Genting Dream anchored at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal this week.
Genting Dream has cast anchor for what is Hong Kong’s first foray into the ‘seacation’ cruise market.
With international cruising on hold globally, Genting Cruise Lines has been sailing no-port-of-call voyages in both Taiwan and Singapore since 2020. The cruises, which start and end at the home port and don’t drop anchor anywhere during the trip, have proved extremely popular with domestic markets in an area of the world where overseas holidays appear to be on hold indefinitely. They are, quite literally, cruises to nowhere.
Genting Dream sailed into Hong Kong earlier this summer and is now docked at Kai Tak as it embarks on its ‘Summer Seacation’ season. This is the closest many Hong Kongers will have come to leaving the city in a year-and-a-half.
The ship will be sailing at 50% of normal capacity to meet local Covid guidelines, carrying around 1,000 guests in total along with 900 crew members. Everyone, including crew, must be fully vaccinated and must have undergone a further PCR test within 48 hours of departure. Testing can be done at community testing centres at a cost of approximately HK$240 per person. Due to updated Hong Kong government guidelines, children aged 12 and upwards must be vaccinated and all guests, regardless of age, must take a pre-departure test. Face masks must be worn throughout the ship, also in compliance with Hong Kong regulations.
Check-in counters at Kai Tak ready for the first guests to board.
On boarding, all guests will be given a tracking disc attached to a lanyard which must be worn at all times. The disc recognises a close contact as someone who remains within one-metre-and-a-half of the bearer for longer than 15 minutes.
To be fair to Genting, it has held an almost 100% clean record for almost a year in Taiwan and Singapore with regards to Covid infections. One passenger tested positive on a Singapore sailing earlier this month which saw World Dream return to port. Currently Singapore passengers do not need to be fully vaccinated. According to Genting, Genting Dream has the strictest boarding criteria of all its vessels currently operating seacations.
If the worst does happen, the ship is fully equipped with an impressive medical centre, boasting a PCR testing machine, hospital beds, fully trained medical staff and the centre has also seconded around 40 cabins on the same floor to be used as isolation rooms. Close contacts will be isolated and the rest of the ship must return to their rooms while instruction is sought from Hong Kong health authorities.
Medical staff ensure on-board Covid testing facilities are shipshape.
According to ship’s captain, Jukka Silvennoinen, cleaning protocols have been heightened and the ship’s filtration system has been upgraded ahead of the relaunch of sailings.
“We are extremely excited to be the first cruise ship to return to Hong Kong,” he said. “Genting Dream arrived in Hong Kong on June 9 and, to fully comply with the Hong Kong government’s quarantine regulations, was anchored off Lamma Island. During this time, the crew prepared (the ship) for her re-launch with heightened cleaning and disinfection of the entire ship.”
The main pool deck and water slides.
Prior to the first sailing, Genting Dream crew members were busy Kai Tak with final preparations. Most facilities are available for use, however due to Covid guidelines, jacuzzis, shallow children’s wading pools and saunas will be off-limits.
Kids will be kept busy with a whole range of activities which are all part of the seacation package. They include the pool deck, water slides, bowling, basketball, bubble soccer, giant snooker, archery, shuffleboard, mini golf, a climbing wall, rope courses and, if you book Palace (premium) class, there is a second pool deck for exclusive use of Palace guests at the bow of the ship.
All activities must be booked in advance, including the pools which have to operate at 50% of capacity. All sessions last for one hour.
The Little Dreamers kids club provides a fun, air-conditioned space for youngsters aged two to 12 years, with plenty of games, screen action and a dedicated staff.
Little Dreamers kids' club welcomes youngsters aged two to 12 years.
The Zodiac theatre is also limbering up for a programme of high-octane shows. Seating is limited to 75% of capacity with every fourth seat kept empty.
Casinos will also be running and the spa offers a full menu of treatments (but no sauna or jacuzzi access).
Food and beverage options include seven restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. Seacation packages start with a basic package which includes all meals at two restaurants, The Lido and Dream Dining Room, rising to Palace bookings which include access to all seven restaurants as well as happy hour options. Basic class passengers can access all restaurants, but at additional cost. Beverage packages run from Premium, to Classic, and Refresh, with prices varying depending on package type. Because all staff and diners will be fully vaccinated, dining spaces can operate under group D conditions according to Hong Kong guidelines, which means up to 12 can be seated per table.
Alternate staterooms, or cabins, must be kept empty for social distancing. As per Hong Kong regulations, a maximum of four people are allowed per room, with six permitted in the impressive Palace Villa Suite at the bow of the boat. This decadent space also boasts its own al fresco mini-pool and deck, bar and lounge area.
Staff prepare the Palace dining space.
According to Christine Lu, Genting’s marketing boss, sailings are fully booked until mid-August, predominantly by families and multi-generational groups while schools are out. From the autumn, Genting will be offering themed sailings, such as a Japanese Festival at Sea throughout September, incorporating workshops including Japanese-fan making, Geisha make-up demonstrations, hair ornament tutorials, origami classes, manga drawing lessons and ‘bingata’ (fabric dyeing) workshops, as well as Japanese-themed foodie pop-ups and tastings. Celebrations for Oktoberfest and a Nordic Christmas are also in the pipeline.
Socially distanced seating at The Zodiac Theatre.
Summer Seacation voyages sail three times a week from Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Two-night sailings depart on Fridays and Wednesdays and Sundays for a three-night cruise. The ship departs at 9pm and docks back at Kai Tak at 10am.
"We are extremely proud that Genting Dream will be the first cruise ship to restart operations in Hong Kong and we are grateful for the support we have received from the Hong Kong government authorities and trade partners for their trust in Dream Cruises," said Kent Zhu, president of Genting Cruise Lines. "We have been very encouraged by the response to our Super Seacation Cruises... with the increase in the rate of vaccination in the city, we are confident (they) will become one of the most popular vacation options for the residents of Hong Kong."
While it might be a journey to nowhere, the Summer Seacation at least gives Hong Kongers the chance to dust-off their suitcases while a travel reprieve remains someway over the horizon.
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