It Hot), I didn’t manage to take any photos, but the entire dance performances were really captivating. You could probably find videos on YouTube for that show.
And before we called it a night, we went to the deck of the ship to check out the pool – beautifully illuminated at night. We also had some small bites at the Lido on level 16, which had 24-hour food and beverages.
And it’s off to bed for another full day of eating/drinking/playing the next day!
The next morning started with a Chinese breakfast, where we were served from a set menu. The food was pretty good, though we later found out that 50% of the food here could be found in the buffet just next door.
After our Chinese breakfast, we went next door to the international buffet to load up some more. We chose an alfresco table to enjoy the view 🙂
Our original plan was to go onto Bintan island for a quick look around, but we were told that taking the ferry to the island was not free – it would cost a whopping S$32 per person! So no thanks, we decided to stay on board.
On the deck level, there were loads of stuff you could do – mini-golf, table tennis, basketball, swimming, hot-tubbing, water slides, rope course etc. Most equipment is provided, such as table tennis rackets and ping pong balls, and mini-golf clubs and balls.
At 1pm, we went to the Lido restaurant to have our buffet lunch. Frankly, I was still quite full at breakfast, and maybe that’s why I didn’t find the food to be nice. There was a pretty large spread though – all kinds of meats, porridge, noodles etc.
After lunch, we decided to go back to the room to take a nap as the weather was too sunny to be out in the water.
So at 4.30pm, we came back out and met at the water slides for some fun! Towels are provided, and be sure not to bring any loose items or jewellery with you.
At about 6-ish pm, we went back up to the room to take a shower, before heading to the hotpot restaurant which we had booked in advance.
We went for the meat set and the seafood set, which was quite substantial. But we then got a little greedy about using our F&B credits and ordered quite a lot more food, and I almost ate till I blew up 🙁
After a (too) filling dinner, we went back to the casino area to enjoy some dances at the central area. The performances were great, as usual.
We waited at the area below the theatre for a bit, and there was some game going on. It was rather entertaining, actually.
And onto the show itself – Sonio: Tale of Two Dreams. If the first night’s show was good, this one was more than twice as good – insane acrobatics, artful dance performances with a good dose of humour thrown in. Definitely don’t miss this if you ever take the cruise!
After the show ended, it was back to the casino area for more performances (and drinks) 🙂
We ended the night off with some slot machine gaming and a tiramisu cake (with 2 free cups of milo).
The following morning, our ship pulled into Singapore. After we collected our passports and packed our stuff, we went to the Lido on L16 to have breakfast. Once again, the spread was pretty impressive, but I didn’t find the food to be that nice (for instance, the chicken was too tough).
Singapore was enveloped in haze, and we could barely see the city skyline from the ship.
On the way out from our room, we passed by one of the rooms with a balcony, and decided to have a look. This room is able to hold 5 persons!
However, the balcony was a tad too small, and we didn’t feel it was worth paying S$100+ extra just to have the balcony.
And that’s the end of our very short 2D2N cruise!
The total damage per person was about $300+ inclusive of all the extra charges such as gratuities and taxes, but this also came with a whopping S$210 F&B credit per person, which was nearly impossible to finish using given the short cruise duration.
Would I be back again? I guess so – it was a nice break that’s different from the usual rush-here-and-there trips that I usually take, but for the same amount of money, I might still opt to actually travel overseas on a cheap flight ticket and do my own itinerary (for instance, round-trip tickets to Taiwan might go for S$200 or less). Nevertheless, I must say I was rather satisfied with the whole experience (especially the shows which were all very good), and it’s a great way to spend the weekend!This entry was posted in Uncategorized