When you hear the word “CRUISE” what is the first thing that comes to mind?
If your answer is the LOVE BOAT go to paragraph 5
If your answer is TITANIC, skip to paragraph 7
If you answered Star Cruises, SHIPS (not boat) or have made cruising a part of your bucket list, then you can certainly relate to this post.
The Love Boat was one of the most popular TV shows in the late 70s to 80’s that was set on a cruise ship. The series revolves around the ship’s captain (played by Gavin MacLeod) and a handful of its crew, with several passengers played by various guest actors for each episode – having romantic and humorous adventures.
If you were born during the show’s initial run, then you are probably at an age when cruising might be the most enjoyable travel option for you—and even your parents.
STILL THINKING ABOUT THE TITANIC? Well my dear reader it seems you have been dwelling in the past… more than a hundred years in the past. You might even be misinformed for quite some time no thanks to Jack and Rose’s love story.
First things first, the Titanic isn’t a cruise ship. It may be the biggest during her time but by today’s standards of cruise ships, it’s quite small.
Traveling on the Titanic was a voyage of purpose, primarily to transport mail, cargo and passengers, many of whom were emigrating, as steadily and safely as possible. While ships today are capable of traveling at speeds similar to the Titanic’s they rarely do, as cruising is more about pleasure.
In the movie, the Titanic was shown having a grand ballroom with eight professional musicians playing for first-class passengers, but that was it when it come to professional entertainment.
The impromptu singing and dancing at the lower decks by Jack and the other passengers are not counted.
There were also no shore excursions, and activities were limited to things like playing cards, reading, socializing and sitting or promenading on deck to get fresh air, and unless you were Rose you cant get a portrait from Jack (wearing this (necklace)…wearing only this).
Truth be said, the average person today would be bored to tears with the lack of activities on the Titanic.
Most of today’s cruise ships boast of movie screenings, Broadway-style performances, magic shows, comedy shows from well-known entertainers. There are also lectures, art and cooking classes and even casinos to keep everyone occupied. The biggest ones even have rock climbing, surfing, ice-skating rinks, a zip-line ride, a park, numerous swimming pools, extensive spa services and numerous dining options.
Unlike the Titanic where there were no shops onboard, and no pools, only a small “plunge bath.
And if you are thinking about the tragedy, your fears have long been outdated as sea travel has become one of the safest modes of transportation with all the safety regulations in place and all the advanced navigation, and rescue equipment in place should an emergency take place. Yes, enough lifeboats for all passengers.
Cruising, wherein one takes a luxurious trip by boat to pre-determined destinations, bringsabout more than just another experience it gives a whole new perspective on places that may have been deemed too familiar.
This year, Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo makes Manila her homeport from March to May and will be giving Filipinos a Visa-free “Sensational Summer Getaway” to discover the new sides of Japan and Taiwan. Which means this is the perfect time to try it out as you don’t have to fly to another country to join the next scheduled voyage.
I was fortunate enough to join the SS Virgo’s maiden “High Seas” Voyage last month and though we weren’t able to dock and go on an excursion, it was still quite a memorable experience that I’d recommend especially if you want to take your parents on a trip.
I am also sharing my experience, to dispel the impression that cruises are just for the newlyweds, the overfed and nearly dead, as you’ll never run out of things to do while on board.
For this post I’ll be detailing the highlights of our trip, and why you should consider bringing your parents or grandparents on a cruise the next time you travel. Part 2 is HERE.
From Pasig to Pier
We came from a lunch event from Pasig and had to the rush to Hotel H20 because our assembly time was at 3:00 pm. We all know Manila traffic is terrible and just like going to the airport its best to be at the pier at least an hour and a half before boarding time.
Our group met up at Hotel H20 where we took a complimentary shuttle ride to Pier 15 where the ship was docked. The bus ride takes around only takes 10 minutes. Once you get to the pier, security dogs will check your all your luggage before you can proceed inside the terminal. From there you will need to present your passport fill up an immigration form and if you want you can check in your baggage. You are allowed only one checked in luggage, but unlike in airports, they don’t weigh it so you don’t have to worry about being charged extra for excess.
Take note that you have to BRING YOUR PASSPORT but the entire cruise is VISA-FREE. So don’t worry if you don’t have a Visa for Taiwan or Japan if you are joining the 6D5N trip with SuperStar Virgo.
After check in, you will need to pass by immigration, where they will check your passport. It’s a good idea to have a photocopy of the bio page as you will have to surrender your passport to Star Cruises for the duration of your trip.
We finally got to see the SuperStar Virgo, the 13-storey flagship of the Star Cruises fleet in Asia, up close after immigration and walked towards the gangway to board the ship.
There’s another check in counter once you board.
It was almost sunset when we finally got to our rooms and since we had to meet up at the Taverna for our late snacks/ early dinner we didn’t have time to take a quick shower. We just arranged our luggage took a few quick photos of our room then rushed to the top Deck where Taverna was located.
There are several room categories on Star Cruises SuperStar Virgo, but basically its either an inside room without a window or one of those which have a window or balcony.
We stayed at one of their Oceanview Staterooms located at deck 9 which had a deck. The room is a bit smaller than a standard hotel room but it doesn’t feel cramped and big enough for three or four people. We had a pair of double beds which were combined together and a sofa bed which can fit two. The bathroom is complete with toiletries which includes, bath gel, soap, shampoo and toothbrush, shaving cream an, shower cap.
TIP ALERT: It also has those soap shampoo dispensers. The quality of the shampoo and body soap is quite good and unless you are really particular about the soap/shampoo, you don’t have to worry about leaving your toiletry set behind.
There’s also a hairdryer, and the shower has hot and cold water and the toilet bowl flushes like those on a plane so don’t be surprised by the loud noise, and don’t worry, it won’t suck you in.
Slippers and bathrobes are also provided, and unlike those thin disposable slippers which wouldn’t last two days. These slippers are actually pretty nice (so I brought them home.)
If you are claustrophobic, I suggest you get a room with a window or balcony so you can enjoy the fresh air and natural light. The walls aren’t soundproof so if you plan on doing something naughty or scandalous, make sure to keep the noise down and the curtains closed.
Most of us were famished, but if you are not in a hurry, it’s a good time to take photos of the beautiful Manila Sunset as the ship is still docked at this time.
For our welcome dinner, Star Cruises prepared a private buffet dinner for us at Taverna. The buffet spread included a cold cuts section consisting of shrimps and lobsters; there was a carving station for lamb and beef wellington, soup was clam chowder, a salad station, several kinds of bread (my favorite was the one with cheese on top) and there was even a noodle station.
It was an amazing welcome treat from the folks over at SuperStar Virgo, and it gave us a taste of what we can expect for the next couple of days.
Check out our food photos in this album
While having dinner we also got to watch the band called Night Rhythm perform at stage by the Parthenon Pool (located right below Taverna).
TIP ALERT: Once you get to your room grab the copy of your Star Navigator to check out all the schedules and activities throughout your voyage. Take a photo of it so you don’t have to bring it with you.
I was so full I was almost tempted to stay in our room and watch TV, but there was the scheduled Muster Drill and everyone is required to be there. The muster drill is the equivalent of the safety briefing on an airplane. It’s a mandatory gathering for all passengers whether it’s your first or Nth time on board. The deck is marked A to Z so check your keycard for your section. It is extremely important that you know how to wear a life vest and are familiar with the ship’s layout and where your assigned evacuation station is located in case of an emergency.
TIP ALERT: If you are traveling alone or with a group of friends the MUSTER DRILL is probably the best time to check out all your fellow passengers. Spot some cuties and maybe meet new friends. But be sure to exercise caution.
The Muster Drill lasted about 20 minutes so we still had time to go back and freshen up before the next item on our itinerary which was a Magic show scheduled at 9pm at the Zodiac Theater.
I suggest that you be at the theater at least 30 minutes or even earlier before the show to get the closest seats to the stage. Everything starts on schedule so when we got to the theater at 9:20, we were seated quite far from the stage and the show had already started. Especially if there are lots of passengers on board.
The magic show at the Zodiac Theatre was entitled Spirits which was headlined by Vincent Vignaud. The show was actually pretty good, even better than some of the magic shows you have to pay for. Vince knew how to work the crowd and his disappearing acts were awesome as he reappeared right behind us. A few other tricks i remember was the sword trick and the trick where he made his assistants switch places 😀
Don’t leave immediately after the show as you can even have your selfies taken with Vince.
We were still full so we decided to skip supper at Lido (which I heard you can stay until midnight).
At SS Virgo you can can eat up to six times a day at their INCLUSIVE restaurants at SS Virgo so work that appetite and just check the schedules on your Star Navigator! (I told you it would come in handy)
TIP ALERT: “Inclusive Restaurants” are those where you can dine free-of-charge since its part of what you paid for already. You can find the inclusive restaurants and their schedule listed on the Star Navigator.
During our trip we had Breakfast at Lido, lunch at the Pavilion and Star Dining was the third option. Remember that drinks are not free. So make sure to ask before you order those fruit juices and shakes.
The Lido is located on Deck 12 and is probably the biggest dining area on the ship it serves international cuisine. It’s not as glam as the other restos and looks more like a big canteen but its probably where you are going to eat often. It serves breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. No reservations needed.
Unfortunately, we only able to try three restos during our 2-night cruise, the Lido, Taverna and Pavillion, but there are a lot of dining areas on the ship which you can try like the Blue Lagoon (Asian snacks 24-hour), Star Diner, Pavillion, Samurai, The Taj, Silk Road.
To be continued….
Read part 2 HERE:
With Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo, the 5-day cruise brings its guests to new destinations in specially-curated themed cruises. The themes starting this summer includes: Basketball Legends High Seas Tour featuring Alvin Patrimonio, Johnny Abarrientos, Benjie Paras, and Jerry Codinera on a Holy Week cruise on March 30; a Labor Day Party Cruise headlined by top Filipino DJs: Patty Tiu and Tom Taus on April 29; and a Mother’s Day Concert Cruise with Daryl Ong on May 9.
For more information, visit www.starcruises.com, call (02) 8366080, or email salesManila@gentingcruiselines.com