We may be on a ship going nowhere, but it feels like we escaped to paradise. Out here the skies are bluer, the clouds prettier, the sea a glorious backdrop that changes throughout the day.
We have to take pre-boarding Covid tests, all wear masks and wristbands to track our movements and tap our room-cards to check in and out of all locations (tip: bring a neck lanyard), with temperature checks everywhere. Yet we are logging our first travel memories since Covid started and in a world without travel, the cruises to nowhere were everything!
We cruised twice on Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas in December 2020 and February 2021 and once on Dreamcruise World Dream in March 2021.
On Royal Caribbean, we booked the Grand Loft Suite, followed by the Royal Loft Suite, and on Genting World Dream, the Palace Suite.
The Royal Caribbean loft suites are excellent, generously-sized, duplexes with huge balconies, separate living and dining areas, they would be at least four times the size of a normal stateroom, and are located at the back of the ship. We sneaked a peek at the balcony staterooms, they’re adequately sized with queen beds and a side sofa that can convert into a single. Two connecting rooms might serve better if you’re traveling as a family of four – more space for the family to spread out, and an extra toilet. View the accommodation options here.
Our Grand Loft Suite was a floating penthouse! Two-storeys, two full baths, a huge balcony, a dining area and the downstairs sofa turns into a comfy double bed. This is a really great option for families. I didn’t know when I booked it online that it came with a “Genie”. Ours was called Anna and she made magic happen on board. She was able to get us the best seats in the house to all shows, fast track our way to activities and arranged all our dinners and helped plan the most awesome itinerary! More info on Royal class here.
On our second visit, we upgraded to the Royal Loft Suite as we were traveling with my dad. It’s a jaw-dropping 2000+ sqft suite with two jacuzzis, three large balconies, two bathrooms (bathtub upstairs) and a small room on the first level that can be a private room with its own balcony. The Star Suite class also comes with all-inclusive dining (including all alcoholic drinks), activities, free wifi and that inimitable Genie concierge service.Warning: You can’t “unsee” the Royal Loft Suite! Huge living areas, a dining table that seats eight, large balconies with jacuzzis – you’ll never want to leave the room!
Fret not if you don’t have a Genie, book as many of your activities on the Royal Caribbean website / Cruise Planner as you can before sailing, and you can follow ours; I pinned our activity to our IG highlights which you can find here.
I tried going online to find out how soon in advance you can pre-book your shows, meals and activities pre-cruise but found one link from RC that said 2 days, one link that said 4 days and another that said 3 months (heck, no wonder you guys are confused). Anyway, I’ll share one of those links here, maybe check in with RC once you’ve booked your sail dates!
The Palace Suite class in Genting is the size of two standard staterooms, the balconies are standard width just twice the length. There is also a Palace Suite Villa on board, which is a larger two bedroom option, but the price and offering compared with the Royal Caribbean Loft Suites was not inspiring. The rooms has low ceilings and it lacks the floor to ceiling glass windows and modern styling of the Royal Caribbean suites.
The Royal Caribbean Quantum wins hands down on premium accommodation, everything from the room finishing, styling and design. For regular rooms, the balconies are much smaller and narrower then those for regular rooms on Royal Caribbean.
The one thing that the Dreamcruise did provide which the Royal Caribbean did not – was toiletries/ amenities. Citing eco-conscious practises, which I agree are better for the environment, be aware though that they don’t provide toothbrushes, toothpaste, cotton pads, earbuds, shower caps or anything of that sort on Royal Caribbean. You can purchase them onboard if needed, but best to just BYO. They do provide shampoo, body wash and body lotion. Genting Dreamcruise on the hand provided the whole suite of toiletries, even including kids toiletries.
The main benefit of Genting Palace Suite is the private suite dining and pool areas, reserved show seating, and no-queue access for all public dining areas. More on that later.
Royal Caribbean scores way above Genting here. There are so many dining options on board Quantum of the Seas, we weren’t able to complete all we wanted to try, even with the 4 night cruise.
Our top picks were Chops Grill (must-try the $19 Seafood Tower) and Silk restaurant. Izumi restaurant serves mainly Japanese rolls, it’s good enough, standard fare (feels a little like Americanised Japanese food), I confess we skipped Jamie’s Italian as it didn’t appeal to my hubby with all the other options on board, but I’ve heard other guests on board vouch that it’s better than the one in Singapore. Wonderland is a novel fusion gastronomy experience you can try (enjoyable and worth a visit, but once is enough).Sweet views from American Icon restaurant which is open to all as part of the incisive package, the whimsical gastronomy at Wonderland and sushi at Izumi.
Great dining options are American Icon and Silk restaurant on board the Quantum, which are part of the dining-inclusive packages on board, and have gorgeous daytime views. Windjammer is their buffet restaurant, which is okay but can feel hectic and crowded at times. Our top pick – don’t miss the steaks and seafood tower in Chops Grill, or if you can’t decide, pick Surf & Turf!
As for Genting, we mostly dined in their Palace Suite dining areas because their public restaurant Dream Upper was atrocious. The Palace Suite package covers dining in a private dining area for Palace guests, the food here, comprising an Asian set menu and a Western menu, is adequate.
It wasn’t all bad, we enjoyed our teppanyaki dinner at Uma Umi, the chef put on a wonderful show slicing, dicing and juggling with his utensils. Apart from the teppanyaki restaurant, there was also a hotpot section and dining section where they serve Bento dinners. This restaurant isn’t included in the complimentary dining options for non-suite guests though, you would have to top up.
The next day we were served luncheon meat and cabbage, cold deep-fried rolls and over-cooked chicken strips in the Chinese restaurant Dream Upper (main dining hall) that was included in the package. It was so bad, we all left hungry, and ended up snacking on bee hoon and spring rolls by the pool. After that experience, we skipped Dream Lower (Western dining) which we hope is better than Upper.
That evening we headed back to Bento also located where Uma Umi was, and were made to wait over 50 minutes for the kids food in the restaurant. The adults had finished their meals completely before the kids food was brought out, and worse, they brought out the wrong orders. The ship seems understaffed, service is really inadequate and we had to ask three times for anything before it would come. You can view detailed stories of our food and experiences on board here
In terms of swimming pools, which are one of the main highlights for kids, Dreamcruise wins here. In addition to the nine water slides (height limits 120cm and 140cm), a water park playground (which does have long queues though) they have a larger pool area that feels less crowded.
Royal Caribbean has a count on how many people can enter the pool, maybe because it’s so small, so there were queues to enter, and they were also really strict on not being able to jump into the pool, not being able to swim to the bottom, and lifeguards would shout (rather rudely) at guests who didn’t enter from the designated entry point, even when the pool wasn’t at maximum capacity. As a result, Tyler really didn’t enjoy the pool, and we never even went there on our second trip with Royal Caribbean (he preferred our in-room jacuzzi). There’s a very nice adults-only solarium with jacuzzis on Royal Caribbean. Perhaps because of this, the kids pools were reduced in size, despite their being two public pools on the roof deck, both felt small and crowded. One way to beat the crowd is to go very early 9-10am or during/ right after lunch 12-2pm. We tried those times and managed to find the pools empty.
Finally, Dreamcruise also has a private pool and jacuzzi for its Palace suite members. This requires booking, but they do let you enter if it’s not full. In my opinion, it’s probably worth the upgrade to Palace Suites just for this alone!
The pool is huge, with a large shallow, splash area for babies or kids who aren’t yet water-safe, and there are two jacuzzis at the front of the ship on the same deck as the pool, which would give you amazing sunset views!
We preferred the shows on Royal Caribbean to Dreamcruises. We won’t elaborate too much as the shows do change with the sailing dates, but we did enjoy the Gold Art duo show on Royal Caribbean.
We found some of the entertainment a little “adult” for kids, Eg Feathers and Sequins which was well-produced with an international cast of dancers and singers but came across like a Victoria’s Secret show (if you’re ok with that for your kids)!
Genting’s highlight productions were mainly a magic show and a musical variety show containing dancers, acrobats, singing – and the show would have been better if they had simply let the natural talent of their performers shine through instead of trying to weave in a really tacky and macabre storyline about a boy, a boat, a sea witch on roller skates and a confusing cast of characters.
There’s greatly reduced capacity for shows on board both ships, but more showtimes. You can book your shows and sign up for activities prior to sailing time for Royal Caribbean on their website, their app doesn’t let you book. That might be a good idea, as the bumper car time slots were fully booked by day 1 when we were able to book activities on the app, after boarding. Those who booked online had already secured most spots.
What do we do on cruise on Royal Caribbean? Eat, swim, play ping pong, ride bumper cars, watch live shows, decorate cupcakes, drink cocktails made by a robot, make sushi, iFly, tackle the wave rider, ride the North Star at sunset… I really don’t understand when people say cruises are boring! The 4N cruise felt just right, the 3N cruise left us wanting more!
What do we do on Dreamcruise? Eat, swim, waterslides, play VR games, watch live shows and in-room movies, play bingo and visit the arcade (which we didn’t really do on the Royal Caribbean as there were so many other activities). The truth is this feel like a casino ship with cruise activities to entertain the wives and kids. You can find jackpot machines and gambling tables all around the ship even in high-traffic corridors and passages, my kids thought there were “arcade” machines everywhere! There were also constant ads for Bingo games and raffle tickets all over the ship, on big screens pre-show, via public announcements – it felt very much casino-driven. Be prepared to spend a small fortune for the VR and Arcade games on board Dream Cruise. The VR rides like Finger Coaster and 3D Dark Room are $15 a person so for a family of four, that’s $60 a pop. We did 4 activities, each takes less than 10 minutes, and that can really add up.
Arcade games were priced more than on land (SG$4 a game), and be warned… kids can tap their own room cards freely for unlimited credit! Jake spent about $30 before I knew it to win 4 pieces of Mentos and Fruit Plus candy (pieces, mind you – not rolls!), so those claw machines can be very dangerous for your wallet. My advice – keep the kids AWAY from the arcades (I might have had better odds against the Jackpot machines!) One cool (and free) activity you can do, is take your kids to check out the Bridge view of the World Dream. Tyler was really excited to get up close to the control room, where the captain and his crew work. 3N cruise felt long enough, I departed feeling like I had had enough.
Objectively, there’s not so many highlight activities open for kids three and below for both ships. In fact, Royal Caribbean doesn’t allow infants less than 12 months old on board the 4N cruise, but they’re allowed on the 3N cruise.
Both have shallow splash areas, but activities are limited and Kids Clubs restrictive (limited to time slot bookings and frequency of drop-offs, eg Royal Caribbean said each guest could only have a maximum of 3 hours of Kids Club in total for the 3 day cruise, unless this policy has changed since we sailed in December).
For Royal Caribbean, rock climbing (minimum age 6), wave rider (120cm) and iFly (I think is height, although Jake was 5 and our friends kids who were 105cm tall were able to do it).
Dreamcruise activities are awesome for older kids and teens, the water park where all the main slides are have height limits of 120cm and 140cm, rock climbing and zip line also both 140cm. There’s a small obstacle course below the rock-climbing for little kids.
A short note on kids clubs. My kids found the drop off kids club on Royal Caribbean boring as they don’t leave the room and aren’t allowed to play on the playground inside). As a result they didn’t even want to try the one at Dreamcruise, so I’m unable to give feedback on that.
Lastly, some information on the Covid tests – yes, we all had to take it before sailing, even the kids. Both cruises had different types of tests. Royal Caribbean’s had to be taken 48 hours before boarding, but it allowed us instant access on sailing day. Dreamcruise has their rapid antigen test nose swab on the same day, which takes out about 30 to 45 minutes from your boarding time, and you have to wait onsite for your results.
The Royal Caribbean test was efficient, we took it 48 hours before travel at Raffles City, there was no queue. The kids’ swab is different from the adults one. Theirs is done both nostrils at once, and such a swift swab Jake didn’t even realise when it was done. It doesn’t go very deep for them, just around the entrance area of the nostrils. The adult swab is done one side at a time with a very long Q-tip, and goes much deeper. It’s not comfortable, but it really wasn’t painful. The stick goes all the way up and may trigger your tear ducts, and while that may sound painful, it really wasn’t; it was just odd and uncomfortable.
The Dreamcruise nose swab is less painful and invasive for everyone, the only drawback was having to wait on location for 30 minutes in a non air-conditioned area before boarding, but it really didn’t feel like a huge inconvenience if you bring books or activities to entertain the kids.
Here’s a tip to getting the kids to go easily. I showed them videos of the amazing cruise ship, with all its pools, water play areas, arcade, bumper cars, rock climbing wall… and asked them if they would be willing to let someone “dig their nose” before boarding (to make sure they didn’t have Covid) and they looked at me like that was a trick question! Hell yeah, please dig our noses!
Only one test is now required pre-boarding. Before March 2021, there was a test for pre-boarding and disembarkation, there is now only one test.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN OR DREAMCRUISE?
In summary, I would say Royal Caribbean wins hands-down as an overall experience. Both have their winning points and drawbacks, food, suites, entertainment and service go to Royal Caribbean, Dreamcruise wins for swimming pool, water slide park and way more in-room movies available!
Lastly, some information on the suite classes on Royal Caribbean, which I got so many questions about! For those interested in Suites, there are three classes (Sea, Sky and Star). Skip the Sea class (Junior Suite), you pretty much get no perks except bathrobe and fluffier pillows, a slightly bigger balcony; the room is barely bigger than the Ocean Balcony staterooms (which are also quite lovely BTW).
The Sky Class lists a whole shebang more perks, including breakfast and dinners in the Coastal Kitchen (suite restaurant) but you still have to pay for specialty dining and drinks (and you don’t get a Genie).
The rockstar class is Star Class… all F&B fully covered, the ship your playground with an Express Pass! Only 8 suites out of 2000 rooms actually come with the awesome Genie service. I can’t recommend this enough. It came with a price tag of course, but it works out to less than one business class ticket to Europe (to cover a family of 4 for 3N on board).
Information may change, but the above is based on my personal experiences on board the ships during specific times when we sailed. We paid for all our own cruises, our opinions are entirely our own #notsponsored Hope that helps!