This story is (partly) about an ex.
Have you ever had those moments that no matter how hard you try not to think of an ex, he/ she is the only thing on your mind?
As much as I hate to admit it, and I apologize to my partner whom I dearly love, but as soon as I stepped foot inside the Superstar Virgo and swiped my access card, I remembered how an ex once told me; “I want to go on a cruise.”
I stared blankly back and replied. Oh, Okay.
Back then, never in my wildest dreams did I even see myself boarding a ship, or venturing out in the open seas and getting so effin’ excited.
For one, I don’t know how to swim, (I couldn’t even float); and two I get dizzy easily–as in even during FX rides where I whip out my white flower every time the driver hits a hard stop. Oh and back then I couldn’t even afford to buy a plane ticket.
But as fate would have it, I have had my fair share of sea adventures. Once, I even had a job interview onboard the Coast Guard ship, and I’ve also met a lot of ship owners when I worked for a seafaring publication for three years.
It wasn’t my first time to be on the Superstar Virgo though; a few months ago I was part of their Star Cruises Sailcation, a high seas journey to give us a taste of what cruising was all about.
It was then that I realized why a lot of people dreamt of cruising, and promised myself I’d do that one day.
That day happened sooner than I expected and I couldn’t be more excited.
This time, it was going to be a six-day Christmas cruise and we were even going to have Shore excursions to Halong Bay in Vietnam and Sanya China.
The dates though were a bit tricky as it meant that we were going to miss most Christmas parties, but it was another once in a lifetime experience I didn’t want to miss.
So there I was thinking of my ex as we made our way to our rooms. Feeling partly guilty for thinking of her but also quite proud of myself because I know she never thought I’d be able to do it.
So I guess we’ve both accomplished that dream, separately of course.
For those who aren’t quite familiar, Star Cruises is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Hong Kong, a leading global leisure, entertainment and hospitality corporation. A pioneer in the Asia Pacific cruise industry, Star Cruises has been operating its fleet since 1993, taking on the bold initiative to grow the region as an international cruise destination with a fleet of five vessels including SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Gemini, SuperStar Aquarius, Star Pisces and The Taipan.
Now before I continue my story, just know that a cruise is VERY different from just riding a ship (or RO-RO) to another destination; so don’t believe the stories of other people who say it’s the same.
The 13-storey Superstar Virgo is the flagship of the Star Cruises fleet. It has 935 cabins and can accommodate up to 1,870 passengers. It has numerous restaurants and bars that serve various cuisines, a swimming pool with slide, gym, a theater, casino, duty free shop, helipad, mini golf and basketball court among many other recreational facilities.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE CRUISE
Let’s start with the preparations.
1. TAKE A DAY OFF BEFORE YOUR TRIP: As much as possible make sure to take a day off before your scheduled cruise. Relax and reserve this day for checking your luggage, and avoid going out to do some last minute shopping.
My partner and I have this routine of doing all our shopping and packing the day before our trip, which is a terrible habit because we end up cramming, stressed and with barely enough sleep. Missing sleep and feeling exhausted make you more susceptible to factors that can cause motion sickness.
Create a checklist of the stuff you need to bring and pack your bags little by little as your cruise approaches that way you can buy all the stuff you need days or weeks before.
2. IMPORTANT THINGS TO BRING: Make sure you have a photocopy of your Passport with copies of your bio page. Your passport should be at least 6 months valid. Visa is not required when you are visiting countries as part of a cruise/shore excursion. Have a Print Out Your Ticket And Itinerary. Unlike boarding a plane, we had to show printed copies of our tickets and itineraries to the boarding officers. These include (Valid passport; Cruise Ticket (Booking Confirmation Slip); Online Store order confirmation email showing pre-booked shore excursion or pre-booked shore excursion if not with Philippine passport, if applicable.
3. PACKING TIPS: For me, going on a cruise is a bit different than going on a trip by plane because you’d be spending more not just hours but entire days just inside the ship; also the ports you’ll be visiting may have contrasting weather. It was raining and chilly in Vietnam while it was hot in Sanya during our trip.
Always check the weather of your destinations to determine what kind of clothing you
would bring for each shore excursion.
The entire Superstar Virgo is full of instagrammable places so if you plan on doing OOTD shoots bring it! They don’t have very strict weight allowances unlike in planes.
Now before you go packing the entire house know that only 1 piece of luggage per guest is permitted for check-in. Additional check-in baggage will be charged HKD 78 (USD 10) per piece. Any carry-on bag still needs to go through the X-Ray scanner at Immigration.
If your trolley is medium to large size you need to have it checked in (label them properly) so make sure you have your essentials (medicine, toiletries, etc) on your carry-on luggage.
While on board, resort casual wear is the safe choice and ready a couple of sets of outfits per day. Just make sure you bring a light jacket / sweatshirt or two as it can be a bit chilly in the evenings and in the upper deck near the swimming pool. Depending on your accommodation you can also try the gym, jacuzzi and sauna.
The entire ship is air conditioned, so you wont feel hot or uncomfortable. They provide you with comfy bedroom slippers (better than those one-day disposable kind you get from some hotels) but you can still bring your slip ons, just make sure they aren’t slippery especially if you plan on taking a walk on the deck.
There’s a Gala night, a simple dinner with a fun performance by the ship crew which requires you to wear Formal/Dressy Outfit. Its not really mandatory but you’d definitel feel underdressed if you just wear a shirt during this last night. Men can wear a suit, slacks and button down polo or just a collared shirt with a blazer. There’s also no rule about having to wear leather shoes, but make sure you look presentable. For women, think “Sunday Best” is how they call it.I also wouldn’t suggest high heels.
As for toiletries, they only provide you one set each for the entire trip, although they refill the soap and conditioner dispenser. You can also request for extras but there’s an additional charge of HkD50 if you ask for a complete set. Its best to bring your own toothbrush and toothpaste! Don’t forget your skin care and Sunscreen/sunblock so you don’t have to buy them on board.
Again it’s not like travelling on a plane where you can’t hand carry liquids more than 100 ml so you can bring bigger containers of lotions/shampoo/ soap and sunscreen for the entire family. Other items which you might forget and are expensive to buy are feminine hygiene products, insect repellent, over-the-counter meds for cough, colds, ointments, sports gear, sunglasses, and a jacket. Star Cruises sells jackets, but if you are a bit big like me even the XL size wont fit.
4. GADGETS AND CHARGERS- If you must work during your cruise (although I strongly advise you not to) make sure that you bring all the cables and chargers with you. There are four outlets in our room, two near the bed and a couple near the TV so if you need to charge more devices I suggest you bring a wall adaptor with several outlets. They DO NOT allow those extension cords/ power strips aboard the ship.
Bring a powerbank as you might need an extra charge during those ShoreEx
5. YOU CAN BRING FOOD! They do allow you to bring some chips/ biscuits candy aboard (DON’T BRING TOO MUCH!) but its best to double check if you plan on bringing wine or soda as you might be charged extra. Don’t worry about getting hungry as you can eat up to 5 times a day when you are inside the ship.
6. Boarding and Embarkation: We gathered at the Hotel H2O where you can board free buses that will bring you to the pier. If you are bringing a car, this is the nearest place to park it as you private vehicles cannot enter the pier. Our scheduled boarding was from 10 am to 1pm. Depending on the number of passengers, boarding time takes around 30 to 45 minutes. There weren’t a lot of people when we arrived at 11:30 as the first wave of passengers were already done.
Boarding the ship is the same as that of boarding an airplane, there’s an xray machine and you will have to go through immigration as well. Present a copy of your ticket at the boarding counter to get your Star Cruises Access Card. DON’T LOSE IT! You will need it to get inside the room, access facilities, pay for your purchases inside the ship, and for disembarking to port destinations and returning back to the ship.
You will also be given an ID POUCH where you can put your access card, photo copy of your passport and important vouchers.
Make sure that you keep a copy of your passport with you, as passports would be collected upon entry to the ship and would be given back to you after the sail.
Its best to check in together with your family or roommate as they also check who your companion is going to be.
7. AVOID BRINGING PH PESO (AND THE ONBOARD MONEY CHANGER). While you will only be using your access card for onboard purchases, know that the ship currency is in HKD. So unless you have US Dollar, its better to avoid the money chnager on the ship because they need to convert your currency first to HKD then to your preferred currency. For example when we need Vietnam Dong, they first converted our Philippine Peso to HKD before converting it to Vietnam Dong. And then when we needed to change our Vietnam Dong to RMB they converted it back to HKD first before RMB. So there’s quite a loss in conversion. Its best to just pay by credit card when settling your bill.
Note that in Sanya, there are stores which do not accept credit card (like Starbucks) so make sure you also have some cash or Alipay / WeChat when paying for your purchases.
8. CABIN CHOICES: SuperStar Virgo offers 4 different room types: Inside Cabins, Oceanview Cabin, Balcony Cabin, and Suite. Know the differences before you book.
Our group stayed in the Balcony Cabins. Measuring approximately 19sqm. Balcony Cabins offer a generous outdoor space, a separate living area and plenty of luxurious touches. The great thing about this type of room is that you can enjoy the fresh air and the view at the outside balcony before the ship sails or while the ship is docked.
The room is big for 2 adults just right for 3 but can be a bit crowded for four adults. It has 2 single beds joined together, and a sofa (which can be converted into another bed), Theres a big TV, cabinet, mini fridge, safety box and the usual amenities like coffee and tea, bottled water.
We also got a peek at the “Suite Life” when we checked out the luxurious Executive suites. Spacious at around 60 sqm. and views of the ship’s bow, these executive suites offer a bedroom (1King Bed and single sofa bed), a Jacuzzi, and a mini bar. Guests enjoy privileges like complimentary fruit basket and refreshment plus personalized service and priority check-in. Designed to add a sense of grandeur to your cruise experience, these suites include picture windows and a spacious living area.
For those who are looking for the affordable alternatives, the Inside Cabins are ideal for guests who plan to spend most of their time enjoying the ship and its facilities. Approx size is about 14.68 sq. m it has 1 queen size bed & 1 single sofa bed. The rooms are located at Deck 8 where it’s close to the Grand Piazza and the Duty Free shops at Deck 7. They are the most affordable rooms, the only downside is they don’t have windows.
If you want a window or porthole view, the Oceanview Cabins might be the better choice and provides excellent ocean vistas. These stylish cabins are beautifully furnished and equipped with everything you might need on your voyage measures 14.plus sqm. It has 1 queen size bed and 1 sofa bed as well. Or if you go for the Oceanview with Porthold there are 2 single beds, 1 Pullman bed and 1 single sofa.
During our cruise, they auctioned a Suites room and also offered room upgrades.
Take a virtual tour by clicking the link below:
YEAH BUOY! AND THE BBQ DINNER
Remember earlier when I told you to get enough sleep before cruising day? Well after we checked in and had lunch we went back to our rooms for a quick nap. And because we had very little sleep and the gentle rocking of the sea was conducive to sleeping (we were still docked at this time) we overslept and missed our first activity which was the ship tour.
It’s a good thing we already had the tour during our previous stay and we were quite familiar with Superstar Virgo.
But what you couldn’t miss is the Safety Drill/ Briefing in the late afternoon just before the ship leaves the port. It the only MANDATORY activity for all passengers where the crew orients you where you should gather should an emergency rise and how to properly wear a lifejacket. You can bring your lifejacket from the room or you could borrow one from the staff during orientation. Your assembly station is the letter indicated on your ACCESS Card.
What happens if you miss this? You will be offloaded—in the middle of the sea without a life jacket!
Just kidding, but seriously you will be given a memo and be required to attend a makeup orientation.
After the briefing, we headed to Deck 12 near the Parthenon Pool for our BBQ Party/Welcome Dinner, which is one of my favorite meals of the entire cruise so make sure you don’t miss this!
TIP: Find a table first before exploring all the food stations as it can be a bit crowded. Drinks aren’t free, but they do have 2 for 1 offers.
After dinner you can we went back to our rooms to freshen up and ready ourselves for the first show at the Zodiac Theater.
9. ZODIAC SHOWS – The Zodiac Theater is the best place to spend your nights after dinner because it is where they hold these popular musicals, dance performances and magical shows.
I heard they usually change it every year or six months so I think it’ll be a different set of shows in the following months. There’s a different show each night and in case you are joining the Jan 3 cruise, here’s my ranking of all the Zodiac shows from my favorite to the ones you might want to skip.
1. Spirits: Performed by world class illusionist Vincent Vignaud, this is my favorite show of all. Magic tricks include escaping cages, levitation, people switching places, swords, giant saws, flames and several sexy dances.
2. Mystical Land: A very close second, this one reminds me of Cirque de Soleil, in terms of acrobatic performances. It tells the story of an elf who is chasing a fairy and how he meets a lot of mystical creatures as he goes on a quest. There are contortionists, balancing acts, aerial acrobats etc. A must watch show if you have kids.
3. Vince Vignaud Close Up Magic: If you like magic this one is a bit less serious and more for kids than Spirits. Oh and you can have your photos taken with Vince after the show.
4. Love Around the World: Jeman of orangemagazine said it reminded him a bit of Moulin Rouge, but its more of just a showcase of different dance genres around the world.
5. Ballroom Dancing: At first, I thought this was more of a tutorial than a show, but its like Love Around the World, but with more classical dance genres.
Oh there’s another show worth mentioning, but this one was specific to our cruise so I didn’t include it in the ranking.
We were joined by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra who had a special performance on our second day, and it was fantastic.
I had seen a few of their shows before, but this was the first one they did onboard a ship, which according to Maestro Rodel Colmenar was a bit challenging. But despite having only a few members of their orchestra and a couple of singers, they made us forget the rough seas we were experiencing as they performed Christmas songs, pop favorites, and a finale of classic OPM songs which made the entire audience sing and dance.
That’s it for part one: Check out part two HERE
Have you been on a cruise? How was it? Are you planning on going on one soon? I would love to read your comments!