At ATP, we have written before about the Gulf Dream Cruise, which is now the talk of the town. Yesterday I had the opportunity to have dinner aboard the Dubai Dream Cruises and to check out what this cruise liner had to offer to its potential customers. (Click on images to enlarge them).
Before I begin, I would like to issue a disclaimer to make you aware of the frame of mind I was in while walking up the gangplank to enter the Gulf Dream Cruise vessel. I have previously taken a cruise to the Caribbean upon the Celebrity vessel managed by Carnival Cruise Liners. It was a superb experience with excellent food and amazing entertainment. I had that experience in mind when reviewing the facilities on aboard this cruiseliner.
It seems that many Pakistanis have been trying to relate this cruise ship by comparing it to the amazing footage they saw in the movie Titanic, which at one time, captured the heart of millions. Despite my positive experience in the Carribbean, and the splendor of what Titanic was, I will attempt to review Gulf Dream Cruise with neutrality, leaving my own critique to the end.
The cruise ship has been parked at a berth on the West Wharf and one could easily see the ship from a distance if you were to drive on the Keamari Bridge and gaze in the general direction of the West Wharf. The ship has been well-lit with a not-to-miss stream of fairy lights. Directional signs led us to the KPT yard from where we were shuttled to the berth. We were dropped on the aft of the ship and walked our way to midship where a gangplank extended upwards about four stories high. The ship is a mid-size vessel and apparently a little old as the hull condition shows signs of many adventures in the high seas around the globe.
The walkway, I assume, is provided by the KPT as it is a flimsy staircase of thin metal sheets – unsteady on each step – for those who dare to walk the plank. Fortunately, all concerns were put to ease as we reached the entrance of the ship where the boarding party greeted us with amazing smiles and the tornado draft of much needed air conditioning to soak up the dampness that was lingering in the Karachi air.
Once inside the ship we were free to walk and explore the vessel without any restrictions. The maze of corridors and passageways was confusing to say the least and everyone around was lost at least once. Occasionally in the maze you would bump into someone you happened to know and have a few words and then commence into the never ending maze of corridors. It was fun.
The crew, predominantly Indonesian and Russian was stationed around in strategic locations to help the seemingly ‘very lost souls’ on board. Communication with the crew would have to be predominantly be in rustic English (as the Indonesians and Russians cant be said to have impeccable pronunciation – so as they say tooti-phooti english chaal jayie gee). Neverthless, the absence of a crew to cater to our Urdu speaking community might be a problem.
Totally by luck, the first place we walked into was the Casino (maybe the casino Gods were at work – though I have never gambled) which was lined with slot machines enough to satisfy the gambling urge in all Pakistanis. Interestingly, I saw a noticeable absence of Black Jack, Roulette or even Poker tables, which are an essential component of a casino but I guess in a cruise ship where man power is generally kept to a bare minimum with many multi tasking individuals on board, these were not possible. Casino is probably the main entertainment available for the five-day cruise. For many it could very well be the sole purpose to spend 35,000 for a room (consider it as an entrance fee to heaven [or hell]).
Walking through the casino we entered the main dining restaurant called ‘King & I’ where a wide selection of buffet awaited us to be served a little later in the evening. The restaurant was impressive to be able to cater easily for two seatings (early and late) with some elegant table settings bringing the overall dining experience comparable to a buffet at PC or Sheraton. The close proximity to the casino served a very interesting purpose if I might add, strategically positioned to attract customers while they take a casual stroll to the restaurant every lunch or dinner.
Beyond the dining area was the spacious entertainment auditorium called ‘My Fair Lady Salon’ located towards the extreme front of the ship, where a musical band entertained the guests on stage in front of a with a brightly lit dance floor while waitresses scurried around to serve drinks. Luckily our special event menu was limited to just fizzy drinks on the house. I am sure the cork popping alcoholic beverages await the open seas on the actual cruise.
The far end of the ship was a cinema which at this time was playing an Indian flick starring Shahrukh Khan. Inside the cinema, the seating seemed comfortable but I felt the projector could be of a higher quality. During the day, its image would be easily drowned in the sunlight filtering through the heavy drapery. The cruise faring passengers can enjoy a few outings to the big screen as an added entertainment value on this cruise.
Heading upwards we landed on to the pool deck: the deck had ample accomodation for a large evening crowd to chill on the abundant deck chairs around the pool. Unfortunately, however, the pool sadly would not & should not be called a swimming pool at all. I would compare it to a paddle pool with one shallow end and the deep end measuring 2 meters. The hilarious part was a sign plastered on the side warning ‘No Diving’. Brilliant, I thought. One would be lucky to find any place in it with just 7-10 people in it. The pool had nothing to offer to the over-tanned, brown-skin Pakistanis who are not sun bathing freaks to begin with. I think the sun deck will generally remain deserted during the day with a few sparing individuals who may choose to brave the winter sun fully drenched in SPF-100.
We wandered around a bit more to discover that there was another bar-cum-dance floor to the aft of the ship, along with a few scattered massage parlors, a gym and a baby sitting center somewhere in the two happening decks of the cruise liner. The evening, hosted by Geo and Jang, was supposed to end with a concert by Sukhbir on the Sun Deck after a buffet diner at King & I.
We did not stay long after our tour as the buffet paled against a tempting offer for dinner at Sakura (PC). The only part we were unable to inspect were the staterooms which were closed to the public, but a look around in the corridor gave an impression of neatness comparable to a hotel room. However, the place looked a little cramped for space. The Rs. 55,000 suites are located on the Main Deck, within easy access to all amenities, the lower classification of rooms were situated on the floors beneath with a small pot hole offering a breath taking view of the ocean.
One important aspect to even the pricey suites was the apparent absence of a private balcony, which can be an added advantage to the long hours between ports. With or without balconies, this cruise can be great for honeymooners who may avail the services before its last sailing date scheduled for February 27, 2007.
Here’s some critique that I kept for the end:
Apparently the cruiseliner appeared to be a neat and clean ship but was undoubtedly an old vessel. It was considerably small acompared to the one we used to tour the Caribbeans. The cleanliness was decent but was found to be lacking in certain areas – especially a very strange smell around the casino areas.
If you happen to have no qualms with drinking and the quick get-rich temptation of slot machines then even five days may seem too short for the crore-patti within you, but if you are far from these temptations then plan accordingly, take books and the works. I assure you from my experience that TV entertainment is usually nothing to write home about, and once on the ship the only way off is to take the Leonardo de’Caprio route in the Titanic.
Bottom line is that for a ticketed price of Rs.35,000 – Rs 55,000 I feel its not a bad deal, the overall experience can be comparable to entering a three-star hotel like Carlton or Reagent Plaza (in Karachi), as they say ‘you get what you paid for’ and being the first modern-day cruise out of Pakistan its not bad to start as the economics of a higher price tag would have kept the majority away.
The biggest problem I see with this cruise offering if that the 8-10 hours stay in Dubai is too short for our Dubai-crazy Pakistani people. A day or so in port at Dubai would have been the icing, as one could enjoy two days on the ship going into UAE, relax while enjoying the sights and sounds of Dubai and return home with the fanfare of Dubai Dream Cruise. Maybe another venture capitalist could plan along these lines maybe next winter and again become the star attraction for Pakistan more on a permanent basis.
Overall, it should be a great experience for those who have not been on a cruise. Do report back here and update us on where I was wrong in my assessment. Surely my 2 hours on board will be different than actually living on board for five days.