Royal Caribbean or Dream Cruises: Which is the better cruise line?
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
Unfortunately, leisure air travel is still out of the question for most Singaporeans. Staycations aside - the only thing close to a real holiday is going on a cruise.
Even if it’s just a cruise-to-nowhere, the trip is technically “overseas”. And I for one was all too happy to get onboard, having fallen in love with cruising after freelance writing for Cruise Passenger and Cruise & Travel Asia since 2018.
There are currently two cruises that depart from Marina Bay Cruise Terminal: Dream Cruises’ World Dream and Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. At present, both are round-trip cruises with no port stops.
Of course, you might be wondering which one to choose for your vacation at sea. Get ready for the ultimate cruise-line showdown!
Health & safety
In a world where Covid is still a looming threat, your first priority is how safe these ships are. Thankfully, the answer is very.
Yes - there was that false positive case back on Royal Caribbean in December. But rest assured that the line and crew do take your health & safety very seriously.
On Royal, you’re required to go for a PCR test within 48 to 72 hours prior to boarding, and receive a negative result before being cleared for embarkation. Once I boarded, the crew were extremely vigilant about safety distancing and health protocols, firmly reminding us to keep one-metre apart and not cluster together. You’re required to wear a ‘tracelet’ at all times for contact tracing, with temperature-taking at practically every section of the ship.
The same pretty much goes for Dream Cruises: a ‘mice pod’ to be carried everywhere, frequent temperature-checks and sanitising dispensers at most restaurant/ theatre entrances. As my trip with World Dream was a media trip, I got to visit the medical centre as well. And trust me, it’s as well-equipped as it can be, with numerous isolation wards and upgraded medical equipment.
The only difference would probably be the pre-embarkation Covid test. In contrast to Royal, Dream does a rapid antigen test on the day of boarding. Whilst less accurate than the ‘gold standard’ PCR test, doing a test on the day itself does give you less “window” to actually catch the virus before your trip.
The winner: It’s a draw! There’s no question that both lines take health & safety seriously. So whichever you choose, rest assured that they're doing their best to ensure you don’t catch the dreaded virus.
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 1 Dream Cruises: 1
Free-flow food’s a big draw for people, especially us Singaporeans! Even though I didn’t try any specialty dining restaurants on Royal Caribbean, I absolutely loved the food that was complimentary.
Over at Quantum of the Seas’ Main Dining Room, the dishes on most days were consistently good - coupled with great service from our waitstaff. The menu changes every day, and you can order a dish as many times as you want!
Being a huge steak lover, my favourites were the beef tenderloin and steak Diane - both tender and well-seasoned. Other standouts were the pulled pork sandwich and cream pasta with mussels and prawn. And not to forget desserts like bananas foster and their signature apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
There’s also a huge selection of food at their ala-carte buffet restaurant Windjammer Marketplace. You’ll find everything from tacos, to pasta and Chinese-style noodles, Indian food and a meat station which changes daily. And if you find yourself getting hungry in the late evening, the Café Promenade is open till 3am with options like freshly-baked pizza, desserts, coffee and tea.
On Dream Cruises’ World Dream, the Lido and Dream Dining Room are where you want to be for the all-inclusive meals. I didn't get the opportunity to try the Dining Room, but I found the food selection at the Lido a little limited as compared to Royal’s Windjammer. There were staples like rice, pasta and various meats and fishes, but none really stood out for me as being particularly ‘wow’.
Being a Palace guest (Dream’s VIP experience for suite guests), I did enjoy the food at The Palace Restaurant. Service was super efficient, and their Asian/western offerings like char kway teow and cream pasta with white truffle oil were excellent. The specialty restaurants were a hit-and-miss. Teppanyaki restaurant Umi Uma was my favourite, but I was disappointed with the tough steak at Mark Best’s Seafood and Grill.
The winner: Royal Caribbean. Overall, I’d say Royal Caribbean wins this round. Their all-inclusive options are consistently solid, as compared to Dream where I preferred the food served for suite-only guests. I’ll be back to try the food at Dream’s dining room though!
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 2 Dream Cruises: 1
Both World Dream and Quantum of the Seas are mega-ships catered to multi-generational families, meaning there are loads of activities to keep you occupied.
On Quantum, I had a blast trying out iFly (chargeable at around $40 SGD), the ship’s skydiving simulator. There’s also the FloRider, their very cool surf simulator that’s free-of-charge. Other activities to check out include the North Star observation capsule (chargeable), dance classes, trivia game shows, rock-climbing and bumper cars, table tennis and Xbox video games at activity centre the Seaplex.
Pre-Covid, Quantum also organised laser tag battles and an Escape room at the Seaplex. Here’s hoping these activities will resume once restrictions are further relaxed.
Cruising with World Dream, I tried out rock-climbing, mini-golf and an ESC Experience Lab with numerous VR games. Racing down the five slides at their Waterslide Park was a blast!
World Dream also comes with a high-elements obstacle course, zip line over the ocean, video game centre and a sports deck where you can play basketball or other games. Other activities on my cruise included fitness classes and health & wellness talks.
Oh, and both cruises also have kids’ clubs to keep your little ones occupied!
The winner: Tough fight, but I’m going with Dream. If you fail to book Royal’s chargeable activities (iFly and North Star) before boarding your cruise, these are quite pricey to book directly on board.
Whereas for Dream, most activities are complimentary except for the ESC Experience Lab. Activities like zip-lining and the obstacle course will also please adventure-seekers.
When Royal re-introduces the complimentary laser tag and Escape room, I’d say Dream would face a run for its money!
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 2 Dream Cruises: 2
Part of what makes cruises so attractive are the free shows. On Royal, you’re treated to world-class entertainment with their nightly performances. My favourite was Gold Art Duo - a pair of acrobats who appeared on Ukranian’s Got Talent. They were accompanied by the enthusiastic Royal Theatre cast, whose singing and dancing certainly impressed the audience.
There were other great acts too, such as an Australian magician and illusionist and British comedy juggler.
I was also happy that live music in the bars and lounges were back again. Whilst definitely on a toned-down scale compared to pre-Covid (no alcohol being sold during performances at lounges, no pianists/ guitarists along the Royal Esplanade), musicians were still in top form.
I particularly enjoyed the tunes of guitarist Carlo Rafana, who sounded very much like Bruno Mars with his smooth and powerful vocals.
As for Dream Cruises, nightly entertainment at Dream’s theatre included a husband-wife duo singing evergreen hits, and their highlight ‘Very Merry Christmas’ show. The singing duo were honestly a little underwhelming, with tunes that would mostly appeal to adults in their 50s and up. I did enjoy the Christmas show though, which brought in trampoline acrobats and dancers.
Sadly, live music at the various lounges was still not permitted when I went on World Dream’s November sailing. They did have a wider range of movies screening at their Zouk Beach Club, as compared to Royal Caribbean’s selection at their pool deck.
The winner: Royal takes this round, with better quality acts and more entertainment options. Once Dream’s bars and lounges are back in full-swing, I’d be very interested to check out their live music.
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 3 Dream Cruises: 2
Accommodation & room service
Ok - this one is hard to compare because I stayed in different room types on Quantum and World Dream.
On Royal Caribbean, I stayed in a Balcony Stateroom. It was clean and well-appointed, with all the usuals you’d expect like a comfy bed, TV, closet and safe.
However, amenities are rather on the minimal side (only two bottles of water on the first day, no toothbrush kit, shower cap and bar soap). They included a 2-in-1 body wash and shampoo dispenser, which is serviceable but makes your hair feel rather dry and hay-like. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner if you want smooth and silky tresses.
Room-service wise, no complaints there. Our bed was made up perfectly when we returned each day, and I loved the cute towel animals that housekeeping staff folded to greet us upon our return to the cabins.
I stayed at a Palace Suite on World Dream, which boasted a luxurious duvet bed, spacious quarters, 24/hour butler service and a bathroom that included both a standing shower and bathtub. The bathroom also came with amenities like premium bath toiletries (including separate shampoo and conditioner and toothbrush kits), which I greatly appreciated.
My butler Clarence was a Godsend too - super proactive with requests like helping to book shows and restaurants. Housekeeping staff were great as well, but I did feel they missed out some little details like cleaning out an empty chips container and half-eaten desserts.
The winner: Like I said, two very different room types. But based on my research, World Dream’s standard balcony staterooms are slightly larger than Quantum’s at over 20 sqm. Looking at past reviews by other netizens, the bathrooms seem to include complimentary toiletries, amenities and daily top-up of bottled water.
So accommodation-wise, Dream Cruises knocks out Royal in this round.
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 3 Dream Cruises: 3
I firmly believe there’s more to picking a cruise than just looking for the cheapest option. Value is important too, so we’ll see which one is most value-for-money.
But to start, let’s look at prices. I paid around 660 SGD per person (including gratuities, port charges and tax) for a three-night sailing on Quantum of the Seas, travelling in a balcony stateroom during mid December. This fee includes the PCR Covid test that Royal conducts before embarkation.
For a 3-Night sailing, the cheapest interior stateroom would set you back about 400 SGD per person (all charges in) based on current rates found on their website. The cheapest suite costs around 700 SGD per person.
On World Dream, a balcony stateroom three-night sailing would set you back around 449 SGD per person (2 to go). However, this excludes the $60 port charge, $60 antigen test, and $21 per night gratuity charge. So all-in-all, you’re looking at around 632 SGD per person.
An interior stateroom 3-night sailing costs around 249 SGD per person, and a Palace Suite costs around 1,189 SGD per person.
Do note that pricing fluctuates based on demand and season - this is merely a guide. World Dream’s prices were quoted based on sailings for November and December last year. Both lines also have frequent sales (e.g. kids sail free offers for Royal), so do check out their website for more updates.
Verdict: For a standard balcony cabin, Dream is slightly cheaper. However, when talking value-for-money, I’d choose Royal. If you don’t fancy paying extra for pricey alcohol packages and room upgrades, Royal’s all-inclusive food and great entertainment is enough to keep you satisfied.
Whereas on Dream, the better food was found at the specialty dining restaurants and Palace restaurant (only for suite guests). Guests who don’t pay for these privileges don’t get to enjoy this. And shows at the theatre were more wow-worthy on Royal as well.
Scoreboard: Royal Caribbean : 4 Dream Cruises: 3
So the winner is……
By a very slight margin, Royal Caribbean!
Honestly I had a blast on both cruise lines. But Royal gets my overall vote for value, food and entertainment, especially if you’re on a budget and not planning to pay for add-ons or staying in a suite.
That being said, Dream is definitely a worthy contender. I love its range of activities, and the ship, rooms and specialty restaurants certainly have that premium, luxurious feel.
Whichever you decide to go on, you’ll pretty much enjoy an awesome escape at sea!
If you’ve been on both Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean ships, let me know which you enjoyed more!
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