September 22, 2021

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How is it to sail on a “cruise to nowhere” – SPOTLITIER NEWS

(CNN) – A “cruise to nowhere” seems like a fitting metaphor for Hong Kong in the Covid era.

As with the city’s previous failed attempts to reestablish international travel, it offers a facsimile of forward movement that ends up taking you back to where you started.

While the ability to travel overseas is slowly returning to the United States and Europe, movement in and out of Hong Kong, once Asia’s largest international hub, remains almost completely at a standstill.
As the semi-autonomous region pursues a zero-Covid policy, repeated attempts to establish travel corridors with neighboring countries have been abandoned and most arriving travelers face up to three weeks of self-funded hotel quarantine. Before the pandemic, Hong Kongers were among the most traveled people in the world; now, many would-be vacationers prefer stays, as their passports collect dust at home.

The Genting Dream cruise ship was completed in 2016.

Marc Fernandes / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Dream Cruises has come up with a suitable alternative vacation option: a no-destination voyage, which takes passengers to and from Hong Kong sailing on a grand tour. Trips last two to three nights, with cheaper midweek sailing options, and rooms range from a HK $ 1,688 (approximately $ 217 US) balcony cabin to a HK $ 23,838 (approximately $ 3,065 US) suite with deck access private and swimming pool. Cruising may not be for everyone, but at a time when any other option would require quarantine, it looks a lot more appealing.

Climbing aboard the Genting Dream – a 335-meter (nearly 1,100 ft) long ship that can normally hold more than 3,000 people – was like returning to a plane, but with the added sanitation of many other trips in 2021. Ticket sales they are limited to half capacity; inside the cavernous Kai Tak cruise terminal, passengers were nearly outnumbered by staff checking and double-checking travel documents and medical forms.

Life on board

A person shows the Covid-19 PCR testing facilities aboard the Genting Dream cruise ship in Hong Kong during a media tour on July 28, 2021.

A demonstration of the facilities for COVID-19 PCR testing at the medical center aboard the Genting Dream.

Lam Yik / Bloomberg / Getty Images

While the cruise industry may not necessarily have had the best coronavirus track record, safety precautions on the Genting Dream ship are strict. All passengers must be fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test within 48 hours prior to departure, as well as undergo pre-boarding checks and health declarations. And everyone aboard receives a tracking device (nicely called Tracey) to monitor where they are in case of infection.

But this formality lessened when boarding passengers were greeted by bubbly staff who hand out balloon animals and posed for selfies.

Face masks were mandatory in public spaces, as in the rest of Hong Kong; but other than that, guests gleefully ignored the suggested social distancing measures as they wandered around the pool and explored the labyrinthine corridors of the 18 decks, as dusk fell and the ship slowly glided out of Victoria Harbor.

I traveled with three friends, sharing two of the cheapest cabins available: fairly spacious double rooms with pull-out sofas, comfortable beds, en suite shower and bathroom, and private balconies with sea views. At around 20 square meters, they weren’t much smaller than many hotel rooms on the mainland and felt much more isolated, with the only noise being the sound of the waves outside.

For a ship that is usually a vehicle to a different destination, rather than being the destination itself, Genting Dream has done a decent job of offering enough activities to keep its temporary residents – mostly elderly, with few families and children. – busy throughout the cruise.

The reservation for pool access was only randomly imposed and, while the hot tubs were closed, the loungers and sofas at the deck bars were available free of charge. For the more adventurous on board there was a basketball court, a mini golf course, a play area with activities for children and a playroom for teens, lightning-fast water slides that descend to the main deck and a ropes course for children. make your hair stand on end with a cableway that juts out into the open sea. But the busiest attraction was the casino below deck, which featured slot machines, blackjack, giant bingo, and cabaret singers singing love songs in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Not all of these facilities were open during the cruise, but the staff were attentive, helpful, and engaging, ready to open a closed climbing wall or pour drinks at one of the many bars that sat empty as guests filled the dining rooms.


The swimming pool on board the ship.

The swimming pool on board the ship.

Tara Mulholland / CNN

Two buffet restaurants were included in the ticket price, serving a mix of Asian and Western dishes. Although there were paid restaurants available, most of the people on board got their money by piling up school dinner-style trays with a hodgepodge of meals. Attempts to create a party atmosphere have been enthusiastic, but unsuccessful: Inside the ship’s only club, a DJ playing early ’00s hip-hop playfully pumped dry ice onto an empty dance floor, while passengers had more fun in the adjacent neon bowling alley.

In general, the atmosphere of the cruise was one of decompression and relief from feeling something – anything – a little different from normal life, where maintaining relative normality within Hong Kong’s borders came at the expense of being able to move easily. outside of them.

The main deck of the Gentine Dream cruise ship, departing from Hong Kong

The main deck of the Gentine Dream cruise ship, departing from Hong Kong

Tara Mulholland / CNN

Coming from one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it was strangely liberating to look out to sea and see nothing but distant container ships, or to watch the sun set beneath a skyline devoid of skyscrapers. With no phone signal, and with no particular need to do anything other than sit on a balcony and gaze at the stars, it’s tempting to lean back into the comfort of this sealed-off idyll. Far beyond the horizon were sickness, stress and uncertainty; on this unusual cruise, drinks flowed, people enjoyed and life was beautiful in a short bubble of normality, floating in the endless blue of the South China Sea.