Tiana Templeman looks at Explorer Dream's exciting new dining and entertainment options
Dream Cruises' Explorer Dream will be cruising from Auckland from December to February, bringing more than a dozen new food-and-beverage venues, VR gaming and simulators, a state-of-the-art spa concept and a suite enclave with private butlers to New Zealand waters for the first time.
If you sailed on SuperStar Virgo in the early 2000s, Explorer Dream might seem familiar, although an $85million refurbishment means the ship is virtually unrecognisable from its Star Cruises days.
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However, one thing remains unchanged: Explorer Dream's appealing mid-range size. Carrying a maximum of 1856 passengers, it offers an intimate cruise experience which lends itself to socialising. If you would prefer not to set sail on a huge floating theme park, a smaller ship like this is ideal.
There is also the chance to live it up in The Palace, an exclusive "ship-within-a-ship" with less than 50 suites, a dedicated restaurant, swimming pool, lounge, and chic Italian decor plus a team of tailcoated Dream Butlers. There are exclusive dining events, such as a lobster barbecue and drinks with the ship's officers, and cocktails, wine and other beverages are included in the cost of all Palace fares.
If your holiday budget won't stretch to a butler, there is still plenty to enjoy onboard, especially if you love Asian food as much as you love cruising. Dream Cruises originated in Asia so it's no surprise Explorer Dream is ideal for lovers of the region's varied cuisines.
The entertaining teppanyaki bar where talented chefs use knife skills and culinary artistry to produce dinner and a show is a highlight. Book as soon as you board as Uni Uma Teppanyaki is in hot demand and spots are limited. Explorer Dream also features the line's newest restaurant, Seafood Grill by Mark Best, which offers al fresco dining and a relaxed ambiance. It's the ideal spot to enjoy a bite to eat while you marvel at the stunning scenery of Milford Sound or sail out of beautiful Akaroa Harbour.
Chef Best is hosting a series of Market to Table experiences during the line's inaugural Australia and New Zealand season, which include visits to local markets, meeting farmers face-to-face and sourcing local produce at various ports. He will be using these ingredients to create a selection of dishes during the free onboard cooking demonstrations which are held in the ship's atrium on sea days.
If you would prefer something racier than cooking, there's an 18+ Dream Boys show for adults only or the ESC Experience Lab which is packed with immersive VR and AR gaming simulators. Challenge a friend to a ride in the double seat space flight simulator or bring your mates to the multiplayer VR gaming zone which has a dynamic floor that moves as you chase down virtual reality zombies. If you have always wanted to ski but don't live close to the slopes, you can ski at sea thanks to a VR ski simulator.
For more information, and to book, go to dreamcruiseline.com