By Peter Lynch in Singapore
Dream Cruises, Asia’s new luxury cruise line, has announced its first ship will switch homeports to Singapore from the end of 2017.
The news, greeted with delight by tourism officials in the city state, was revealed at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Singapore.
The Genting Dream, launched in Singapore last November, has been based in Hong Kong for the past two months, and travels between Hong Kong, Guangshou and Vietnam.
She will be based in Singapore from December 3 in a move being billed as the first all-year deployment.
The ship will also see some important changes, including tweaks to the food and entertainment offerings and new destinations.
The successful mix of east meets west – European and Chinese butlers, the luxury of The Dream Palace – will stay.
Dream Cruises president Thatcher Brown said he thought of the move as bringing Southeast Asia the “biggest, longest and newest” in terms of the ship, its deployment and the fact that it was so new.
He maintained the line’s ethos as “Asian at heart, international in spirit” would appeal to many travellers as well as Asians looking for “aspirational luxury”.
He spelled out what the move means for travel agents: $30 million in commission up for grabs, $60 million in air tickets for fly-cruise passengers and $18 million in hotel rooms.
The switch will coincide with the expected launch of the second Dream Cruises vessel – scheduled for November, 2017.
World Dream will be a 151,000-gross tonne vessel with 21 decks able to accommodate 3,300 passengers. Mr Brown did not reveal where she would be based, though it is expected to maintain the line’s presence in the burgeoning Chinese market.
The Genting Dream, at 151,300 tonnes, with 1,674 staterooms over 18-decks, will have a big impact on Southeast Asian cruising.
The year-round deployment – currently many vessels leave Singapore to move to China for the summer – will stimulate the market throughout the year.
Mr Brown, who posed for pictures with the line’s signature spaceman and mermaid, a take from a painting on the vessel’s hull, believes the new location will appeal to both local and international cruisers.
Southeast Asia’s growing middle class and cruise growth will be targets for the new positioning. So will the neighbouring Australian market – many lines have found Aussie passengers have a keen interest in Asian destinations.
Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Lionel Yeo said the move marked a new chapter for Singapore.
Later, in an exclusive interview with ASEAN Cruise News, Mr Brown pointed out that launching two 150,000 tonne ships with 4,000 crew and building a brand from scratch had kept his team busy.
“We’ve really turned up the fire hose and we’ve taken a big drink introducing two ships in 24 months,” he said.
There would be cross selling of brands within the Genting Group, with cruisers on Dream possibly moving to Crystal Cruises, or passengers on Superstar Virgo moving to Dream.
The typical Dream Cruises passenger was “the burgeoning middle class, looking for a more intelligent experience that provides enrichment and discovery – a little more discerning, educated and a little more international.
“I think our Palace product is a good example of our ship-within-a-ship, which allows us to go very high end and create exclusivity, and the rest of the ship allows us to introduce people to premium cruise experiences.”
The ship’s eclectic mix- Australian fine dining chef Mark Best alongside Blue Lagoon hawker food, China’s got Talent and enrichment speakers including an astronauts – will stay. But there will be changes.
“We’re in the premium luxury space, and our target audience is the 35-50 year old, they have kids though don’t travel with them all the time, they will bring their grand parents.” Mr Brown said he wasn’t ruling out retirees. “We have to be very open minded about how we approach our guests.”
The line is expecting 40 per cent local passengers and 60 per cent from the “fly cruise” arena once it moves Genting Dream to Singapore.
Mr Brown conceded there were learnings from the first few months of the the Genting Dream’s sailings, including the need to communicate in multiple languages what guests are getting.
He said many guests, for instance, missed out on the biggest Asian spa, Zouk nightlife experience and the four-screen cinema. “I am standing in front of the world telling them all about the biggest Asian spa, the complimentary fruit, the highly trained reflexologists, the cinema at sea with four screens, the Zouk and I am saying: Where is everybody?” he said.
Food scheduling, embarkation, signage and communications have all been improved, he said.
Other important changes include more ASEAN staff, a greater presence for English, food, retail and entertainment, including more live bands and enrichment.
“We are tweaking and testing now – the Blue Lagoon Malaysian hawker food will be re-engineered to contain more ASEAN offerings, though we won’t give away China’s greatest hits like dumplings.
“Our European butler service will be emphasized as I think this is a sophisticated crowd.
“And our retail will be adjusted with more balance – the big four are leather accessories, cosmetics, luxury watches and fragrance. You’ll see more premium items.”
The Genting Dream will carry out 2, 5 and 12 night cruises from December 3. For more see www.dreamcruiseline.com