Asia cruise industry veteran Michael Goh rises from the ashes of Dream Cruises to lead a familiar team back to business under the new organisation, Resorts World Cruises. As president and head of international sales, Goh welcomes the opportunity to reimagine a whole new cruise line that is backed by three decades of experience
Welcome back to the cruise business! It must have been a whirlwind journey to bring Resorts World Cruises to market, considering how rumours of this comeback started swirling around March and in May the announcement was made. How do you feel about returning to the business you are so familiar with?
There is a lot of excitement in the team. We are so happy to be back at work, and be instrumental in starting up a whole new business from scratch.
The excitement also stems from us being able to bring an Asian cruise line back to the region. There is no shortage of European and American cruise lines around the world, but find me an Asian cruise line that is led by a team with over 30 years of experience in the business.
What is the value of being an Asian cruise line?
It is the understanding we have of the Asian cruise customer, as well as our ability to offer Asian experiences to international guests.
Furthermore, it is great that Resorts World Cruises is based here in Asia, as we can quickly and easily table ideas to head office, and have the support of decision-makers who are themselves familiar with the needs and preferences of Asian travellers.
That said, it is important to understand that being an Asian cruise line does not mean our focus is just on Asia and Asians. We welcome every guest, and we have international experiences onboard. For example, our guests can enjoy excellent German dishes crafted by our fleet executive chef Reinhard Mammes.
What was the most important task for the leadership team as soon as it was determined that Resorts World Cruises would begin operations?
It was to bring in the right people to enable this start-up. I say Resorts World Cruises is a start-up because we are truly building it up from scratch, from our reservations systems, safety procedures and hotel operations, to service culture, entertainment, and sales and marketing to the trade and travellers. We must have the right people to lead and identify the right talents to join the team, so that we can move very quickly in the right direction.
We had a very tight timeline to get Resorts World Cruises off the ground. We officially announced the commencement of Resorts World Cruises on May 18, but discussions about possibly getting back to business first started just two months before. On June 11, we will conduct our Genting Dream Preview Cruise, and then on June 15, we will host a massive launch sailing.
Was it a challenge to recruit all the manpower you need at the office and for the ship in such a short time?
I’d be lying if I said there was no challenge. It wasn’t just about hiring enough people to fill positions, but to get people with the right service attitude because what are we without good software?
There is great demand for good service crew in the cruise industry, especially now when so many cruise lines are restarting their operations.
However, we have been very fortunate with our recruitment. We have many staff who have trust in us and very quickly said yes when we invited them to join Resorts World Cruises. Within a short period of time, we brought in 1,650 crew members – more than 90 per cent of them were previously with Dream Cruises. We also brought in around 70 staff on shore – 80 per cent were from Dream Cruises.
People are key assets to Resorts World Cruises. Many of the ship crew for Dream Cruises had actually gone home, to different countries. So, within a short period, we had to fly them back to Singapore to prepare for the launch of Genting Dream.
I have been onboard Genting Dream many times in the last few weeks. Work is intense as we all prepare to launch at short notice, but the mood is just joyful. Everyone is so happy to be back and working together again.
Is it a good thing that Resorts World Cruises is starting with a clean slate?
Definitely, because that allows us to get very creative with a new product. The pandemic has changed consumer habits and travel preferences. We now have the opportunity to rethink what experiences a cruise should offer in order to cater to new traveller needs and expectations.
So, how different will Resorts World Cruises be from Dream Cruises?
Resorts World Cruises focuses on cruising concepts aligned with regional locations where we (operate). We are not about taking directions from headquarters and then offering the same experience no matter which homeport we operate out of.
We have created thematic guest programmes that combine entertainment and education opportunities. For example, guests on Genting Dream can enjoy a show about a traditional Chinese opera singer in the evening, and then join an enrichment class the next day to learn about the heritage of Chinese opera.
As an Asian cruise line, we also pay a lot of attention to F&B, to ensure we deliver more than the Asian dishes that commonly come to mind, like chicken rice and laksa. We bring in a wide range of Asian favourites, like fried chicken and beer so loved by the South Koreans, and omakase Japanese fine-dining concept. We are halal-certified too, so our Muslim guests can dine with peace of mind.
We have actually put in a lot of effort in designing the dining experience for Genting Dream. For example, (music venue) Tributes will feature Brazilian music and dance, alongside good food. At different stages we will bring other forms of entertainment into the dining experience.
We have also created different zones on the ship, each conveying a unique vibe through music styles and lighting.
Our revolutionary new cruise entertainment includes foam parties at Zouk Beach Club during sunset and/or starry nights. From time to time, Zouk Singapore DJs will set sail with us and spin music on selected cruises.
Resorts World Cruises is a trendy cruise line.
Genting Dream may be a ship that Dream Cruises fans will find familiar, as most of the venues onboard will retain their names, but the range of new experiences offered by Resorts World Cruises will set us apart from the former cruise line.
You mentioned in the latest press release that Asian governments have been very supportive in facilitating Resorts World Cruises’ launch of destination cruises. What is being done to enable a smooth travel process for regional sailings and shore excursions?
We have more than 30 years of experience in operating destination cruises, so procedures for our upcoming Malaysia and Indonesia port calls and shore excursions are nothing new to the team.
The only thing different now is working with relevant authorities to abide by local health protocols. Fortunately, many of these health protocols have eased off, so guests really only need to come onboard, let their hair down, and let us take them on fun shore excursions.
Boarding from Singapore, they only need to fulfil an ART taken 24 hours prior to boarding, and then have the local health apps on their smartphones for the destinations they are visiting on shore excursions.
It is our responsibility to make these procedures very easy for our guests, so we will provide all the necessary information to guide them through. Crew onboard will also help guests with the procedures. There is plenty of time for guests to sort out the local health apps before shore excursions.
What business prospects do you see for regional sailings?
A lot of our travel partners have been out of business for a very long time (due to the pandemic), so our return to the marketplace is a business opportunity for them.
They have been so enthusiastic about Resorts World Cruises. Many of them caught wind of us returning to the industry before our official announcement was made, and texted me to confirm what they were hearing.
The trade has great confidence in the revival of destination cruises. Since opening the business, India alone has 22,000 cabin requests from now up to next year. The same enthusiasm is seen in other markets, like Indonesia and Thailand. These are all our loyal customers.
I would say that the reputation and experience of everyone in the Resorts World Cruises team have been instrumental in us being able to get back to business so quickly.