Though we’re all dreaming of getting on that plane, cruises are still a lovely getaway and escape from the humdrum of work and daily life.
And if you’ve got some extra budget from that holiday you didn’t take in 2020, consider splurging on a suite rather than staying in a balcony or interior stateroom.
It doesn't have to cost you an arm or a leg too. Though prices do fluctuate based on demand, you can book Palace suites from just $699(excluding taxes) on World Dream.
Considering that my Royal Caribbean balcony stateroom cost around $800 plus per pax in June (which I eventually cancelled due to the heightened restrictions) , I’d say such a deal is well worth it.
Of course, look out for shoulder periods and try not to book your sailing during the school holidays if possible.
I stayed in a Palace suite on Dream Cruises’ World Dream (as part of a media sailing) when the line restarted sailings last November. It's described as a “ship-within-a-ship” experience, with more exclusivity and VIP entitlements as compared to what other cruisers get. Here’s what you can expect.
Obviously, rooms are going to be bigger and more luxurious than those of the standard variety. I stayed in the lead-in category Palace Suite, and enjoyed a pristine, spacious and very comfortable room.
At 37 sqm, the room featured a queen-size bed with fine bedlinens and a double sofa bed. It sleeps 4 comfortably, and I had the whole room to myself! I also had an extremely blissful sleep, all thanks to the fluffy pillows, Italian luxury linens and comfy duvet.
I also appreciated that there was a draw curtain surrounding my bed, so I could block out light streaming in from outside. The curtains are also meant to separate the sofa area and queen bed, especially if 4 are sleeping in the room.
We all know how squeezy cruise bathrooms can be, so the sizeable bathroom in this suite was very much welcomed. There was both a standing shower and a bathtub, as well as luxury amenities including bath foam, shampoo, body lotion and hair conditioner. I’m also pleased to report that the shampoo and hair conditioner were of good quality and didn’t result in hay-like hair, unlike the 2-in-1 hair and body wash from Royal Caribbean’s standard balcony rooms.
Other details I enjoyed included the spacious wardrobe, minibar where drinks and small snacks like Pringles and Kit Kat were complimentary, and a separate dressing table where I could dry my hair.
I also got to tour the Palace Villa, the equivalent of a presidential suite in most hotels. Grandeur at its finest, it boasts a grand piano, luxurious bedrooms, a massive balcony with a whirlpool, a rooftop/sundeck area, a separate living and dining area and a very opulent bathroom. It definitely costs a bomb, but this is luxury at its finest and you may never want to leave your suite!
If there’s one thing that stands out about the Palace, it’s definitely the amazing concierge service. I had access to a 24-hour dedicated Butler Concierge service, and my butler Clarence was always just a phone call away.
He would help me with booking dinner reservations and theatre shows, and was always very prompt with following up (either by phone or knocking on my stateroom door) to confirm my reservations.
Whilst I sometimes found it faster to just call up guest services myself, I did appreciate my butler’s efficient service. If you’re the lazy type, you’ll definitely appreciate someone arranging everything for you - especially on vacation!
As I had a small tear in my dress, Clarence even managed to find a seamstress on the ship to mend my garment upon request! When I came back to my room at the end of the night, my dress was neatly folded on the sofa and sewn up.
If I had to be nitpicky, I did feel that housekeeping did overlook some details. Finished snacks from the minibar were not taken away, as well as my uneaten complimentary dessert, so they could definitely have been more proactive with that.
VIP perks and exclusive amenities
Being a Palace guest means several VIP perks, including priority check-in at Marina Bay Cruise Terminal.
There was a priority lane for us to check in our luggage earlier, and we could board the ship earlier than other guests. Also, we had complimentary Wi-Fi access throughout our stay, which was speedy and reliable except for one or two disconnections at sea.
As part of the ship-within-a ship concept, we also had a private lift (which was just minutes away from our suite) providing us access to the private pool, spa and gym for suite guests.
Located at the front of the ship, the private pool was arguably my favourite place in the whole ship. It had numerous whirlpools, cabanas and deckchairs to relax on and was practically empty the entire day save for one or two people. It's particularly tranquil at night, where you can soak in a whirlpool and gaze at the stars.
And if you don’t fancy crowds at the ship's main gym or spa, the private ones for suite guests are a more exclusive option. I would say both aren’t as big as the publicly accessible ones, but when I went there wasn’t a single soul around - so you can indulge in the sauna uninterrupted.
Being a suite guest also meant we had front row seats to World Dream’s theatre shows. Seats for Palace guests are marked out and in the centre and front - the perfect angles for enjoying the live performances.
Another experience that makes the Palace so attractive is the privilege of enjoying World Dream’s specialty dining options.
As a Palace guest, you get to dining in specialty restaurants for free, as well as the exclusive Palace restaurants which only suite guests can visit. Given that food at buffet restaurant The Lido had limited choices, I’d highly recommend making reservations for the specialty restaurants.
Do try to make dining reservations on your first day. Some popular places like Umi Uma Teppanyaki had really limited slots and were all booked out by day 2 of the sailing.
My top pick was Umi Uma Teppanyaki, with delicious offerings like garlic fried rice and a choice of either chicken thigh, salmon fillet or fillet mignon. On the dessert menu were green tea ice cream with matcha cake, as well as banana pancake with coconut ice cream.
The chef also entertained us with his knife-twirling antics, and I savoured the tender beef cubes.
Another favourite was food at Palace restaurant. Service was fast and efficient, and the menu featured a good mix of Western and Asian offerings. We had the option of ordering a three course meal including an appetiser, soup of the day and main course.
My favourite was the flavourful penne rigate, and my dining buddy enjoyed the aromatic char kuay teow. They also had other Asian delights like bak kut teh, chive dumplings and stir fried vegetables.
We also had steak and lobster at Mark Best seafood restaurant. Whilst I had high hopes for the seafood, they were unfortunately underwhelming, with the steak being slightly tough and the lobster nothing to shout about.
We also had a long wait time of more than one hour for our food. The set is pretty expensive (around $88 I think) for non-suite guests, so you can just try this one out and hope for better luck on your visit.
For a traditional Chinses dining experience, head to Silk Road. The food itself was honestly not particularly memorable, but I did love the restaurant’s traditional design, with a stage for live performance (unfortunately not permitted during our sailing because of Covid restrictions).
If you love your alcohol, you’ll also love the fact that booze is complimentary for suite guests. Unfortunately, I didn’t make full use of the beverage package as I got quite bloated ordering a cocktail with each meal. They were very decent though, and perfect for a nightcap.
Do note that like on land, alcohol isn’t served after 10:30pm. You can however, order beverages to your suite and enjoy them from the balcony.
Though most of us can’t afford to book a cruise suite on a regular basis, I’d say Dream Cruises' the Palace is worth trying at least once. The service, luxe rooms, easy access to private facilities and ability to dine at specialty restaurants do make you feel like a VIP.
And if you score a good deal, it’s definitely more value-for-money than a standard balcony on its competitor cruise line during peak season.