Genting’s strong move into the Asian cruise market

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In just two days, the luxury Genting Dream will be arriving in Singapore and heading to her homeport of Nansha in China.

The first ship from the new cruise line Dream Cruises is owned by Genting Hong Kong, the gaming conglomerate who has made an aggressive bid for the market by launching the first luxury ship, built for Asian consumers.

Last year, out the of the 120 million Chinese that travelled abroad last year, only one million of them cruised. So Genting chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Tay said the company is capitalising on the potential cruise growth in China.

“It’s practically a virgin market. Our competitors are seeing a five-million (passenger) market just of China,” he told The New Straits Times.

Earlier this year, Genting Hong Kong chief executive and founding president Colin Au said the company did extensive research of the global cruise market, before ordering the two Dream Cruises ship in 2013.

“Cruising I relate to the industrial revolution. Cruising went through four major stages. The first stage was when people go on the ship to enjoy, not just as a means to transport. This whole concept was developed by British brands like P&O and Cunard.

“Cruising 2.0 started with Norwegian Cruise Line where passengers would go from Miami for three or four or seven days and headed back to the same place. A lot of people didn’t understand why does a ship sail from same place and come back to the same port. But that’s because the ship became the destinations – lots of restaurants and entertainment and of course, visiting destinations at the same time.

“Cruising 3.0 is when Genting started freestyle cruising in Asia after 1993. When we observed in cruising 2.0, people had to pick dining times like 6pm or 8pm. But then it would mean if you had dinner at 6pm, you’d have to see an 8pm show. There were only two main dining rooms with tables of 10. So if you’re a group of two or four people you have to join another group. And you have to ‘share’ you holiday with other people.”

Mr Au said, when Genting were creating their ships for the Asian market, the company had to alter the cruising experience so Asians would feel comfortable.

“And of course in Asia, we eat very quickly. Very few people sit down for a three-course dinner and for two hours. And of course, every voyage, you would have to bring your black suit for Captains Dinner.

“And of course at that time, we use a lot of Caribbean country crew. So from an Asian standpoint, we converted to freestyle cruising in our own way – eat where we want, when we want, with whomever we want. It’s all very casual – multiple restaurants with lots of options and we are the first to use Filipinos so then the hospitality is very different.”

Tan Sri Lim Kok Tay also revealed in an interview with The New Straits Times, a little about Cruising 4.0 which will be revealed in the coming months.

“For that you have to wait. But if you understand where “Freestyle” comes from and the fact that our two competitors have finally adopted the same concept – and of course they call it by many other names – it’s about multiple restaurants, food and freedom of choice,” he said.

“When we planned Star Cruises, we said since we’re targeting it in Asia with the same culture and background, we need to offer that freedom of choice. So we called it “Freestyle”. When I talk about “Total Freedom”, it is moving in that direction.”

Mr Au said Genting closely observed the rise of the cruise industry, especially in America and were at the forefront of creating new styles of holidaying.

“We bought a near bankrupt Norwegian Cruise Line and changed it to freestyle. And other ships couldn’t follow because of the design of the ships. They didn’t have room for multiple dining options. Lines started to copy us like Royal Caribbean introduced Dynamic Dining. But the choices are coming. When we were successful, we moved NCL to be the third largest company,” he said.

“We started to observe that cruising in China was started to take off. We noted that Costa started cruising in 2006. By 2013 we decisively ordered two ships – the two Dream ships for delivery for 2016 and 2017. At the time, the older ships were going to China. We were not going to the very low market. So we conceived of Dream Cruises which was aimed for that luxury market. We wanted to design a ship within a ship – you can enjoy shows, multiple dining options and more. The special thing about the Dream ships is the number of Chinese crew members onboard. Other lines who are homeported in China then move their ships to Australia in the winter months, use two sets of crew – English speaking and Mandarin speaking – so you’re only targeting 50% of the market.”