World Dream: Boarding & COVID-19 Testing

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Dream Cruises does day-of-departure COVID-19 ART swabbing at the cruise terminal itself. Here's what to expect.

After experiencing all that Royal Caribbean had to offer on Quantum of the Seas, I was keen to see how Dream Cruises’ World Dream would measure up. 

For those of you eager to cut to the chase, I’ve already written a separate article pitting Quantum of the Seas and World Dream head to head in different areas like dining, activities and entertainment. Otherwise, here’s the detailed report of what you can expect onboard World Dream, from start to finish. 

🚢 Cruise to Nowhere: Dream Cruises

Booking a World Dream Cruise

Back in January, KrisFlyer Experiences launched some 3-night Seacation packages with Dream Cruises that cost just 6,000 miles per cabin (each cabin takes two people). You had to pay port fees and gratuities of S$123 per head, but it was still an excellent deal.

Needless to say, all the packages sold out in a couple of hours. I snapped one up the minute I saw it, figuring that even if I couldn’t go in the end, I’d only be out of pocket 6,000 miles. For perspective, that’s not even a one-way Economy Class flight to Bali (7,500 miles). 

Those packages have not returned to KrisFlyer Experiences ever since, but you can book two-night cruises from S$259 per person on Klook

This already includes the COVID-19 test and port charges, but do remember there’s a mandatory gratuity that must be paid onboard at the end of the cruise. This costs:

  • S$21 per person per night for regular rooms
  • S$26 per person per night for suites

The main advantage of using Klook is that you can apply promo codes like DBSLF35 or KLOOKTHTALTITUDE to save S$35 with the DBS LiveFresh and DBS Altitude Cards respectively. However, be sure to compare the price with Dream Cruises’ official website as well. 

With regards to stateroom categories, I suspect (but can’t confirm) that Dream Cruises is only selling Balcony and higher during this period. That would make sense from the company’s point of view- if capacity is restricted at 50%, you want to maximize revenue by selling your more expensive rooms, not the cheapest ones. 

World Dream: Pre-Boarding COVID-19 Test

As I’m sure you know by now, a pre-boarding COVID-19 test is mandatory for a cruise to nowhere. 

Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean use different types of tests, each with their own pros and cons. Dream Cruises uses the less accurate (but also less intrusive) ART swab, which is done on the day of departure. Royal Caribbean uses the more accurate (and more intrusive) PCR swab, which is done 2-3 days before departure.

 Dream CruisesRoyal Caribbean
Test TypeARTPCR
Test WindowDay of departure48-72 hours before departure
Results AvailableWithin 1 hourWithin 24-48 hours

Since ART swabbing is done on-site at the cruise terminal, there’s no need to make a separate trip to a swabbing centre prior to sailing. However, you will have to sit around and wait for your results, which isn’t a whole lot of fun.

PCR swabbing for Royal Caribbean is done at Raffles City, and while the actual process is very fast (10 mins from start to finish, tops), you’ll still need to take time off to head down. On the plus side, you’ll get your results ahead of departure, and can go straight to the ship once you reach the terminal. 

My swab test was scheduled for 4 p.m, so I arrived at Marina Bay Cruise Centre at 3.30 p.m, curious to see if they would let me go earlier. 

Carpark swab facility signage

Once the taxi drops you at the driveway, you’ll need to head into the carpark and up to level 3 for swabbing. This is also the reason why parking is limited at the cruise centre- the entire third floor has been turned into a swabbing facility. 

🅿️ Parking at Marina Bay Cruise Centre

Speaking of parking, drivers can purchase a DriveCruise Package at the following prices:

  • S$45 for 4D3N cruise
  • S$55 for 5D4N cruise
  • S$65 for 6D5N cruise

There is a vending machine in the carpark (level 2) which will sell you the DriveCruise ticket, so there’s no need to purchase ahead of time (in fact, you can’t). If you’re opting for a shorter cruise (2N or less), there’s no DriveCruise Package available. You’ll pay the hourly rate, as shown below:

 Rate
Per hour or part thereof (First 2 hours)S$2.40
Per hour or part thereof (Subsequently)S$3.30
Per Entry Rate (2231 hrs to 0700 hrs)S$3.30
Maximum Rate Per DayS$18.00

Should the car park be full, you can park instead at Marina South Pier (700m away) or Gardens By The Bay (2.8km away). 

Crowd control wasn’t great, and the setup could really have benefitted from some additional signage or cordons showing people where they should go. I also found it more than a bit ironic that there were no SDAs at the elevators, and with just two available, everyone piled in the minute one arrived, kind of defeating the purpose of this whole exercise. 

Route to swab facility
Route to swab facility

Once you reach the third floor, you’ll be funneled into seating zones based on your swab timing. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t a separate testing or holding area for suites passengers, so everyone’s in it together. 

Route to swab facility

This is why there’s not much advantage to arriving early; if your swab timing is 4 p.m and you arrive at 3.30 p.m, you’ll be directed to the seating area for 4 p.m and wait as people in the earlier time slots are cleared, even if they arrive at the facility after you. 

Pre-swab waiting area
Pre-swab waiting area

Once it’s your turn, you’ll be directed to a registration area where your identity will be confirmed and swab labels issued.

Swab test registration
Swab test registration

As for the swab, well, you know what to expect. If it’s any consolation, the ART swab is significantly less deep than the PCR one, and it’ll be over before you know it. The jovial swabber asked me if I had any headache, sore throat, fever or cough. “No,” I said. “Then you don’t have a mother in law,” he replied. Touché.

After the swab is done, a colored sticker with a number is attached to your passport, and you’ll be directed to a holding area. I daresay they could have used more distinguishable colors; I went to sit in the Red area, but later realised this was meant to be Orange (and almost missed my results being called). 

Swab result sticker

The holding area is, well, it’s a holding area. If you’re lucky, you might be able to tap the cruise centre’s Wi-Fi (the signal is extremely weak in the carpark, as you can imagine), but otherwise there’s no distractions. Mercifully, they’ve installed fans and give out free bottled water, but keep in mind that this is a parking structure, so ventilation and heat circulation weren’t exactly high priorities. 

Post-swab waiting area
Post-swab waiting area

Every once in a while, a staff member will come around with results slips and call out numbers. The results slip is your pass to enter the cruise terminal, and your check-in group will also be affixed to it. 

COVID-19 ART results
COVID-19 ART results

Dream Cruises quotes a waiting time of 1 hour for ART results, but fortunately it’s significantly less. I did my swab at 3.56 p.m, and got the result at 4.28 p.m (I noted the sample was only tested at 4.13 p.m, which means you could potentially have an even shorter wait time if your swab happens to be the last in a batch). 

World Dream: Boarding

Marina Bay Cruise Centre
Marina Bay Cruise Centre

Because everyone’s bottlenecked at the swab test area, it’s smooth sailing once you enter the cruise terminal. There was no queue for security, and I got my stateroom key card issued by one of the self check-in machines (unlike Royal Caribbean, which issues it onboard). These machines are only for those who check-in online, so be sure to do so ahead of time. 

Self check-in terminal
Self check-in terminal

Then it’s up to the second floor of the terminal where I got my MICE pod for contact tracing. It’s ugly as sin, and you don’t have a choice of colors (it’s also not waterproof, which creates certain issues- I’ll talk about that in a separate article). You’ll need to keep this on you the whole time you’re onboard.

MICE pod | Photo: Straits Times

Then it was downstairs again to clear immigration, and straight to boarding. 

World Dream boarding
World Dream boarding

Conclusion

While it’s undoubtedly more convenient to do your COVID-19 testing on the day of departure, the holding area is somewhat less than ideal. If you have kids, you’ll definitely want to bring some things to tide them through the waiting, and I’d strongly advise you to use the loo before arriving (the carpark has portable loos, but they’re not exactly pleasant). 

For those who have cruised on both Royal Caribbean and Dream- which testing method do you prefer?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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ZYX

During KF Spontaneous Escape promo one-way eco can cost as less as 3750 miles. Was available for Manado.
Back to the main topic, seems now Dream Cruise price has gone up compared to before.

Ryan

Did you have to book the swab test timing? (And if so, were the slots first come first served like RC?) Or was it just assigned?

ZYX

Think it’s tied with your check-in time thus first-come-first-serve.

anon

If not for the 6000 miles, i would not have gone. just a way to burn miles and enjoy a little 😀

Yonghui

Hi All, just wondering, if my covid test time is 11am, am i able to change the timing to later time?

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