Newly launched cruises-to-nowhere offer relief to travel-starved Singaporeans, but are they worth your money?
If you’ve been suffering from cabin fever, now’s your chance to cure it with a stay in a real cabin — out at sea that is.
Under a pilot programme, cruise operators have been given the green light to operate leisure cruises disembarking from Singapore from the start of November 2020 onwards.
Two operators, Genting Cruise Line’s Dream Cruises and Royal Carribean International, have been approved to offer cruises from Singapore designed to limit or prevent cross-border COVID-19 transmission, by observing precautions such as not making any stops at any foreign ports, and requiring passengers to take swab tests before boarding.
The first, led by Dream Cruises had departed earlier in this month for a two-night voyage. Royal Caribbean International is slated to launch its own cruise-to-nowhere on 1 December. Other cruise line operators have opted to wait till next year to launch similar cruises.
So, while it seems like leisure travel options are surely but slowly opening up, is now the right time for you to jump on board?
Is it safe to take a cruise during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The cramped confines of a cruise ship can be dangerous during an outbreak of a fast-spreading pandemic, so it’s natural to be slightly apprehensive about signing up for a cruise at this time.
However, given what we now know about the COVID-19 virus, the newly approved cruises will operate under strict guidelines to ensure safety and to keep chances of infections low.
One such guideline is that only Singaporeans may ‘travel’ onboard the cruise, and every passenger is required to pass a mandatory swab test prior to boarding the ship. Additionally, passengers will be assigned embarkation and disembarkation timings to prevent crowding. Cruise ships will also operate at 50% capacity to enable safe distancing.
Crew members will have to satisfy quarantine requirements and undergo tests, while observing an enhanced cleaning and disinfection schedule throughout the cruise. And to further reduce the risk of cross-border infection, these cruises-to-nowhere will not stop at any ports during the voyage.
Passengers will also be reminded to stick to established safety protocols, such as wearing a mask at all times, regular washing or disinfecting hands and to observe a safety distance of at least 1m.
So is it safe? Well, judging by the popularity of these cruise-to-nowhere packages — Genting Cruise Lines reported receiving more than 6,000 bookings in just 5 days — travel-starved Singaporeans don’t seem to be too worried.
What COVID-19 restrictions should I expect on board the cruise ship?
Just because you’re setting sail for the open seas doesn’t mean you’ll be escaping COVID-19 restrictions. Afterall, nobody wants to catch the bug, so you can largely expect the same restrictions and safety guidelines.
The attraction of cruise ships lies in them being jam-packed with activities and amenities, covering everything from dining and clubbing, theatres and live shows, to adventure, fitness and water sports. Apart from the cessation of self-service buffets (you’ll be enjoying table-side service instead), all other activities will go on as normal.
However, the need for safe distancing means there will be capacity limitations for all activities and amenities. This could mean that only a certain number of people will be allowed at, say, the wave pool, with similar restrictions at restaurants and lounges.
As there has been no official word on changes to group size, we expect you’ll be restricted to parties of no more than 5 during your cruise. There will also be no inter-mingling among groups, which are expected to remain at least 2m apart at all times.
Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult, as cruise ships will admit only 50% of their usual capacity. So with a bit of planning, judicious pre-booking and some flexibility, you and your party should be able to fully enjoy everything the cruise ship has to offer.
Dream Cruises or Royal Caribbean – Which cruise package should I choose?
At present, only two cruise operators have been granted permission to offer cruises to nowhere for Singaporean travellers. We’ve summarised their packages in the following table.
|Dream Cruises – World Dream||Royal Caribbean International – Quantum of the Seas|
|Cruise packages and prices||2-night cruise: |
– Balcony cabin (2 – 4 pax) – from $379- Suite (4 – 6 pax) – from $1,149
– Balcony cabin (2 – 4 pax) – from $669- Suite (4 – 6 pax) – from $1,649
|Opening 2-night cruise:|
– Suite – from $902/pax
– Interior stateroom – from $361/pax- Outside view – from $451/pax- Balcony – from $441/pax- Suite – from $621/pax
4-night cruise:- Interior stateroom – from $449/pax- Outside view – from $497/pax- Balcony – from $497/pax- Suite – from $704/pax
|Gratuity||From $21/pax (2 yrs and above)||$54.15/pax|
|COVID-19 Test||$60 per pax||Included in price|
Dream Cruises: Budget-friendly ocean getaway
Dream Cruises by Genting Cruise Lines is the first operator to launch a cruise to nowhere from Singapore under the pilot programme. The first voyage took place on 6 November on the cruiser World Dream, which can accommodate up to 1,400 passengers.
According to cruisemapper.com, World Dream looks to be a gourmand’s paradise, offering a staggering 33 food and beverage establishments, combining restaurants, bars, bistros, bakeries, cafes and lounges. With such a comprehensive selection, you and your fellow travellers are likely to find every craving satisfied — whether be they for international cuisines, fine wines and whiskies, or sun deck cocktails.
For recreation, passengers can look forward to a raft of options, including multiple pool types with 6 water slides, a rope climbing course, playrooms, card rooms, mahjong, bowling alley, duty-free shopping and more.
Looking to pamper yourself with a spa afternoon? Have your choice of Western or Asian spa treatments at any of the state-of-the-art health and wellness facilities on board. Other facilities and activities to check out include the Zodiac Theatre, health club, beauty salon, barbershop, as well as inspirational speeches and wine tasting.
World Dream cruise-to-nowhere is the more budget-friendly option, with prices starting from $379 (per room) for a 2-night cruise. However, that price only covers your cabin and meals at the designated complimentary restaurants. There are likely to be additional charges for shipboard activities or meals at other restaurants.
Royal Caribbean International: Live the high life on the high seas
If your idea of a good time is to thoroughly spoil yourself, Royal Caribbean International has got you covered.
Launching on 1 December, book yourself a cruise on board the Quantum of the Seas, a state-of-the-art luxury liner and treat yourself to a decadent few days on the high seas.
Onboard, you will find no less than 25 world-class dining establishments serving up an array of cuisines suited to every taste. Pick and choose from Asian to Western, Japanese, Italian, Western and more in a heady selection of formats — marketplace, gourmet private dining, casual, steakhouse, etc. Best of all, 14 of these 25 restaurants are complimentary and included in your ticket price.
Recreation options tend to cater to the sporty and adventurous here. Spanning 16 entertainment decks, including a top deck featuring solarium for adults, an outdoor pool, a new indoor pool with a roof system and H2O Zone kids’ aqua park. There’s also a surf simulator, a rock climbing wall measuring 40ft above the deck, a spa, a casino, and an outdoor movie screen.
What sets Quantum of the Seas apart are some truly cutting-edge thrills rarely seen on other cruisers. Enjoy a 1-min skydiving simulation with iFly by RipCord, or board the North Star glass capsule to be hoisted 300 ft above sea level for unbeatable views. Afterwhich, head to the bar to calm your shaky nerves with a cocktail that’s ‘handmade to order’ by the vessel’s robot bartenders.
Charges for Royal Caribbean International cruises go by per pax, and as you can see in the table above, there are a variety of cabin types with corresponding price points to cater to a range of budgets. If you’re taking the plunge, go ahead and splash out for a more luxurious room (one with a view) and maximise your enjoyment.
Is a cruise to nowhere worth your money and time?
Modern-day cruise ships are designed to be an all-in-one destination, packing in enough dining, recreation and entertainment options to rival a small city. This may sound appealing to people who seek new experiences and a high level of stimulation.
For people who aren’t exactly a fan of crowds, the long standing criticism leveled against cruises is that once you get on board, you’ll be sharing the vessel with thousands of other passengers, with little opportunity to escape from the masses.
You’re likely to have to deal with the crowds throughout the day, Sure, you could hole yourself up in your cabin, but if you’re going to do that, why not just stay in the safe confines of home?
However, with the need for safe crowd management measures, cruises-to-nowhere from Singapore are limited to only 50% of their maximum capacity on every voyage. This partially solves the problem of crowding, with passengers likely to enjoy more room onboard, and perhaps even rare pockets with nobody else around.
On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, you’ll have to contend with limited availability and pre-bookings for activities and amenities, which may put a dampener on the carefreeness of your getaway.
Well, you win some, you lose some. For those who’ve always wanted to enjoy a getaway on the high seas without the maddening crowds, now is probably the best time to make that booking.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.