Genting moves from dated and rigid cruise concept to 'total freedom'

ST VIDEO: SHANNON TEOH
Mr Lim, chairman of Genting, started the conglomerate's cruise unit Genting Hong Kong (GHK) in 1993. GHK's Star Cruises sought to offer "freestyle" packages, giving customers a range of dining and entertainment options. New brand Dream Cruises will a
Mr Lim, chairman of Genting, started the conglomerate's cruise unit Genting Hong Kong (GHK) in 1993. GHK's Star Cruises sought to offer "freestyle" packages, giving customers a range of dining and entertainment options. New brand Dream Cruises will also offer as many activities as possible on the Genting Dream.ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH

In 1986, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay boarded his first cruise to explore a new avenue for the Genting group that his father had built into a resorts and gaming giant.

At dinner, it wasn't just the lobsters that were boiling red.

"I had to bring my dinner jacket to the Caribbean in 90-degree (Fahrenheit) heat," he said.

"It was a totally rigid environment. If you get assigned a 6pm round - I don't eat at six - you have to eat, otherwise you starve. It's all Western food. After the third day, you get sick and tired."

More comfortably dressed in casual slacks and a collared T-shirt recently, the Genting chairman was relating this story in an opulent cigar room onboard his new Genting Dream - ensconced from freezing northern German weather outside.

The 151,300-ton floating hotel marks the advent of "total freedom", a concept three decades in the making since that early experience of "total rigidity".

 

Mr Lim, the second son of the late Genting founder Lim Goh Tong, joined the family business in 1976 and was soon tasked with exploring new business ventures. In 1993, he started the conglomerate's cruise unit Genting Hong Kong (GHK), which is still his pet project today.

After taking over from his father as Genting chairman in 2003, Mr Lim continued to focus on the cruise business despite other units raking in better returns. Last month, shareholders of the parent company disposed of its stake in GHK to Mr Lim, whose control of the Hong Kong-listed company is now over 70 per cent.

"Genting Malaysia (share price) went up, and GHK went down, so I end up as the loser," he said.

But Mr Lim is determined to see out the evolution of his cruise business. GHK's Star Cruises sought to bring customers "freestyle" packages with a range of dining and entertainment options.

More than two decades on, new brand Dream Cruises will try to use every inch of the 19 decks on the Genting Dream to offer as many activities as possible.

Using data collected from the Genting Dream, GHK will further finesse the total freedom concept when Star Cruises takes delivery of even larger 200,000-ton Global Class ships beginning in 2019.

"It is still not finished yet. The story is going to get more exciting. We have plans to build 10 ships. You know somebody who can lend me US$10 billion?" Mr Lim said.

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Moving from dated and rigid cruise concept to 'total freedom''. Print Edition | Subscribe